This 5-part series is about how I would correct/fix various design issues within the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). This is not about how I would change bus routes, or how one mode is better or worse than another mode (i.e., LRT vs. Subway). This is about how I believe the TTC (and other transit authorities) can improve the experience of engaging and interacting with it’s ridership (actual and potential). Here is part four.
Subway Stations (part b)
Yesterday’s post was mostly about the collector booth and the eye-numbing explosion of graphic debris that surrounds the collector booth at TTC entrances. Today I will be talking about the rest of the signage/wayfinding that exists in a TTC station. Again, I’m relating these to the TTC – but a lot of this thinking could be applied to other transit authorities and other places that require rapid movement of people to specific destinations.
Subway stations are never the destination – unless of course you work there. They are a transfer point from one mode to another. Whether it be walking to subway, subway to streetcar, bus to walking. You get the picture.
The current signage and wayfinding system is an ad hoc collection of various attempts to guide people through, sometimes, repetitive-looking areas in three dimensional space (x, y, z axises). I think one of the biggest drawbacks to the system is the inability to define a system font – some have borrowed from the Tube in London (UK) and gone with Gill Sans, others have utilized Helvetica (ugh!) and still a few other typefaces make their appearance. A standardized typeface choice would be the first step into helping guide people.
As stated in earlier posts, the TTC has colour-coded the subway lines and primarily used that in the maps for display only. I really believe that they (the TTC) need to implement the colour system as a part of the wayfining system. A way to quickly identify the line you are on, or the line you need to get to at an inter-change station like Yonge-Bloor. Beyond that I also think that a development, adoption of other colours would help with this system. A colour that defines signage of pure information, entrance and exits could have their own colours – not unlike the highway system in Ontario (white signs being the law – orange/yellow being a suggestion).
Unfortunately the TTC has already used Green (for the Bloor-Danforth line), because that is the colour I would suggest that indicates entrance. Then using red to indicate an exit. I would use yellow for information (already in use for Yonge-University-Spadina). I would really try to define a series of colours for the subway lines that exclude the three I just mentioned. Being able to quickly identify an entrance from an exit from a different subway line would speed up flow. I would even go as far as colour coding Buses and Streetcars areas – especially for those stations that have both (like Broadview).
To even help out flow – the colours could be used in bolder applications. Like on turnstiles. There are of course two side point issues with what I’m about to suggest. 1, the TTC is generating revenue from allowing advertising on the turnstiles, and 2, that some of the turnstiles are bi-directional (it is Canada after all). I would offer up the following solution. That turnstiles be colour-coded with their directional purpose – green for entrance and red for exit (we can even have those words on them as well). Beyond that I would suggest that they do away with the entrance/exit version. Mainly because it sets up a confrontation – not unlike a stopped escalator, who has the right-of-way?
Digital signage (and beyond)
The TTC is working with Pattison One in putting up digital signs on the platform. In most stations there is one per direction. In other stations there are two and in a few there are three. These are mostly an ad/news feed system with about the bottom 1/4 (maybe even 1/5) dedicated to TTC information. That information consists of next train arrival, delays, bus routes modifications, etc. The bulk of the display is taken up with, as mentioned, ads and news feeds. Although interesting, and a source of revenue for the TTC, they could be better used as pure information about the TTC. And there should be a minimum of three per station and for the busier platforms, five.
There is a push on by the TTC to keep the riders informed, most notably with delays. Making train and station announcements about delays and stoppage (which then require shuttle buses). And that’s great. Where this fails is in letting people get into a station while a delay is happening. There are many times that people have paid with a token, gotten down to track level only to find the platform filled (usually a bad sign at a station like Chester). Heading back up to leave and use a different method of transport, walking, Cab, whatever. They try to get a refund and nothing. If there was a sign or light that could indicate that a delay or stoppage was in place before people have committed to the TTC. This might seem like the TTC will lose out on those extra few fares, but in the long run customers will appreciate the frankness. They will not mistrust the TTC.
What’s the cost
Most of the suggestions that I’m offering are not free. I understand that. The TTC is already pinched for money in terms of just keeping the stations clean and expanding the actual service. But the cost in the long run of not taking into account riders and people flow will be massive. Having a good transit system is not just about the vehicles and staff – it’s also about getting people to their destinations efficiently.
How would you improve flow?