Hi-tech bus shelters to charge smartphones

An interactive bus shelter in Barcelona. Picture: comp

An interactive bus shelter in Barcelona. Picture: comp

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City-centre bus shelters will be fitted with touchscreen displays which could allow passengers to browse online route maps, search for nearby shops and even charge their smartphones.

Work to install the first hi-tech bus stops will start this weekend as part of a multi-million pound contract with global street furniture giant JCDecaux, which will also see hundreds of other ageing bus shelters replaced.

The firm already operates similar touchscreen shelters in other European cities, where users can charge their phones and access free wi-fi.

However, a council spokeswoman said the authority was still in discussion with 
JCDecaux about how the touchscreens would be used, and no decisions had been made about hi-tech services at the new bus stops.

Bus shelters will begin being removed on Princes Street from Sunday, with temporary stops in place for two weeks while work is carried out. The first new shelters will begin being installed from May 17.

An online map has been published by the council, setting the removal date for every bus shelter being replaced.

Transport convener Lesley Hinds said: “These new bus shelters will allow us to communicate real-time messages to the public, visitors and commuters efficiently, transforming on-street advertising.

“Over the next six months we will endeavour to carry out the replacement programme as smoothly as possible, ensuring minimum disruption to road users and keeping local people and visitors informed.”

Cities including Barcelona have had the JCDecaux technology in place since 2013. Apps and websites available to commuters there include listings of nearby banks, pharmacies and police stations, and cultural listings for the week ahead.

Other services are targeted at visitors, letting them know how to get to nearby landmarks and suggesting itineraries based on how long they are staying.

The touchscreens in Barcelona also offer timetables and interactive maps for all public transport in the city, as well as interfacing with the bike rental scheme operated by JCDecaux.

Transport bosses in Edinburgh are in discussions about introducing a “Boris-bike” style scheme to the Capital as part of the contract. The shelters in the Catalan capital even offer USB sockets to charge mobile phones and free wi-fi services, although there is no indication that this will be available in Edinburgh.

Conservative transport spokeswoman Joanna Mowat said it “remained to be seen if the shelters will be useful beyond displaying advertising”.