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  Noise pollution, Shhhh!!

噪音污染让人烦恼 安静车厢如何实现?

Why quiet carriages don’t work, and how they might be made to?


QUIET carriages on trains are a nice idea: travellers voluntarily switch phones to silent, turn stereos off and keep chatter to a minimum. In reality, there is usually at least one inane babbler to break the silence.

在列车上设 “安静车厢”是个不错的想法:旅客们自觉将手机调成静音,关掉随身听,轻声地交谈。但在现实中,总是至少会蹦出一个让人无语的家伙打破车厢的宁静气氛。

A couple of problems prevent peaceful trips. First, there is a sorting problem: some passengers end up in the quiet carriage by accident and are not aware of the rules. Second, there is a commitment problem: noise is sometimes made by travellers who choose the quiet carriage but find an important call hard to ignore.


The train operators are trying to find answers. Trains in Queensland Australia, are having permanent signs added to show exactly what is expected; a British operator has invested in signal-jamming technology to prevent phone calls. Microeconomics suggests another approach: putting a price on noise.

列车运营商正试图找寻解决之道。 澳大利亚昆士兰州的火车里常设标识,提醒乘客遵守乘车守则;英国的一家列车运营商引用信号干扰技术来避免电话骚扰。而微观经济学则提出了另一种方法——将金钱同噪音挂钩。

Fining people for making a din would surely dissuade the polluter and is a neat solution in theory, but it requires costly monitoring and enforcement. Another tack would be to use pricesto separate quiet and noisy passengers—in effect, creating a market for silence. A simple idea would be to sell access to the quiet carriage as an optional extra when the ticket is bought. Making the quiet coach both an active choice and a costly one would dissuade many of those who do not value a peaceful ride.


Charging may also solve the commitment problem. This is particularly tricky, as attitudes to noise can change during the journey. Some passengers would pay the quiet premium but still chatter away when some vital news arrives. Schemes that reward the silent—a ratings system among fellow passengers, for example—could help. The idea is that losing your hard-won reputation offsets the short-term gain from using the phone. But such a system also fails the simplicity test.


A 2010 book by George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton argues that “norms”—feelings about how everyone should behave—also play a role in decision-making. Charging a price, even if just atoken amount, means the quiet carriage becomes a service that fellow passengers have bought, not just a preference they have expressed. Perhaps different norms would come into play, encouraging calm. If not, a personal bubble is always an option: noise-cancelling headphones start at around $50.




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