Design Elements of Effective Transit Information Materials

(Center Identification Number: 527-12) 

This report presents the latest phase of research into public comprehension of printed transit information materials. Building on the findings of a study conducted in 2001, this study investigated in more detail how the general public perform in the planning of a transit trip using printed transit information materials. One hundred and eighty people participated in the study, which was conducted at three mall sites in the Tampa Bay area in August 2004.

The study found that there was a high success rate (above 90 percent) in the sample’s ability to identify the origin and destination of a specified trip on a transit system map, and to use this map to select two bus routes required to travel from the origin to the destination. These tasks represented the first two stages of a five stage trip planning process. The next three stages involved working with individual route maps and schedules (timetables). It was found that the sample’s ability at the third trip planning stage (identification of bus stops) was also relatively good, but that the sample had most difficulty with the last two stages in the trip planning process, with almost half the participants unable to correctly identify the four required bus times using the tabular schedules.

The study also tested a range of different route map and schedule design elements. Test results showed that most of the different design variants did not have a significant impact on the public’s trip planning ability. However, it was found that separating the bus time information for different days of the week into separate tables had a significant positive impact. The study lists the various problems encountered by participants at each trip planning stage and provides suggestions for potential solutions.

Two thirds of participants stated that they were now more confident about using transit following the exercise, and around 20 percent, including non-transit users, stated that they would now use transit more often. This suggests that providing instructions and/or education to members of the public on how to use transit information materials could crease ridership. Download the final report. Research condcuted by Alasdair Cain. For more information, contact Dennis Hinebaugh at

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