During the fourteen months that I spent traveling in South America, some of the most memorable experiences occurred while waiting, sleeping, and people-watching at bus terminals. Bus transport is the most common form of transportation on the continent, as train infrastructure is lacking and airline prices are high. Due to the lack of other viable options, terminals are constantly occupied with locals traveling to visit family, business people traveling for work and tourists heading to their next destination. As a tourist with no real time constraints or concrete itinerary, I didn’t have to worry about so much about reaching my destination on time. However, if I had any semblance of a schedule, I assure you that sticking to it would have been nearly impossible if I were relying on bus travel to get me to a certain place at a certain time.
One of the most significant problems that I encountered at the terminals was the lack of punctuality. More specifically, no one seems to know what time it is. If they do, it’s usually an estimate at best. Not knowing the real time results in inaccurate departure times, passengers missing their buses, and overall chaos in the terminals. This problem is mostly due to the fact that the transportation facilities lack cohesive, visible time sources for everyone to see. When conductors did use a watch, it rarely read the same time as the one outdated and inaccurate clock in the center of the station. As a result, bus travel was always, as I would call it, an adventure. I never knew when I would be leaving, what kind of interference would occur on the road, and what time I would arrive at my destination. I, however, was one of the few people who could embrace this lack of organization and just enjoy the journey. The chaos and disorganization was often very frustrating and inconvenient for professionals, families and other tourists.
One possible step to improving the transportation experience in these South American bus terminals would be installing one of Sapling’s Synchronized Clock Systems such as their wireless system in the bus terminals. Wireless clock systems are very easy to install and work well in expansive buildings such as bus stations. Either a GPS receiver or NTP server would feed the time to the master clock, which would then distribute the time to all of the other clocks in the system. If each bus company had a clock outside of their office with several clocks throughout the waiting areas and outside, everyone could see the time and most importantly, everyone would be on the same exact time. A widely visible and accurate time source would dramatically improve the transportation experience for all types of travelers. Although I had the luxury of flexibility during my travels, not all travelers do. Instead of conductors waiting around until they felt the time was about right, synchronized clocks throughout the station would help them stick to their schedules with precision. Furthermore, if bus travel was more reliable, perhaps visiting and planning trips to South America would be more attractive to foreigners, which would in turn aid the tourism industry. A small step toward this kind of order and organization with Sapling’s Wireless Clock System could potentially produce benefits all across the continent.