CLOSE
iStock
iStock

Japanese Elevators Could Come With Their Own Toilets Soon

iStock
iStock

Japan is currently considering a measure that would, essentially, turn every elevator into a port-a-potty. According to a report from the Kyodo news agency, the country’s infrastructure ministry might make plumbing and running water a must in elevators. 

The proposal may seem over-the-top at first—what, you can’t wait til you get to your floor?—but the move would be in the interest of public safety. Japan is a dense country with a lot of skyscrapers, in a region notorious for its earthquakes. Last week, a powerful quake hit just off the coast of Japan near Tokyo, and 19,000 elevators slid to a stop in the aftermath. People were trapped in 14 different elevators across the capital, and it took as long as 70 minutes to rescue them. 

Image Credit: Shaunacy Ferro, iStock


But getting trapped for a little more than an hour isn’t the worst case scenario. In 1999, a man got stuck in an office elevator in Manhattan for an entire holiday weekend, spending a harrowing 41 hours stuck in a closed steel box without access to water or a bathroom. There are about 150,000 elevators in Tokyo, and historically, they tend to stop during earthquakes. In 2005, an earthquake stopped 64,000 elevators. In 2011, a quake trapped people in 84 elevators for more than nine hours before emergency personnel could get to them. One Tokyo neighborhood has already begun testing emergency boxes for elevators that contain blankets and water, with the boxes themselves doubling as makeshift chamber pots

Earthquakes are an ever-present danger, but people who live and work in high-rises can’t just up and stop using their elevators. As buildings get taller and taller, it’s not a bad idea to start planning for what happens when elevators malfunction, trapping people inside for hours or days. In an emergency, access to sanitation and clean water are essential. So yeah—bring on the vertical toilet mover. 

[h/t: Washington Post via Smithsonian]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
arrow
environment
Germany Wants to Fight Air Pollution With Free Public Transit
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images
Michael Gottschalk, AFP/Getty Images

Getting people out of their cars is an essential part of combating climate change. By one estimate, getting people to ditch their two-car household for just one car and a public transit commute could save up to 30 percent in carbon dioxide emissions [PDF]. But how do you convince commuters to take the train or the bus? In Germany, the answer may be making all public transit free, according to The Local.

According to a letter from three of Germany's government ministers to the European Union Environment Commissioner, in 2018, Germany will test free public transit in five western German cities, including Bonn. Germany has failed to meet EU air pollution limits for several years, and has been warned that it could face heavy fines if the country doesn't clean up its air. In a report from 2017, the European Environment Agency estimated that 80,767 premature deaths in Germany in 2014 were due to air pollution.

City officials in the regions where free transport will be tested say there may be some difficulty getting ahold of enough electric buses to support the increase in ridership, though, and their systems will likely need more trains and bus lines to make the plan work.

Germany isn't the first to test out free public transportation, though it may be the first to do it on a nation-wide level. The Estonian capital of Tallinn tried in 2013, with less-than-stellar results. Ridership didn't surge as high as expected—one study found that the elimination of fares only resulted in a 1.2 percent increase in demand for service. And that doesn't necessarily mean that those new riders were jumping out of their cars, since those who would otherwise bike or walk might take the opportunity to hop on the bus more often if they don't have to load a transit card.

Transportation isn't prohibitively expensive in Germany, and Germans already ride public transit at much higher rates than people do in the U.S. In Berlin, it costs about $4 a ride—more expensive than a ride in Paris or Madrid but about what you'd pay in Geneva, and cheaper than the lowest fare in London. And there are already discounts for kids, students, and the elderly. While that doesn't necessarily mean making public transit free isn't worth it, it does mean that eliminating fares might not make the huge dent in car emissions that the government hopes it will.

What could bring in more riders? Improving existing service. According to research on transportation ridership, doing things like improving waits and transfer times bring in far more new riders than reducing fares. As one study puts it, "This seldom happens, however, since transport managers often cannot resist the idea of reducing passenger fares even though the practice is known to have less impact on ridership."

The same study notes that increasing the prices of other modes of transit (say, making road tolls and parking fees higher to make driving the more expensive choice) is a more effective way of forcing people out of their cars and onto trains and buses. But that tends to be more unpopular than just giving people free bus passes.

[h/t The Local]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
travel
Here's How Much Traffic Congestion Costs the World's Biggest Cities
iStock
iStock

Traffic congestion isn't just a nuisance for the people who get trapped in gridlock on their way to work, it’s also a problem for a city's economy, City Lab reports. According to a study from the transportation consulting firm INRIX, all that time stuck in traffic can cost the world’s major cities tens of billions of dollars each year.

The study, the largest to examine vehicle traffic on a global scale, measured congestion in 1360 cities across 38 countries. Los Angeles ranked number one internationally with drivers spending an average of 102 hours in traffic jams during peak times in a year. Moscow and New York City were close behind, both with 91 lost hours, followed by Sao Paulo in Brazil with 86 and San Francisco with 79.

INRIX also calculated the total cost to the cities based on their congestion numbers. While Los Angeles loses a whopping $19.2 billion a year to time wasted on the road, New York City takes the biggest hit. Traffic accounts for $33.7 billion lost by the city annually, or an average of $2982 per driver. The cost is $10.6 billion a year for San Francisco and $7.1 billion for Atlanta. Those figures are based on factors like the loss of productivity from workers stuck in their cars, higher road transportation costs, and the fuel burned by vehicles going nowhere.

Congestion on the highway can be caused by something as dramatic as a car crash or as minor as a nervous driver tapping their brakes too often. Driverless cars could eventually fix this problem, but until then, the fastest solution may be to discourage people from getting behind the wheel in the first place.

[h/t City Lab]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios