Bad Design #3 — one step forward…

in baddesign •  3 months ago

image borrowed from Transport NSW City of Sydney, may be subject to copyright

Sydney’s light rail system does not pass near my house, nor near my place of work, so I don’t really get the chance to use it. But I was fortunate enough to catch it the other day as I made my way from Paddy’s Market to Glebe. And you know what, I enjoyed it. Sure, it wasn’t peak time, there were plenty of seats available, and it was a nice sunny day. So overall it was a good experience.

As I had time to appreciate the system, I began thinking how it worked. I’ve caught trams in Melbourne before, which I find very handy, but what I didn’t like about Melbourne’s tram system was the necessary cabling overhead that is used to power the trams. They are messy, ugly, and crisscross all over the place. Here is a glimpse of that mess.

image borrowed from Wikipedia, may be subject to copyright

 Now here I am, on Sydney’s light rail system, and I start to think, hmm, I’m pretty sure these existing light rail trams are powered in the same manner, ie. with overhead power lines. But I actually need to check when I get off because I didn't notice when I boarded.

Surely the "new" light rail system will not use overhead power lines.
Surely they are not going to implement this mess of crisscrossing cables across our city.
That would be archaic.

Surely not.

image borrowed from Transport NSW City of Sydney, may be subject to copyright

Surely YES!

After some research, I confirmed that yes, ugly, messy, crisscrossing cabling will be used to power the “new” light rail system. Did somebody say bad design?

After years fighting for underground power lines, to remove the mess of cables we have dangling across our city streets, we are now bringing them back. If you walk through the city today you will see that there are no power lines, they are all underground, where they should be. You may not have noticed, but make sure you check it out the next time you are in the city. You look up, or down a street, and it is clean and clear. No obstructing ridiculous cabling.


But not anymore. Get ready for crisscrossing overhead cabling right down the heart of the city, and all the way down past the stadium and out to the University.

Problem? damn straight. But...

Every problem is an opportunity.

Unfortunately in this situation it appears the designers did not consider overhead power lines a problem. Which makes it difficult to take advantage of the opportunity, if it appears there is no problem to begin with. So it seems this “problem” has been overlooked. But by whom?

Now, was it overlooked, or was it not disclosed when sold? Take a look at this next 3D rendering from the manufacturer of the new light rail system. 

image borrowed from Transport NSW City of Sydney, may be subject to copyright

It does not show the overhead cabling, nor does it show the extra poles that will be required to be installed so as to hold that cabling. Interesting. Did the manufacturer believe they were ugly as well, and hence left them out?

You can view the manufactures 3D renderings and 3D rendered animations on their website. It is very interesting to see (or not see) that the power lines, and the hundreds of extra poles needed to hold those power lines, have been conveniently left out…

I won’t go any further into the sale of the system, what was sold what wasn’t sold, what was assumed what wasn’t assumed, what legal issues may or may not arise, as the intention of my articles is to focus on design failings, not an investigative jounalism, so I'll stick to design.

So, we have what we have. The designers of the light rail system do not see overhead power lines as a problem. But I do, and some of you may agree with me. Therefore there is an opportunity here to design them out. Maybe not in this project, but the next one, or the one that refurbs the old one.

Manufacturers of light rail systems, are you looking to become the leaders in your industry? To destroy your competition? Well here you go. GET RID OF THE POWER LINES.

I have only highlighted one design problem with the new light rail system, there are probably going to be many more...stay tuned.


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CitizenRod is an entrepreneur, industrial designer, artist, and thinker. Follow his artwork at rodrigoantoniomunoz, his rants here on Steemit, and his current business at

Note: This article was originally posted on Medium by CitizenRod.  

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