New signage hopes to make transit connections easier
Chicago Tribune photo illustration (Nancy Stone / Chicago Tribune / February 7, 2012)
Some of the new information is letter-coded too, listing the “A, B, C’s’’ of how to make connections on public transit, as well as by walking short distances, to get where you want to go.
It’s part of an experiment led by the Regional Transportation Authority to help demystify transit links between CTA, Metra and Pace and, officials hope, increase ridership by making public transit more familiar and welcoming.
An estimated 250,000 riders a day transfer between the CTA, Metra and Pace, according to the RTA. That number, which represents only about 10 percent of total daily ridership, could grow exponentially if only the process were more seamless and less confusing and intimidating, said Joseph Moriarty, principal analyst and project manager at the RTA.
CTA, Metra and Pace signs and maps that customers are familiar with are not going away.
But to help riders make connections at the more than 300 locations where service by at least two of the three transit agencies converges, the RTA is installing new signs, route diagrams and schedule boards that layer the available service options, officials said.
Under a pilot project funded by a $2.25 million federal grant, the inter-agency signs have been deployed at several Chicago locations, including at Van Buren Street in downtown Chicago, where Metra Electric District trains and CTA rail lines and bus routes connect; Union Station, where CTA, Metra and Amtrak service information is linked to popular attractions and other high-traffic destinations; and 95th Street and Western Avenue, a transferring point between CTA and Pace buses.
The two suburban locations are at Davis Street in Evanston, the transit hub for Metra Union Pacific North Line trains, CTA Purple Line trains and a half dozen CTA and Pace bus routes; and at Joliet Union Station, served by Metra and Amtrak trains as well as Pace buses.
To date, about $475,000 in grant funding has been spent on the five locations, according to the RTA.
Planning is underway to place the improved transit-connections signage at up to 20 additional rail and bus hubs across the Chicago area, including in Naperville, Aurora, Elgin, Lake-Cook Road in the northern suburbs, Harvey, Lisle, Waukegan, Wheaton and Blue Island, officials said.
The new maps use a three-step process to guide travelers at rail stations and bus stops. The first step involves choosing a destination from the list. Then identify the bus stop or rail platform for boarding. The letter-coded wayfinding tool points the way by showing the boarding location on the map.
The goal is to improve signage to make transfers between the three transit agencies intuitive and seamless, said Gerry Tumbali, manager of engineering and technology at the RTA.
Versions of the new station and street signs and maps are being developed and will be posted online as well as on mobile apps, Tumbali said.