Stop announcements, which tell the name of the next stop, are now available on all our bus routes, with the exception of neighborhood routes operated with minibuses. Announcements were first introduced on trams in summer 2018 and, in the autumn of the same year, on the first trunk route buses.
Visually impaired people have been calling for stop announcements to be introduced on buses and trams for a long time. In 2009, the Finnish Federation of the Visually Impaired conducted a survey of 1,000 people in which almost all respondents expressed the need for audio announcements. “The results were one reason why the announcements were on the project list from the beginning when we started building the new ticketing and information system about eight years ago,” says Joona Packalén, information planner at HSL.
“When we started deploying the PA system, we had to address various technical challenges. The first challenge was that there were over twenty different types of bus models in service and even vehicles of the same type differed depending the year of manufacture. Once the announcements were available on trams and some trunk route buses, we took time to gain experiences of the deployment of the system and the related technical problems.”
Easier travel for visually impaired people
Merja Hanski from the Helsinki and Uusimaa Association for Visually Impaired says she screamed with joy when she heard the announcements for the first time on route 57.
“I’ve been travelling by bus and tram for over 40 years. You can imagine how alert I had to be to get off at the right stop before the announcements were introduced. Now I can travel without worries." The announcements do not benefit only the visually impaired, but also other users of public transport, such as older people, children and tourists who are visiting the city.
The voice of the bus and tram announcements is actress Alma Pöysti. She was selected in 2015 from four candidates together with customers. The voices were tested mobile buses and trams. Hanski thinks Pöysti’s voice is suitable for the announcements. “The voice is clear and high enough for a noisy urban environment,” she says.
Although the stop announcements are now available on almost all of our services, we will continue to develop the system. “In the future, the announcements may tell about interchange connections or, for example, tell the next stop is the terminus,” says Joona Packalén.
Merja Hanski encourages HSL to move the ideas forward. “Announcements would be very helpful in many situations. For example, if you should get off a bus or tram but the stop is closed and the bus or tram just continues past the stop without stopping. It’s a very difficult situation for the visually impaired.”