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Digital screens show animated ads on the side of your bus

Have you seen big TV screens showing moving ads on the sides of some buses?

You’re not seeing things. Ten buses are currently roaming Vancouver with these new LED ad screens! And since more people are noticing them lately, I thought I’d do a post explaining them.

The screens are a just another way to show ads on our system, and right now, 10 diesel buses have them—all New Flyer 7200 series vehicles driving out of Vancouver Transit Centre.

We’re expanding to 10 buses after testing out one LED screen on a bus in a two-month pilot project last November.

The pilot looked to see if the screens would disrupt traffic or if there were any other concerns to know about. However, the pilot received positive feedback overall, and oddly enough, no negative responses.

Other drivers didn’t report any issues – perhaps because the screens are on the curbside of the bus, and buses generally drive in the curbside lane.

The LED ad screens on 10 Vancouver buses can show animated ads, like this Olympic promotion.

The LED ad screens on 10 Vancouver buses can show animated ads, like this Olympic promotion.

Transit operators also found there was little to no distraction from the external light being generated on the curbside of the vehicle. What we did hear was that the extra light was actually useful in the dark to help see the edge of the curb.

Plus on the technical side, the pilot showed us that installation on trolleys is considerably more complex than for diesel vehicles, so that’s why these LED screens are on diesel buses.

These 10 LED screens are part of a larger rollout: we’re planning to have more screens on the buses by the end of 2010. Beyond that, however, it remains to be seen. The physical and financial performance of the first 10 LEDs will help guide our decisions.

So far, though, the new LED screens are attracting interest from a number of existing and potentially new clients. But really, any new advertising media that can “break through” to customers will be attractive!

(By the way, if you’re curious, TransLink revenues from advertising are at minimum $7 million a year, so using technologies like this could possibly help boost our income. For more info, there’s a great Vancouver Courier article that explains our partnership with Lamar Transit Advertising and the revenues we generate.)


  • By Marvin Boutlier, September 2, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    I don’t like them. It distracts motorists when you have to stare at an advertisement to see what’s happening next. Stick to the current types of ads on buses please!

  • By ben K, September 2, 2009 @ 10:49 am

    I was not even aware of the pilot project (I haven’t seen one of these screens yet). Thanks for this summary, though — it’s fascinating to me that response was apparently so overwhelmingly positive. I would have assumed the opposite.

    I will keep this in mind for whenever I first see such a bus (I think I would otherwise be prepared to detest it!)


  • By David Lam, September 2, 2009 @ 11:04 am

    Since we’re on the topic of the LED buses, I can provide more hints with pictures! All 10 buses are ad-wraps (advertising that covers the entire bus) for Telus, and here are some picture of what they look like:

    I do have photos of 9 of these buses, still missing one…..look for the Telus buses through this link:

    My concerns about these LED signs are…….would they distract other drivers on the road at night-time? From the point of view of an operator, I heard some drivers claiming that LED sign literally blind their eyes by the end of an eight-hours shift when they have to look at the curb-side mirror several times in every minute! Finally, from what I know, the LED screen on the Burnaby pilot bus (B7417) actually ended up getting vandalised before getting removed, I thought a project as such is also a risk investment on the con side! Even if the LED signs aren’t vandalised, wouldn’t a little bit of “paint exchange” result in having to write off such a beautiful TV outside the bus?

    Just my two cents of thoughts……..of course, there are lots of advantages and good things about this new technology!


  • By lala, September 2, 2009 @ 11:08 am

    What coach numbers are these screens installed on? The one i remember hearing about was B7411 as the pilot bus. What coaches are they currently installed on?

  • By David Lam, September 2, 2009 @ 11:14 am

    V7201-V7204, V7207-V7209, V7216 – V7217

    The pilot bus was B7417

    Hope that helps!


  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, September 2, 2009 @ 11:15 am

    Hey, welcome back David! Hope you had a good holiday!

  • By Holly, September 2, 2009 @ 11:57 am

    I saw one of the LED screens on a bus at Stanley Park last week. I didn’t like it and felt it could be distracting to others on the road. I’ve tried calling Translink Customer service a couple times to comment about it, but ended up waiting on hold for over 15 minutes.

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, September 2, 2009 @ 12:01 pm

    Dave: I sent your concerns on and here’s some info from our marketing department.

    – The LED signs were tested for over a month to look at any issues/concerns operators, drivers, regulatory and enforcement bodies may have had. The test was successful in addressing many concerns – including the ones mentioned in the blog.

    – The signs are mounted only on the curb side of a bus, so they generally face away from traffic to audiences on sidewalks and off the roads, rather than facing other cars in traffic. Most car drivers’ greatest point of interaction will be as the bus crosses an intersection in front of a stationary vehicle waiting at a red light.

    – The brightness of the signs is controlled by a sensor that “turns down” the brightness significantly at night. Even during the daytime
    they are only running at approx. 60% of full brightness.

    – Vandalism and or physical damage to the transit system is unfortunately a frequent occurrence. We incorporated risk assumptions and calculations on damage as part of the project’s viability assessment.

    I hope this might help!

  • By Ashley Chow, September 2, 2009 @ 2:53 pm

    My friend parked @ the CIBC parking lot on 41st/Victoria one night last week. I stayed in the car and soon after, a bus pulled up to the stop with the blinding ad flashing about. It was pretty cool, I suppose, and it definitely catches people’s attention more so than regular paper ads. It’s a good thing it faces away from traffic or else I’m sure I would get caught up in staring at it while driving.

  • By Tessa, September 2, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

    even if there was no negative feedback sent in, i would be really concerned about distractions for drivers. Yes, buses are usually in the curb lane, but not always, especially when turning, and LED displays on billboards in the U.S. have been shown to be correlated with higher collision rates where the billboards are located.

  • By JC, September 2, 2009 @ 6:06 pm

    Hmm… LED for buses but no LCD for the new Skytrain cars?

  • By Bryan Gal, September 2, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

    So that’s why I only saw it for a couple months last year. But if i remember there actually was two test buses. B7414 and B7417. But I wonder if its possible to have an LED ad on the rear of the bus and not just curb side. Jhenifer you wouldn’t happen to know who makes the LED ads?

  • By Wayne, September 2, 2009 @ 8:00 pm

    You’ll never hear me arguing for more advertising. But I’ve been on the #41 with LCDs two or three late nights recently. I was surprised at how much light they throw off the right side of the bus and I thought it could only help drivers see objects and more importantly pedestrians and cyclists after dark.

  • By Brandon, September 2, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

    Being a transit operator, I havnt driven one of these buses yet, but im sure that it will help see the curb at night big time. As for being another driver with this sign passing you, it is blinding. I was at a bus stop when one of these passed me and it was very bright, but I had no problems seeing what I needed to see in all directions. As for the idea of them, I think that they are a great idea.

  • By ;-), September 2, 2009 @ 9:26 pm

    Yes I too think there is miss advertisement opportunity on the Skytrain/Canada Line. There is high usage and having something to watch in those tunnels would be great. Would Global TV’s morning broadcast be of interest to those on their way to work? They can run the closed caption as text to keep the volume down.

    In addition, wayfinding information can be shown for the approaching station (hotels, tourist destinations, and nearby sponsors).

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, September 3, 2009 @ 10:34 am


    Litelogic is the company who makes the screens.

    Screens could probably be mounted most anywhere on the bus, but I think we’re sticking with only curbside mounts to minimize driver distraction.

  • By ben K, September 3, 2009 @ 10:57 am

    Brandon: Better watch what you admit to, lest you get the “Short Turns” treatment like our transient blogging friend “Fingers McGinty” did… ;o


  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, September 3, 2009 @ 11:37 am

    If you’ve got a moment, put your LCD screen suggestion into the Customer Relations form — that way it will get to the right people at SkyTrain.

  • By ;-), September 4, 2009 @ 12:05 am

    OK done. Feedback 164928

    I introduced the idea here first to stimulate a possible discussion. Some may be offended by more advertisement, while others are in need of more ride stimulation (ie CLine Tunnel).

    Some restaurants/retailers have already partnered with LCD advertisement with mixed results. While I can see LCD panels appear to acceptable on platforms as the advertisements are mixed with information. Why stop there? Canada Line passengers, especially in the tunnels crave for stimulation as well. It’s amazing their eyes widen once the train exits the tunnel at Marine.

  • By David Lam, September 5, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

    Thanks for the update and information Jhenifer, much appreciated! =)

  • By Pawel Gora, November 3, 2009 @ 10:11 pm

    Bus LCD advertising, money well wasted. I noticed one of these buses latley crossing an intersection as it was pulling into a bus stop, now that’s distracting. What gives translink the right to bend the rules? ICBC is very specific on what you can and can’t do. In my younger days I remember a Police Officer pulling me over and giving me a ticket for having blue LED lights on my washer nozzles. Car “decorations” are a bad idea for many reasons, distraction being one. I guess Translink can pay its way out of this one…

  • By Jhenifer Pabillano, November 4, 2009 @ 10:14 am

    Pawel: I don’t know if you read the post or my subsequent comment but this project has only been launched after a month of pilot testing to address issues raised by drivers, the provincial government, and other enforcement bodies like ICBC. As the pilot was successful and showed no issues with the screens, we have continued on with a limited rollout on 10 buses. I’m not sure you know, but we do have a funding struggle at the moment and ad revenue actually doesn’t bring in a ton of money, so these types of innovations can be useful, especially since the pilot was a success. For reference, the Vancouver Courier article on the main post shows that we get roughly $7 million a year from advertising.

  • By Pawel Gora, November 4, 2009 @ 6:39 pm

    I think that there are other avenues for bringing in extra revenue (why not put those fancy screens on Skytrain cars instead? moving signs at bus stops, or even LCD screens, pop dispensers on skytrain?) I am really suprprised that Translink is “strugling” at the moment considering the increase in Gas Tax and Fare increases are just the tip of the iceberg. I am sure that more creative ways could be exploited. I for one, am against bus ads. We have enough of distractions to deal with on the roads already, this won’t help anyone. A Lawsuit waiting to happen… My 2 cents.

  • By ;-), November 8, 2009 @ 10:35 am

    I rode one of those LED sign buses for the first time last night on the 41st. There is a certainly a noticeable glow.

    For safety, I thought the image would stay static when the bus is in motion. Instead the glow would be bright, go to dark and then bright again as it changed ads when cruising down 41st.

    Is there a defective door sensor on v2717(?) that should be preventing the ads from changing?

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