Mapping the Screens at 7th Street / Metro Center
April 24, 2013 15 Comments
Over the past few months, a number of screens have been added to the upper level of the 7th Street / Metro Center station. Since the Expo Line opened a year ago, there are now four lines sharing this station, and the screens show departure information for the Blue and Expo Lines (which are on the upper level), and the Red and Purple Lines (on the lower level).
Unfortunately, many of these screens have been added in less-than-useful places or show less-than-useful information.
Take, for example, these two screens that show you departure times on your way out of the station (presumably, after you’ve gotten off of the train), rather than on your way in.
Every day, when I get off the Expo Line and prepare to transfer to the Red Line, I (and a mad rush of commuters) practically run over to the stairs to peer down at the lower level in hopes that my train is not already sitting there, ready to close its doors as I’m stuck in a crowd trying to make my way downstairs. Every day, hanging from the ceiling just above me are two screens, both of which show departure times for Expo Line, which I just got off.
I’ve always thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if that screen showed the Red Line times instead?” Then, I could simply look up and know that my train wouldn’t be leaving for another 4 minutes and I’d have no reason to rush, letting those who did need to hurry tap their cards and get down the stairs before me. I started looking around the station and I realized there are a ton of screens, but they often show riders info for the lines they just got off, rather than the lines they might be going to.
So I decided to map out the screens and try to determine a more useful way to display the same information, just by changing what is on each screen.
Below is a map of the upper level of the station. It shows all of the screens, and the lines which they display times for. I simply used red and blue, but all of the ones in red show times for the Red/Purple Lines and all of the ones in blue show times for the Blue/Expo Lines.
My example of transferring from the Expo Line to the Red Line takes place on the right half of this map. When I exit from the tracks on the right, I look up and see a bank of two screens on each side of the stairs with departure info for the Blue and Expo Lines. This platform is ONLY used for Blue and Expo Line arrivals, so nobody would typically be standing on this platform, facing the station exit, and hoping to get ON one of those trains. They would, however, very often be getting OFF a Blue or Expo Line train and either exiting the station or looking to transfer to the Red or Purple Line. Why shouldn’t these banks of screens show the Red/Purple Line departure info instead? Of course, there are two banks of two screens each, so you could theoretically have one screen showing Red/Purple and one screen showing Blue/Expo just to cover all your bases.
I created the map below based on pedestrian flow, with the screens displaying the info that would be most valuable to riders moving throughout the station at each location.
Of course, I really think many of these screens were installed in places that don’t make sense. If I were to start from scratch, I would completely move a good number of them , but decided to do this simply by changing the information displayed on all but a select few near the entrances.
For some reason, near the entrances screens face inward towards the station. I would flip them to face the entrances, so that riders can see the information as they’re coming in. (I did add a second screen near the Hope St. entrance, because there is currently only one there).
Near the ticket vending machines, I’d want to see one screen showing Red/Purple info, and one showing Blue/Expo.
Inside the fare gates, I left the single screens showing Red/Purple info. Ideally, I’d add a second screen here for Blue/Expo info, but at this point, a single screen should show Red/Purple for riders who are going to head straight down the stairs. The back sides of these screens, however, should definitely show Blue/Expo info. They are the first screens in the point of view of riders coming up the stairs from the lower level. There’s a good chance these riders are transferring to a Blue/Expo train, or simply exiting the station.
Beyond these, closer to the tracks on the upper level, are double banks of screens. I’ve designated one for Red/Purple and one for Blue/Expo. I reality, I think only a single fixture is needed here, with one side showing Blue/Expo info (for riders approaching the platform) and the other side showing Red/Purple (for riders exiting the Blue/Expo trains, facing away from the tracks).
Finally, there are a couple screens mounted directly above the Blue/Expo line departure platform that I’ve never seen turned on… but that should show the Blue/Expo info when they are activated. Ideally I would have turned these screens so they are perpendicular to the tracks and can be seen by riders already waiting on the platform.
These simple changes could make things a lot easier for riders making transfers, and even help clear up traffic jams with pedestrians inside the stations.
Some good news regarding screens… There’s apparently a new design being tested (thanks to Subway Joyride) that will make them easier to read from a distance. Not sure that I love it, but it is better than the current design with very small text.