They’re a lot more than just a facelift.
When I first moved to Richmond, I remember seeing my first GRTC bus stop. “That’s a bus stop? Really? There’s no route number or timetable!” Well, now GRTC bus stop signs are being upgraded to include route information and timing.
GRTC has nearly completed a pilot project that will eventually replace the nearly 2,000 bus stop signs throughout the entire system. Right now, new signs can be found at most stops on the 32 Ginter Park in Northside and the 72-73 Ruffin Road/Ampthill in Southside. Signs feature the stop number (which can be used in conjunction with the mobile app, or to report a problem), the route number, the route name, a braille indicator, a “no parking” reminder, GRTC’s phone number, and GRTC’s website.
Most people found the sign a major improvement. Of the 215 survey respondents (they are still taking comments here, three-quarters of respondents said they wouldn’t change anything, and about two-thirds responded favorably to all questions, about one-fifth unfavorably (the rest were neutral).
But the most interesting part of the survey was, as always, the comments. Due to the extra cost, an “at-stop panel,” basically a list of the times the bus comes and a map of the route, was to only be installed at 300 of the 2,000 stops in this first stage, which was to be ready by mid-late 2017. So it should be no surprise that the most frequent design change people requested was at-stop panels at every stop.
GRTC says that they will prioritize at-stop panels at the most heavily-used stops, and look to add at-stop panels at all stops as funding becomes available; the current budget is $1.7-1.8 million, depending on any changes made to the design after the pilot project.
The budget also includes $350,000 for large information kiosks at nine stops, which have a map of the entire system, plus bus numbers, schedules and a map for all routes at that location. Those are now all in place.
A few of the regular signs also now have a solar panel, with a button to light up the at-stop panel to make reading the departure times easier at night.
Some other interesting suggestions from survey respondents include listing the frequency of the bus (e.g. every 15-20 minutes, Monday-Saurday), listing the end points for that route direction, showing the name of the intersection where the stop is, adding a bar code or QR code, making the route number larger (and the stop number smaller), and no need for two GRTC logos (in both the rectangular panel and the circle at the top).
There were also suggestions to add digital displays with the time until the next bus, and while this would be appreciated, it would greatly increase the cost of the project, as it would require a solar panel or electrical hookup and a way to communicate with the GPS system that tracks the buses. Maybe for the next project! But you can get this information using the app or website; it’s sort of mesmerizing to look at!
Overall, people loved (that word appeared multiple times in survey responses) the new signs, commending the clean, modern look that provided much-needed information. I’m definitely looking forward to these being at every stop, but that will have to wait–the pilot project will take a bit longer to fully implement. As well, Richmond’s entire bus network is being studied for a redesign, with a completion date in January 2017 and implementation hopefully later that year. Carrie Rose Pace, spokesperson from GRTC, said that given the timeframe, it makes more sense to wait until routes are changed or renumbered rather than remake signs later. But, she added, they are learning from customer comments now (really, go do the survey so they hope to be able to install all the signs in tandem with any redesign, which would hopefully be ready for the start of the Pulse BRT in fall 2017.
And it just so happens that the next Richmond Transit Network Plan (which is working to redesign the bus network) meetings are this Tuesday and Wednesday, so let them know what you think (yes, another survey!). And if you thought the old bus stop signs were confusing and needed a redesign, just look at GRTC’s network downtown.