This post is a work in progress. This warning will be removed once I'm done editing it.
For the first year of the OpenDOTT project, I have moved with my family to Dundee, in the UK. Frankly, I didn't even know where Dundee was before seeing the call for applications last December. After some loose internet searching and browsing, I found it was a) not far from Edinburgh, b) a former industrial city whose economy was based on jute production and also known for its journalism and jam, c) the sunniest city in Scotland (whatever that actually meant), d) infamous for drug-related problems in the past. I also figured that the University has about 18,000 students - which amounts to about 10% of the population, give or take.
That I did not find while googling was a good manual with the things you need to know when moving to Dundee. Below I'll keep notes of what I found in the process, and how that relates to my research topic - smart cities.
We spent two days in a hostel in the city centre, but moved soon to a guesthouse in Monifieth, outside Dundee. I would need to commute to the University for the next four weeks, as well as travelling with my family to view flats, get to know the city and surroundings and solve random issues. That was not a problem in itself, except for the fact that I needed to understand what was the best way to pay for our tickets.
After experimenting a bit buying day tickets directly on the bus, I was surprised to learn that there were three different bus (or "coach" in local lingo) companies operating in Dundee and region, and that their season tickets were not always compatible. Add to that the fact that one company will only accept exact change or contactless cards, and the other won't take any cards (if I remember it right). My 4 year old son would never need to pay, and my 8 year old daughter would have a special price during holidays, 20p per trip. I found then that there are smartcards which could be loaded with different tickets, and that in itself was not foreign. But even then, I could buy a week ticket that was valid only for that company. To overcome that, I needed to pay a little more to get the "abc" ticket. It makes sense, but leaves a bitter taste as we're moving to a place and never sure whether or not we will need that other company. But still, it was better than getting individual tickets.
All decided then, we wanted to get our smart cards. From the coach operator's websites it was not that clear where to get them. When I asked to the ticket operator during one trip, she said we could buy them from her, but the had run out of them that day. The same thing happened again the next day, and I was informed I could go to the bus station to buy the smart cards. The third time, though, we managed to buy directly from the bus and load them with the abc tickets. The whole course may have taken us about a week. Not that hard, one may say. But it's easy to contrast with my experience in other places, some of them complex cities with millions of people, where the transport system becomes evident in a glance.
And we're not through all yet. Next week (early October) my partner is starting a short course in St Andrews that will require her to travel once a week to that city. We have no idea what ticket is best for her case.