I commend BART for paying attention to the blogosphere. I got a very detailed comment from BART's chief spokesperson
, Linton Johnson, following up on my post lamenting the proposal to put TV screens on BART trains and stations. It is worth a read. Go ahead, read it now
; I'll wait.....
OK, I'm all for good presentation of accurate information. I would love to be able to look at a monitor and find out when the next trains are coming, as soon as I get into the station so I'll know whether to walk or run. I'd like to have live train information streamed over HTML and XML to the Internet so I can use the BART Widget on my Mac
and know what is the actual projected times of arrival are, not just the scheduled times. I'm sure that people in wheelchairs will appreciate being able to tell at a glance which stations have broken elevators. And as Mr. Johnson says, the announcements and overhead displays are not up to that task.
However, it's clearly more than just the presentation of useful information, based on Mr. Johnson's description. I appreciate the fact that the TVs will not be blaring audio, but you know what? They are still TVs. How many times have you been a room where there is a TV on, and tried to read a book, or hold down a conversation, even if the sound is off? It's not easy: the constant movement and faces are constantly catching attention; TV programming is all but designed to catch our attention these days. Constant scrolling of information is even more eye-catching: Try watching (or try not watching) a tickered news channel and not find yourself reading the scrolling information, even if it's information you don't care about!
Televisions are popping up everywhere you turn these days: restaurants, supermarkets, at the gas pump, laundromats, ATMs, waiting in line at the bank, and so on. It's insulting to imagine the message that sends, that our society can't sit still without being distracted by the TV. How many more hours a day can we possibly spend with a TV screen on nearby?
The argument that there needs to be programming in order to pay for these screens is, frankly, outrageous. Sure, it will be another revenue stream for BART. But what if the revenue stream dries up like it did when BART installed the video monitors about a decade ago? Instead, BART should work on getting useful information out to their users and do so in a scalable, non-advertising method (or at least have non-moving, poster-like advertisements alongside displays filled mostly with information) so that one can use BART as a way to get AWAY from the screens, from the stress and stimulation of work (or traffic) so that you actually can
doze off or relax or read a book on your way home.
Please BART, no TVs.