Telling Bus Riders More About Routes

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2006

Metro has begun installing more than 900 bus maps in bus shelters and near exits at all rail stations as part of the transit agency's effort to improve service for bus riders, who have long complained about a lack of information on routes and schedules.

Few of the more than 500 Metro-owned bus shelters have maps.

The two-sided, color-coded fiberglass maps are about 3 1/2 feet high and 5 feet wide, and the information on each is specific to its location. The maps at adjacent bus bays at a Metro station, for example, would show different routes.

The map for a particular stop shows Metrobus routes and those of other carriers -- such as Arlington Transit, Ride On and the D.C. Circulator -- that serve it. The map also gives the frequency of service, highlights landmarks and other points of interest and provides a legend and directions in English and Spanish on how to use the map.

At a glance, the amount of information can appear overwhelming. Dan Tangherlini, Metro's interim general manager, said the maps are designed to serve a variety of customers, from the "very sophisticated user" to someone who wants to know, "Okay, I'm here. Where does my bus go?"

The new maps, he said, are intended to "tie the whole transit system -- bus and rail -- together."

Several maps were on display at bus bays outside the Rhode Island Avenue-Brentwood rail station yesterday. Some riders unfamiliar with the area welcomed the additional information, saying it would help them plan trips. Regular riders said they didn't notice the large signs.

"I guess a map would be necessary if you don't know where you're going, but I know exactly where I'm going," said Daphne Nedd, 74, who was waiting for the D8 bus.

The maps have been under development for several years, an outgrowth of a bus system study that recommended giving passengers better information. A downtown business group also lobbied heavily for maps and, two years ago, installed poster-size maps at 335 city-owned bus stops in the District.

The new maps are more durable, Metro officials said, and have more information. They were designed by CHK America, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company that has produced maps for transit systems in Los Angeles, Chicago and London. It will cost Metro more than $1 million to install the 940 maps at all 86 rail stations and at more than 800 bus shelters. The work is scheduled to be completed by winter 2007.

By the end of 2008, Metro officials said, the same type of bus map could be installed in all of the region's estimated 2,500 bus shelters, including Metro shelters and those owned by individual jurisdictions.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company