Much excitement in Stuttgart this summer: the bus company has fitted real time information panels on their bus stops. I appreciate that other cities in the world have had these since before the turn of the century -I can remember them in Tokyo back in 2000- but for Stuttgart a lag of eighteen years in public transport technology is pretty good really. We live one kilometre outside of the city so I expect it’ll be a couple more decades before our local authority hears about them.

Now that’s a great idea as far as it goes, but the information panels are tiny things to fit into the normal bus stop signs, so you can’t see them from a distance, for example as you get off the tram to catch the bus to work. On top of this, someone realised that when you have information panels you can put all kinds of useful messages onto them, so the actual bus times are sandwiched between lots of other helpful advice.

Because of the peculiar geography of Stuttgart -the city founders, in their wisdom decided that a series of steep sided malaria ridden river valleys was the ideal place to make a city- the bus wiggles back and forth for a leisurely ten minutes down the hill, taking in several other parts of the city and crossing the path of every confused, lost, or otherwise distracted driver around. The pedestrian route from the tram stop to work takes 12 minutes, which means that unless the bus is about to come through the stop, it’s as quick to walk.

Unfortunately, by the time I’m close enough to read the information panel, and it has finished telling us about engineering works and the flower festival in the park, then finally remembers what it is there for and imparts the information that the bus is due in ten minutes, I might as well just walk straight down the hill…