By Ben Schiller
For a long train journey, knowing how many seats are available could be as important as knowing how late the service is going to be. That's why Netherlands Railways's new congestion-indicator app could be useful for passengers with tired legs or who don't like to be touched. If you're not in the mood to stand next to someone sneezing and sweating hugely, you can make plans to get the next ride.
The information is displayed as part of NS's Reisplanner Xtra app in the form of three dolls: one for quiet, two for average, and three for crowded (there's no button for a Japanese level crush, but Dutch trains tend not to get that bad). NS generates the symbol based on the length of the train, and the historical crowdedness for that train at that time. There is also a feedback button, so passengers can tell the operator whether its information is a fair reflection of reality (which should improve accuracy over time).
Ideally, the feature should help both operator and customer. If NS can spread commuters between trains, in theory everyone should benefit (though that might be a bit optimistic). Above, anyway, is a video of a happy customer using the app. The feature is currently being trialled on 11 trains operating between Zwolle and Roosendaal.
Copyright 2013 by Fast Company. Reprinted with permission.