Talking Buses FAQs
In its simplest form, it could be a display monitor or screen in the passenger area of a bus, with the driver making announcements over a speaker system.
A more automated system, incorporating display monitors, audio speakers, and a GPS device to make real-time information on the bus’s location available, would more than likely be the longer-term solution. The technology is readily available and does not need to be complex to integrate, install or maintain.
Passengers know exactly where they are on their journey and when they have reached their stop. They feel in control of their journey and don’t have to rely on the driver or other passengers for information. This reduces their anxiety and stress, and makes the journey more pleasant for all passengers.
We want information on the next stop and final destinations to be announced, meaning this information should be audible, not loud. Regular bus travellers usually zone out or pop in a set of headphones, whereas tourists and infrequent users will be reassured by being given important journey information.
An independent polling company asked 1,000 adults in 2013 in the UK whether audible next stop announcements should be compulsory on all buses: 74% said yes.
Smartphone applications cannot replace AV as not all people with sight loss own such phones, can afford one, or have the ability to use it. Also, these devices are not always reliable; the battery could be flat and they would not work in a poor reception area.
These limitations have also been recognised by the Transport Minister: “19% of families with at least one disabled member live in relative income poverty. For them, smartphones may be too expensive or difficult to use”. Transport Minister, 2014.
An improved passenger experience and travel standard for all passengers – boosting customer satisfaction and the economy, as more people will be encouraged to use the bus.
We don’t think that audio-visual systems on buses are expensive. Leading passenger transport specialists, the TAS Partnership, have found it costs just £2,100 to install AV on a single-decker, or £2,550 on a double-decker bus.
Costs could be reduced if whole fleets are equipped with the technology. Installing AV also brings financial benefits to bus operators, in terms of passengers finding the announcements useful and therefore being satisfied with the service and encouraged to travel more.
A minority of bus drivers have taken part in training on how to support their passengers with sight loss. When a bus doesn’t have audio-visual announcements on board people with sight loss often rely on the bus driver to tell them when they have arrived at their stop. However, our research shows that nearly nine out of 10 (87%) people said they have missed their stop because the driver had forgotten to tell them.
The Department for Transport said they have no plans to introduce a new law on AV because they would prefer a voluntary uptake, highlighting the existence of alternative technology (such as smartphone applications) as well as cost concerns. However, the report by the TAS Partnership on the costs of AV revealed that the costs are not high.
A former transport Minister contacted bus operators in the past to encourage the voluntary uptake of AV, but the limited number of buses fitted with this technology nowadays demonstrates that this approach is not working.
Yes, many operators have already introduced such systems:
- Transport for London
- Reading Buses
- Nottingham City Transport
- Trentbarton buses in Nottingham
- Thamesdown buses in Swindon
- Brighton Buses