The Null Device

The commercialisation of transport

Today I had occasion to catch a tram from Glebe to Central Station. One thing I noticed about Sydney's trams (all one line that they have there, much like Manchester or LA or someplace) was that they have TV screens installed on board, with sound, which play some sort of "entertainment programming", consisting of ads and extreme-sports segments. Which looks like the sort of thing that giant TV screen in Bourke St. shows.

Mind you, the trams there do have air conditioning you can actually feel, as opposed to the pitifully weak effort on Melbourne's trams/trains (presumably adjusted down to the bare minimum to cut the privatised operators' electricity costs). Perhaps that's what the ad revenue pays for?

Sydney's buses also have video screens, which today were displaying Fun Facts About Christmas (i.e., about reindeer and Christmas trees and such, not about Jesus Christ or Mithras or the like). Not sure what the point of those is; perhaps they'll gradually sneak in ads?

(Yes, I'm in Sydney right now; I'm typing this from Peter's house. I've been on the road since Sunday, hence the recent sparsity of blogging.)

There are 12 comments on "The commercialisation of transport":

Posted by: kstop http:// Wed Dec 17 18:03:54 2003

They're also a good form of crowd control. People tend to stare gaw-eyed and slack-jawed at the screen, rather than running up and down slashing the seats. They have them on the Heathrow Express too, but it has quiet carriages with the sound turned off and mobiles banned, which is nice.

Posted by: gjw Thu Dec 18 08:19:58 2003

In reality, anything that keeps the cost of public transport down to a level that the public can afford, and/or generates enough income to pay the drivers properly, is fine by me (since the state governments are loath to spend any serious money on it). I'm usually engrossed in headphones and a book anyway. One thing that amazed me in Sydney is the giant-screen video and surround sounds billboards inside the major inner-city stations.

Posted by: acb Fri Dec 19 00:25:50 2003

gjw: it's good up to a point. Though beyond that point, if public transport becomes an ordeal of intrusive advertising, those who have alternatives will avoid it, and it will fill up with only those too desperate to do so.

Posted by: mark Fri Dec 19 19:15:26 2003

Who probably don't fit in the advertisers' target demographic...

Posted by: acb Sat Dec 20 01:19:44 2003

Then the ad companies will switch to ads for hard liquor and cigarettes (which could become legal again thanks to the magic of free-trade treaties).

Posted by: Troy http:// Sun Dec 21 01:04:43 2003

Hard Liquor and cigarettes are illegal? Or is that only in Sydney.

Posted by: Alex Sun Dec 21 04:02:45 2003

Did they have ads for trips to Mars?

Posted by: Ben http:// Sun Dec 21 05:35:12 2003

Yes, none of those dodgy memory-implant holidays!

Posted by: acb Sun Dec 21 07:35:30 2003

I meant *ads for* hard liquor and cigarettes. (The former may be legal, though explicitly preying on the desperate and alcoholics may cause complaints.)

I'm sure you'll recall the statistics that in the US, 42% of cigarettes are smoked by those with mental health problems, and the references to nicotine as self-medication for schizophrenia (a condition which afflicts a lot of the homeless and otherwise desperate).

Posted by: Graham Sun Dec 21 13:06:53 2003

Absolut would be hard liquor, no?

Posted by: acb Mon Dec 22 02:14:33 2003

It would be. Though the ads currently are marketed to well-off, status-conscious conspicuous consumers. I'm thinking of ads for cheap malt liquor or what have you, designed to appeal to those seeking oblivion.

Posted by: Graham Mon Dec 22 08:04:34 2003

I wonder if they still make Spumante.