Sunday, July 20, 2014

Time to Change Service Signage

Planned service changes are often cause for panic and confusion for new New Yorkers and visitors. Navigating the subway can be a stressful challenge when everything is running smoothly, so the added advertisement of an additional degree of difficulty is not a welcome one. 

Upon seeing one of these service change signs riders essentially ask themselves the following two questions in order to determine if it’s cause for concern, and it’s information they need to absorb.

1. Does this affect this effect
my current subway journey? 

2. Is it likely to effect a future
journey I might take?

What is the most important information to intake in determining if a service change effects your journey? 

Narrowing it down by train line would seem good, but there’s for the most part there are only 3-4 different trains on a give platform, [sorry MTA I doubt anyone pays attention to these when there’s a wall of 10 of these elsewhere in the station—it’s overload] so you’re really only cutting it down from 3 or 4 trains to 1. Never the less it’s a important reference point for people, and should still have prominence. 

I’ve found the chief factor is time of day. Regardless of train line, date, weekday or weekend, it’s the most effective determinate I can use to rule out whether or not I need to read further, and worry about the service change. 

99 times out of 100 I can check the time and immediately disregard the rest, and go back to watching rats on the track. In fact as much as possible service changes are scheduled for the late night when they’ll have the least amount of impact. For commuters and those who aren’t often out late at night, planned service changes will probably rarely effect you at all. But it took much longer than it needed to to train myself to look for the time of day first, because of current design flaws. 

The current design [above] buries time of day, and the service change “No _ trains at the station” [Oh No!] for example, is given a lot of prominence by being very large and bold. Even though it is clearly secondary and only needs to be read and understood if you actually will experience said change during you current journey or a expected future one. 

That said with this in mind here are a
couple of improvements I’d suggest:

*This split should really be drawn according to peak travel times, which I haven’t incorporated here, as this is just a sketch for conceptual purposes and for now I’ve split the day evenly.

­—And yes trolls, this is a cherry picked example, and sometimes the service changes are more involved with a lot more instructions etc. I don’t purpose this as bullet proof template that would work for every situation, to work out all the design requirements for that would take more free time than I have! That said I think some of these broader points about the average rider’s decision process, design hierarchy and emphasis; Stand on their own and could be useful.

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