Catch the bus without leaving home

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Passengers and potential new travellers are being offered the chance to step inside three different virtual buses and board from the transport superhub of the future with Brighton & Hove and Metrobus’ VirtualBus360, developed as a result of work with a charity to promote accessibility for passengers with learning disabilities.

Visitors to the virtual world can hear about bus services first hand from real customers; bus drivers and customer service colleagues, as they share their own travelling experiences and tips in 23 separate videos. The videos and online information cover every aspect of bus travel including accessibility, tickets and payments, journey planning, real-time bus information and environmental and technological features.

The operator explained that people can use their phones, tablets or computers to hop on board a virtual bus and check out features such as seating, including priority seating, wheelchair and buggy spaces, as well as the manual ramp, luggage racks, handrails and grab poles. They can also learn about the hearing loop system, GPS tracking, CCTV, USB charging points, anti-virus air filters, WiFi and next stop audio and visual announcements and even ring the bell.

Virtual visitors can also view the bus company’s vision for transport superhubs, which brings together current thinking about mobility hubs for the busiest central locations and which the firm hopes will dramatically improve passengers’ waiting experience with larger shelters, more comfortable seating, enriched digital information, WiFi, USB charging points, links to other modes of transport, green bus stop roofs and solar panels.

Brighton & Hove and Metrobus Managing Director Martin Harris said the project grew out of the work the company does with local charity Grace Eyre. The organisation has run travel training for adults with learning disabilities with Brighton & Hove Buses since 2014.
“VirtualBus360 connects some of the high quality elements of the service as it is today, with a vision of the near future showing how we can integrate all forms of sustainable travel with great information and facilities for all bus users. This adds another way customers can choose to receive their information,” said Martin.

“We really want to hear from people about their experience of using VirtualBus, along with any ideas about how it could be improved or developed. This is just the beginning of our use of virtual reality to make travel easier.
“I’d like to thank all the charities who have contributed to this work, and Grace Eyre in particular, for their insights and sustained input into this project. It was through discussions with them about how we could integrate some of this real-life confidence building training into a virtual experience that VirtualBus360 came about.”

Grace Eyre’s Head of Travel Training Gary Cunningham said: “The level of thought and detail that has gone into this is absolutely fantastic. It will make a big difference in building travel confidence and creating the independence vital in enhancing people’s lives and opportunities. There is endless potential to create training scenarios and educational resources from this programme that we will use to ensure accessibility for everyone we support. A big thank you to Brighton & Hove Buses who listened and engaged so positively!”

VirtualBus360 can be viewed at: buses.co.uk/virtualbus360

Screenshots of VirtualBus360. BRIGHTON & HOVE