Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Some Sense of Direction

From the time I first landed in Metro Vancouver, but especially since I started actually living here, there's been a consistent nit with the transit system that's consistently annoyed me: the way bus destination rollsigns are dealt with here. I've become accustomed after long use to the system that prevails in Toronto, where streetcar and bus rollsigns all incorporate three key pieces of information - the route number, the route name, and the current destination.

I'm beginning to realize this practice is far, far less common than I'd originally believed - thinking about it now, the only other city I can recall doing it in this manner is Madison, Wisconsin. It's not just Vancouver, but places as far afield as Los Angeles, Spokane, Chicago, and Barrie don't include any route details; in Billings and, to a limited degree, Peterborough, they don't even include a route number.

I've never understood why - it's a simple way to make pathfinding easier, particularly for people who don't ordinarily take the bus. Say you're in downtown Vancouver and you want to get to Granville Island... except your phone's out of power and you don't have a map. If you asked enough people, you might find out that you'd need to take 50 FALSE CREEK S... or, the perfectly reprogrammable digital rollsigns employed by TransLink's bus fleet could be modified to add "TO GRANVILLE ISLAND" on southbound runs.

It should be easy to get around on a transit system. It's not a puzzle to be solved, and the more difficult a thing is to use, the less willing people will be to hang up their car keys for it.


  1. Yeah, this is a definite failure of the bus system. It seems to be a little better in Coquitlam, where, for example, the bus that I take to Lougheed Station is the 156 Lougheed/Braid Station VIA COQ REC CTR., and the 151 is the same way but with Coquitlam Station instead of Braid. Assuming you can decipher the shorthand, which seems to be a problem for some people, you know where the middle of the route is as well as the endpoints.

  2. Aye, but riding public transit ain't supposed to be a challenge. You'd think the need for deciphering wouldn't be in it.