Train window ads – what about visibility?

I’m not against advertising on public transport. It brings in much-needed revenue and helps subsidise services.

But it shouldn’t be intrusive.

Bus and tram passengers have had to get used to ads on windows of vehicles over many years, but it’s only in the last couple of years that it’s become prominent on trains. It seems to be applied with a semi-transparent film.

Generally they seem to aim for some, but not all, of the windows along the side of a carriage… and not every carriage, so as with buses and trams, some windows are left clear.

But this still results in some visibility problems.

Outside advertising on trains

Looking in from the outside it’s very difficult to see inside, meaning staff (including PSOs) may be unlikely to spot issues inside the train. It also makes it more difficult for passengers boarding to identify and avoid the more crowded parts of the train. It might be a tad better at night, but during the day you basically can’t see in.

Looking out from the inside of the carriage is a mixed bag.

Viewing across from the other side of the carriage, it’s actually not bad, at least in daylight. Outside scenery, including important things like station signs, are quite visible.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

But up close, it’s not as easy. It can be difficult to focus on things outside, at least if they’re some distance off, which may make some signage difficult to read.

To compare to a clear window, you can kind of see the effect of the film in this photo, though the way the camera has focussed doesn’t exactly reflect what the eye sees.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

Objects very close to the window, such as the station signs in the underground loop, are still very clear — but at most stations they aren’t that close.

Outside advertising on trains: from the inside

Those who have real problems seeing out or knowing where they are will want to aim for windows that are unobstructed.

But this may not be an option during peak hour, and really, government and operators should ensure that passenger visibility (both in and out) of trains (and trams and buses) is better than it is with these ads plastered over them.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Train window ads – what about visibility?”

“makes it more difficult for passengers boarding to identify and avoid the more crowded parts of the train”.
Also to avoid a group of yobbo’s (ie you can board the next carriage). I agree with you completely. But this is the sort of issue that PTV would say “we’ve only had 2 complaints” so not take seriously.

Agree. My main form of transport is the bus, and I’ve had trouble working out when to get off due to obscured windows. One can’t always rely on the voice over either.

Not to mention how impossible it is to see out once it’s been raining. I’m surprised there aren’t more accidents, particularly on buses, because visibility for drivers is so significantly impacted. Plus it just doesn’t make for a nice journey when you have to look through them.

I echo the views of Mr Bowen. PT needs the revenue, but it MUST NOT get in the way of the users.

After the way they redesigned the Southern Cross terminal, I can not be surprised how commercial money trumps anything else.

I do not mind so much in not being able to see into the carriage, as long as you can see out from within. Although some postings above raise important reasons for looking in before you board.

Surely, they can not put advertising over the front windscreen of a vehicle, and risk limited visibility for the driver?

It is an absolute disgrace and very unfortunate that it has now been inflicted on train travellers. Anyone who has used trains in foreign countries knows how important it is to be able to easily see the station names out the window.

As for on trams and buses on a wet night, you may even miss your own stop.

It is good to see that the new public transport livery does not cover the windows, so there is clearly a realisation that it is an issue.

It’s a major issue with tram travel, as you often need to be able to see the tram stop sign for the stop number, especially if it’s a location you’re not familiar with. You’re generally looking ahead for the sign at an acute angle, and the advertising signage makes it impossible to discern any detail as a result. Would be good to see a passenger-led campaign to ban it covering windows. I’d sign!

The bus ads seem even less transparent than the train ads. Anti-discrimination laws require PTV to ensure that their transport does not discrimante against the sight-impaired. We get yellow lines painted on the platform, tactile paving, doors in contrasting color, yellow poles inside, yet they seem to be allowed to cover the windows which make it almost impossible for a sight-imparied person to see where they are going.

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