Metro’s New Bus Stop Signs

six types of bus stop signs

Metro Bus Stop Sign Types

Long overdue, with prototypes tested three years ago, Metro began implementing its new signage system on a route by route basis this year. The new system matches Metro’s current color scheme and presents more information than the old signs in a clear and consistent format. However, the possibility of significant service cuts put replacement of regular signs (type A in the graphic) on hold, since Metro would have to go back and “patch” the new signs with stickers. Even with the $20 CRC, “budget [for the new signs] will still be a challenge”, says Metro spokeswoman Linda Thielke. Metro continues to plan on replacing the large kiosk style signs at busy stops, since those signs feature interchangeable route tiles (types B and C). There’s no estimate on when all the regular signs will be replaced. Complete replacement of the large signs is estimated to take at least 5 years.

You can see the new large signs at 3rd & Pine northbound stop, a few stops on 3rd Ave in Belltown, the island stop at 4th & Jackson, and the 4th & Jackson stop beside Union Station. The regular signs have appeared in many places across King County.

The new system is a significant improvement, in both form and function, over the old signs, which haven’t changed in basic design for decades. It was designed by Portland based Mayer/Reed and Jon Bentz Design in Edmonds, the latter has also worked on Sound Transit’s graphic and signage design standards.

More on the key design features after the jump.

The basic element on every sign is the “route block” which is consistent across all sign types. The route block includes the route number, a modifier (local, express, Sound Transit, etc.), up to two destinations, and symbols indicating connections with Sounder, Link, Sea-Tac Airport, and/or ferries. On the large B and C type signs, these blocks are individual tiles that can be rearranged or removed as needed without producing an entire sign from scratch for each revision.

Every sign is identified at the top by a bus symbol against a colored background that’s reminiscent of Metro’s bus livery. On large signs, the stop’s name is displayed. In the middle are the route blocks, displaying from 1 to 32 routes. Beneath the route blocks are the stop number, which is handy for OneBusAway, whether the stop is in the Ride Free Area or not, Metro’s customer service phone number and web site URL, wheelchair accessibility info, and Metro’s logo.

For some who have travelled to Portland and London, they may note the similarities of Metro’s system to those cities’ bus stop signs, designed and produced by UK firm Trueform. Why didn’t Metro just use them? Metro’s answer: “We evaluated their system, and were able to replicate a model that did the same basic job at a similar cost, while also allowing us to keep consistency with our map and schedule products that appear in many other signage installations throughout the county.” More on maps and schedules in a future post.

The Signing Standards Manual contains all the details of sign design and manufacture.


  1. Bruce Nourish says:

    I wish they’d do what Portland does, have an extra “side sign” (I don’t know the proper name) saying “Frequent Service” if the stop has frequent service. Metro’s Frequent Service Network is a horribly under-promoted asset, at least in central Seattle.

    • What he said! It’s ridiculous to not point out frequent service, especially outside the downtown core where people wouldn’t guess it existed.

      • A clock face icon with a shaded portion covering 30, 20, 15, 12, 10, or 7-8 minutes would hopefully be intuitive, and fit next to the airport/ferry/train icons.

      • I don’t think that would work for cases where two or more routes combine to provide frequent service.

    • Transit Rider says:

      Route numbers can vary according to type of service — Bold for all-day frequent service, Italic for peak-hour only, light-face for owl and other odd-ball service. Or something like that.

      • I would go so far as to say peak-only-one-way service should be smaller and in an entirely different part of the sign. These routes are mostly useless for everyone except commuters that already know their route, so we shouldn’t put them at the same level as routes that come every 15 minutes and so are very useful to anyone at the stop.

      • Stephen: The way the tech is set up, we have a bunch of interchangeable tiles. We’re not changing that. But, especially since the tiles are so easy to change, it’s totally possible to imagine that the tiles could use different formats/colors.

        So, +1 to making the numbers smaller (maybe), but not to putting them in a different part of the sign; that would be a much more radical change.

        Transit Rider: For most riders, *everything* other than the frequent network, and *maybe* one peak route, is “oddball” service. So, as I mentioned elsewhere, I think we can start with just one distinction: one bright color (the current white?) for all-day frequent routes (15 min M-Sa, 30 min Su), and one other color (grey?) for everything else. If it’s bright (and it’s not after 1am), you know it’s coming soon; if not, you’ve got to look more closely.

      • What about cases where two or more routes combine to provide frequent service?

      • Morgan: You probably already saw my suggestion elsewhere, but I would like to see the common segment listed together. Really, I would like to see the routes in question have the same number, and just treated as branches, like we do with the 5. If that’s too wide for one tile, then use two tiles. :)

    • I totally agree. It wouldn’t be difficult to do that since the system is set up for those kinds of signs.

    • It would have to say “Frequent service (until 7pm)” or “Frequent service (except Sundays)”.

      • The definition of Metro frequent service. is “every 15 minutes or better during the day until at least 6:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 5:30 p.m. on Sundays and holidays”.

        I would like to see that amended slightly, to be every 30 minutes on Sundays. Otherwise, it excludes a lot of routes which are an important part of the frequent service network.

        Basically, I think it’s more important to define the frequent service network to include the important routes, rather than to only select the routes which meet some arbitrary definition. In the Eastside, for example, the frequent network might need to include half-hourly routes.

        But yes, I agree with you that the definition of frequent service, whatever it is, should be included on the sign for any stop which provides access to that frequent service.

      • That’s Metro’s definition of frequent service, but a more general city-neutral definition that maximizes ridership and makes people willing to give up their cars is, “15 minutes minimum 6am-10pm weekdays, and 9am-10pm on weekends”.

        Cities with an extensive frequent-transit network go significantly beyond this; e.g., Chicago’s 10 minutes until midnight and 30 minutes night owl.

      • For the only purpose that definition serves, Metro breaks out routes between “Monday-Friday”, “Saturday”, and “Sunday and Holidays”. The table includes some routes that are only frequent Monday-Friday, and I think those same routes would be included if Metro were to list frequent routes without those fine distinctions or include them on a map. With only a few exceptions (the 30/31′s frequency seems to be an accident, and the 511 isn’t frequent in peak, I think replaced by the 510), it matches up very closely with the routes included on Oran’s frequent map.

        There are very, very few all-day routes even outside Seattle that run less than half-hourly. Then again, perhaps “all-day” is the key phrase.

      • We’re quibbling about the definition of frequent service, but I think we agree on the important part: some routes are useful to people who don’t want to build their schedule around a bus, and some routes aren’t, and we should make the former much more prominent than the latter.

        Mike: I definitely agree that Seattle’s definition of frequent service is dubious. But the fact remains that, if you use bus service in Seattle, that’s what we’ve got. Routes like the 2S, or the 3N/4N, are the best we’ve got, and I don’t want to exclude them from the frequent network just because they (like many Metro routes) have shitty Sunday service.

        FWIW, another benefit of defining and promoting the frequent service network is that it’s very clear where improvements should be directed. Once everyone knows “frequent service means X”, then everyone can say, “Hey, why not Sunday?”, and then Metro can try to rearrange service hours so that the frequent network can extend to Sundays (or evening/night) as well.

        Morgan: Not coincidentally, routes without frequent Saturday service tend to be targeted towards commuters, or at least workday populations. The only frequent routes without Saturday service are the 66/67, 140, 372/522 (only north of Lake City), and 545. I would have no problem excluding all of these from the frequent service network until they brought up Saturday service to frequent levels.

        On the other hand, routes without frequent Sunday service include the 2S, 3N/4N, 5, 8, 10, 12, 41, 48, and every frequent bus outside Seattle city limits. Again, those are core routes, including the highest ridership route (if not corridor) in the system.

        I definitely think that we *should* invest money in bringing all of those routes up to the definition of frequent service 7 days a week. But I don’t think we should put them in the same category as the 46 just because they lack Sunday service, and I also don’t think we should create an extra level of distinction just to handle these routes.

        Basically, I want to have *one* definition of what frequent service means — not three definitions for different days. It should be tight enough to be useful, but loose enough to include most/all of the key arterial routes in Seattle. And if necessary, we should adjust service hours so that all of our key routes meet that standard.

      • My comment was posted near-simultaneously with Mike’s and was intended to be a reply to Aleks. I think that list is outdated; isn’t the 271 frequent now, or is that not until October (or whenever WSDOT gets its act in gear about tolling 520)?

        That chart also either used to include evening service, or still does in the paper system map. The full service frequency table linked on the page can be used to get evening frequencies. The following routes that are frequent on Saturdays are not frequent in weekday evenings: 2S, 5 (I think), 8, 10, 12, 41, 43, 54/55, and every route outside the Seattle city limits. Sound familiar? The 3/4N and 48 remain frequent, but the 43 and 54/55 do not.

        “FWIW, another benefit of defining and promoting the frequent service network is that it’s very clear where improvements should be directed. Once everyone knows “frequent service means X”, then everyone can say, “Hey, why not Sunday?”, and then Metro can try to rearrange service hours so that the frequent network can extend to Sundays (or evening/night) as well.”

        You just explained why Metro doesn’t define and promote the frequent network.

        There are really only two definitions for frequent service, and Metro only indicates three different gradations because that’s all they do with it. If they were to make a frequent service map or overlay one over their system map, they would have a single definition. My guess is it would be Monday-Friday because they don’t want the pressure of people asking why the frequent definition doesn’t include Sunday, which would be far more obvious if Saturday were included. They SHOULD do more with their frequent network, but that’s a different (though related) issue to what its definition should be.

      • My main beef is that mid-day frequent service does nothing for those who work 8-5 and can’t use it, and the transit demand from 7-10pm when we can go on errands and go to activities is ignored.

      • But lots of people *do* use midday service. If 9-to-5 commuters were the backbone of Metro’s service, then peak commuter routes wouldn’t have the terrible numbers that they do.

        Like you, I work during the day and play/run errands at night, and so I definitely wish that Metro had better frequency at night. But I think it would be a mistake if they sacrificed midday service for the sake of evenings/nights. (Not that you’re suggesting that.)

  2. [ot]

  3. Nothing against this sign design, but a big complaint I heard when Metro’s In Motion program came to my neighborhood was that the signs didn’t say which direction the buses are going.

    Consider the buses on Cloverdale. The 131 heading west is headed to Burien. The 131 heading east is headed downtown. The 132 heading west is headed downtown. The 132 heading east is headed to Burien. This is just one example among hundreds where a bus route with lots of turns has stretches where its general direction of travel isn’t obvious just by where the stop is located. And not everyone has a perfect sense of direction, anyway.

    Add to that that the paper schedules that tend to get attached to the cheaper signs on the routes with the longest headway get wet, shredded, and blow away, leaving occasional riders with no clues that the paper schedule didn’t even say where the route was headed. I noticed on CT’s signs that the attached schedules show which way the buses at that stop are heading.

    When bus destinations aren’t explicit, people then hold up buses for lengthy questions about directions. This might be more expensive than the savings from not keeping signs in good repair. (And in general, I wish we had a policy of allowing people to hop on the bus to the next stop so the conversation could be had while the bus is moving. I’ve seen people waste fare getting on the wrong bus, only to find out before the next stop that they got on the wrong bus.)

    I also like the airport, ferry, and train icons on some of the newer signs. Add a downtown skyscraper icon and a Husky icon, and the above problem would be significantly reduced.

    • Seconded, I can read the numbers (from afar) but I can’t read the destinations. The should do something like this instead.

      • That would be more readable but wouldn’t work for stops with over six routes. The set up turns into a bulky tower of route numbers from top to the ground.

      • It works quite well in practice even for stops with more than 20 routes. If the stack of routes turn into a tower (the above C1/C2 designs are not towerish?) they’ll still be readable. The trick is to put the lines with the same destination into the same row. No problem.

      • Ah, smart, grouping routes by common destination.

        What I mean by tower is you have Route 1 at 12′ above the ground and Route 32 at 0′ above the ground, not including schedule and other information, using the existing height of the tiles. It probably could be tightened up and made more compact like the HVV sign you linked to.

        From this image, at 20 small signs, the bottom most sign would be at waist level. At 30 signs, the bottom most sign would be touching the ground which would be equally unreadable. They could put signs on the other side of the post but then the sign takes up twice as much space. So yes it works, and then the schedules need to be put someplace else which should be anyway for a big stop like that.

        I do like the color and shape coding for routes that those signs use.

      • Obviously, those posts would have to be higher. This is another example, a deluxe model for highly frequented stops with a ‘next bus’ display at the base.

      • I see the London signs group the lines as well but differently. Destination/Direction first and then the numbers.

    • The new signs appear to list up to two destinations for each route.

      I’m not sure the skyscraper/Husky icons would be a good precedent. I can only imagine other neighborhoods and towns clamoring for icons.

      • The icons are for connections to other transportation services, not destinations which already have a place of their own. It gets messy pretty quick.

      • The messiness would be from too many icons attached to one route, rather than a selection of icons available to all routes. Routes that go downtown don’t need to show the ferry, light rail, Sounder, Amtrak, monorail, and streetcar icons. Most people taking them just want to know which way goes downtown. Instead, it appears that routes going downtown don’t show any icon, and neither do the routes headed outbound. So, most route numbers on signs are icon-free. I just don’t see a skyscraper icon on a type-A sign adding clutter. But it does answer one of the key questions non-regular riders have at those stops.

        I use the downtown icon as an example because showing which direction on a route goes downtown covers the vast majority of Metro routes, and is more important to know than how many transfer modes are available downtown. I use the Husky example due to UW being the second largest bus hub in the system, and it being a public institution, frequently with a lot of new riders who don’t know their way around town. Most routes with these icons would be blank outbound and have the skyscraper or Husky icon inbound.

        I’d love to see some simple iconage at train stations. Having an airplane icon at one station entrance, and a downtown skyline icon at the other answers the main question I get from tourists and irregular riders, and transcends language barriers (although, like the Metro signs, does little for blind riders).

    • If we had buses that stuck to straight-line paths, it would be obvious which way it’s going – a bus that is facing north is headed north and a bus that’s facing south is headed south. Because we, instead, have buses that twist and turn to get a few people a few feet closer to some preferred destination, you can no longer make assumptions about which way a bus is going by which way it is facing, so we need signage to make this more clear.

  4. I find the new signs to be much less legible than the old ones, particularly at a distance. And the color patches make them stand out from their environment far less. I appreciate the desire to display more information, but I think the new signs are a failure.

  5. Both in terms of design and increased information, I like these new signs. Having this kind of info on the stops will be vary useful, and making the stops look nicer will help deal with the stigma around riding the bus.

  6. Since I have some time today I might go downtown and check out the sign at 3rd and Pine. I’ve been tricked in the past by glancing at a sign on 3rd Ave from a distance and thinking the 71-74 routes to the U District stopped there, when they really only stop there at night when the tunnel is closed. I ended up getting a different U District bus that did stop there, but had I seen this more quickly I’d have ducked into the tunnel to catch one of those.

    I also think that as long as express variants have similar numbers, stops only served by the express variants should be prominently marked on the sign. As you might guess, I’ve been bit by this also, this time on a stop on 3rd in Belltown where the express 26 stops but not the regular 26.

    Unfortunately I’m not sure how to display this concisely — there are a lot of quirks in our bus system. Maybe all routes that don’t have all-day service to a stop should be in a different (and clearly less prominent) color, with smaller textual descriptions of the limitations. Maybe an additional color scheme for common patterns like commuter services (which includes, for example, the express 26).

    • They do show “Express” or “Local” or “Express and Local” under the numbers but they’re tiny compared to the number.

      Something like London where they have different background color tiles for night buses and “pay-before-you-board” routes.

      RapidRide routes will have the letter designation in a red circle, so that’s also different.

      • Also, routes that only stop at a stop when the tunnel is closed have been broken out into a separate column on the old-style signs.

      • A separate column? How would someone that didn’t already know that decode it upon reaching a bus stop?

        The problem with the express/local markings as they are now, and as they will be with the new signs, is that you have to stick your nose against the sign to read them, and then you have to cross-reference against the schedule to see if that route is actually going to come to this stop this time of day.

        Consider the I-5 express lanes. In a given direction, they are only available for a few hours every day. Drivers see the signs for them briefly, while blowing by at 60MPH and focusing on traffic, coffee, makeup, txting, Facebook, etc. But almost nobody tries to get on the express lanes in the wrong direction. I’m not a stupid person and I get tricked by our downtown bus signage more than I’d like to admit. We have some complicated bus routings, and we’re making the mistake of creating signage that compels us to ignore the complexity. If I walk up to a bus stop that serves the 71, 72, and 73 only when the tunnel is closed, the numbers 71, 72, and 73 should look different enough to compel me to take a closer look. If I walk up to a bus stop serving the 26 express only, that 26 should, likewise, look different than a regular 26 would, and different from the other normal routes listed on the sign.

      • I appreciate your analogy, but it’s worth pointing out that getting on the express lanes in the wrong direction may cost you your life, while going to the wrong bus stop will probably cost you about 10-15 minutes (depending on whether or not you get on the wrong bus, and if so, how long you ride it for). And also, there’s probably 3 orders of magnitude more bus stops than express lanes on-ramps.

        Having said that, I definitely think we can do better (see my other posts).

      • The highways have arrows and “Wrong Way” signs to make it very difficult to go the wrong way. A “74 Express” sign does no such thing.

        It’s very common for people to ride the 30 all the way to Magnuson Park in the middle of nowhere, when they ask the driver, “How far is the U-district?”, or “How far is U-Village?”. So he has to tell them it’s the other direction. Then they have to walk across the street, wait up to 30 minutes for the bus, and then ride at least 20 minutes to get where they were originally going. (Or 45 minutes if their ultimate goal is downtown.) I see this happen at least every week or two.

      • Where are they getting on? I suspect the problem here might be more not paying attention, or the driver not announcing nearby destinations (especially U-Village, which the 30 doesn’t exactly enter the parking lot of), than getting on in the wrong direction.

        “A separate column? How would someone that didn’t already know that decode it upon reaching a bus stop?” It’s hard to miss, actually. I wish I had a photo ready; I think 3rd and Union is one the 41 and 70-series serve.

    • As other commenters have said, we should be emphasizing our frequent network much more than today. That means that we should make a big distinction on the signs between the frequent routes and the rest.

      Really, I think we’d be just fine with only a single distinction (i.e. two modes). If a route comes to a given stop at least every 15 minutes for most of the day, six days a week, and at least every 30 minutes on Sunday, then it gets one tile color. Otherwise, it gets another, with the restrictions noted on the tile.

      That one rule would solve the tunnel-bus problem, the late-night problem, the peak-express/commuter problem, the turnback problem, and everything else. If you’re at a stop, and the bus you’re waiting for is highlighted, then you know for sure that it’s coming in the next 15 minutes (or 30 minutes on Sunday, and in both cases, assuming you’re inside service hours). If it’s greyed out, then you need to read more closely to find out.

      • I don’t think it’s frequency I want to see, but regularity. Here’s why:

        1. Pairing. The 26 and 28 combined are frequent between downtown and Fremont; beyond that they are not. The 54 and 55 combined are frequent to Alaska Junction but beyond that they aren’t. The 71, 72, and 73 combined are frequent to the U District but not beyond. But they’re all regular.

        2. Distinction. Because the 26 and 71-72-73 aren’t frequent by themselves, a sign for just the 26 Express or for the 71-72-73 on 3rd Ave. would still look just like a sign for the 26 Local, or for the 71-72-73 in the bus tunnel. The distinction between frequent and infrequent might be a few minutes of waiting. The distinction between regular and irregular is that you should probably find a different bus.

      • I believe that what you’ve described is simply a problem with Metro’s branding/publishings in general. Metro does nothing to emphasize, or even notate, outbound root pairings. Inbound, if you look at a schedule at a 71/72/73 shared stop, it’s great! You’ll see a list of every bus that will take you downtown. But outbound, you have to manually collate between three different schedules. Looking at a bus stop in the tunnel, you could be forgiven for not having any idea that the 71/72/73 are pretty much branches of the same bus.

        What I’d like to see is for Metro to take all the route pairings (or triplings, etc.) which are scheduled as a unit, and mark them as such on published schedules, signs, etc. So downtown, you’d see route markers for:

        2/13 to Queen Anne/Galer St
        3/4 to N Queen Anne [northbound]
        3/4 to First Hill [southbound]
        15/18 to Ballard/Leary Way
        21/22/56 to Spokane St
        26/28 to Fremont
        54/55 to Alaska Junction
        71/72/73 to U-District (in the tunnel)

        (And yes, those are the *only* frequent corridors with stops in downtown Seattle that comprise multiple routes.)

        And those would all be marked as frequent, using the color scheme, *and* the posted schedule would include all of the trips on all services.

        At major stops, it might make sense to *also* include infrequent markers for the individual routes, as appropriate. In that case, you would have redundant schedule information: a combined schedule for people who want the common segment (i.e. almost everyone), and separate schedules for people who want the long tails.

        Alternatively, and especially at space-constrained local stops, you could just have a single schedule. You could use the suffix system, or maybe some kind of shading/color-coding, to indicate which buses continued to which destination, as appropriate.

        (FWIW, note that the Route 5 schedules do exactly that, as I believe it is the only bus route with a single number but two branches. I’d love to see the same numbering scheme used for all of these pairs as well.)

        One other thing I wanted to respond to:

        The distinction between frequent and infrequent might be a few minutes of waiting. The distinction between regular and irregular is that you should probably find a different bus.

        False. The distinction between frequent and infrequent might be *half an hour* of waiting. If you’re trying to get to a major destination in Seattle, and you’re not waiting at a frequent bus stop, you’re probably doing something wrong. In both cases, the right thing to do is to find a different bus.

        I can appreciate the distinction between peak-only buses and infrequent all-day buses. If you’re not in a hurry but still absolutely need to get somewhere, then you might be willing to wait 30-60 minutes, but obviously a peak-only bus would not help. But if we have to only make one distinction, then frequent/all-day or not is the one to make.

        As usual, Jarrett Walker has a great article about this.

      • The distinction between frequent and infrequent is, maximum, a net 15 minutes of waiting. You could wait 0-15 minutes for a frequent bus or 0-30 minutes for an infrequent one.

      • Morgan,

        You say that like it’s not a big deal. 15 minutes is short enough that I’ll just go to the bus stop. 30 minutes is long enough that I won’t leave the house without checking a schedule or OBA.

        The reason I said “half hour” is in comparison to an hourly route. If you wait at a bus stop for the 46, even leaving aside the limited span, you should *expect* to wait half an hour, and there’s a pretty high variance. I admit that there aren’t very many hourly routes, but the point remains: frequency matters. I know quite a few people who will “time out” after waiting for about 5 minutes for a bus. A bus with a 15-minute frequency will satisfy them a good portion of the time; a 30-minute bus, almost never.

        The only reason I want the frequent service network to (essentially) exclude Sundays is because *we don’t have* a frequent network on Sundays. Eventually, I want frequent service to include Sundays, and late nights, and to go to 10-12 minute service. But for now, we’ve got what we’ve got.

      • “You say that like it’s not a big deal. 15 minutes is short enough that I’ll just go to the bus stop.”

        Since my post said the actual net wait time was 15 minutes, I’m not sure how you don’t agree with me that that’s “not a big deal”.

        If you’re using average wait times and hourly routes, the net wait time difference for frequent vs. infrequent is 22.5 minutes, 30 minutes for the hourly route minus 7.5 minutes for the frequent one.

      • Lack Thereof says:

        I would much rather they break it out into all-day vs. commuter routes.

        Huge swaths of Metro’s system are all-day 30 minute routes, including many backbone routes. Yet around half of Metro’s routes are peak-only commuter routes, cluttering up signs with routes that only come a few times a day.

        I’d much rather they segregate the signs by duration of service, rather than frequency of service.

        And bold type contrasted with normal type would make it clear enough, I think.

      • I admit that my posts were a bit confusing. :)

        My claim is that a worst-case 15-minute wait, and an expected wait time of somewhere between 4-11 minutes, is significantly better than a worst-case 30 minute wait and an expected wait time of somewhere between 8-22 minutes. In fact, it’s such a significant difference that I will always try to plan trips in a way that avoids 30-minute buses.

        I definitely agree that it’s not super useful to put the 11 in the same bucket as the 261. But I don’t think it’s useful to put the 11 in the same bucket as the 48, either. (Hmm, I guess we need three colors after all.)

  7. Also: Metro should consider replacing their “NO-LIFT” stickers with something else (such as “NO-RAMP”) since in about 5 years or so, the fleet will be 100% low-floor, using ramps instead of lifts.

    However, I talked to a coach operator on last month’s MEHVA Snoqualmie Falls trip and he said Metro is curretly slowly phasing out certain kinds of bus stops, including “NO-LIFT” stops. Can anyone fill me in on this?

    • Im sure as the service and enviroment changes and evolves those stops are either closed or modified to become accessible. Its just a process that takes time and money something which is in short supply these days.

  8. Criticizing the signs now is a waste of time and energy, since presumably we won’t be getting a revised version for another 5 or 10 years, but I’ll do it anyway. I was very excited to get signs with stop numbers, since I use OneBusAway quite a bit. But I realized that without a phone number or URL for OBA on the sign, the stop number is useless to customers who don’t already know about OBA, which appears to be quite a large percentage. Customers will likely expect that going to the URL given on the sign would give them some place to put in that number and get information, but there’s no place on Metro’s site to do that (though if you hunt around enough you’ll find a link to OBA.)

    And the URL itself is malformed. The “www.” is just wasted space, and redirects to Just put, which is faster and easier to type, especially on a phone.

    And since 99% using the URL at a stop are going to be on mobiles, make a page designed for mobile devices, and give that URL on the signs. (Maybe they do some sort of auto-detect and redirect mobile users to a different URL, but gets a score of 0 on W3C’s MobileOK tests.) The page could be designed for smaller screens, but also focus on the tools someone actually at a stop would want—a link to the trip planner (where the stop number could be entered as a starting point), a “Get real-time arrival info” link (again, where that stop number could be entered), etc—instead of the generic home page which is cluttered with far too much crap for most users, especially those already at a stop.

    And, of course, I’ve seen several new signs around town where the stop number space is just blank. If Metro is concerned about the cost of patching new signs, they should probably start double-checking them before they send them out for installation in the first place.

    • Oh, and the last time I tried, Metro CSRs weren’t allowed to access any of the web pages that actually gave real-time arrival information, and the BUS-TIME system was still using the other system of stop numbers. If this is still the case, the stop numbers on these signs are absolutely useless when calling the number given on the signs.

    • How about leaving some space for QR codes?

    • Joseph Singer says:

      +1 to your comment about OneBusAway. I think perhaps part of the reason that OneBusAway is not mentioned is that it’s not officially part of KC Metro. I’m not even sure that KC Metro has officially decided to support OneBusAway when Brian leaves the area. It’s surely better organized than Metro’s BUS-TIME scheduler.

      • Pierce Transit mentions OneBusAway in their schedule book and prominently shows it at major stops next to schedules. They even explain step-by-step how to use it by SMS, phone and web!

      • Metro mentions OBA quite a bit as well – I once saw a weird experimental bus-stop timetable that mentioned it. Also, go to Metro’s web site, click Rider Tools, then click “Real-time transit information on the go!”

      • @Morgan: I’m not sure if mentioning it on an experimental timetable counts as “quite a bit”. And they link to OBA on the website, but one has to dig a bit to find it. There should be a “Get real-time stop info” section with a text-entry box titled “Stop number” right on the home page, sandwiched below “Get a timetable” and “Quick Links”. At least, if they made a mobile-friendly page that’s what should be on it. Generally, though, it’s just absurd that there’s no place on Metro’s own site where you can enter the stop number and get any info. If they’re not going to support it, but are going to be putting stop numbers up like they are useful information, they need to link to OBA much more prominently.

    • While electronic solutions are excellent and to be encouraged(I consider my smartphone survival tool), it should not be forgotten that for the vast majority of Metro’s customers, they are not mobile connected or clueless if they are. e.g., many people have cell phones but not a clue how they might use SMS to get information. My retirement age housemate has Onebusaway on her smartphone (thanks to me), but has not a clue as to how, when or where to use it (Lord knows I’ve tried.) Smartphone penetration in this area might be higher than the national average, but still probably less than 20% of Metro’s userbase.

  9. “However, the possibility of significant service cuts put replacement of regular signs (type A in the graphic) on hold, since Metro would have to go back and “patch” the new signs with stickers.”

    I don’t get this. I don’t see how type B is more suited to the sliding tiles than type A, and I don’t see how the need to patch the new signs is any different from the old signs. Maybe they’re just waiting for service changes to affect the signs…? But my first point still stands.

    • The sliding tiles require more hardware and are intended for busier stops. Type A is just like the old signs (a single sheet of metal) but with a new look. To do sliding tiles on every sign (thousands of them) would be really expensive with little benefit.

      Regardless of the cuts, there’re likely going to be big changes to service, therefore it’d be best to roll out new signs in conjunction with service changes. That’s what they did with the South Seattle/Link restructure two years ago.

      • When Bellevue Transit Center opened up, they had me out there on a ladder with white duct tape and a big magic marker making corrections on the flags.
        Whatever works! We may have to revert to that when congress zero’s out funding for transit and trains next year.

      • Oh, and this will make my personal Metro Bus Stop flag an heirloom in the future.

      • I think my problem is, looking at the image, I didn’t see any technical distinction between types A and B; they’re both signs attatched to a pole. But now I see B’s “pole” looks different…

        (As an aside, what determines when type C-1 gets used as opposed to a type B?)

      • Have you looked at the Signing Standards Manual linked at the end of the post?

      • Look at the document, it has lots of details. A few mistakes as well; what the heck is “galvanized aluminum” (p. 1.3)? Luckily the engineering drawings at the end are a little more precise about materials.

        The post for the type A sign is pretty much a standard steel sign post, but the type B and C posts are a lot more complicated, with a steel pipe and some custom welding and a two piece custom aluminum extrusion around it. For most stops, you’ll want a type A sign.

  10. More maps. Better maps. That’s what we need.

    I like these signs. I’m not a fan of Metro’s livery so the colour is unappealing but other than that they’re a huge improvement.

  11. Can someone think of a location where using B.2 would be preferable to C.1? If there are 16 routes stopping at a particular stop, I’d want there to be as much information as possible and C.1 would allow for that.

    • You mean space for maps? One very important thing that wasn’t changed was the design of schedules and maps at stops. They should’ve introduced a new design or at least provide for more space in future changes.

      • Not even maps so much as just schedule and fare information. I can’t even see where they could put information for 16 routes on the pole of the B.2 style. There’s just not enough space and it would make no sense to use it when C.1 could do everything B.2 does and better.

    • J. Reddoch says:

      Perhaps there are some instances where the sidewalk width wouldn’t allow for C.1 but could accommodate B.2.

      • I thought that but realized a couple of things. 1: Assuming the drawings are to scale, the footprint of both signs is the same, meaning they take up the same amount of street width. 2: Any stop with 16 routes isn’t going to be on a narrow road with limited pedestrian access.

  12. I’ve seen those signs downtown. I thought the green stripe on top was a color coding and that every other stop had a different color for its set of routes, but I didn’t see the colors in the bus schedules so I don’t know what the system is.

    • That would be the downtown skip-stop system, which is a separate tab mounted to the side of the sign (or top, for the old signs).

    • It throws me that Metro is using a colored route in the schedule for the snow route. Not only is it too prominent for a routing that’s only used a handful of times a year, but it looks like the color of the route; i.e., the color to look for on the bus stop signs.

      • I think the intent of the snow-route color, which matches the color used for the rest of the timetable to indicate what service change it refers to, is actually to make it less prominent. If I’d do anything else, I’d stop drawing snow routes on unchanged portions of the route and certainly on routes that don’t deviate from the normal route at all (and certainly not during the freakin’ summer), but that’s a topic for another thread.

        I wouldn’t think it would throw you if you use more than a couple of routes, especially if they have very different routings downtown or don’t serve it at all, since they’d all be the same color.

    • So how does the tab work? Is it listed in the bus schedule somewhere? If not, what good is it?

      • I think the only other place it has appeared is Metro’s Rider Alert brochure. Presumably, it is solely for the aid of those who would get confused when Metro instituted the skip-stop system, so they’re notified at the time “look for this to determine if your route stops here”, in other words, it’s for those “in the know” only.

        From what I understand, for Metro to use more than the one color for its timetables would exponentially increase the cost, and isn’t terribly necessary when most downtown maps for applicable routes indicate every stop served downtown. The downtown map is mostly for travel within downtown, and most of the frequent routes there stop at the same stops.

      • It’s mostly for bus drivers. There was once a map produced by Metro that listed them for the DSTT closure and I think they were mentioned in a recent Rider Alert brochure.

      • From an earlier service revision announcement:

        Bus routes skip every other stop, and some will be grouped differently at these stops than they have been in the past. Metro is using color coding at the stops to help bus drivers. Some riders may find these colors useful for quick reference, but always check signs at the stops to make sure your route number is listed there. Do not identify your bus stop only by color code, because they could change throughout the year.

        Initially I believe buses were mostly grouped by whether they were regional vs. local, which came in handy to know which way I should turn when I hit Third Ave; I could see from quite a distance whether I should walk to that stop 1.5 blocks north, or the one .5 blocks south, to catch my 28. Unfortunately that grouping scheme seems to’ve broken down quite a bit and so the colored tabs are generally useless for the average rider.

      • Actually, I think Metro has sought to improve regional vs. local stop patterns. There was never any good reason why the 5 didn’t stop at the same stops as the 66.

  13. Ask the typical rider at 3rd and Pike or 5th and Jackson, for example, what the stop number on the sign means, or what OneBusAway is, and they won’t be able to tell you. This is another case of college grads creating something for other college grads. It’s elitism. It’s classism. And I can imagine some might even say, it’s a subtle form of racism.

  14. Huge fan of the new signs. They’re much more readable (for me), and they look cooler, and they’ve fixed one of my biggest complaints with the old signs, which is that local-only stops were not designated as such.

    That said, I’m disappointed that the new signage continues to emphasize “to” over “via”. I’d much prefer if the tiles read like this (at least for arterial routes):

    7 Rainier (to Rainier Beach)
    8 Denny/MLK (to Seattle Center)
    44 Market/45th (to U-District)
    358 Aurora (to Aurora Village)

    As usual, there’s a great article about this at Human Transit.

  15. Paul K McGregor says:

    I had the joy of working on a major revamp of bus stops in Dallas a few years back and it was a lot of hard work making sure you have the right route number on the right stop. The challenge will be keeping it updated as changes are made. I assume that the information on the lower part of the sign is schedule info? It’s hard to tell from the picture. Again, a challenge to keep it updated.

    The one thing we did in Dallas was color code the routes by route type. I am sure the same idea could be applied to frequency of service. Maybe green for frequent service, red for peak hour only, and maybe another color for 24 hour service. Just a thought.

  16. My biggest complaint about the signs has always been that the location isn’t clearly marked. If I’m going somewhere new, how am I supposed to know wehn I’m at 23rd & Marion? Especially on a rainy night, I can’t see street signs. At least the stop is located in a spot that a rider can see clearly as you go by.

    So I’m glad to see that at least the larger signs get a name – I wish the small ones would, too. At the very least, a clearly readable stop number would be something.

  17. Its too bad agencies cant adopt a similar style sign, ssay use the basic layout of the st signs wigth the band indicating the agency and have common information in common areas of the sign. alsoit wwould be nice to have a common stop numbering scheme for oba so if i enter stop 5098 i get metro and 18765 i get aa CT stop or what have you.

  18. It’s interesting to read the comments provided.

    Though, I think that this is an issue which requires solid, evidence-based research, and planning by KCM’s planners.

  19. Beavis McGee says:

    I wonder if it’s possible to purchase one or more of the old ones?

  20. New signs have been installed around Factoria, they already show the new routes that are planned for the change at the end of the month, so on 222 no longer shows up and instead it says 241 which might make it confusing for riders the next few weeks

  21. I’m thinking it will become ST’s responsibility to provide mappage to the tunnel.

  22. A bit OT, but…

  23. Gordon Werner says:

    noticed that at Olive Way / Summit … the 8/43 stop … Eastbound has the new Bus Stop flag … Westbound has the old one.

    Same thing at 8th & James (EB old, WB new) … of course the newest bus stop in Seattle … (EB 3/4 @ Broadway/Jefferson St.) got an old one (and it is brand new … not just the one that used to sit across the street at the old bus stop)

  24. Gordon Werner says:

    Don’t know if it is still there … but the EB 2/36 stop at 2nd & Broad St. still had one of the old Metro “Sun (flower?) logo” bus stop signs

  25. smp belltown says:

    It’s not a major thing, but I think that on some streets from some angles, the larger signs can block the view of the street down a block or two from the bus stop. Sort of like when a big semi truck is down there two blocks away, obscuring the view of any bus that’s following behind it. The old, smaller signs didn’t do that.

    Like I said, this isn’t a major thing. But for folks trying to spot their bus from several blocks away (like watching the intersection where their usual bus enters the street that leads to the bus stop), it might be a steady annoyance.

  26. Garrett Fitzgerald says:

    I really shouldn’t read this website until I move somewhere with better service than this: Makes me want to cry. :-)

  27. Where’s the infor about *when* buses come?


  1. [...] → Metro’s New Bus Stop Signs [Seattle Transit Blog] [...]

  2. [...] different transit signs encourage transit ridership? These modular designs being rolled out in Seattle provide more information to the transit user and are more easily modifiable as tiles can be [...]

Sign in or create an account to save your credentials and make commenting faster.

You may want to read our comment policy.