The Masterly Tram Innovation Plan

tram

In 1967 a document written by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board (MMTB) was officially stamped “Strictly Confidential” and was granted Restricted Access under the Australian Secrets Act for a period of 50 years. A few weeks ago, this document titled “A Plan to Enhance Tram Commuter Innovation via Strategic Design Disruption” was obtained under the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Laws and was promptly delivered to an eagerly awaiting Melbourne newspaper journalist.

After a few hours of detailed reading, the journalist dropped the heavy red leather bound 100 page document onto her office floor with a loud thud in a state of total astonishment and disbelief. She had just read a master plan cleverly constructed by the MMTB that explained in great detail how the Melbourne tram network was designed, developed and implemented as part of a secret psychological behavioural study commissioned by a leading Melbourne University Professor.  According to this Professor, the supple, malleable mind of the unsuspecting naive Melbourne tram user could be surreptitiously modified to think creatively via the use of some simple transport network modifications. Under the cloak of innovation, the following modes of tram operation were devised.

  1.  Punctuality
    An official MMTB tram timetable was published which made the commuter think that a tram might be arriving/departing according to the schedule. But no, this was never the intention, as all tram drivers were provided with a different, totally random timetable that had no correlation with that used by the commuter.
    The Benefit: This forced the commuter to develop innovative justifications to explain why they were always late. There was also an additional bonus of suspense as the commuter never really knew when the tram was going to arrive or depart.
  1. Tram Stop
    Tram Drivers were instructed never to stop in the middle of a designated tram stop, but always a few feet before, or after it. Some were even told not to actually stop, but to reduce the tram speed to an observable calculated velocity where the commuter thought it was just slow enough not to cause them significant personal harm as they scurried for the open door moving past them.
    The Benefit: In an attempt to reduce the growing problem of commuter obesity, this provided the traveller with some daily physical exercise, and always made sure that their reflexes were primed to leap into a partially open tram door when available.
  1. Tram Seats
    When the trams were being serviced at the depot in preparation for the following days commuter allocation, MMTB cleaners were instructed to deliberately dirty up a few seats, or to make some of them totally unserviceable.
    The Benefit: The forced some fortunate commuters to joyfully stretch their legs by having the delight of standing up for their entire tram journey. It also created a competitive seat culture where commuters were strategically jockeying for the remaining usable seats.
  1. Temperature Control
    Although most trams were fitted with large windows to regulate air flow to assist with commuter comfort, many of these windows were deliberately welded shut.
    The Benefit: The majority of the Melbourne commuters had never experienced the health benefits of a sauna. Here the MMTB gleefully provided this as part of the tram service with no additional ticket surcharge.
  1. Tram Break Down
    Tram Drivers were instructed to randomly turn the power off in their trams and feign an unplanned mechanical failure.
    The Benefit: This provided the commuter with an opportunity to bond and share personal experiences with their fellow travellers whilst they were all crammed into the stationary overheating tram. It was also great advertising for the MMTB as their trams became a readily identifiable symbol of iconic transport that all frustrated and fuming car drivers could continually look at whilst they sat for extended periods of time in the resultant traffic jam.

As you can imagine, the journalist was flabbergasted at the creative ingenuity of the MMTB in their attempt to create a culture of innovation on their Melbourne transport network. But what the journalist didn’t know, was that other cities all around the world adopted the MMTB commuter philosophy and applied the psychological learnings in all their trains, buses, trams, ferries and even some airlines. Was it successful? We will never know, however, the memoirs of that leading 1967 Melbourne University Professor do record that he never used public transport and was an avid car driver.

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