The experience of waiting for a bus to arrive exposes the many concerns that travellers usually have about public transport: an ever-fluctuating waiting time, uncertain travelling conditions, and a self-imposed passivity.
These often result from a lack of information: only the estimated time of arrival of the next bus, suggested by a timetable or given by the countdown board, is made available.
This limited data does not allow travellers to make informed routing decisions that are expected in a multi-modal system (switch between bus routes, change mode of transportation). It actually reduces them to waiting machines (wait calmly for the next bus to arrive and board), disregarding their ability to think and decide.
Timelines is a bus stop which provides information to facilitate routing changes and reduce traveller uncertainty, from journey planning to boarding conditions.
Timelines can be recognized by its monolith, showing general directions and served bus routes, so one can judge whether the stop is suitable for their journey.
Prospective travellers are then welcomed by a lectern, placed aside of the boarding area. This stand displays a routing map, which shows the bus routes currently serving the stop, from origin to destination, from the right to the left side 1.
Approaching buses are depicted invidually, right on the serving route based on their real location, along with their capacity and estimated arrival time. As the map is updated in real-time, travellers can physically see groups of buses advancing towards the stop, giving an idea of the service frequency and regularity of each line.
Route destinations are displayed on the left side of the screen, and are positioned in such a way to indicate the estimated journey time to reach them 2. Lastly, the map also highlights any disrupted segment along the served routes 3, both before and after the current stop.
These pieces of information help travellers reliably anticipate and visualize their waiting and travelling experiences (how long their itinerary might take, how disrupted is it, which routes to take…), affording them to make rational decisions about their journey (switch between bus routes…).
Once their itinerary confidently settled, travellers can calmly walk towards the busier boarding area and watch the long ticker-like screen, housed under the roof.
This display notifies passengers, in a digestible form, of the next stopping buses, their estimated times of arrival and destination, along with the exact boarding location along the pavement, to ensure a smooth and stress-free boarding.
The routing map should be indeed read from right to left: this is natural in left-hand traffic, as vehicles move from the right to the left when one faces the street.↩
The distance on the map between two stop markers corresponds to the estimated travel time between these two stops: two bus stops are drawn close to each other if the journey between the two is expected to be short, and vice-versa. This configuration allows comparisons between routes that later converge towards the same stop. Here, the journey to Sloane Square is likely to be shorter if one takes route 72 instead of line 472.↩
Timelines empowers and trust travellers to make their own informed decisions. In other words, Timelines tries to make them approach the public transport system not as passive agents reduced to waiting for their buses, but as resilient and resourceful individuals who, knowing the hurdles to their objectives, can decide, with confidence, to change their journey.
A scaled version of the bus stop was modelled for exhibition purposes, and its features were successfully tested in rush-hour conditions with dedicated prototypes and mock-ups. The concept received warm interest from CBS Outdoor, and Transport for London.
Timelines was designed as part of a course supervised by the Royal College of Art’s Service Design programme. Other members were Julius Heyne, Adam Jama, Alby Roseveare, and Thomas Trimnell.
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