go round and round. Theeeeee TV on the bus goes ad ad ad, ad–
Ok, Transit Television has been around since 1999, and it’s not exactly the newest media trend, but I was reminded of it riding a city bus yesterday, so I thought I would reminisce.
Flash back to 2003. I just started college in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, acquired my university bus pass, and was learning the relevant routes. I noticed that some of the vehicles came equipped with monitors that not only had a map (which was USUALLY in sync with the actually drive) showing the upcoming stops, but also showed I Love Lucy, news, weather, word puzzles, and even recipes, sometimes all in Spanish!
This was TNN (the Transit Television Network) and Milwaukee was the second city (after Orlando, where the company is based) to get it. Since then Chicago, Atlanta, Norfolk, and Los Angeles have all been hooked up, and San Diego is getting its first taste this year. With all the money to be made from advertising to a “captive audience” with “attractive demographics,” what public transportation system can resist?
I can’t say it was all bad. Sometimes the bus DID get boring, and it was nice on occasion to zone out to one of those games where you watched letters fill in a word like “crocodile” or “vacuum” and tried to guess it before the time ran out. Sometimes the recipes sounded good; sometimes the news was enlightening, and sometimes the old TV shows made me laugh.
On the other hand, there were days when I just wanted a quiet ride home, and anyone who rides a city bus knows that’s hard enough as it is withOUT constant TV babble. It made it difficult to focus on a book, and headphones had to compete to drown out the commercials. Even looking out a window got tough, because there were always screens talking at me, wanting me to turn and look. It just felt a little invasive sometimes.
If you didn’t have reading material or some video games, it was an ok distraction. I just don’t like the fact that it’s forced on passengers. The volume never goes down and it doesn’t get turned off unless it’s just not working (which was the case at least a couple times. It’s fed via Wi-Fi, and sometimes it would inexplicably freeze).
I’m tempted to say, “Enjoy your relatively silent buses while you can!” but that seems a bit harsh. I think it just gets me that the whole point seems to be advertising money. Most people are plenty capable of entertaining themselves on a commute and if they are anything like me, they will be a little resentful of competition from TV commercials.