Edinburgh's Bus Shelters Go Hi-Tech

Edinburgh introduces state-of-the-art bus stops. What can we expect from them?

Feature by Tariq Ashkanani | 05 Jun 2015
  • Edinburgh Bus Shelters Go Hi-Tech

Surely the only thing worse than waiting half an hour at a bus stop in the freezing cold, is waiting half an hour at a bus stop in the freezing cold with no charge in your phone. Time never passes more slowly than when you can’t refresh your Facebook feed, catch up on some podcasts, or play a few levels of Candy Crush Saga (or whatever match-three game the kids are currently into).

Things may be about to change, however, if outdoor advertising company JCDecaux have their way. Starting this week, Edinburgh Council are rolling out state-of-the-art bus stops in selected areas – Princes Street to begin with, and over the next six months around 400 shelters will be replaced. These innovative developments come as part of the ten-year contract between the company and Edinburgh Council to manage 1500 bus shelters and 60 large billboards.

Perhaps the most obvious change commuters can expect is in the adverts, or at least in the way the ads will be provided. Many of the new shelters will incorporate ‘LiveTouch’ technology, which will allow interactive screens to be used by people waiting to board their bus. Transport Convener Lesley Hinds claims that the aim of the new shelters is to “communicate real-time messages to the public,” meaning commuters can likely expect updates on nearby route diversions, local roadworks, and any other transport-related news – in among adverts for how to reach their nearest McDonald’s or what’s playing in that cinema across the road.

JCDecaux have already rolled out a plethora of hi-tech bus shelters in cities across Europe, and they’re pretty damn impressive. Touchscreens that allow interactive maps for route planning, broadcast free wi-fi and even offer charging facilities are all becoming commonplace in Barcelona. In Amsterdam, the company partnered with Vodafone to install 160 ‘small cells’ in bus shelters across the city, to help plug any black spots in the mobile carrier’s network.

According to the company, the LiveTouch technology enables a number of ways to interact directly with your phone. Android-only for the moment, commuters can use their smart devices to access numerous services, including bike rentals, city-wide points-of-interest and various tourist itineraries, depending on their length of stay and method of transport around the city.

It’s not yet clear how advanced the new shelters here in Edinburgh will be, or how far they will stretch – it seems Princes Street may be the focal point for the time being. Nevertheless, within the coming weeks we’ll begin to see these futuristic shelters in place and being used. At the very least, you won’t get bored waiting for that bus home.