This visually-pleasing poster will greet straphangers at every station entrance and will replace the confounding clutter of signs Transit currently deploys. (Click the image to view a high-res version. Photo courtesy of New York City Transit.)
Conveying information about weekend service changes has never been one of New York City Transit’s strong suits. As Friday night brings expresses running local, locals running express, A trains on the F tracks and more shuttle buses than anyone can count, Transit’s signs haven’t gotten the job done. This week, though, the agency will unveil a more visual-based presentation of weekly service patterns that it hopes will keep straphangers better informed and more prepared for weekend diversions.
“We are out there on nights and weekends performing the vital work necessary to keep the New York City subway operating safely and efficiently,” Transit President Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement. “Performing that work, however, is no excuse for forcing our customers to hunt for service information. With these new designs, we are giving riders the information they need in a format they will understand.”
When customers first arrive in the subway, they will be greeted not with the familiar and unruly mash-up of service change posters but rather with the sign that adorns the top of the post. Transit says these posters are the culmination of six months of market research aimed at determining how customers want this information presented. Having all of the system’s changes — both weeknight and weekend diversions — in one place and on a one-sheet poster stood out as straphangers’ primary desires.
“One of the issues with the way customer information was done prior to this was that if you rode the 7 line, you got all the diversions on the 7,” Margaret Coffey, the marketing head at Transit, said to the Wall Street Journal. “But if you went into Manhattan and were changing to the [Lexington Avenue] line, you had no clue whether everything was running.”
Hence, the Planned Service Changes poster was born. These directories will be, says Transit, “easy to find” and at “clearly marked locations in stations — both before and after you pay your fare.” They include comprehensive listings of every subway reroute for the week with the route bullets prominently displayed. Sun and moon icons as well as a color-coded system will highlight the time of day of the diversions, and a paragraph will explain the reroutes and alternative travel options.
The signs presenting the overview of all system diversions aren’t the only changes Transit is planning to unveil. Included in the redesign are new displays for individual line reroutings that pop up at the last minute. The current signs, unveiled in 2007, have always been problematic. They contain far too much useless detail and not enough relevant information. Riders didn’t need to know that Transit was performing track work to “ensure that subways continue to operate safely.” Everyone pretty much assumed that.
The new signs, as the graphic from the Wall Street Journal shows — check out the interactive version right here — have been somewhat simplified and de-colorized. The white makes the information stand out, says Transit, and the lack of unnecessary information makes the signs easier to read and changes simpler to comprehend. Transit hopes to deploy these only when last-minute changes are mind.
Additionally, some station-specific signage will include maps that show the impact of the planned changes. It’s a step closer to replicating the work Subway Weekender does on a weekly basis. Transit should be able to release at least a digital copy of a map showing the planned changes, but new signs will have to do.
Of course, as with any redesign, we have to ask if these signs are an improvement. Just a few months ago, I explored how Transit could design a better service change poster, and these redesigns come close to achieving those goals. They’re more visual than their predecessors, and they incorporate all of the information in a standard format and location. It moves the complicated weekend service change process one step closer to foolproof.
Yet, the problem that plagued the previous posters could hamstring this redesign as well. New Yorkers often are indifferent to signs and especially so to those in the subway. If straphangers won’t read the signs, no amount of design tweaking, visual cues or temporary maps will make one bit of difference.