Creation: Laminated Bus Stop Schedules (Guerrilla Public Service)

If we want more people to use public transit we’ve got to make it easier. The biggest user experience blunder in bus transit is the inability to tell where a bus goes and when it goes there if you’ve never ridden one. In order to find out you can hop online but not everyone can do that. So they need a schedule, which only the buses carry (rarely), so it’s a paradox: I need a schedule to know when the bus comes but I have to get on the bus to get a schedule. This pissed me off, so here’s my weekend project: Laminate 10 bus stop schedules of the 3 most busy routes and attach them to the bus stops with cable wire and grommets.

▼ First, the schedules in their normal form are TOO long. So I had to cut them up and reorganize their content in a way that made them shorter but still had all the necessarily info.

▼ If you wanted to do this the “right” way you’d have to rearrange the original templates and reprint the schedules on thick white paper front and back. That wasn’t in my budget so I just cut everything by hand. I glued them to additional paper so there’s less bleed through from the back side when the sun shines through them.

▼ Next, I got them laminated in thick 10mil lamination so they’ll be 100% waterproof.

▼ Thanks to Artistic Laminations of Bellvelle, MO (west of St. Louis) for their flawless high quality work. After seeing their samples and the work they did for me, I would highly recommend them. I paid $68 for 10 (expensive because of their very long sizes)

▼ Next I put in grommets, if you have a machine it would be a lot faster but I just did them by hand. A pack of grommets with the tool come in at about $8 from Home Depot. As long as the grommets are tightly hammered in, water won’t leak in.

▼ I decided to go with aluminum sleeves and cable wire to attach them permanently to the bus stop poles and shelters. They last well in any weather and you’d have to work very hard to tear them off. I went with 3/32 cable wire (but to save money you could get much thinner wire) which was $0.30 a foot ($5.70 for 19 feet) which I cut up into twenty 11 inch peices. The swagging tool and bolt cutter cost me $42.37 but it’s ok I returned them later.

▼ Next, are the aluminum sleeves ($13.70 total) that will permanently bond the wire ends together using the swagging tool. You could use tiller clamps if you want something that can be installed easier and can be unchained to add additional schedules later, but they’re expensive and not in my budget.

▼ Make sure you keep the cut end of the cable wire INSIDE the sleeve so no one pricks their fingers on it.

▼ I put one end in and lightly clamped it on all the wires so they’d be ready to go when I’m at the bus stops.

▼ Time to head out, that’s how big the swagging tool is, it looks like I’m trying to steal the bus stop when I use it. Fortunately the cops didn’t see me when I was installing the schedules.

▼ Here’s 1 of the 10 bus stop poles I installed it on. It’s at the perfect height so anyone, even people in wheelchairs can see them. I tried to install them at the most used bus stops. Even though those stops don’t have time points. Why? Because the schedule is the important part, people can estimate when the bus comes whether they’re at a time point or not.

▼ This is what the swagging tool does when it fully clamps the aluminum sleeves. It creates a strong permanently bond.

▼ For bus shelters I had to use metal ties ($7 total) as well because they don’t have any holes to put the cable wire through.

▼ End result: Bus stop shelter with schedule.

▼ Here’s a list of all 10 stops where I installed them.

View St. Louis Bus Schedule Installations in a larger map

Total Cost: Not including labor, gas, or the price to print the schedules, $102.40 (About $10 per schedule) ouch, but it was worth it. A successful experiment is always worth it. 

Alternative Cost: I used these more expensive heavy duty materials because I didn’t know what to expect in terms of the durability needed (from the elements and from humans) but you could probably get the cost down to $5-$7 per schedule by going with smaller schedules to save on lamination, less thick 3mil or 5mil lamination sheets, order grommets in bulk, and use a different method to attach them to the stops. Also, I used cable wire because I have an obsession with it, I love the stuff. I just installed a cable wire cloths line in my backyard. :) Again, I didn’t know what to expect, we’ll see how these hold up.

Immediate Benefits to the Company: Financial & Environmental. Less money spent on printing schedules for people to take. If most bus stops along a route have these it’ll completely eliminate the need for people to take paper schedules. Which means less or no schedules need to be printed. Thus saving Metro St. Louis money in the long run.

And there we have it. What really made me happy were the people who saw me doing it and thanked me. As well as the bus drivers who saw me and didn’t say anything. Also, people have been leaving them alone instead of ripping them off. At one stop a temporary bus sign went missing but they left my schedule alone. 

Update: I called one of St. Louis Metro’s planning department workers and told her about it. Turns out she was getting calls from staff wondering who put them up. “They like them”, so lets see where this goes.