Center Identification Number: 77710
Project Title: Developing a Printed Transit information Material Design Manual
Alasdair Cain, Senior Research Associate
Center for Urban Transportation Research
University of South Florida
External Project Contact:
Public Transportation Office / Transit Planning
I. Project Objective/Problem Statement
Previous phases of NCTR research have shown that a significant proportion of the general public is unable to successfully plan a transit trip using printed transit information materials. There is evidence that such trip planning difficulties represent a major barrier to transit use among non-users, and may also contribute underutilization of transit services by existing users. A lack of recognized design standards has also contributed to inconsistencies in the material designs produced by different agencies, resulting in an unnecessary source of user confusion. This project aims to address these issues by developing a printed transit information material design manual capable of assisting transit agencies in the production of effective and consistent printed transit information materials. The primary aim of the study is to assist transit agencies in Florida, although it is recognized that the manual will also be a useful resource for transit agencies elsewhere.
Although generic printed transit information material design guidelines are available, such as TCRP Report 45 – Passenger Information Services: A Guidebook for Transit Systems, there is a need for a resource that can provide assistance on the specific information material design challenges facing Florida’s transit agencies, and that also addresses public inability to use transit schedules effectively. For example, the TCRP Report 45 study recommends against the use of schedules, stating that simplified departure times and headways be provided on bus stops instead. Although this a viable approach where frequent service is provided, many transit systems are constrained to much less frequent levels of service, which makes the publication of exact arrival and departure times much more critical to successful use of the system.
This project intends to capitalize on the findings of previous NCTR projects, supplemented by other respected research literature sources, to produce a design manual that will assist transit agencies in the production of effective and consistent printed transit information materials. The manual will be tailored primarily towards addressing the design issues facing transit agencies in Florida, but will also be a useful resource for transit agencies in general. The first stage in addressing these issues is to obtain a clear understanding of current best practice in transit information materials design. This will be addressed by conducting an extensive literature review. Then, a survey of printed information materials currently produced by Florida transit agencies will be conducted to determine which design elements are already universally used, and where inconsistencies exist. Next, a phase of field testing will be conducted, using prototype materials, to address design issues where best practice designs have not been conclusively identified in existing research. A Peer Panel composed of Florida Transit Agency marketing directors and other recognized experts in the field will be created at the outset of the project to provide “real-world” insight into the prototype material development process and the cost feasibility of alternative designs. The panel will also be useful in raising industry awareness and support for adoption of the design manual once it has been produced.
The scope of services for this project consists of the following tasks.
Task 1: Literature Review / Design Element Classification
Transit information materials feature a
wide range of different design elements, each with their own set of
comprehension issues. The existing body of research knowledge (of which
previous phases of this study have contributed) has provided conclusive
solutions to some of these issues, while other issues remain unresolved. The
primary objective of this task is to conduct a review of existing literature
in order to be able to sort each design element into one of four status
levels. These four levels are (i) comprehension problem identified, (ii)
potential solution identified, (iii) potential solution tested, and (iv)
solution identified. Another objective of this task is to identify areas of
information material design where proven best practices already exist. This
will be achieved by using resources such as APTA’s Annual design awards to
identify recognized best practice materials.
This task will determine the design element options currently used by transit agencies in Florida. A copy of each agency’s materials will be obtained and classified using the classification system developed in Task 1. The results of this task can then be used to identify which design element options are already employed consistently across the state, which design elements are rarely used, and which design elements feature a multitude of different options. These results will be used in conjunction with Task 1 findings to determine how the different design element options currently employed perform in terms of optimizing public comprehension. This survey could also be used to determine how each agency prints its materials (type of software used / in-house or outsourced to printing / graphic design company) and their annual budget for this task.
Deliverable: Technical Memorandum # 1:
Design Element Classification and Current Material Designs Employed in
The previous research study, Design
Elements of Effective Transit Information Materials, found that using a
schedule to determine bus arrival and departure times was the most difficult
part of the transit trip planning task. However, only the traditional
tabular schedule design was tested. This task is designed to develop
different schedule design alternatives, so that these can be tested in Task
4. The test materials will also incorporate design features that have
already been conclusively shown to improve public comprehension, and will be
pilot tested to ensure that material and methodology bias is minimized. This
task will also develop printed information aids (not tested in the previous
study), so that the impact of these on the trip planning task can be
assessed. The input of FDOT staff and the Peer Panel will be sought in the
material development process.
This task involves testing the different design options developed in Task 3, using a sample of the general public. It is intended to use the same methodology as was employed in the Design Elements of Effective Transit Information Materials project. Shopping mall sites in Orange, Hillsborough, and Polk counties will be selected based on demographic criteria. Each shopping mall has an affiliated market research consultant that is responsible for all market research conducted in that mall. The market research consultants will be paid to recruit the study participants, to provide field-test facilities and auxiliary staff, and to pay each participant a nominal fee of $10 for their participation.
The tests will be administered by
interviewers (CUTR employees) with an understanding of transit trip planning
and experience in behavioral psychology / market research. Interviewers will
record different qualitative and quantitative measures of participant
performance, and interview the participants following test completion.
This task will involve performing quantitative and qualitative analyses on the field test data. The results will be used to determine which potential solutions most effectively address the design issues identified in Task 1, and the impact of the best-practice designs on public trip planning ability.
Deliverable: Technical Memorandum # 2:
Field Test Methodology and Results
This task focuses on synthesizing research knowledge obtained in Tasks 1 and 2, augmented by the new information obtained in Task 4, to produce a printed transit information material design manual for transit agencies. Graphic design specialists within CUTR will be used to produce a document with professional production values that provides easy-to-implement information on design standards and prototype examples of best practice design. The design manual will be submitted initially in draft form, allowing comments on further improvements to be solicited from FDOT project staff and the Peer Panel. 100 color copies of the design manual will be printed.
Deliverable: Printed Information Material Design Manual
Task 7: Production of Summary Brochure
The final task of the research will be to produce a short brochure that summarizes the main design recommendations and provides information on how to obtain the full design manual. Graphic design specialists at CUTR will again be employed in the production of this document. 300 color copies of the brochure will be printed.
Deliverable: Summary Brochure
There will be four deliverables for this project. Technical Memorandum 1 – Design Element Classification and Current Material Designs Employed in Florida, to be submitted at the completion of Task 2. Technical Memorandum 2 – Field Test Methodology and Results will be submitted at the completion of Task 5. The third deliverable will be the Design Manual, provided in both draft and final forms. Once approved by the FDOT Project Staff and the Peer Panel, 100 color copies of the design manual will be printed, to be circulated to Florida transit agencies and other interested parties following project completion. The final deliverable is the Summary Brochure which will also be provided in both draft and final forms. 300 color copies of the brochure will be printed. Quarterly reports will be provided every 3 months.
IV. Project Schedule
2005 2006 2007
V. Project Budget
Notes: This budget does not reflect any federal participation. The project team will include faculty, students, and secretarial and other support staff who will work directly on the project and whose costs are reflected in the direct costs of the project as listed above. Budget requests includes salaries for clerical and administrative staff, postage, telephone calls, office supplies, general purpose software, subscriptions, and/or memberships.
No equipment is envisioned to be purchased under this project.
Travel will be required to conduct the field tests for Task 4. The field tests will be conducted at mall sites in Orange, Hillsborough and Polk Counties.
National Center for Transit Research · at the Center For Urban Transportation Research · University of South Florida · 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CUT100 · Tampa, FL 33620-5375 · (813) 974-3120 · (813) 974-5168 · www.nctr.usf.edu · Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org