Metro Transit Rolls Out Vastly Improved Bus Stop Signs

Not too long after finding the “on” switch to the Nextrip signs at light rail stations, Metro Transit has begun a pilot program rolling out much improved bus stop signage in the Twin Cities. The pilot, funded by grant money leftover from the expansion of a Brooklyn Park park-and-ride, involves stops in North Minneapolis and Brooklyn Park. After the pilot, a wider rollout in the northwest metro is planned later this year, and the rest of the system should be updated in the next couple years using a mix of federal, state, and local funding.

Studies have shown that improved amenities at bus stops can affect riders’ perception of wait times. Metro Transit currently ranks behind Portland, Maine on measures of basic bus stop signage–we’re about on par with Wausau, Wisconsin.

Today, you can find the new signage along a stretch of the Route 22 on Lyndale Avenue North in Minneapolis. Here is one of the signs in all its glory at Farview Park.

New Metro Transit Signage

Click to open separately, click again in top right to enlarge

You’ve got:

  • Distinctive branding (the “T”)
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Route listing
  • Stop number
  • An easy to read illustration of frequency
  • A route map

This is an enormous improvement!

The map is a little complicated, but very clearly indicates which branches are traveling to which destinations. The chance of hopping on the wrong bus, getting lost in Angry Birds on your phone for ten minutes, and then looking up and realizing you’re in the wrong county–a horrible worst nightmare for all transit users–is lower with this signage. A new or infrequent rider standing at this stop can easily tell that, if they’re going to the Brooklyn Center Panda Express, they need to take the 22 A, B, or C–not the D.

The highest-used third of the system’s stops will receive the map and the note about frequency, others will have a QR code–which feels a bit retro already. In general, a move towards thinking about frequency rather than 3:06, 3:17, 3:25, 3:34, etc, is maybe a good one for more frequent routes–are riders waiting for the northbound Route 18 bus arriving at Nicollet and 28th at 4:09 PM, or are they just waiting for the next 18? That logic doesn’t work in all situations, but it may trick some people into being less frustrated when a bus arrives four minutes late on a route with eight minute headways.

You’d also have to think that the new signage could encourage transit use out on the edges of the core cities and in the suburbs–here, for instance. People in this neighborhood know that there are buses, and that there are bus stops. But people who might never otherwise think about transit may be out walking the dog and see very clearly that, hey, this bus goes some place I’d like to go, and it goes there all the time.

Below is the old and new signage (use the slider to compare side by side), these two stops are right across the street from each other…which do you prefer?

[image-comparator title=”Old & New Signage” left=”” right=”” width=”100%” classes=”hover”][/image-comparator]

Nick Magrino

About Nick Magrino

Nick Magrino grew up all over the place but has lived in the Loring Park neighborhood of Minneapolis longer than anywhere else. He has a new cat, Sweater, and does not use hashtags at @nickmagrino. He is probably on a bus right now.

17 thoughts on “Metro Transit Rolls Out Vastly Improved Bus Stop Signs

  1. Eric AnondsonEric Anondson

    Can’t wait. Stunning what a difference a little bit of clear wayfinding does.

  2. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

    It’s still pretty unimpressive compared to the level of wayfinding we offer passengers at light rail stations (or motorists navigating freeway junctions). But this is a vast improvement, and I can’t wait to see it at a stop near me.

    I’m not sure I totally agree about times versus frequency. I live near two bus lines that are 15-minute headways, and it is a significant wait if I end up arriving a minute late and have to wait 14 minutes — awkwardly, on a narrow sidewalk, with no bench or shelter. In the example sign, we have wait times of 30-60 minutes! I think you’re definitely going to want to know when exactly those 30 to 60 minutes might fall.

    So while I like the frequency table, I’m not sure it’s a complete substitute for time tables — at least anywhere the buses run less often than ~7 minutes.

    Related thought: in Copenhagen, they had several “A” lines that actually had no schedule. A new one was released every 3-6 minutes, depending on the line, and whatever happened in traffic happened. Sometimes they were still very slow, but you never had to wait to catch up with the schedule, and there was less leapfrogging. Could be a nice option in the very high-frequency parts of our network.

    1. brad

      I can understand MT not wanting to be printing exact times on metal sheets–I think they have enough hassle changing out the paper schedules in bus shelters when route timings change! Plus, a lot of people will be able to access schedules/NexTrip via smartphone (or computer before heading out). For those who don’t, however, it would be nice if you could text MT the stop number and get the next 4-6 scheduled buses.

      1. brad

        In case anyone is interested, I checked with MT and apparently you can text “MT[stop#]” to 27299 and get NexTrip info that way too.

    2. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

      Yeah, the frequency example is maybe a little weak with the 22 I suppose. But waiting at 7th and Nicollet on a Sunday afternoon, I feel like a 5 rolled by every 4-5 minutes. I also remember being an 17 year old taking the 16 at the U and for some reason checking the schedules for…a bus that would come every five minutes. Could be easier in those types of situations.

  3. Andrew B

    What an amazing improvement! I totally agree with the comment about the random person seeing the map and realizing where the bus goes, and then trying it. I think a lot of hesitation about transit is from fear of getting lost and stranded.

    +1 for dig about turning on the Nextrip signs.

  4. Wayne

    FINALLY. This needed to happen yesterday.

    The QR codes are a bit of a cop-out, hopefully they get money to roll these out system-wide. But still, such a huge improvement. Now if they can just simplify the routes themselves and take a step back from the branching nightmare they’ve created while increasing frequency on main corridors we might be headed somewhere good with this.

  5. GlowBoy

    Even having route numbers and stop numbers is a major improvement. Was kind of disappointed upon moving here that MT didn’t at least have that going on.

    1. Rosa

      I know, right? At least the route numbers! And maybe some indication of which direction that stop is for. You know, just a little hint about what might be coming along, other than “some bus stops here.”

      It’s kind of pitiful that I’m so excited about this. But I’ve been waiting for years!

  6. Margaret

    Yay!!! Praise be! Metro Transit, thank you! Please put these on all route signs (three thirds rather than 1/3 of routes) and I will become a sustaining member. Hell, I’d even join your CSA.

  7. Alex

    I like it, but that sign shouldn’t say “Brooklyn Center via Downtown Minneapolis” at that stop, because by then the 22 has already gone through Downtown. People trying to go Downtown might get on the wrong bus.

    1. Sean Hayford OlearySean Hayford Oleary

      Good point, agreed. In general, I find Minneapolis’s bus directions unclear. At most stops you can figure it out, but primarily north-south routes do jog east-west and primarily east-west jog north-south.

      It can be particularly bad at transit stations that pull the buses offline. I once got on the wrong 535 at the Oxboro/South Bloomington TC and had to ride to Normandale for it to turn around before going downtown.

  8. Nick MagrinoNick Magrino Post author

    A note: It is a pilot! I’m sure they would welcome suggestions–the “Brooklyn Center via Downtown Minneapolis” thing is a pretty good point.

  9. Nathanael

    The former (1990s) signage couldn’t possibly have been worse (it just said BUS STOP, not even a route number), and the current signs are almost as bad…. so this is good news.

    Might make the system usable for a visitor, even.

Comments are closed.