Creative lag

Elling Lien is waiting for the bus.

Sick of standing on a fifty-meter-high snowbank waiting for a bus that’s 10 minutes late? Well, tracking systems on each Metrobus here in town can tell you roughly how late a bus is at any given moment via their website ( or you can order a text message for a 25 cent fee (!)

Well, at least the website sounds okay…

Unfortunately, it has fallen victim to bad design. The front page is a bloated, buggy, browser-freezing mess. (Don’t take my word for it—run through a web analyser youself at

Does a transit website with important, live information really need a fancy Flash clock and live weather feed on the main page? No. What people want is to find out where their bus is and how long it’s going to take to get to their door.

Cities around the world are hooking their transit systems up to tracking systems, and we should be paying attention.

Another dead-of-winter city, Helsinki, recently installed web servers on each of its buses. They’ve set up an easy-to-read map online which shows, in real time, where each of its buses are and where they’re headed—all on a single page and using a simple Google Map. You can watch the the little bus icons blink across the map en route, and can step outside just before the bus reaches your stop. (

London city transit has a tracking system which will soon be connected to traffic lights along each route to give buses priority. As a bus approaches a green light, for example, it will stay green until it passes through.

Public transit doesn’t have to be unreliable, awkward, or unpleasant. To make St. John’s a transit-friendly city, Metrobus needs to be working harder and smarter, and with less money than what other cities have in order to attract more happy customers.

And if can be as simple as hacking a Google map, why not?