There’s little doubt that the modern transport age has brought some incredible innovations. We gasp at the new King’s Cross roof. We appreciate being able to book our tickets online. We expect slick branding, 21st-century customer service, and mocha-frappe-lattes on demand.
But sometimes, it’s the exact opposite of all this that makes a travel experience memorable.
Think of the stations where, instead of a faceless chain, there’s a cafe where staff know the regulars and have their favourite brew waiting for them to grab and take onboard each morning.
Or the stations which display artwork from local artists in their waiting rooms – the sort of initiative that I assume comes not from head office, but from station staff having links with the community.
The personal touch might seem like something from a bygone age, but some stations are using very modern means to acheive a similar aim. Consider Stafford railway station. Like many operators and stations, they have a page on Facebook. They don’t just use it for adonyne updates on delays, though: they have genuine conversations with their followers, sometimes funny, sometimes asking for help or opinions.
Here’s one of my very favourite examples of the personal touch, something, it seems, that can be found in bus and train stations all over the world, and not always the ones serving quiet backwaters. It’s the institution of the communal bookshelf – a place where you can put books you don’t want any more, and pick up one that takes your fancy.
A quick browse through Creative Commons on Flickr showed the following pictures. Can you add any more stations to this list?
Kamppi bus station in Helsinki, Finland
Image by Matti Mattila
Union Station in Denver, Colorado, USA
Image by Jessamyn West
Image by Elly Jonez
Hinsdale, Illinois, USA
Image by Francesco Minciotti
If there’s nothing like this at your local station, FixMyTransport.com would be a great way to request it, and gather the support of other local people.
Also see Books for London, a campaign to start book-swapping schemes in London’s tube and railway stations – it turns out the West Ealing picture, above, is a result of that scheme. Books for London was apparently inspired, in part, by Bookcrossing.com – a fun way of swapping books without the need even for shelves.