How Public Transportation Signage Affects You Every Day

by Drue Townsend

For many Americans, public transportation is a major part of their everyday lives. It’s also becoming more popular every year. In fact, in 2013, Americans took 10.7 billion trips on public transportation, the highest annual ridership number in 57 years, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

How Public Transportation Signage Affects You Every DayThat increase makes public transportation depots, stops and vehicles prime real estate for businesses looking to catch extra eyes or organizers looking to promote an event, among other things.

 If you’ve recently used public transportation, you might not have even recognized all of the signage that surrounded you. Let’s take a closer look at how one person could potentially interact with public transportation signage in just a single day.

Where’s My Bus?

Sean is a 33-year-old male who works downtown but lives just outside the city. He could drive to work, but he takes the bus to save money on gas and parking. His bus stop is a short walk from his house and drops him off just a few blocks from his office.

As he approaches his stop, he doesn’t see his bus coming in the distance. He’s on a tight schedule, so Sean approaches a touchscreen kiosk to figure out if his bus is on its way. With a couple of clicks, he’s able to gather that his bus is a couple of minutes behind, but will be arriving in eight minutes.

Eight minutes later, the bus arrives. Sean steps on and finds a seat.

On the Bus

Sean is seated toward the back of the bus on the left side facing toward the aisle. To pass the time, Sean puts his earbuds in and listens to his favorite podcast. As he listens, his eyes scan the bus: a man has spilled his coffee, a coworker has taken a seat at the front, and a banner for a local dentist hangs front and center at the head of the bus. The banner isn’t big, but its message is short and to the point, offering a local business a consistent presence in a high-traffic area. Sean’s podcast comes to a close, and he steps off the bus for the final leg of his trip to work.

Going Home

Sean unfortunately had to stay late and his bus route is out of service for the rest of the evening. While the bus is his most convenient route, the train is also a viable option for Sean. It’s just a few blocks out of the way, but Sean makes it to the train depot downtown.

The depot’s a little bigger and a little busier than the bus stop. The wall is covered by a can’t-miss mural from a national bank. The mural is not only an advertisement, but it tells a humorous story through bold words and impressive images. Sean takes it in, chuckles at the end, and notices his train arriving.

As he waits for passengers to exit, he spots another ad. How could he miss it? A vehicle wrap covers the entirety of the train car, as an oversized local soccer star is featured in action. Over the graphic, an advertisement for the next big game is highlighted. The soccer star slides out of the way and Sean boards the train.

Back on the Train

Sean once again puts his earbuds back in, but with his podcast finished, he opts for music for this ride. He’s unable to hear each stop announced, but with the digital screens installed every five rows, he can see which stop is next. As he counts down the stops, he sees an instructional video playing out on the screens in case of an emergency. The video ends and Sean’s stop pops up on the screen. He exits the train, walks up the stairs and finds his way home at last.

Public transportation signs are among the most common forms of visual communication we encounter on a daily basis. These signs have a number of benefits, including revenue for transportation organizations, versatile advertising opportunities for local businesses and informing the public of safety procedures in the case of an emergency.

So, how many signs did Sean see throughout the day? Share your answers in the comments or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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