Muni changes signs to make destinations clearer

With the crowds, delays and dirty vehicles, traveling on public transit is stressful enough, but it can be compounded even further if the passenger has no idea where they are going.

While it may be a while before buses become sparkling clean and trains are never late, Muni is at least trying to ease the burden of riders by making improvements to its signage and announcement systems.

Instead of posting generic destination points like “Mission Bay” on its light-rail vehicles, Muni is beginning to specify the locations of its various lines. The inbound N-Judah train will now have “Caltrain/Ballpark” posted on its vehicles, the outbound L-Taraval will feature “SF Zoo” instead of “46th Avenue,” and the T-Third will say “Sunnydale” for the duration of its journey, instead of “Mission Bay.”

Those destination points are already noted on many of Muni’s system maps, so placing them on vehicles will help sync things for passengers, said Jim Kelly, the agency’s deputy director of transit service.

“What’s Mission Bay?” Kelly said. “It’s not really a destination, it’s an area. Something like ‘Caltrain and the Ballpark’ works well for regular passengers and one-time riders.”

The new signage terms will be reflected in the electronic message boards and the overhead announcements at Muni’s underground stations, said John Haley, the agency’s transit director.

Muni receives about 70 to 80 complaints a month from passengers who are unclear about where they’re going, according to Haley. He said they are some of the most common gripes from riders.

“The signage changes seem like a little thing, but they are really important,” Haley said. “Even regular Muni passengers still get a little anxious when they don’t know where they’re going. This will help.”

For now, Muni’s light-rail vehicles will be the focus of the new changes, but Haley said he plans on rolling out the program on the agency’s buses soon.

Muni has spent about $200,000 to improve its signage and announcement technology. With the software upgrade, the agency’s central command can remotely change signs on vehicles, providing a safety net if operators forget to make the necessary adjustments.

The new equipment will also immediately notify Muni passengers if a route is going to be cut short of its final destination. Muni has increased the number of route switchbacks recently, a move that has irked many passengers.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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