Report: Service advisory sign placement ‘mediocre’By
As Friday rolls around in New York, the city’s straphangers know that weekend subway service will be spotty, at best. Trains that should run local will go express, and trains that should run express might run local. Other trains may not run at all or head to some other train’s usual terminal. It’s confusing, and travel takes longer. According to a new report, the MTA isn’t particularly good at informing its customers of these changes.
One problem the MTA has struggled to combat over the years concerns signage. At a basic level, many New Yorkers simply do not read signs, and that’s a problem impossible to overcome. To fight that basic stubbornness or laziness, Transit instead bombards us with frequent in-car announcements concerning upcoming stops and rerouted trains. If a rider doesn’t know where the train is going, he or she is simply not listening.
But on a different level, the MTA has also battled an information problem. Although service advisories are posted online a few days in advance, the agency hasn’t quite hit the nail on the head when it comes to in-system signage. Transit’s latest iteration of its service advisory posters are more colorful and easier to read, but covering the system appropriately remains a challenge. According to a report released yesterday by the New York City Transit Riders Council, the MTA does not always post signage in every station as they promised, and old signage lingers long past its expiration date.
The Riders Council conducted their study over the course of a few weekends in October and November. They surveyed 48 stations 63 times from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on the traditional letter grade system, the MTA would likely walk away with a D for its signage efforts. While Transit promised to hang signs near entrances and on platforms, only 64 percent of entrances featured signs, and just 60 percent of platforms hosted the posters.
With the London-inspired posters, Transit in 2010 also debuted new line-specific signs to be hung upon station columns. The Riders Council found that these signs were featured in just 55 percent of station entrances but on 72 percent of platforms. To make matters worse, five stations surveyed had no signage at all concerning service changes at that station. These included Nostrand Ave., Broadway Junction and High St. all on the IND Fulton Line in Brooklyn.
In terms of alternative access, Transit did not fare any better. The authority provided ADA-accessibility information in just 53 percent of stations surveyed, and only 71 percent of stations had signs that listed alternate routes for any straphanger combatting service changes. The Riders Council was not impressed. “Looking at the 48 stations overall,” the report says, “the level of compliance is mediocre at best.”
After noting that some stations featured only hastily-scribbled hand-written signs, the Riders Council issued some fairly obvious recommendations. The MTA must make a more concerted effort to post signs at every station and every entrance. “Riders need to be informed of all service changes prior to entering the station,” the report noted.
Interestingly, the Riders Council issued a call for faster installation of the MTA’s new digital Station Advisory Information Displays. Noting the flexibility and visibility of these 21st Century screens, the report urged the MTA to pick up the pace of installation and target areas that are both high traffic and likely to go through service diversions. “By installing SAID boards in the unpaid areas of stations, NYC Transit would provide riders with a predictable and reliable place to look for service advisories,” they said.
It’s hard to dispute any of these findings. While I recognize that the MTA can’t force its customers to read the signs, it must make the signs available and visible. Without the signs, riders must partake in a massively confusing guessing game that will leave them frustrated and delayed. They should be in every station, at every entrance and on every platform. Anything less is just lazy.