October 20, 2010

Real time bus arrivals

Straight Outta the Suburbs throws a spotlight on the Long Beach Transit Authority's work to install real-time bus arrival screens at its bus stops. 44 stops and counting now have digital screens that display when the next bus will actually arrive, thank to GPS technology.

What jumped out at me was the production quality of the LBTA's promo-video for the technology, which it calls "TranSmart System". While I think the video doesn't provide quite enough information about what users can expect from the TranSmart, it's an envelope-pushing attempt to brand bus-riding. This matters a lot, and is rarely done right. (See the Contra Costa County Connection's youth video in the uh-oh column, and Boulder, Colorado in the ace column.) At the same time, it also screams the LA stereotype that image is everything.

In any case, all self-respecting, well-used (sorry, CCCC) bus systems should aggressively pursue real-time technology.


  1. I have seen a lot of mediocre videos come out of transit agencies. Videos that make me think "this was made by a high school AV club that tried really hard but missed the mark".

    E.g. this safety video from Arizona:

  2. Yeah ... ouch. High School A/V level--totally.

    Trying to be cool, sincere, and informative fails. Maybe the Long Beach Transit vid was more successful because it dropped any pretense of education, and went exclusively for the cool factor. How useful (or effectively disseminated--why Quicktime over youtube?) it is remains to be seen.