Metro Logistics

Boston, Mass., USA

An alien, shown the ticket-taking systems of the New York or Boston subway systems versus Cairo’s Metro would have to conclude that Cairo had the more efficient system. Half the ticket-taking machines in Cairo are marked as entrances, half marked as exits, and there are 2 or 3 times as many of them as in New York or Boston, where the ticket-checking machines are simultaneously both entrance and exit. Less efficient, right? Our alien would be wrong.

Put people in those machines, and the result will surprise our curious ET. In Cairo, delays and snarl-ups are common on your way in or out of the Metro, and I don’t just mean the (frequent) instances of machines jamming and eating your card. But New Yorkers and Bostonians just slide right through their un-intuitive system. I didn’t see a single snarl-up in more than a dozen rides on those subways in these last couple days!

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s fantastic that Cairo has a Metro at all – the only subway system on the entire African continent! It was just my first real episode of culture shock on this return to the U.S.

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