British Columbia·Stories About Here

How to make bus stops better

Most bus stop signs tell you which buses are coming, but few reveal the stops it will make along the way. How can we change that and improve the bus-navigating experience? Uytae Lee shares his idea for a solution in the latest episode of Stories About Here.

Uytae Lee takes on the task of making a better bus sign in Stories About Here

Uytae Lee tests out one of his improved transit signs at a Vancouver bus stop. (Stories About Here)

This story is part of Uytae Lee's Stories About Here, an original series with the CBC Creator Network. You can watch every episode of this series on CBC Gem.

I have a problem with bus stops signs.

They really just tell you one thing: Which buses stop here? 

But there's a critical piece of information missing: Where are these buses going?

If I'm travelling to somewhere new, I have no idea which bus to take based on the signage available. Usually, there's no way to tell where I'm headed.

On its own, this bus stop sign in Vancouver, B.C., makes it difficult for new riders to figure out which bus to take to get to destinations along the route, writes Uytae Lee. (Stories About Here)

Now, the above bus stop design is pretty standard. But it's disappointing to see similar ones used at some of the busiest bus stops across the country.

Case in point, this bus stop on Barrington Street in Halifax has no less than 21 different bus routes going through it — and zero instructions on where any of them are going.

A bus stop in Halifax that is on the route for 21 different trips can be confusing to first-time riders. (Stories About Here)

The result of all that, I think, is a transit system that can be pretty difficult and intimidating to navigate. But it doesn't have to be this way. 

A better way to give directions

Take the subway: As soon as you enter a station, you're greeted with signs and maps everywhere, helping you find your way around the system. The signs tell you what stops are ahead of you, while the maps help you understand where you're about to go within the network.

Signage on Vancouver's SkyTrain provides clear information about where each train stops along its route. (Stories About Here)

To me, this is proof that transit signage can be clear, well-designed and — most importantly — helpful for navigation.

That got me thinking: if we can do that for subways, why can't we do something like it for buses?

So, behold, my creation — a new and improved bus stop signage based on real-world stops:

WATCH | Uytae Lee trials his new bus stop signs and gets public feedback

Why does this matter?

I'm sure some of you are thinking, so what? We have phones now. This isn't a problem.

Well, I could reference the plethora of accessibility issues that come with phones, the risks associated with mass reliance on digital technology, the concerns around privacy...

But it's also about who our transit systems are meant to serve.

If you look at the numbers, buses actually make up a huge part of transit ridership in every city.

In Toronto, the humble bus is just as popular as the subways, and in Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa, they make up the vast majority of transit trips.

The bus is the most-used form of public transit in cities across the country, according to TransLink (Vancouver) and the American Public Transportation Association (Edmonton and Ottawa). (Stories About Here)

Then there are smaller communities that have nothing but buses in their transit systems.

I've covered transit issues for a while, and one thing I've noticed is that buses are often overshadowed by other, more flashy forms of public transportation like trains, ferries, or hyperloops — things that draw ribbon-cutting ceremonies, press conferences and politicians.

Buses don't get those things. In fact, if they receive anything, it's stigma. I've heard them described as a "second-rate" form of public transit, something you only take if you absolutely have to.

And I can't help but wonder if that attitude keeps us from actually making buses a lot better.

Because at the end of the day, it's the buses that are moving the vast majority of public transit riders in this country. And I think we could make a world of difference to a lot of people by improving the experience of riding those buses.

Maybe it could start with a sign.

Learn more in Stories About Here: How to Fix Bus Stop Signs

 

About this series

Stories About Here is an original series with the CBC Creator Network that explores the urban planning challenges that communities across Canada face today. In each episode we dig into the often overlooked issues in our own backyards — whether it's the shortage of public bathrooms, sewage leaking into the water, or the bureaucratic roots of the housing crisis. Through it all, we hope to inspire people to become better informed and engaged members of their communities.

You can watch every episode of this series on CBC Gem.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Uytae Lee produces videos that educate people on the urban planning challenges cities face today. He is the creator of the CBC series “Stories About Here,” where he explores often overlooked issues in our own backyards. In addition to producing videos for CBC, he hosts a YouTube channel called “About Here." You can reach Lee at aboutherevideos@gmail.com.

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