Subway riders group proposes new signage for service changes

Planned Service Change notice in the 34th Street Planned Service Change notice in the 34th Street Penn Station subway station on July 23, 2014. Photo Credit: Jordan G. Teicher

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The distruption of service on multiple subway lines is inherently hard for riders to navigate, but a transit group yesterday said the MTA can do more to ease rider aggravation during those outages.

The New York City Transit Riders Council is proposing a makeover of subway service disruption signs at a time when weekend ridership is booming and there’s more work being done on tracks and train signals.

While the current signs that were redesigned in 2010 are an improvement over the old black text against pale yellow versions, the riders council said there are crucial details missing and ways to make the most pertinent information pop off the paper.

“The information isn't getting to the rider, it just sort of blends in,” said Bill Henderson, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA, which includes the NYCTRC.

Andrew Albert, an MTA board member and head of the transit riders group, recalled a family that believed their train line was out of service, unaware that the sign was outdated.

“Right away that tells you the dates and the exact time of that service outage is not flying off the page at you,” Albert said. “When you enter a station and you see a wall of diversion signs there’s something of a turnoff.”

The current signs display the train symbol, dates and times, with a travel alternative at the bottom.

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MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the signs are a product of market research from consultants and in-house personnel. Last year, an MTA survey showed that 55% of riders were satisfied and 23% were very satisfied with the station information about planned service changes.

“We have a pretty good sense of what customers want with regards to information related to service diversions,” Ortiz said. “That being said, we’re always looking to improve how we communicate.”

Two suggestions the MTA will consider are adding subway line and station diagrams and bringing the interactive Weekender tool — the map on the MTA’s website that notes the stations with disruptions — to weekday changes.

Riders interviewed liked the calendar showing line disruptions for the month on the proposed revamped signs.

Anton Zepina, a 27-year-old subway rider from Long Island, said the current signs are “straightforward … though a calendar would be pretty solid.”

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Ameka Thomas, a 36-year-old Bronx resident, said a highlighted calendar would “make a lot of sense” for those in a rush.

Randall Gregory II, a designer and brand consultant behind the 100 Ways to Improve the NYC Subway project, lent amNewYork his expert eye on the group’s design. He suggested changing the weight of the fonts to highlight the most important details and shrinking the calendar to just show the days affected by the changes.

“There's a bit of information overload on these signs, but these are a great start towards providing riders with necessary information,” he wrote in an email. “Adding the maps representing the routes affected/what the rider can take is a fantastic addition, and really does a great job at visualizing what my route can be.”

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