One aspect I didn’t cover off yesterday in my post about the AT board meeting was a small comment about trialling digital screens.

Trial of digital screens in new modular bus shelters will commence in August

The digital screens are actually large touch screens and so the trial actually represents quite an interesting use of technology by Auckland Transport, one which has the potential to improve the user experience – although it has some issues too. I went to have a look at the screens which have been installed at two of the trial shelters on Symonds St. Unfortunately the glare from the beautifully sunny day we had on Sunday bouncing off the glass made it difficult to get good photo’s however I can say that in person they were easily readable.

From what I could tell there were two different interfaces that AT seem to be trialling – one at each shelter.

Screen 1

As you can see this is basically a mashing together of different elements into a single interface. There are three main parts to the screen.

  • At the top is PT information which includes a journey planner, real time stop board and live map showing bus locations.
  • In the middle there’s a combination of other potentially useful info such as news and weather along with advertising. In some cases the entire middle section was devoted to a single ad.
  • At the bottom is a game which was when I looked at it was an old school sliding puzzle for promoting the Lantern Festival, output from a security camera plus accessibility and feedback buttons.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 1 - 1

Here’s a closer look at the map which is just a standard google map. You can see where the stop is and where the next bus is which is similar to their Track My Bus app. Given the app is sometimes a bit hit and miss for accuracy I hope these are better. For some reason it defaulted the location about the intersection of Mayoral Dr and Vincent St so I had to scroll to show the stop I was at and it returned there later. As you can see it also allows you to select check boxes for various overlays.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 1 - 2

I didn’t try it but one issue seems to be that you might be able to get into the settings, that doesn’t seem like a great setup.

Screen 2

Screen 2 was in even more direct sunlight so much harder to get a photo of sorry. It also seemed like more effort had gone into the overall design and less of just mashing a whole heap of stuff together. It featured a real time board permanently at the top of the screen along with a scrolling news ticker with other features including routes and journey planner behind buttons. Overall it felt much more like an app I’d expect on a phone and each of the features made use of the entire screen below the real time board.

On the real time board it also seems to show quite clearly shows which buses are accessible by those with disabilities and even how full the bus is. These features are on the version above but aren’t as clear due to trying to cram a lot of information into a smaller area. You can see this and the Approaching Buses screen which also feels quite different to the version above.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 1

Here’s and example what it would look like without the glare

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - Example

The routes button shows where buses from this stop travel to along with the ability filter out the ones you don’t want.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 2

The journey planner, I didn’t try it out though.

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 3

The Local info screen

Bus Shelter Interactive Screens - Screen 2 - 4

When not in use the screen defaulted to an AT ad which disappeared as soon as you tapped the screen.

I personally liked the look and feel of the second screen but it also raises some questions.

  • How many people just turn up at a bus stop and then want to use a journey planner, I’d have thought most would check out their journey before getting to the bus stop
  • Why isn’t this information like the real time location of buses and the routes easily available on the AT website.
  • Why haven’t AT turned the second version into a mobile app. Their current apps are appalling.
  • Like their current mobile apps will this only be mode specific or will they also integrate trains and ferries into them and install them at rail stations/ferry terminals

Have you used them, what are your thoughts on these new screens and should they be rolled out across more of Auckland?

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  1. Don’t mind the idea but surely it would be much better and a whole heap cheaper to provide this functionality in an app. What happens at a busy bus stop with a few people wanting to use the screen at the same time? Perhaps a few of these at major hubs/interchanges would be better, similar to a directory in shopping centres.

    1. I agree. An app can do all of this, and no need to have people standing over you watching what you’re interested in, or where you are going.

      1. In the age of the smartphone it seems like the horse has already bolted here. Why would you bother when you have a personalised device in your pocket.

  2. All I think when I see something like this is how much they’ll cost to repair when they inevitably get vandalised.

  3. Agree, there does need to be a better app/website.
    However, these strike me as a good idea for tourists and people without smartphones.
    Can’t see the point of the game though, wouldn’t that just block other users?

  4. The new digital ads in the Adshel shelters are very very bright at night, so you can’t see the bus coming as the reflection in the glass panel is very bright. Could Adshel please dim them at night? It doesn’t need to be bright 24 hours a day.

  5. Good idea overall. The AT website is a constant source of frustration/rage for me. I now use google maps for AT information. Much easier. I hope they stick with google maps at the shelters. But…

    What problems are these screens supposed to be solving (agree with the “better app” comments)? What do they cost? Will they be at all shelters? How hardened are they – breakage, removal? They need to think more about a hierarchy of information important to people at a bus shelter (but AT isn’t adept at taking the passenger’s point of view. I’m available if they would like to hire me as Manager of Customer Experience Auditing.)

    It would be great to have time enroute, from A to B to R, doable on a touch screen. Also transfers for shortest travel time.

    Agree with the comment about brightness. Very bad for night vision, creates a security problem, and light pollution. And easily addressed.

  6. I prefer second version. version 1 feels too complex to read.

    Just need to keep the real time board and location of the approaching bus default. The ad can show intermittely but do not force the user to click in order to show info.

    1. For screen 2, the default view is the arrivals board and approaching bus map. It pops up with an Auckland Transport advert every few minutes, which stays there for about 15 seconds I think.

  7. Some additional things I noticed (sorry – I can’t upload photos I think):
    * Both shelters had an arrivals board at the other end, so you can see normal sign data as you’re looking down the road for the bus.
    * The arrivals board at stop 7160 (screen 1 in blog post) had a small map on the right, which I think shows approaching buses but there weren’t any on it when I was there.
    * The arrivals board at stop 7162 (screen 2 in blog post) had additional route information in smaller text after the destination (via St Lukes, etc)
    * On both arrivals boards, the next buses were “sticky” and didn’t keep scrolling off like the old signs (I **hate** how the old ones do that). Then below the sticky ones there were all other buses.
    * Shelter 2 did something a bit different with the non-sticky ones. It had a single line at the bottom to show them, but only for buses that weren’t shown in the sticky section above.

  8. You can see where the stop is and where the next bus is which is similar to their Track My Bus app.

    Why they didn’t just replace the old one up on Google Play when they launched this I don’t know. There’s no indication that the old app has been superseded.

  9. I turn up at bus stops without having checked the journey planner — when I use buses it is usually unplanned and standing in for walking or biking so having route info at the stop would be helpful to me.

    And for all those saying just make a better app, what about all those who don’t have an internet connected computer in their pocket? This will always be a significant proportion of the population.

    It would also help having this info for non-PT users (local info and map) like bikers and walkers.

    1. And for all those saying just make a better app, what about all those who don’t have an internet connected computer in their pocket? This will always be a significant proportion of the population.

      No they won’t. In fact, they aren’t now. More than 50% of cellphones are already smart-phones and better than 95% of the population have cellphones. The old phones will be weeded out over time simply due to obsolescence.

      1. So around 50% of adults don’t have a smartphone. I’d imagine most people that would want a smartphone already have one by now, so it’s fair to say there’s a very sizeable proportion of the population for whom this will be useful. More than half, if you also take children into account, who are also users of buses.

      2. Smartphone penetration will probably end up at 80-95% (similar to dumb-phone penetration or landlines, at their peaks), but that’s no reason to ignore people who don’t have them (or don’t have the apps on them, or have broken them, forgotten them, or let the battery run out on them).

  10. From Sightline Series
    Kids have been called the “indicator species” of healthy cities. If a street network works well for a five-year-old riding a bike, chances are it works for everyone else. If transit service is safe and frequent enough for parents to feel comfortable allowing teenagers to use it at night, others will use it too. The Northwest’s largest cities are doing a good job of holding onto their kids. But to realize a vision of compact, lively, dense, and truly diverse urban neighborhoods, there’s much more work to be done.
    This Sightline series explores the building blocks of great kid-friendly cities: ample affordable housing units appropriately sized for families, zoning laws that allow courtyard and other housing types, public schools in our downtown corridors, streets that provide a buffer between unsteady toddlers and speeding cars, buses that accommodate strollers, and communal spaces that do double duty for parents and their kids.

  11. I know it’s good to try new things, but frustrating when there is no effort to sort out the basics.

    Auckland bus stops are fine if it’s the one you use every day, but if it’s any other stop you’re not familiar with you realise how poor the information is:
    – Stops don’t list all of the routes that use them
    – Stops list old timetables or bus routes no longer in service
    – Stops have route maps that miss most of the journey (start and end but nothing in between)
    – Other maps are small and difficult to read quickly
    – No information on connections or train stations along the route
    – Some stops have no information whatsoever in the suburbs
    – Other stops only show a “phone ride line” poster (how is that efficient, even just in operator costs, compared to sticking up signs?)

    A simple 3 step plan to fix this:
    1. Browse the TFL website and look at what they display at their stops (all of the signs are online)
    2. Create equivalent for Auckland
    3. Commit to fixing this at every stop in 18 months

    Where is Cameron Brewer when it comes to doing something useful?

  12. Seems like a waste of money. All you need is the next bus list, no touch screen etc required.
    Why not roll out a cheaper system that shows the next buses to all bus stops instead of a complex expensive system to some.
    Or save the money considering most people already have smartphones or will by the time these get implemented.

  13. It’s great to see such improvements at bus stops, but I would also like to see more effort made in bringing all bus stops up to at least a minimal acceptable standard. Most bus stops around Auckland still don’t have any shelter or seat, and more than half still don’t have a timetable on display (just a blank white pole with “bus stop” sign at top).

    Basic shelter and info should be available to entice more motorists to leave their comfy warm sheltered seats with cup holders.

    1. +1. All these apps and WiFis and so on are nice, but we need to do the basics first:

      * An up-to-date Google Transit Feed so Google Maps can do PT directions, rather than AT building their own journey planner
      * An up-to-date list of routes, comprehensive timetable and map at all stops, and real-time board at main stops
      * Decent system maps that include things like which buses serve Great North Road through Arch Hill/Grey Lynn, (since the current maps ignore everything between the CBD and Waterview), and indicate frequency and span.

  14. The question is why are AT paying Google to provide them with map information when presumably they own all that data anyway (timetables, road information, etc), surely they’d be better off opening up the data and getting it on Open Street Map and using that as their maps provider. It would certainly be cheaper and more transparent.

  15. Quote: “Why haven’t AT turned the second version into a mobile app. Their current apps are appalling.”

    Been saying this for 2 years now

    Last updated (Android):
    AT Public Transport – November 15, 2012
    AT Metro Track My Bus – July 15, 2015

    What happened the MyAT 2.0 app concept which won HackAKL, that concept looked great and full of potential, why hasn’t it been developed?

    Seems AT have put more functionality in these large shared screens than the apps that most everyday people will be using.

    Also what happened to tagging on with your phone which was “successfully trialed” in May 2012 (3 years ago!) – Even our old smartcard system SNAPPER had this! Sure it was limited to 2degrees but now its on any carrier via semble. Wheres Auckland Transport?

  16. I totally agree that with the comments that screen 2 should be available as android and IOS app. I received an email from AT in 2014 that they were working on a new journey planner. Hopefully the journey planner in the screen 2 is the implementation of this journey planner. I now use the following public transport apps:
    1. Moovit ( free android and IOS app
    2. TransitTimes+ ( android and IOS free and paid versions.
    3. AT Metro Track My Bus

  17. Hey

    I am from Christchurch and wanting additional information on the smart shelter could you please contact me.


  18. It would be good if they had ‘live pollution levels’ at the stop. You could watch it rise and fall each time a bus stopped.

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