Not directly software related, I wonder about UX design in public transit busses.

In Germany, some time ago there was a simple system in public transit busses: If the bus was quite empty, and no one waiting at a stop, one had to push a button (of many spread throughout the car) to make a bell ring, and a sign light in the front saying 'WAGEN HÄLT' (literaly: 'car stops'). The driver and all passengers then knew the bus would stop at the next stop.

The system is still used today, only the sign reads 'STOP' now.

However, there are long buses, with three door units. In the old days, the driver would have to check by rear mirrors which doors to open, or just opened them all.

About 10 years ago, a system was employed with a small box beside the rear doors that has a knob too. Pressing the knob would activate the usual STOP sign and bell, but light a sign WAGEN HÄLT at the box too. If light, the door would open upon the next stop, otherwise usually not. The driver doesn't have to check the mirrors anymore. The box was akward, as the text suggested it to resemble the STOP sign mechanism, while it clearly does not.

Now today, there is a new box, reading the word FAHRGASTWUNSCH, meaning 'passenger request'. The box also has a WAGEN HÄLT light, but now synchronized to the main STOP light. If pressing the button, it does the same as the old box: Activate STOP if not already, and request the door to open. Additionally, the text TÜR ÖFFNEN ('open doors') lights up, with an arrow pointing at the button. It also lights up if the bus actually stops, but the door is still closed. While this is describing the buttons function at stop correct, it is wrong while driving, as it motivates to press the button to open, but actually it confirms the button was already pressed, and the door would open without further action needed.

I wonder if this systems are this misleading by error, or by cause? Are there psychological considerations, that allow these UIs to perform better for the means of efficient bus traffic, even if they seem wrong to the user?

2 Answers 2


I think you're looking at this in too much detail. As a transit user in my native country, I know to search for and push a button to request a stop, or to pull the cords near the windows. If the door doesn't open at my stop, I would push whatever marked surfaces are present (handles, buttons, knobs, especially if they are lighted or blinking) and I would do this repeatedly until the door opened. As I often don't know the language, I try this regardless of the messages presented.

The system you describe sounds like several distinct systems, purchased by different people at different times, and combined together without much thought for the overall user experience. I don't think it's deliberately misleading, I just don't think it was orchestrated very well.

I also think that because transit usage is by necessity very simple, the specifics of the text or timing ultimately won't matter to the vast majority of users. They'll push the button to request a stop of the carriage, and they'll push the button at the end of the blinking arrow to open the doors; and if they even notice the awkward text they won't bother trying to comprehend it.


I think that it's a simple UX error, they must have thought that there was a good way to do without putting themselves in the shoes of the user.

I think that the best way to design such a thing is to ask yourself : "Ok, what does my user want to do ?" and trying to answer with the more simple way to do that. If I have well understood your problem (a pretty complex one, especially for me who doesn't speak english very well), I would say that the best way would be to detect from where the push comes from to automatically open the good door, I would put a "Stop the bus" text on it, and light it up when the user push the button, to indicate him that his request has been received.

But I'm not completely sure to understand your problem, tell me if I missed something...

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