Bringing Poetry to Transit TV

When one thinks of TransitTV, those ubiquitous television boxes on Metro buses, there’s many things that jump to mind.  Poetry is probably not one of them. However, thanks to a new project by Freewaves’ Out the Window series, a little bit of poetry is coming to a bus near you.

When triggered by a GPS, TransitTV will be briefly taken over by a short poem by long-time Metro rider Marisela Norte.  Along the routes she regularly rides, five intersections were chosen to host Norte’s poems.  Here’s how it works, a GPS system in the traffic signals triggers remotes inside of the televisions.  For 1,000 feet, 500 before and after the signal, whatever Transit TV was broadcasting is replaced by this:

At Wilshire and Fairfax, image provided by Freewaves to KCET

“We wanted to expose people to something different,” explains Anne Bray with Freewaves.  In the past, Freewaves had sponsored video contests for students and local artists with winning videos shown on all Transit TV’s at the same time.  But, “We were drawn to using the GPS technology.  Any bus rider that rides past certain intersections will see the poems.”

The poems will be triggered as buses enter five specific intersections:  Whittier/Atlantic and Whittier/Indiana in East Los Angeles, 5th/Broadway in Downtown, Wilshire/Western in Koreatown and Wilshire/Fairfax in Mid-Wilshire. Norte wrote her poems with these intersections in mind as they relate to her daily commute and the people and places she observes along the way.  The poems began running on Tuesday and will continue through the end of the month.

“I’ve chosen public transportation and my own two feet as my preferred means of navigating the city. Every day I make it a point to venture out with my camera and a small notebook and just take in this landscape that is Los Angeles,” Norte says, explaining her project. “It can be a short tour around the neighborhood, a visit to the Shoe Repair man or a six mile walk. I take a personal object along with me to leave at a bus bench or atop a newspaper vending machine and try and imagine who may have come across it; might this be something they were looking for or had lost? Will they carry it home? Will it remain there for me to find again? Questions posed, and there begins the writing.  I have received many, many beautiful gifts on the sidewalks of the city; this is my thank you.”

Have you noticed these poems on your commute?  If so, let us know what you thought and what reaction, if any, they brought out from your fellow riders.  For more on Norte and the GPS Poems, visit KCET.

  • Bryan Jackson

    Despite efforts to art it up, TransitTV is a miserable failure and that is being polite.

  • Poetry or not, TransitTV is still an unwelcome intrusion.

  • Lots of poetry in transportation lately. Have you see NYDOT’s Curbside Haikus? http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/safety/curbside-haiku.shtml

  • Mike

    I suppose that TransitTV isn’t really owned by Metro, which is why it needs to play adverts.  But really it would be so much better if it were just a GPS display with a bit of Metro’s Twitter feed.

  • Kjphotog

    Poetry would be better than having to listen to transit tv programs in spanish. Or maybe it cycles thru english & spanish. Sometimes transit tv works ok but in general its just annoying, small screen & sound quality thats probably works better in a library than on the bus. hopefully metro makes money on providing the tv.

  • Anonymous

    Aha!  So all we need to do is hack the GPS system to get that interminable source of loud, obnoxious (and sometimes borderline-racist) cacophony silenced.  Piece of cake.

  • Joe B

    Have Metro execs considered having TransitTV installed in their private cars? It seems only fair that if we have to put up with it, they should have to put up with it too.

  • Sarah

    I love TransitTVs little fun facts and puzzles, and like that I can get some news tidbits on my way to work and school.  Poetry will be a welcome addition. :)

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