These London Trains Have Real-Time Displays to Reduce Crowding

Photo: Siemens
Photo: Siemens

Sometimes it’s astounding how rider-friendly transit service has become in other countries compared to America.

In the U.S., even the biggest transit agencies have yet to put trains into service with open gangways, which let passengers spread out more evenly. Meanwhile, these types of trains have become standard in other parts of the world, and transit agencies are figuring out new ways to take advantage of them to improve the rider experience.

Dan Malouff at Greater Greater Washington shares this example from Thameslink, a regional rail service in London and its suburbs:

Take a look at this sign inside a British Thameslink commuter train. It tells riders which railcars are most crowded, so they can walk to a less crowded car.

The signs are on Thameslink’s newest trains, and work via a “load weigh system” that estimates crowding based on the weight load inside each railcar.

Combined with Thameslink’s open gangway layout that allows passengers to walk from car to car without leaving the train, the system increases the functional capacity of the whole train for very little cost. Far less cost than more trains or more tracks, certainly.

And like real-time train or bus arrival information, it’s easy to imagine this sort of info being incorporated into smartphone apps. If that happens, riders would be able to pick a spot on the platform where they know the least crowded railcar will arrive.

More recommended reading today: The Dallas Morning News gives the Trinity Toll Road, an urban highway proposal that city residents have been fighting for years, about a week to live. And Bike Portland says the NTSB’s new report on speeding validates the city’s Vision Zero initiatives.

  • James Scantlebury

    The displays also tell you which toilets onboard are occupied/out of use, and most importantly, the status of the Tube lines. So if your line has delays, you can replan your journey before you get off the train.

  • Onboard toilets, are you kidding? In Seattle they don’t even have loos at stations, or in fact public loos just about anywhere downtown. Part of the problem is, Americans in many regions will destroy anything that’s public and fragile.

  • Niles

    To be fair, Thameslink are more akin to commuter rail like Metro North, which have restrooms, just not open gangways or loading displays.

  • James Scantlebury

    Exactly. Although the headways are at American Metro levels – around 24 trains per hour.
    (Google Thameslink Programme for more details – its akin to a “Crossrail 0” really)

  • mfs

    More pertinent to NYC’s problems than knowing where to get a seat (I can look), a weight-based loading metric could be captured centrally and would give real time feedback and comprehensive historic data on train loads, rather than zero real-time data and historic data collected episodically by manual checkers.

  • A

    It’s already integrated into the Trainline (rail) app and Citymapper (fastest way from A to B using realtime data about tube/rail/bus) in London

  • Urbanely

    Do these train lines also have more exits than sat the standard NYC train station? Also, do they have more frequent service for connecting buses/trains? I know many NYCers (myself included) choose their car/platform space based on where the exit is at their final stop. Since I take a train to bus most evenings, I try to be near the exit so that I have a better chance of catching the bus and not waiting 10+ minutes at the bus stop if I miss it. (Yes, I know bus time is a thing but it’s not really accurate on my line).

  • DumpsterFire

    “Sometimes it’s astounding how rider-friendly transit service has become in other countries compared to America.”

    Sometimes? How about it ALL times. The USA is a transit joke. The US is turning into a hell hole.

  • davistrain

    Although times are slowly changing, most of the US (as in outside of older cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco) sold its soul to Henry Ford and Alfred P. Sloan many years ago. In this mindset, “Real Americans” live in single-family houses and drive their own motor vehicles. Transit-riding apartment dwellers are second class citizens.

  • Sounder trains have toilets onboard Michael. These Thameslink Class 700s are longer distance trains.

  • Enjoy this All The Stations (@allthestations) interview by Geoff Marshall (@geofftech) wtih the designer of these new Thameslink (@TLRailUK) Class 700 train Pubic Information Screens
    (queued up to start at 6m50s)

    https://youtu.be/a5bLDmrCAgQ?t=6m49s

  • SuperQ

    The U-Bahn trains in Berlin come every 5 minutes typically. Worst-case is 15min on weekend/holiday late nights. Some of the suburban S-Bahn lines only come every 20min, but they have a much farther reach, about 20 miles from the center of town. This would be more comparable to manhattan to queens or yonkers.

    The U-Bahn trains have 4 doors per car, spaced every 8 feet. The S-Bahn, I think, is spaced a little bit more, maybe 10 feet.