For some reason Metro Transit uncovers part of the windows: Testing Usability Testing at Metro Transit Minneapolis - St Paul
I ride the transit system, unlike the Republican appointed Metro Council that is purposely driving the system into ruin. I want a better system, more trains, more buses, better integration with bicycle and pedestrian routes and easier transition from automobiles. And cheaper too. This is discouraging when the system is designed to FAIL. This article is about design and systems and one way to make the transit system better is to do a little usability testing to get the obvious problems out of the way, the barriers to riding can be found with minimal testing and expense. One test is to see if the rider can find the destination easily. Well, no, many times the rider cannot.
Cover up the windows with advertising wrap so the rider cannot see outside, what a brilliant idea. It is just one little problem, right? No, this problem is emblematic of the way riders are treated by Metro Transit. The riding experience is degraded to the point of unusability; a thousand little cuts designed to bring the rider to his knees and then several vicious kicks to the head thrown in for good measure.
Metro Transit sells advertising, which covers the outside of the buses and trains with some sort of plastic film also known as a wrap. But the ads also cover the windows of the bus or train giving a claustrophobic feeling to the riders mixed with helplessness and dread of missing your stop; the riders ride in a fog as blocks of light and dark pass the windows. Think macular degeneration mixed with heavy cataract and you have the view out the ad covered window of the bus. Of course, just ask the people that run the Metro Transit system, according to them everything is fine; and it is, for them. They get advertising money, the advertisers get advertisements and riders pay the externalized cost for the advertising, degraded usability.
So why completely cover the whole window with the ad wrap? Is the advertisement so valuable that gaps or big holes cannot be left so a rider can see? Are the art directors, copy writers and commercial artists so stupid they cannot get the advertising message across to the public without destroying the rider experience? Is it complete disregard of the rider by Metro Transit and the advertizer or it is intentional assholishness? The most insulting advertisement I ever saw was for some unmemorable product that had FAKE RIDERS IN THE WINDOWS OF THE BUS to obscure the vision of the real riders inside! Oh scrumptious irony, reality is far more cruel than fiction. My conclusion: It is to drive away riders that they do this advertisement over the window, even a moron would figure out the negative experience for the rider. That is called "social engineering." Not the right wingnut kind but the real thing. Here is how it works:
As you lurch and rattle in a bus down the street, vision obscured by advertising and wondering when your stop comes, you can hear the drivers damaged announcing system mangling the intersection names, but that is almost useless ..., panic starts, and a tension in your neck and shoulders builds. Would it be better to drive to work? Wouldn't it? Stuck in traffic maybe, with tension in your shoulders and a headache building as you get cut off by that jerk on the cell phone, but able to listen to the radio and at least see where you are not moving. Then, damn it all! You missed your stop, not being able to see it through the "daylight savings" 4:45 PM darkness and that crappy vinyl advertising wrap all over the window. Cursing the bastards that run Metro Transit you jump from the rear door of the bus banging your knee on the edge of a bus bench placed in front of the landing pad so it own ad can be seen easily by cars. As you limp - hop the extra blocks to pick up the kids and trying not to be late you promise yourself that next time you take the car, the bus is for losers.
And this is what Metro Transit's social engineering plan is: bad experiences to drive away riders that have a car alternative. For the rest of the population with no choice? Screw 'em, they don't usually vote. The right wing calls transit "social engineering", and it is. It is just that it is engineered by the current administration as an assault on the public sensibilities. Well, riding transit just does not have to be intentionally bad, it can be tolerable with some engineering effort. And the first engineering effort should be to stop doing stupid things to the riders, like covering up the windows so people cannot see the destination. Some say only "vision impaired" people have a concern, I say those that say this obvious lie drive SUVs and never take the bus.
Mandate some design restrictions over window area bus/train wrap advertisements, Like only 50% window coverage. This is a reasonable compromise of advertisement wrap and rider comfort. And if that cannot work for the advertiser, then tough, Metro Transit is for transportation of people, it is not a mobile billboard fleet. The advertiser can buy their own bus or train and drive it around, get off my bus and my train, I paid the fare and my taxes pay the subsidy.
Improvement in system usability will increase ridership, many of the improvements are not a huge capital expense but improved interface to other transportation systems. Simple usability testing will expose hindrances and annoyances to riders and many problems can be easily fixed, but usability tests are certainly not done by Metro Transit. Usability tests are an established practice in airplane design, retail and software engineering; it is time to apply the same principles to Metro Transit.
Note: A transit system finally sees the light and removes wrap,
Albany transit removes wrap advertising
Why not here?
Seattle dumps bus wraps November 30, 2006
But the real story is that to depress ridership Seattle will do some social engineering: Seattle desperate to jack up fares and bring back full wraps