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Color code the stations, please!

Master Chief's picture

BART is notoriously difficult to navigate for those who are from outside the Bay Area, and there is clearly a lot of room for improvement in terms of signage within the BART stations. Friends of mine from out of town are constantly getting lost on BART and having to ask for directions, when simple improvements to station signage could eliminate these problems.

Here are a couple suggestions:

1.) Color code the stations to match the various train lines. If I'm in Walnut Creek, the station should have a big yellow stripe running along the wall. If I'm in Berkeley they should be Orange & Yellow, etc.

2.) Arrows & station names printed on the walls indicating which direction the trains will be going in and what the end locations for each direction are. "Inbound/Outbound" doesn't cut it for visitors who aren't familiar with the system or the Bay Area. The termination points for each line need to be listed on the wall along with the colored stripe designating which line it is, and arrows pointing in the directions the trains are going.

What other suggestions do you guys have for improving signage along BART?

TreoBART's picture

They put this sign up around

They put this sign up around the time of the All Star Game:

Embarcadero Station Map

I think it's still up at Embarcadero, but I they should have this at every station.

Also, I've been wishing they would use the color designations more for a long time, like the Metro in DC. It should be all over the signs, all over the trains, and yes, all over the stations, even if it's a Half-Life style rainbow stripe across the top. The problem is they'd have to upgrade all their signage and display boards, which would be quite a feat.

Master Chief's picture

Yeah, a sign like that in

Yeah, a sign like that in every station would go a long way towards improving usability for riders.

If they recognize it as a problem in one area, why not implement the solution in ALL areas?

TreoBART's picture

I'm pretty sure it was a one

I'm pretty sure it was a one shot deal they did to help people from out of town coming in for the game. MLB may have even paid for it, I don't know. They even put a baseball on the map where the correct stop was on the MUNI map. I think it's cut off in that picture.

Or, BART could learn from

Or, BART could learn from REAL transit operations and have signs on and in each car of a train indicating route and terminal. As to colors--route letters seem to work well in complex systems like NYC
Take the A Train credit Strayhorn, Ellington

Master Chief's picture

Yeah, good point. I hope that

Yeah, good point.
I hope that if BART ever decides to make any of the upgrades they've been talking about for decades, that they significantly improve signage on the trains and platforms.

But since BART management is hideously incompetent and they can't seem to hire decent designers, things will probably stay just as shitty and confusing as they are right now. Hell, they'll probably get WORSE when they finally do an "upgrade" of the system.

well, y'know, the way BART

well, y'know, the way BART works is that sometimes BART management identifies a problem -- like, say, when you're on a train it's impossible to see the signs that indicate what station you're at -- and then they start thinking about the *perfect* solution. then they take the *perfect* solution through a few dozen iterations. then they throw it into the capital planning and budgeting process. then it waits for a giant pile of money to become available. then, one day in the verrrrrry distant future, assuming that the stars are aligned and the heavens smiling, the project gets implemented. Of course, in the intervening ten years, the problem remains unaddressed, even though there is (i'm going to go out on a limb here) *always* something easier and cheaper that could be done almost immediately as an interim step. it's almost as if -- no! could it really be? -- BART management is more concerned about their bureaucratic processes than about the customer experience.

the only time that this bureaucratic process gets a short cut is that when the problem has to do with station signage, sometimes a station agent will take a piece of paper, procure a pen, write a message on the paper, and tape it up in a visible place. no doubt this is in violation of several BART management directives, but at least they're doing something!!

Good point. In New York City,

Good point. In New York City, the stops are very easy to see from the train. The BART signage is hit or miss. Why not put illuminated signs on the back walls of the stations with the station names in large letters? Then, when the train stopped, passengers could quickly look out the window to see where they are.

Master Chief's picture

UGH, yeah. I also hate it

UGH, yeah.
I also hate it when I hop on a train and then forget which train I'm on.
It is virtually impossible to tell from inside the train which train you are on unless the TO makes the announcements, and half the time they just don't bother so you have to get up, exit the train to look at the sign, and then hope the TO hasn't closed the doors before you were able to get back on.

Return ATO's picture

I still recall my first ride

I still recall my first ride on BART back in 2004. I flew into OAK and took AirBART to Coliseum Station. I boarded up a train to 12th Street. I made a transfer there, another one at 19th street and a final one at MacArthur before I realized I was not going see a train that had a destination of Pleasant Hill. LOL. So I finally boarded that PBP train after nearly an additional hour and got to my destination.

Outside of the system sign in the train, I don't think you will see any changes to simplify things until the new cars/trains begin showing up in the system. You are dependent on the operator to make announcements and even if they do, there could be PA problems or speaker problems in that car causing nothing to be heard. When in doubt push the intercom button.

What they REALLY should do

What they REALLY should do (and this wouldn't be too hard to do) is install LED signs in EACH car, four of them in fact, two facing each way for each set of doors. They should all be connected to a display multiplexer which is then connected to a small console with which the operator can enter in the route name of the train, AS WELL AS what stop is coming up next. You could even have those messages pre-programmed so the operator can focus on his primary job: monitoring each and every hiccup of the train and running the thing safely.


You are on a Blue Line train to Dublin / Pleasanton. The train has just pulled out of Powell and will be stopping at Montgomery St Station next. Here is what the LED ticker sign should say:

This is a Blue Line Train to: Dublin / Pleasanton. (10 spaces) Next Station: Montgomery Street (10 spaces) The time is #:## PM. (Repeat Marquee)

Then when the train is approaching said station the train operator should set it to display:

MONTGOMERY STREET (in all caps to make it obvious)

That's right, use the color of the line ON THE SIGN so that new riders can point their finger at the map in each train and say "OH! That's where I'm going!" These messages can be multiplexed to every sign in the train by the train operator using a simple and quick-to-operate interface panel. The link below illustrates about what size of sign would be appropriate for the interior:

I believe that a system like this could be built into the entire fleet of old cars for less than twenty million dollars, and being that it is considered a CAPITAL expense there are numerous sources of grants that can cover the pricetag. These include grants from the ADA, Economic Reinvestment Act, etc. It could even be done as each car gets it's new floor installed. ;) Time saving right?

Master Chief's picture

If they wanted to go super

If they wanted to go super cheap, they could just install those old-school revolving signs that they used to have on busses.

Basically each sign box has a sheet of colored film on rollers in front of a fluorescent tube, and depending on the destination of the train the sheet is rolled so that the name/color for the destination is shown in the window. Cheaper than LEDs, and easier to repair when broken since it's just simple mechanical parts.

As long as the trains are color-coded and display the name of their destination station, I think even those who are unfamiliar with BART will be able to figure it out based on a map.

BART really ought to hire some staff designers to come up with new signage for the stations and start doing a graphic overhaul of the system.

Return ATO's picture

My guess is new signage will

My guess is new signage will appear with new cars.

Master Chief's picture

Considering how slow and

Considering how slow and tentative BART has been to adopt other things that are clear improvements to the system (new flooring, hangstraps, etc) I wouldn't put it past them to either totally ignore signage altogether, or to do a terrible job of implementing it.

Oh g-d no no no no, not those

Oh g-d no no no no, not those crappy old rollsigns! Hell no! I used to work for a transit yard up in Oregon and those things bring NOTHING but horror stories! Gaah! There's a real good reason that flipdot and LED signs caught on so well. It's because those rollsigns would break. All the time. What's worse is the district I worked for really was flat broke, so often I'd have to duct tape them back together. Spare BART mechanics the horrors of rollsigns, or at least get them rollsigns that don't break easily (if such a thing exists!).

Master Chief's picture

Oh yes, I forgot that it is


Silly me.