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.

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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.

14 Comments

  1. Leandro says:

    You should hang out around the bus stops with your camera, take pictures of people reading the schedules, blur out their faces and post them here. Just for fun.

    • Mark says:

      I think that is a great idea, it would show people using what you made and interacting with in proves it is needed to anyone who would say otherwise. 

  2. Kevin says:

    What a great contribution to your community. You are an innovative person and an unselfish human being. Thanks for doing this, even though I don’t live there. There are talkers and doers, ans you are a doer.

    • Onyeje Bose says:

      This is literally thinking globally, and acting locally.

      Just imagine if more people did little things like this for their local community…

  3. I came via Hacker News – really impressive and admirable. If I were you, I’d pitch to Metro to take you on to advise them on doing this all over the city. 

  4. Adam says:

    Very cool and very thoughtful.  

    Look forward to being fined by your city government for tampering with their property and vandalism.

    • Yes, we must stealthy in our guerilla public service. Funny, bad people doing bad things don’t ask for permission and get away with it, good people doing good things without “authorization” get in trouble. When we ask for permission we are denied.

      Metro though, likes the schedules, they haven’t taken them down and will keep them up.

  5. mcuk says:

    Very good job. In a perfect world, they could make them more accessible, by focusing on each bus stop with the repeated data replaced by colour coded blocks that say “then 11 and 41 minutes past the hour” or if it’s a frequent service at a certain block, they can simply state “every 5 minutes” because the times no longer mater. That’s the way they do it here, so you can easily fit a dozen routes onto a single flat panel – probably requires a lot of effort though.

  6. Martin says:

    Great work man! How cheap of them to not even put up paper schedules at the bus stops. In my home town in Sweden they have schedules at every stop and all of them are custom to the stop in question so they start at the current stop and shows only the stops afterwards and how many minutes it will take to each stop. And on all bigger stops they use electronic displays as well, which is nice because they show the actual estimated time of arrival based on their current location and speed. In my current town they use electronic displays everywhere for the trams, and you can see the same real time data online, so no need to actually walk outside to see if the tram is late.

    • latj says:

      I live in St. Louis also and I can confirm that public transit here is horrible. The single-track of light rail gets decent usage but the buses are not practical and many people are afraid or ashamed to use them so the buses are filled with mostly the poor. After the last Metro schedule change, it now takes me ~45 minutes to get to work 3 miles away (approximately the same amount of time it takes to walk and 3 times longer than riding a bike).

      In the U.S, we have something called the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is designed to protect those with disabilities. For example, public transit systems must make accommodations for all disabled people who live within a certain distance from a bus stop. In my opinion, the people who set the bus routes in St. Louis have redesigned the system to optimize the system to spend the least amount of money to comply with these rules instead of building a practical system and tacking on call-a-ride (cab service) where needed.

      In other words, I would prefer that the the entire bus system have 50% of the coverage it has now if the the routes that did exist made sense and were useable. As it stands, the system is almost useless (have you seen route 80? it goes from civic center to shaw neighborhood, drives in a circle and then returns WTF?).

      As for signs, ease of use, etc- St. Louis gets a solid D-. Not only do the signs not have time tables, they often do not even update the stickers signifying which buses even passes by a given sign. From time to time bus drivers do not know the routes themselves, make wrong turns and are corrected by passengers, or skip entire stops.

      The way to correct these problems is probably to undo the unholy marriage between Missouri and Illinois that allows governors to appoint useless people to board of directors (for life). Also, perhaps we could paint the outside of the buses to look like trolleys. People seem to love their trolleys. ;)

      In other news- jag ska resa till sverige nästa månad. Sedan kan jag försöka att åka bra kollektivtrafik.

    • lol, Yeah some stops have the wrong route stickers or no route stickers, but Metro just got funding and are starting a multi-series plan to fix that. They’ll be taking out unnecessary stops so they’re not so close together and fixing the stickers, then doing the bus schedule idea at the end. I would love to get hired and put them up all day, I really enjoyed it.

  7. trollcat says:

    You should deduct this on your taxes.

  8. WOW at the time schedules. In Buglaria busses arive maximum 5-6 minutes in between and that is what is written on the alouminium schedules.

  9. Maildejaime says:

    on the anverse or some available space you can paste a black highly reflective paper or plastic sheet, so people can use it as a mirror for a last on-the-fly look check. With a little bit of playfullness you can give a wider meaning to the “guerrilla” term. great work!

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