Next time you board a bus, it might tell you what to do

19 May

Yesterday, I was riding the 51 bus to work and was a bit jarred by a recording played on the bus. I’m quite used to “talking” buses. Many of the trunk lines now announce major destinations and have been doing so for quite some time. But this message did not announce the intersection we were arriving at.

It was a security message, telling passengers to be aware of their surroundings and to report any suspicious things or activities. It made me feel like I was at an airport, or in a BART station.

I could tell it threw the other passengers off a bit too, maybe simply because it was the first time we’d heard it. People looked around a bit and several of us with headphones on had taken them off to listen to the message. It’s one thing to hear a message in a BART station, while you’re waiting for a train, but it felt much more intrusive while riding a bus.

So later in the day, I was pleased to find a message in my inbox about the announcement. AC Transit is testing this and one other message on its buses. We might be stuck with this message forever, but it’s good to know there’s time to weigh in before it becomes permanent.

The other message, which I’ve yet to hear on a bus, sounds like a much better idea. It encourages riders to exit through the rear doors of the bus. This is awesome and long overdue.

I’ve been meaning to write a blog post about this because if more people exited through the rear doors, it could help keep buses on time (or more close to their schedules). Especially on busy lines, many seconds are wasted at a bus stop when several people exit through the front door while several more people have to wait to board the bus.

I’ve thought for a while that AC Transit should put up stickers on the buses encouraging people to use the rear doors, but an announcement could be just as good or better. I really hope it works.

If you have thoughts on the bus announcements, you can email TalkingBuses@actransit.org to share them.

13 Responses to “Next time you board a bus, it might tell you what to do”

  1. V Smoothe May 19, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    A sticker telling people to go to the back door is just as, if not more effective, and far less intrusive than those horrible announcements! They’re creepy and annoying.

    • Becks May 19, 2011 at 9:56 am #

      Have you heard the announcement? Again today on the 1R I heard the annoying security message but still haven’t heard the rear door message.

    • Karen Smulevitz May 19, 2011 at 9:57 am #

      Riding the 57 in East Oakland, the announcement caused riders to look about and kind of snicker. Yeah, right, report suspicious activity to the operator. Like, get up out of your seat and go to the front, “Excuse me, driver, but there’s these gangbanger’s in the back of the bus and they’re…oh, I’m sorry , sir, but I am behind the yellow line…I said, they’re…well, can’t you call dispatch or something?…hey, the thugs are pointing at us, and looking mean…they’re getting up…”Back Door!”. Oh, good. They got off. Never mind. Thanks for all your help, driver.

  2. V Smoothe May 19, 2011 at 9:58 am #

    I haven’t heard the rear door message yet, just the bizarre airport security one. And I don’t like it!

  3. Amanda May 19, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

    I am so glad to see this message, I have been wondering all week who I can lodge vigorous complaints to about these incredibly annoying and loud announcements. Not to be overly dramatic, but they seriously have affected the quality of my commute experience.

    And to get a message saying “please use the rear door” on a transbay bus with no rear door (which I have heard repeatedly), makes the whole thing even more idiotic.

    • Becks May 19, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

      Oh no, that’s horrible! I know they’re still in the testing phase, so hopefully they’ll at least phase out the use of the rear door message on buses without rear doors.

      I can only imagine how much worse it would be on a transbay commute. On each of my bus rides this week, I only had to hear the message once. But to hear it repeatedly (which I imagine happens on a longer ride like a transbay one), would be extremely annoying.

      • floribunda May 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

        I’m with Amanda — if they’re going to keep theannouncements, they need to tailor them to the situation! They repeat several times on the way to SF and it’s just annoying…

  4. Oakland Space Academy May 20, 2011 at 12:22 am #

    I think they should phase out the “rear door” message until they teach bus drivers to pull up parallel to the curb.

  5. Oakland Space Academy May 20, 2011 at 12:28 am #

    And if they ever do, instead of “use” or “exit” they should use the word “alight”…that is a great word!

    • Becks May 20, 2011 at 10:21 am #

      I love the word “alight” too, but I think that the vast majority of bus riders would have no idea what that meant.

  6. Ben Hartshorne May 20, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    I do sincerely hope they listen to the feedback they get via the email address. Thanks for your post! I’ve emailed them, and posted my email here: http://blog.hartshorne.net/2011/05/letter-to-ac-transits-talking-busses.html. I encourage all of you to email and post your letters as well!

    I have to admit, the rear door message on the transbay busses (with no rear door) is a lovely bit of amusement, but the watch out for your surroundings message just pisses me off.

    • Becks May 20, 2011 at 10:24 am #

      Thanks for sharing your email! I’ve found that AC Transit is very good about listening to feedback from riders so I think if enough messages are sent, they’ll at least consider getting rid of the automated messages.

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