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Durban People Mover

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Durban People Mover
Submitted by capdog on Tuesday, July 17, 2007 - 16:12

We headed down to Suncoast on Sunday afternoon with the express intention of riding Durban's new "people mover". Not to actually go anywhere, but just to suss it out and get a feel for the quality of service.

It's not a bad job, and they've delivered well on the many promises made. Unfortunately, this is shrouded by the fact that the design company behind the map has made it near impossible to actually find the bus stops, and very difficult to plan routes.

Arriving at Suncoast on foot from Battery beach side, we first realised that it was going to be a bit of a mission to locate our target. Having searched around a bit, we asked a security guard who pointed out the spot in front of the new hotel. Ah ha! That little blue sign with the "people mover" logo above it! Err... of course.

We had initially walked straight past this sign, simply because it isn't at eye level and there's nothing to suggest the little corner is a bus stop. Off to a shaky start, if you ask me.

Our moods improved a bit when the smart looking bus rounded the corner from Suncoast. The friendly driver handed us our R4 tickets along with a gleaming smile and a pocket map of the various routes taken around the city.

Inside, the bus has everything you'd expect from a modern transport system: air conditioning, automatic doors, wheelchair ramp, a flat-screen monitor, those little red "stop" buttons that you can push to alert the driver... everything!

On the monitor a package of tourism highlights is played on repeat, including some very questionable scenes copied directly from "Baywatch". No, I'm not joking. Two staunch-looking lifeguards, with red swimshorts and lifesaving buoys in hand, running in slow motion on the beach. Must be the work of a disgruntled videographer at the design studio slipping it in as a joke. Surely they don't think the Hoff is still cool?

The sound system inside plays a compilation CD of South African music. Each month or so they replace the discs with fresh tracks, so if you're a local artist there's always an opportunity to get some well deserved airtime. Speak to them, I'm sure they can hook it up!

Thank god East Coast Radio didn't get a contract to broadcast on the people mover! Can you imagine? How embarrassing for us when tourists come to Durban, but instead of hearing our highly talented musicians they'd see Baywatch on the screen coupled with hearing the crappy washed-out tunes from ECR. It would feel like they'd stepped into a time machine and traveled to 1980's America!

Crisis averted though, good move with the CD players guys. Job well done.

Right. Now we do some role playing. Imagine you're a Durban local (that wasn't hard); and I'm a tourist who stops you on the beach and asks for directions to the "transfer station". I show you the following map, standard issue from the "people mover":

Can you do it? Can you tell me, without ambiguity, how to get to the exact location of the bus stop that serves as a transfer station? Is it on West Street? Pine Street? Do you know?

I thought not. But don't worry, you're not alone: I wouldn't be able to do it either. Simply because this "map" is the most spastic piece of geographic information I have ever layed eyes on. There are no clear directions to find the individual stops.

Take a look at "Suncoast" point on the map. Now Suncoast is a big place, would you be able to tell a tourist how to find that little sign I mentioned at the top of the article, based on this map alone? Nope? Thought not.

It's ludicrous to provide a bus map that doesn't have the information actually required to get on it in the first place.

Next point: who's idea was it to have little meaningless icons (e.g. "The Wheel" - a little wheel that looks exactly like a sun) at each stop on the map, which have to be cross-referenced to an index to establish what they represent? The index only contains the names of the places anyway, so it's not like they couldn't fit the text next to the actual stop on the route plan!

Trying to get your head around a route is a nightmare because you constantly have to dart your eyes back and forward from the key to the map: "Umm... ok, so we get out at W2... what is that, W2, W2... ok, that's Smith street... but hang on... where on Smith street is it? It doesn't say! CURSE YOU, MAP, BURN IN HELL!!"

Now more role playing: isn't this fun? The time is 4:25pm and you're at Elangeni Hotel. Can you tell me by looking at the map for less than 30 seconds what route you'd travel if you wanted to get to the ICC?

Confusing, isn't it? The answer is, as we found out through trial-and-error on Sunday, that since it will be 4:30 just before you hit the transfer station, you'd take the red route south, and without doing anything your bus would automatically change onto the green route going west on Smith street, then turn around and come back towards the ICC on Commercial. That bus would then jump back onto the yellow route and head down to uShaka.

I bet you're looking back at the map right now because you don't believe me. No, no, please... go ahead. Be double sure.

My friend and I have both traveled extensively on major first world transport systems all over Europe and we both agreed that this map system flouts almost every international standard of "How to diagram a bus route for dummies 101". It's retarded, plain and simple.

But without any further comment, I've taken the liberty of using Microsoft Paint to fix it. Here is a map you can print out and keep with you for when you encounter a pack of highly confused Japanese tourists wandering aimlessly along Point road:


1) Text names instead of icons on the actual route map
2) Different routes colour coded according to time of day
3) Key contains actual low-level street maps which indicate exactly where the stops are.

Okay okay, so I didn't insert the correct map of each stop in the key. Why not? Because I still have no freakin' idea where they are.

Try again to do the exercise I mentioned above: from Elangeni to ICC at 4:25pm. Now how much easier is it on the new map? And was it difficult for me to spend half an hour with Paint to fix it? No.

What else do you notice about the maps in general? C'mon... look closely. Got it?

Why, it still references the old street names! Victoria Embankment? Where the hell is that?

I think we're sending out a clear message to the tourists: if you don't get mugged on the way in, you will be after you become hopelessly lost in the dodgiest part of the CBD.

So this is an open offer to the municipality: I will do the job of these cretins, and do it a damn sight better. Call me. Now. Durban's fate depends on it.

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Subject:  Dawgie dawg dawg dawg
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  18 July, 2007 - 13:37

If you look real careful, you'll see an outline of a bus on those blue signs.
Could be wrong (it's happened before...in 1997) but that may indicate that they're bus signs. And I think they put them up high because that means people can see them from a distance. Which is clever, 'cos if they were low, only cars'd see them, which would serve no purpose at all.
After all, what car you ever met needed a bus?

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Subject:  That's true, just that most
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  18 July, 2007 - 14:18

That's true, just that most of the stops had seats and shelters, that particular one didn't so we missed it!

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Subject:  Seats
Author:  hedmekanik
Date:  18 July, 2007 - 14:43

Those things are screwy - the one on the road leading up to Nth Beach roundyroundy faces away from the road in the opposite direction of the traffic.
Smoking some kick-ass dank that day, fo sho.

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Subject:  ?
Author:  adelle
Date:  19 July, 2007 - 08:55

what about the name changes,those maps dont include the new names of streets. i got confused looking at those maps. imagine those tourists
who want to get to sum street they cant say and we dont know were on earth it is.
once a tourist asked me for directions,i was so confused that i acted like i was from a diffent country.

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Subject:  Bus Moosic
Author:  Hotdog
Date:  19 July, 2007 - 08:40

Hey dig the fact that they are using local is lekker music. I for one am very proud of our local talent (music and girls) and reckon that this is exactly the type of thing all South African businesses from both public and private sectors should be doing. Find anyway possible to promote our own artists. Whoever decided about using local music hit the nail solidly on the head. Well done. PS: Busses are cool too by the way :)

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Subject:  The people movers...
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  21 July, 2007 - 10:45

...emailed me this:

"I think your map is brilliant and a lot easier to read."

Awesome! See, being a whiny bitch does make a difference. ;)

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Subject:  Good job!
Author:  voyager
Date:  22 July, 2007 - 15:31

If it were up to me, you'd be in charge of the "People Mover", Mynah, Durban "Transport" and taxi routes. Speaking of which, is it possible to transfer between the People Mover and Mynah, say? I can't tell looking at the map.

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Subject:  Thanks, not sure about
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  22 July, 2007 - 16:20

Thanks, not sure about transfers from Mynah though.

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Subject:  got a beef with the mynah?
PrairieDog's picture
Author:  PrairieDog
Date:  13 August, 2007 - 13:25

got a beef with the mynah?

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Subject:  Yeah, it crapped on my car!!
capdog's picture
Author:  capdog
Date:  13 August, 2007 - 13:35

Yeah, it crapped on my car!!

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