Bus Destination Signage

Roads - Rails - Sidewalks - Bikeways
Minnehahaha
Nicollet Mall
Posts: 125
Joined: February 15th, 2014, 10:49 pm
Location: Hamline Midway

Bus Destination Signage

Postby Minnehahaha » July 5th, 2019, 7:33 pm

I am wondering if anyone here is familiar with transit systems using more sophisticated destination signage on their buses than what is currently used by Metro Transit.

One of the major reasons people are hesitant to take buses on an unfamiliar system is the fear that they could end up... somewhere they really don't want to be. If someone gets off the Green Line at Westgate or Raymond station, they will see a bus they could connect to with a destination sign reading something like: 63K>E. 3RD ST>LONDIN LANE>VIA SUNRAY.

Now, nobody in their right mind would get off of a Green Line train at Raymond if they want to go all the way to the East Side. What are they likely to be looking for at this stop? How about a GRAND AVENUE bus?

We are no longer dependent on old-fashioned rollsigns... How hard would it be to adopt some sort of dynamic signage that would highlight the most notable destinations at that point in the route?

tmart
Union Depot
Posts: 364
Joined: October 6th, 2017, 10:05 am
Location: Expat

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby tmart » July 8th, 2019, 1:10 pm

Here in Montreal, the STM bus routes are named for the principal streets they serve, rather than for their destinations. For example, the 80 bus will always say "80 Av. du Parc" and the 55 bus will always "55 Boul. Saint-Laurent". In a sense this is less sophisticated, but I find it far easier to navigate because it matches how I'd navigate on foot ("go four blocks down this street and then stop", not "go halfway to Southdale").

IMO this system works because many of the most important buses here follow a single street for the vast majority of their route, and even when they deviate, they generally run parallel to the route named on the sign. Metro Transit bus routes are often much more complicated to use than STM routes, with lots of diversions (just pop a couple blocks away to hit this mall and pop back), branches designated by letters (e.g., 9A) that change the destination of the route, and very poor frequencies. IMO the root problem is the complexity of the routes, not the way that we label them. If you design routes that are as intuitive to use as the street grid, then labeling is a non-issue.

Multimodal
US Bank Plaza
Posts: 701
Joined: March 4th, 2016, 7:55 am
Location: Oh, no, the burbs!

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby Multimodal » August 8th, 2019, 5:13 am

And that’s pretty much the point of aBRT, right? Pick an arterial, and provide high frequency service mainly along that arterial, with no deviations.

alexschief
Target Field
Posts: 547
Joined: November 12th, 2015, 11:35 am
Location: Philadelphia

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby alexschief » August 8th, 2019, 8:00 am

Multimodal wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 5:13 am
And that’s pretty much the point of aBRT, right? Pick an arterial, and provide high frequency service mainly along that arterial, with no deviations.
One of the biggest improvements. Legibility, in transportation planning terms.

mattaudio
Stone Arch Bridge
Posts: 7709
Joined: June 19th, 2012, 2:04 pm
Location: NORI: NOrth of RIchfield

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby mattaudio » August 8th, 2019, 9:22 am

Now I'm wondering... What's the most complex or confusing destination signage in our system today?

twincitizen
Moderator
Posts: 6191
Joined: May 31st, 2012, 7:27 pm
Location: Standish-Ericsson

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby twincitizen » August 8th, 2019, 10:25 am

Multimodal wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 5:13 am
And that’s pretty much the point of aBRT, right? Pick an arterial, and provide high frequency service mainly along that arterial, with no deviations.
This is important, but not gospel. It is a rule that can/should be broken when it makes overwhelming sense to do so (i.e. higher ridership). The main point of transit is still to have good transit service for the people that need it, not to have a pretty map for transit nerds to look at. I've harped on this a few times, but some of you do give the impression that you think a simple/clean map is the main thing.

alexschief
Target Field
Posts: 547
Joined: November 12th, 2015, 11:35 am
Location: Philadelphia

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby alexschief » August 8th, 2019, 10:53 am

twincitizen wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 10:25 am
Multimodal wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 5:13 am
And that’s pretty much the point of aBRT, right? Pick an arterial, and provide high frequency service mainly along that arterial, with no deviations.
This is important, but not gospel. It is a rule that can/should be broken when it makes overwhelming sense to do so (i.e. higher ridership). The main point of transit is still to have good transit service for the people that need it, not to have a pretty map for transit nerds to look at. I've harped on this a few times, but some of you do give the impression that you think a simple/clean map is the main thing.
You're kinda trivializing the importance of simplicity in network design. A simple map is a byproduct of simple network design, not the end goal. A simple network design should boost ridership across the system by being easy to use to construct unfamiliar trips. The current Metro Transit has a lot of well-meaning but misguided spurs and diversions. In isolation, they always make sense because they directly serve a destination here or there. But taken together, they've eroded confidence and comprehension for the system.

jebr
Nicollet Mall
Posts: 171
Joined: April 9th, 2013, 1:04 am
Location: St. Paul (Hamline-Midway)

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby jebr » August 8th, 2019, 1:50 pm

twincitizen wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 10:25 am
Multimodal wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 5:13 am
And that’s pretty much the point of aBRT, right? Pick an arterial, and provide high frequency service mainly along that arterial, with no deviations.
This is important, but not gospel. It is a rule that can/should be broken when it makes overwhelming sense to do so (i.e. higher ridership). The main point of transit is still to have good transit service for the people that need it, not to have a pretty map for transit nerds to look at. I've harped on this a few times, but some of you do give the impression that you think a simple/clean map is the main thing.
To an extent, I'd agree. With the current funding issues, I think it's fair to have routes where not all buses make the full trip - think 21E/21A. In those cases, the worst that happens is that you're now stuck a bit further down the line waiting for the bus that you would've been waiting for otherwise. Assuming the transfer area is sheltered, this is annoying but likely wouldn't cause much more resentment than simply having to wait for the next bus at the origin point.

However, when the bus deviates from the route entirely, that loses confidence in the route (and even the system) very quickly. Instead of simply having to wait for the next bus, you may miss your stop entirely and have to backtrack, or get stuck at an endpoint without having any easy option on how to get back on track. The 21D is an example of this - if you don't realize that the 21D goes off course and ends at St. Thomas, all of a sudden you're stuck at St. Thomas and have to backtrack on the westbound 21 to get back to Marshall. The 4P/L branches are similar - get on the wrong bus and all of a sudden you're veering off Lyndale onto Penn, even though you're on "the 4 bus."

I honestly think the system is better off, in those instances, to have separate numbers even though they may share a fair amount of a route. It would make it a bit more confusing for people who live along the areas where routes are shared, but I think having some people learn that they can take the 4, 14, and 24 to get from downtown to Bryant/38th (instead of just the 4, for example) is better than forcing people to have to notice it's the 4P and not the 4L that they need to get to Penn/76th, and if they catch the 4L they have to loop down and then catch the right 4 going up Lyndale (with no letter on the map that corresponds to that route going northbound!) Sure, you'd figure it out, but you'd be losing a lot of confidence in the system if you did that even once or twice, and suddenly start thinking that having a car or taking an Uber is much easier than trying to figure out the "mysterious bus system."

twincitizen
Moderator
Posts: 6191
Joined: May 31st, 2012, 7:27 pm
Location: Standish-Ericsson

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby twincitizen » August 8th, 2019, 2:36 pm

alexschief wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 10:53 am
The current Metro Transit has a lot of well-meaning but misguided spurs and diversions. In isolation, they always make sense because they directly serve a destination here or there. But taken together, they've eroded confidence and comprehension for the system.
We are in full agreement on this. I just don't agree that the system as a whole should never deviate, branch, etc. (I know you didn't say "never", but I digress).

Just so I'm not misunderstood, I fully agree that Metro Transit needs to:
1) immediately consolidate bus stops to every 1/4 mile, instead of the current 1/8 mile, system wide.
2) reduce the number of low-frequency routes/branches running down quiet/low-density streets, and concentrate routes on arterials
3) reduce the number of deviations from routes to serve specific off-corridor destinations (e.g. a senior high-rise or a school that's a block off the route, etc.)

Another minor point of contention I have is how much transit nerds overestimate how many different routes the average person uses on a regular basis. The vast majority of riders have limited need to understand the system as a whole. Most riders take a single route daily (or two if they transfer) to get to work and back, and maybe a 2nd/3rd route for going out on evenings/weekends. Perhaps those who are fully transit dependent AND live in neighborhoods with limited grocery options, medical services, etc. have extensive knowledge of up to half a dozen routes. The number of people who regularly bus all over the metro (or even just all over Mpls-StP) is probably quite low. And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for people to spend 5 minutes doing basic research on the details of a route they've never/seldom ridden before. Major trunk routes should be self explanatory to make such research unnecessary (e.g. a single route that runs down the entirety of Washington Ave). But if you're taking the 9 for the first time ever, you should absolutely look up the route details on the website. I don't think that's unreasonable. Like before we all had GPS on our smartphones, most drivers did the same for driving to a place they'd never been before, rather than just jumping in the car with a strange address and hoping it magically works out. Maybe it's just me, but "Be Prepared" was hammered into my brain in Boy Scouts.

alexschief
Target Field
Posts: 547
Joined: November 12th, 2015, 11:35 am
Location: Philadelphia

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby alexschief » August 8th, 2019, 3:34 pm

twincitizen wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 2:36 pm
Another minor point of contention I have is how much transit nerds overestimate how many different routes the average person uses on a regular basis. The vast majority of riders have limited need to understand the system as a whole. Most riders take a single route daily (or two if they transfer) to get to work and back, and maybe a 2nd/3rd route for going out on evenings/weekends.
Here's where the disagreement lies. I agree with what you describe, but I'd ask: is it a cause or an effect?

For instance, many drivers have a fairly detailed knowledge of major roads in the region. If you dropped a random driver from Eden Prairie into South Minneapolis without a map or cell phone, they could surely find their way home by taking a major arterial to a major highway, and piecing it together from there.

Why do most drivers have a more extensive local knowledge of roads than most riders have of the transit system? The answer has two complimentary parts. Most people who own a car use it for all kinds of trips, while most people who use transit use it for highly specific, regularly occurring, unvarying trips, like going to work or a ballgame. One reason why people make these choices is because the road system is fairly intuitive and set up for everywhere-to-everywhere travel, and the transit system is neither of these things.

Let's posit an alternate universe, where the government accidentally makes a typo that gives Metro Transit the US Military budget. Now Metro Transit is running buses at two minute headways down every single arterial street in the entire metro, and they run straight down each street, with no deviations whatsoever. I suspect the average Twin Cities resident would quickly learn a lot more about the transit system!

So while that alternate universe is not likely to arise, I think we can rely on that thought experiment to question just how much of the average Twin Cities traveler's transit myopia is inherent to humanity and how much is due to the inconsistent and confusing quality of MSP transit.

mattaudio
Stone Arch Bridge
Posts: 7709
Joined: June 19th, 2012, 2:04 pm
Location: NORI: NOrth of RIchfield

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby mattaudio » August 8th, 2019, 8:26 pm

It appears all routes go past some place known as GO TWINS!

User avatar
kellonathan
Nicollet Mall
Posts: 164
Joined: July 8th, 2012, 12:25 am
Location: Seattle, WA
Contact:

Re: Bus Destination Signage

Postby kellonathan » August 9th, 2019, 11:57 am

I think we are talking more about the network design of the system itself, which is a very much related issue, but not exactly the same issue, so allow me to bring the conversation back to the way the system introduces and displays the network to end users. (i.e. signage)
twincitizen wrote:
August 8th, 2019, 2:36 pm
And I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing for people to spend 5 minutes doing basic research on the details of a route they've never/seldom ridden before. Major trunk routes should be self explanatory to make such research unnecessary (e.g. a single route that runs down the entirety of Washington Ave). But if you're taking the 9 for the first time ever, you should absolutely look up the route details on the website. I don't think that's unreasonable.
I agree that it is reasonable to expect people to do basic research on their trips before they hit the street.

But I think we could (and definitely should) do a better job assisting people on that research. If someone's research on their unfamiliar trip is not validated in the real world with the visual and audio cues (e.g. inconsistent maps, overhead signs, on-board announcement or etc), they will lose confidence in their research and most likely find the transit system "difficult". To add to that, if there's any unexpected deviation to the trip (e.g. missed connection, detour) that was not well communicated, whatever research they did beforehand often becomes meaningless.

Lots of these issues can be mitigated or eliminated by having a simpler network, and more reliable services in general (which we all agree that is something we should strive for), but there are low-hanging fruits the system can improve in terms of how we display information to layperson/casual users.

Also, better signage and communication in general will be tremendously helpful for people with vision impairment who rely on audio cues, and for those with hearing impairment who rely on visual cues.
Jonathan Ahn, AICP | hello@jonathanahn.com
Drawing lines on maps and dreaming really hard for living.


Return to “Transportation”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests