Another day, another TfL press release asking us to give credit to Boris for something he didn’t start.  Uh-uh.  This time it’s the iBus automated bus information and location system, the rollout of which is now complete across all 8,000-odd London buses:

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: ‘I put providing Londoners with clear concise information at the heart of my transport manifesto.

‘iBus represents a huge leap forward in this regard, and makes the Capital’s bus network more attractive and easier to use.

‘For the visually impaired or for those travelling in new parts of the city it has proved to be a fantastic resource, it is improving the accuracy of next bus Countdown signs and will lay the foundation for the delivery of bus information direct to mobile phones or the internet.’

Now, I think iBus is a great idea, not least because it sits squarely in opposition to the ‘oh-horrible-modern-noisy-helps-the-disabled’ hate fest that is Andrew Gilligan.

Every trip is an aural shelling, and now it’s on the buses too.

The 253 boasts about two announcements a minute. At each stop, they say its name, the route number and the final terminus. Loudly. But if I’m getting off, what do I care where the bus will be in 20 minutes’ time?

Once the bus pulls away, they announce the route number and destination again. Perhaps it’s another thing for the blind. But does any blind person just board a random bus, then wait for the announcement to check they’re on the right one?

Interspersed with all this: bossy little reminders that fare dodging is a crime, and you should pull up your socks and get an Oyster card. I don’t know about you, but being lectured by a robot makes me want to hit someone (although not the robot, obviously – I’d hurt my hand).

The autistic announcements are another sad example of how London Transport, a beacon of aesthetics and consideration for passengers, has become TfL, an anti-human, technocratic, bendy-bus-loving disaster – not unsuccessful, but to many of us somehow hateful.

What a berk.

iBus is also, from personal experience, is an excellent way to get children to learn their way round the city, since it announces the bus route, destination and next stop, and repeats it the same way each time.  I like it on crowded buses in the rain where you often can’t see out of steamed up windows.  However, all this obscures the fact that, as if you couldn’t guess from Gilligan’s ranting tone, it’s not really a Boris thing – in fact, it won an award for excellence from the Intelligent Transport Society last March, at which point 1800 buses had been fitted.  The contract for the system goes back even further, to 2005.  Then there’s this description of the scheme, from 2006.  It didn’t, therefore, particularly matter what Boris put in his manifesto – it was happening anyway, and early 2009 was always going to mark the end of the rollout.  As a public sector IT project, it looks to have come in bang on schedule, which is always cause for celebration.

Now, obviously a busy journalist like Boris with his part time MP’s job couldn’t necessarily have been expected to keep up with public transport award schemes.  However, looking at who presented the award to TfL, there’s less scope for the broad, understanding view here:

ITS (UK) President Steven Norris, who presented the award at Painter’s Hall in the City of London, praised iBus in the ‘Area Wide Schemes’ category for its on-board ‘next stop’ audio visual displays and announcements, which make bus travel much easier for everyone, including visually or hearing impaired passengers, or those with learning disabilities.

Tut.  Does nobody *check* these things?

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