Motorbus Direction Boards : By J. Brown, F.R.S.
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The Metropolitan motorbus companies have, no doubt, every desire to inform efficiently the would-be passenger of their ability to carry him to his destination, but they entirely fail to succeed in this because of the extraordinary absence of any appreciation of the physical inability to make use of their obsolete methods, considering the speed of their new vehicles. Most of the companies plaster the sides of the bus with a dozen names and apparently assume these can be read. Others, seeing they cannot be read, are content with one conspicuous name or mark, leaving the Police to put people into the proper vehicle.
The companies can have no idea of the anxiety and difficulty of the casual provincial in deciphering their signals, and the consequent loss of income to themselves. For instance, a few days ago, I desired to go from the Law Courts to Piccadilly. I believed that out of the scores of motorbuses rushing by one of them could take me thither if I could only know which. On the first that came I caught " Union, Jack," a name which recalls a good many places in the world, but not specially Piccadilly ; and so this bus was past, leaving my penny in my pocket. Another bus loomed up, roared and passed, and, while 1 was racking my brains whether my glimpse of " Putney " had any geographical bearing on Piccadilly, it also vanished hidden indeed by an intervening horse-bus whose radius vector from a centre at my eye coincided with that of the motor. I considered, then, should I stop all the passing buses and enquire for Piccadilly and, possibly, be run in for obstructing traffic? Or, if I stood on the footway shouting Piccadilly at them, should I be considered an escaped lunatic? It took some minutes to find a policeman who kindly gave me the information which ought to have been supplied on the bus. 1 politely enquired if he was often aslZed the same question. "Wish I had a suvrin for every time k's awsked in a day, Sir I " said my friend in blue, with an eager smile of appreciation at even the imagination of the pile. I concluded I could have almost walked to Piccadilly in the time I spent hunting this bus, which fact recalls the reply of a Londoner to my animadversions on the difficulty of finding out the ways of buses. " Oh, we Londoners know our buses, and you provincials never use them, you always walk I" Just so, since the bus companies make it hnpracticable to use them.
The same trouble, although existing in the old horsebuses, was of less importance, because one could run round these leisurely vehicles en route and read their legends. Indeed, I have often fallen back in despair on the horsedrawn vehicle after two or three motorbuses had rushed by incognito. One might calculate the loss of income to the motorbus if one knew approximately the number of strangers visiting London per annum. I should say each one would probably spend several more pence per day on motorbuses if he could readily know where they were going. It would amount to a considerable total.
Now, to take up the actual problem and its solution in detail. I find by stop-watch that it requires 20 to 30 seconds to read over intelligently the dozen or so names found on the side of a bus while at rest, and occasionally one may have to read them all before ascertaining that the required name is not there. Again, from the instant at which the side of the passing bus comes to an angle that enables its lettering to be even just visible until it has passed the observer, three to five seconds only elapse. This means that one is required to perform in five seconds what it takes zo to accomplish—an absolutely physical impossibility. If, however, the names were placed on the front of the vehicle, it would be just possible to accomplish the reading of them all in 20 seconds, even if piebaIded promiscuously over the front surface, be cause they come square into view the moment the bus appears, and remain so while the vehicle approaches. I propose, however, a reduction of the required time to two seconds, by simply placing the names in alphabetical order on the front of the bus, In this way, we give the would-be passenger zo or 30 seconds to do work requiring 2 seconds, instead of asking him to do in 5 seconds what requires 20. Let the names now scattered indiscriminately over the whole bus be arranged alphabetically in 3i-inch lettering on each side above the driver. The boards carrying these names should be placed at an angle, so as to be visible from the sidepath as well as in front of the travelling bus. They would be about 4 feet or 5 feet in height, fo,• which there is room above the hood, and this is a good place to be seen over the slower traffic which travels near the sidepath. As an illustration, I take the following names which appear on a London General Omnibus Company's bus :—
Hyde Park. Piccadilly. Regent Street. Oxford Circus. Easton Road.
Hammersmith. West Kensington. Earl's Court Exhibition. Hornsey Sr.Ri King's X. Caledonian Road. Holloway.
Placed alphabetically, they appear as follows :— Caledonian Road.
Earls Court Exhibition.
Euston Road. Hammersmith. Holloway.
Hornsey Rise. Hyde Park. King's Cross. Oxford Circus. Piccadilly.
Regent Street. West Kensington.
The reader may test the efficiency of my plan by asking a friend to call out a name on the list and observing the difference in time taken to find it in one list or in the other. I have also had prepared a number of copies of the latter list, in 3i-inch lettering, which I trust the Editor will persuade the London General Omnibus Company to try on its buses. (The attention of the General Manager of that Company, Captain Wilfrid Durable, shall be specially drawn to the matter.—ED.] I feel sure there will be no question of their usefulness. Across the top of these name-boards might be placed the legend—
HAMMERSMITH. REGENT STREET. HORNSEY RISE.
These names might be put in reverse order on the back, as they could be reversed to indicate the direction of the route at the time being. People have been heard of who got into buses going the opposite way to what they intended.
It may be objected that the placing of the boards as suggested would interfere with advertising. Well, I presume it is the company's first interest to advertise its own business. Again, if I were a distressed passenger in the act of applyingthe entire energies of my being to detect Piccadilly, and could only find Bear's Soap or Peecham's Pills, I should be inclined to abjure soap and abhor pills for the rest of my life.
It may also be suggested that trains on lines branching in several directions, as the Metropolitan District Railway, might adopt a similar plan in putting alphabetical lists of the stations intended to be called at in front of the engine.