I mentioned on Lollards last night my growing (petty) irritation with the introduction of automated announcements on London buses, whereby the bus route and each stop is announced regularly throughout the journey. This morning I did a small, non-scientific, non-representative experiment to see whether my annoyance was reasonable – afterall, tube and overland trains have similar systems which are not half as irritating, and perhaps bus announcements just need adjusting to. Here are my results.

Journey: Stamford Hill Broadway to Brecknock Road
Bus: 253
Length of Journey: 19 minutes
Number of Stops: 18
Number of times announcement said ‘253. To.    Euston’: 20
Number of times bus stop was announced: 18
Total number of announcements: 38

The pattern of announcements was this – on approach to bus stop announce stop name, on arrival at bus stop announce destination before opening doors (why?!), then once doors are closed and bus is pulling away, announce it again, for the benefit of passengers who have got on the bus and immediately forgotten which bus they got onto. There were a couple of stops where the destination was announced only once, but most of them got 2 announcements per stop. With the bus stopping approximately every minute this gives an average of 2 announcements every minute.

I’m not saying that this system doesn’t have merit – it is clearly quite useful in a number of ways, but it is excessively intrusive. Buses are quieter than trains, on the whole, so the announcement is clearer, and harder to tune out. I am fully convinced of the value of announcing the stop name, but announcing the destination is surely not as important, especially this frequently. I know it benefits people with visual impairments, but it’s not like they get on random buses then sit there waiting for an announcement that will let them know whether they’ve got on the right bus or not.  And people getting off a bus have no real need to know what bus they are alighting from.

My experiment also suggests that no one will sit next to you if you have an open notepad into which you record a tally.