Today’s #TransitThursdy topic:
How do you spend your time waiting for train/bus?
Photo Credits to:
Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign
A few years back, I attended an in-house training about designing better pedestrian environments. While I’m sure that I learned a lot about rules, regulations, safety and pedestrian design, one thing that really stuck with me all of these years later is something the instructor said towards the end of the day: “if you have to post signs – you’re doing it WRONG!”
Now I know he didn’t mean we should live in a world without signs, but his point was that the design should be intuitive enough that you do not need to excessively sign. If you have to sign your design, particularly with multiple signs, you have failed; it’s just not going to work!
He was right.
To this day, when I see too many signs posted, I reactively think: OK, what’s wrong with this picture? Why isn’t this design working?
Don’t get me wrong, there are signs that most certainly serve a purpose; stop signs for example. (See also: http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/ for more examples of nationally accepted traffic control signage).
But then there is sign abuse.
This morning, I was preparing my oatmeal, standing in front of our break-room microwave and I was reminded of sign abuse. So yeah, totally unrelated to transportation design, but related to the “if you have to post signs – you’re doing it wrong” mantra.
It really made me think.
If it’s not poor design alone, why do we feel inclined to sign every aspect of our lives? Isn’t enough to simply have signs that protect our health, safety and welfare?
Why is it that we also feel the need to impose additional signage regarding our own personal preferences or more generally our pet peeves about each other?
Why do we want to impose more rules on ourselves even if we don’t have to? How exactly does this satisfy us?
Do we really think if we post these signs that people will actually follow the instruction?
Is it in our human nature to want to ignore signs that tell us what to do?
If we designed a better world, would we still need or want signs?
Rail Runner Station images from my #TurkeyDayTravels in Santa Fe. You know that your family loves you when they’ll stop at a train station for you, just so you can take pictures of transit geekery. Luckily there was also a farmer’s market at this station, with delicious danishes and strong Santa Fe Coffee! 🙂 I managed to redeem myself after all!
I’m not going to lie, I am a sucker for sweets. When my brother asked me if I wanted to walk to Georgetown from AdMo on a sunny, hot, humid 96 degree day in DC, I jumped on the opportunity. Yes, like all other tourists flocking to various locations and places in DC, I was prepared to wait in a long line for a great deal of time only to receive a brief moment of satisfaction. Did I get sunburned? Yes. Was I sweating so bad that I thought people were going to think I had jumped in the reflecting pool before walking over to get in line? Yes. Did my feet hurt like they’ve never hurt before? Absolutely. Were the cupcakes worth waiting in a 20 minute, Disney World-like line? Without a question!
Arbor, structure and plantings at the United States Botanic Garden (Washington, DC)
I’ve always said, if I hadn’t fallen into transit planning (or if I were ever to go back to school to start a new career), I’d be a landscape architect. Not to insult landscape architects with my love of gardening and shallow expectations that I could even dream of someday pursuing such a career, but I have to admit… it would be pretty cool.
Now, I know the fact that the word ‘architect,’ when used in conjunction with the word ‘landscape’ will make most architects shudder in disgust. However, I have always been particularly fond of how a landscape architect can use something beautiful, natural and living to transform a space. I admire the way a landscape architect can marry a variety of species with the earth or with a man-made structure to create a sense of place. I love that the end product is the perfect balance of art, design, planning, and architecture. That an urban space can be softened, brightened, or colored by something as simple as a plant undergoing photosynthesis.
What do you see when you view structures like these in public spaces?
Photos of the bicycle storage at the Eastern Market Metro Station (Washington, DC)
In station planning meetings, one surprising item that comes up (and can get fairly contentious in discussions) among planners, rail operations staff, safety and security professionals, urban designers and bicycle planners is how to best accommodate long-term bike storage.
Charlotte code has requirements based on land use for long and short-term bicycle storage, but it does not explicitly dictate what that storage solution must look like. Bicycle lockers can be, let’s face it, down-right ugly; after all, they’re box containers that hold bikes. They don’t have to be this ugly, but most of the time that is the design that is most cost-effective and easiest to site in station areas.
Generally speaking, planners want to meet the intent of the code, provide something that is useful and not an eye sore, ensure that the storage solution will be budget-friendly, site the storage in a location that will not impede operations, but ultimately find a solution that will meet the needs of the bicycle user. Urban designers want to ensure that the storage is visually pleasing and ‘not just an ugly box.’ Rail operations staff want to see that the storage is sited and located outside of the flow of operations. Safety and security professionals are concerned with just that, the safety and security of the users, passengers and general public (i.e. they don’t want to see bike lockers used for non-bicycle storage).
While utilitarianism, design, safety and cost are all equally important goals, the real questions should be: how does the bicycle user view these competing goals; what does the user want; and ultimately what does the user need?
What do you think? Do these photos represent a good solution?