By spring, Metro's bus shelters could both keep you out of the wind and talk to you.
Metro plans to start installing as many as 70 flat screens at bus stops across the system this spring that will display real-time bus arrivals as well as announce the information with audio to help visually impaired riders.
Each screen, with an enclosure designed to keep the electronics safe from the weather, will cost between $5,000 and $30,000 -- or between $350,000 to $2.1 million for the whole lot --depending on the location, Metro spokesman Philip Stewart said. Federal grant funds will pay for the signs.
Patrick Sheehan, chairman of Metro's Accessibility Advisory Committee, says the group has been working to get the signs installed for at least two years.
"We wanted the real-time information because it helps people to know where the buses are and when the next bus is coming, particularly on cold mornings like this. It gives you an idea of how long you're going to wait," he said.
The signs will display bus arrival times as predicted by the company NextBus, bus routes, destinations and MetroAlerts about detours and delays for buses that go to the stops, Stewart said.
The signs will go on bus stops on Metro property, since the agency is responsible for those. Local jurisdictions will have to decide if they want the signs at bus stops along their streets, which they are responsible for, Stewart said. Metro hasn't identified which bus stops will get the signs, though Sheehan said he hopes transit officials will start with major transfer stations.
Arlington County has LED signs at its Shirlington and Crystal City bus bays that display information on Metrobus and Arlington's ART buses. It had signs at the Rosslyn Metro bus bay in 2003, but those have been removed during construction, county officials said.
"We cannot overstate the importance for the riding public to have both schedule information and real-time arrival information available," said Steve Yaffe, Arlington's transit services manager. "Providing this information via the signs has contributed significantly to the growth of ART ridership over the past several years."
Nearly 80 bus stops in Arlington have "bus finders," electronic devices which riders can use to enter a route number and find arrival information.