Posted by: VPSN | February 10, 2010

City rolls out new wayfinding kiosks

Just in time for the Olympics… a variety of new wayfinding aids have been installed around Vancouver. We’ve often lamented the lack of directional signage in this city, so we’re pleased-as-punch to see some local investment in these sort of supports. Wayfinding signs are the sort of simple intervention that makes life easier for residents and tourists alike.

First up, in January, a series of smaller, pole-mounted, VANOC-created, street-signs appeared at key locations around the city. While helpful, they were clearly temporary – corrugated plastic – with type that was surprisingly small and difficult to read (especially the tone-on-tone colouration of the French script). On this note, one plus: the signs are bilingual, which is nice… though given the linguistic diversity in the city, perhaps other languages could also have been incorporated.

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Things, thankfully, got better still. In late January and early February we had the pleasure of seeing the Engineering Department zip around town installing not one, but two different sizes of information signs. These wayfinding “kiosks” are part of a $200,000 program to provide enhanced directional signage for the Olympics and beyond. vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/documents/a14.pdf

Of the 200 or so signs installed through this program, the bulk are of the “small” kind — characterized by a narrow, two-sided, steel-framed information pillar that has directional arrows pointing to key sites, a larger neighbourhood map in the middle and a smaller context map of the entire city situated below. The entire pillar – about eight feet in height – is clearly adorned with an “i” for information, and the same information is reproduced on both sides. Again, English/French bilingual, though this time with far better contrast between text and background, making it easier to read.

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To complement this, a number of larger information kiosks – about the size of the short end of a bus shelter – have also been installed. Like the smaller kiosks, they have the same style of metallic silver frame, but are adorned with larger, poster-size maps. Sadly, however, they are also adorned with bus shelter size corporate advertising. This is unfortunate and detracts from the important role of wayfinding devices. (Not to mention… has the City’s Olympic Legacy fund supported the creation of new advertising opportunities?)

2010 Wayfinding 2

Finally, to add to to the alphabet of wayfinding, we have a capital “T” that has now shown up to provide some other much needed clarity: yes, transit here! If you’ve ever tried to explain where some of our out-of-the-way transit stops are, you’ll know how helpful these signs (and related transit information) will be!

Waterfront Stn - Transit Sign 1

Post-script 1 (Feb 17): TransLink has now added some on-the-ground wayfinding support. Key SkyTrain stations around the city – like Yaletown Roundhouse (see below) – now have two or more people standing by to offer information and directions to wayward travelers.

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Post-script 2 (Feb 19): We thought this might happen! One of the interesting omissions in the new Canada Line SkyTrain stations has been the absence of platform identification signage in the spot where people need it the most — at the foot of the stairs and escalators that take people down to platform level. We’ve had the chance to see folks get to the bottom of these bottom of the stairs and spin around trying to figure out what side of the platform that they should stand on. Evidentally TransLink has now noticed this as well – as evidenced by the sudden appearance of these make-shift signs:

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