The barrier toll system and out-of-the-box thinking

I came to a photo on the Net tagged with, which I’ll paraphrase – “whose bright idea was it to install tolls on highways?” And I thought, omg! the person behind Neontal has got the animal by its head!

via neontal

How? The way we’re working the toll system might actually be causing traffic. But because tolls have always been built that way, that is, somewhere in between highway parts, we’ve not thought of questioning why that is so. Just when engines have warmed up and drivers are pushing the pedal to 160 kph, there’s the structure signaling it is time to go cold on the speed. How often do they stop for this on a single stretch of highway? Does it have to be this way? Must it?

Why do toll gates have to be in the middle of highways?

With technology now so advanced – it has since landed several people on the moon – toll fees could be transacted electronically: create an account (via the Net or with the telecom you’ve a subscription) with whoever is the company in-charge of the toll fee collection, log in each time and before you hit the highway, pay up through several modes (via mobile or e-wallet, for one), and have a breezy unimpeded ride on the highway (as highways are supposedly built for).

Look at the photo above. If you’re the 1,000th vehicle in line, of course, you’ll seethe – inspite of the health advice to calm down – considering that without these toll obstructions you know you’d have already reached your destination by the time it’s your turn to hand the cashier your payment (or, get your ticket). Insanity. Or, in practical terms, daily losses of PHP2.4B.

Highways, like the network of veins carrying blood throughout the body, are meant to be unimpeded. It’s when they’re obstructed that bad things start to happen.

This reminds me of a George Carlin quote

Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don’t have time for all that.

There are many brilliant government workers, young university graduates, who have not been given the chance to share their minds. They’re not involved in planning and when they are it is only to serve their elders coffee or take attendance. Nothing wrong with that but it’s just that they didn’t go to university to know the art of serving coffee. If I were a decision-maker at DOTC, I’d install in the office a system of feedback, universal participation, wherein each employee even the cleaners could drop in their recommendations to TC issues confounding the country. For those who can, they could send them in every day, but at least weekly. Of course, when you ask for ideas, you’re serious about the process and how some of the ideas could actually work in real life and so the next step – what to do to make it a reality? Government needs to approach contentious social problems creatively and would need a bit more of the private sector’s especially the tech companies’ well known out-of-the-box thinking process. This one is Apple’s

Every week, the teams have two meetings. One in which to brainstorm, to forget about constraints and think freely. As Lopp put it: to “go crazy”. Then they also hold a production meeting, an entirely separate but equally regular meeting which is the other’s antithesis. Here, the designers and engineers are required to nail everything down, to work out how this crazy idea might actually work. This process and organization continues throughout the development of any app, though of course the balance shifts as the app progresses. But keeping an option for creative thought even at a late stage is really smart. This, Lopp admitted, causes a huge amount of work and takes an enormous amount of time. But, he added, “it removes all ambiguity.” That might add time up front, but it removes the need to correct mistakes later on.

And we know that mistakes could be so huge that they can’t be righted without turning the world upside down.


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