Next stop, apocalypse

The latest sign of the apocalypse is not the plunging stock market. It’s Centro’s new website. Yes, they’ve got that attractive new look that says “It took several different executives six years to decide a new website was worth paying for and then to have endless meetings with each other about what it should look like.” (Alas, I’m quite familiar with this process myself.) This is the best way to avoid having any helpful features that other public transit companies use on their websites — such as Google maps, live locators for buses, and the ability to search a database for routes and times. But, they’ve got a website that now matches the very best standards of 2001 1999, and that’s no small improvement.

In a way this is Syracuse (and New York’s?) problem in a nutshell. We know what our problems are, we know how other communities like ours are solving their problems, but there are just so many damn levels of brass to go through, especially brass who are not comfortable with innovation and turn a laudable tendency to caution into a liability. In the end, the new solutions launched look pretty much a lot like the old ones, with maybe some added window dressing. Proposed solutions to problems are either grandiose, or too-little-too-late. You’d think a bus company would understand that timing is everything.

I went to Centro’s site because, now that inflation is really poised to ramp up, I’d better start using some of my vast amounts of accumulated change and take the bus more often before the fares start climbing. I don’t think I could hack taking the bus every day like I used to — it’s an exhaustingly long ride — but it’s a good way to save on both gas and car maintenance.

On this blog and elsewhere we have been discussing practical things our parents and grandparents used to do. Your parents or grandparents probably had the ubiquitous coffee can full of pennies. I’ll give you a new tip: if you’re going to have a coffee can full of coins, forget the pennies, and concentrate on nickels instead. Why? Because it turns out that, while nickels can’t buy anything much more than pennies can these days, nickels are the most valuable coin in your wallet when it comes to the actual value of the metal therein. It has the highest copper content of any U.S. coin, and with the falling value of the dollar, this means a nickel is currently worth about 7 cents melted down – a better value than the penny. Keeping in mind that melting down nickels is now illegal for this very reason, you still might be better off to put nickels in your Victory Pig. (You do have a Victory Pig, right?) The powers that be would like you to not think about inflation. Do think about it.

5 Replies to “Next stop, apocalypse”

  1. funny how centro just changed their website, as i wrote a post on my site last week about just how terrible their old website was. it looks like they’ve jumped from 1996 to (like you said) 2001. yet, there is still no googlemaps feature and they are basically still using the same pdf files from the old site. did they even bother to visit any other transit sites while they were making this new one? if you take a look at boston’s recently improved mbta site (www.mbta.com) everything you need is right in front of you: maps, tools, riding info, history, news, schedules for you pda, the site in other languages, alerts on your cell phone and email, and most importantly, the ability to customize your trip. like the “plan a trip” feature on the main page where you can enter what you want to see or where you want to go (exhibit halls, hospitals, shopping destinations, etc…). not only does this feature make it easier on the tourists and infrequent commuters, but it also instantly promotes other areas of the city for people to enjoy who may be unfamiliar with what to do. doesn’t this all seem so logical for a transit website to have? i suppose i shouldn’t complain about the newer one, as it is way better than the old version, but they at least could’ve use a better color scheme, smaller fonts, a less pixilated header image, more pulldown menus, and more interactive/customized features for riders. the new site is, dare i say, more disapointing than the old one becuase it looks like they actually put effort into it and ended up failing.

  2. I wonder if Centro feels that their ridership (ie, the less affluent) don’t “need” the best website.

    As for the delay… I know all too well how that happens even when you have something budgeted. But way too many people don’t grasp that by the time you’ve spent 3 years hashing out a single design for your new website, you should have already gone through two redesigns already.

    A PS to my post… actually riding the bus only saves you on fuel when the price of fuel reaches a certain point, and by then, the fares usually rise too. But if you’ve got a bit of money tied up in coins, might as well use them as fare. Plus, the less you drive your car, the less wear and tear you put on it, so those are potential maintenance costs. This probably makes more sense over the long term – and I just can’t see myself living the bus life again because the buses only show up out here at ungodly hours. But once a week is a good start to ease in to it, to get back into discipline. Sadly most Americans don’t know what’s coming because even if they are conscious of the economy, they are probably only reading the deeply dishonest, happy-happy-joy-joy tripe that the media is publishing, which is “news” tailored to make hedge fund investors happy (and oblivious). You won’t be reading any financial analysis that ordinary people need to know right now.

  3. Easier to think about– and read about– inflation than Ellen’s comment might make it seem. You just have to know where to look. Here is today’s post from my favorite economics blog:

    http://economistsview.typepad.com/

    Two Headlines, One Policy Instrument

    Think these are mutually exclusive?

    * Bernanke warns on risks of higher inflation, Financial Times
    * Fed Chairman Says Economy Likely to Slow, NY Times

    The Fed did say the inflation and recession risks were balanced after its last rate setting meeting. We are currently experiencing both negative demand shocks (through housing) and negative supply shocks (through oil prices) of uncertain duration and magnitude. While these both tend to slow output, they have different effects on inflation and call for different policy responses. Fun times at the Fed.

  4. It’s like their backwards ad campaign, Centro is Excellence! What ever that means. How about jumping on the environmental bandwagon, or at least the gas price meme.

    Bus > Carpool > Single Passenger Car

    Centro, the “greenest” option. Save Money, Save the Planet.

    Something simple, to the point.

    or how about this:

    Centro: You know what’s more “green” than a multi-million dollar Platinum LEED certified 1000 room hotel and shopping center?

    Riding the bus.

    (I like the second one better…)

    My wife takes the express bus. She enjoys her time going to work. However, Centro needs to expand it’s after work schedule to get people home.

  5. Robinia, another link I find informative (although honestly most of it is Greek to me) is http://calculatedrisk.blogspot.com – This is mainly about the housing-based economy and how it’s imploding, but lots of interesting info in there.

    Although I am financially illiterate (in terms of investing… I only know about savings accounts, CDs, my retirement account and, uh… compound interest), I aspire to invest someday. Preferably when the current diseased investment universe has collapsed in on itself and little people can play again.

    Steve: Your comment reminds me of something that bugs me about all this green marketing. Why aren’t businesses in Syracuse COMPETING with each other to be the greenest? What’s with all this “cooperation” and “partnership”? Let’s have some competition in the name of these higher ideals. I bet there would be a lot fewer unholy alliances offering pies in the sky.

    I think I’m probably going to wind up doing park-and-ride so I can get the express… Centro’s schedules direct to my neighborhood are just not the best.

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