This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

While most major transit service improvements are dauntingly expensive, others are not.

Looking at King County Metro’s information presentation from a user-centered perspective reveals several immediate areas for improvement.

Here is the bus stop at 3rd and Union:

yellow moon.jpg

That yellow half-moon on the top of the stop is meant to convey information. You’d be forgiven for not noticing it, since it’s the same color as the sign directly below it. But, indeed, it’s a “Skip stop“:

In Seattle, WA, which has an extensive local and regional bus system operated by three different transit agencies, skip-stops are used on 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Avenues in the downtown area. Bus routes on 3rd Avenue are grouped into Blue and Yellow stops, while bus routes on 2nd and 4th Avenue are grouped into Red and White stops.

[Thank goodness for Wikipedia, incidentally, since this information does not appear to be available on Metro’s site.]

No where on the bus itself are the red, white, blue or yellow colors repeated, which makes one wonder what the point is. Maybe it’s a cue for the drivers.

Zooming in on that information kiosk, we see the downtown bus map:

downtownmap.jpg

Sorry for the poor quality. It would be nice if the map were available on Metro’s site, but alas, no (though one can view a map showing the borders of the ride-free area).

[Update: Joshua and Oran in the comments have pointed out that the map is available here.]

In any event, the map itself is rich with color (good!): we can see 1st Avenue routes in orange, routes up to Capitol Hill in green and purple, etc. Unfortunately, these colors are nowhere to be found anywhere else on the system. They’re not on the print brochures, they’re not on the website, and they’re definitely not on the buses themselves.

The next time a tourist walks up to me downtown and asks how to get to the Space Needle (assuming the Monorail’s out of service), it sure would be convenient to say, “any of the Orange buses will get you there” or “just get on any bus that pulls up at the yellow stop.”

The RapidRide routes are a good step in the right direction. But we don’t need 5 years and $100M to make Metro’s robust bus system easier for 1st-time riders. We can do it for the cost of printing new maps and signs.

I realize this is probably not a novel critique, and I’m sure that the nice ,well-meaning folks at Metro know exactly what I’m kvetching about, have heard it a thousand times, and don’t have the resources or authority to do anything about it. But as far as low-hanging fruit goes, it doesn’t get much simpler than this.

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