Developing a Printed Transit Information Material Design Manual


Alisdair Cain

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - surveys, planning - signage/information, land use - planning


Best practices, Handbooks, Manuals, Maps, Public transit, Recommendations, Schedules, Surveys, Timetables, Transit itinerary planning, Transit operating agencies, Transit trip planning


Previous phases of National Center for Transit Research (NCTR) research have shown that a significant proportion of the general public is unable to successfully plan a transit trip using printed transit information materials. There is evidence that such trip planning difficulties represent a major barrier to transit use among non-users, and may also contribute to the underutilization of transit services by existing users. A lack of recognized design standards has also contributed to inconsistencies in the material designs produced by different agencies, resulting in an unnecessary source of user confusion. At its inception, this project aimed to address these issues by developing a printed transit information material design manual capable of assisting transit agencies in the production of effective and consistent printed transit information materials. As the project progressed, it became clear that the term “design manual” was too prescriptive, and that the term “guidebook” better reflected the type of document that was being developed. As such, readers should be aware that this document includes references to both “design manual” and “guidebook”. Within this document, it should be noted that these two terms are interchangeable. This Technical Memorandum documents the different project tasks that were conducted in order to provide input into the development of the printed information material guidebook. This document is intended to provide supplementary information for those interested in finding out how the guidebook’s recommendations have been derived, and for those wishing to learn more about the subject area. This Technical Memorandum summarizes Project Tasks 1 and 2. Task 1 was to conduct a literature review to obtain a broad knowledge of the challenges faced by customers in planning a transit trip and the importance of printed materials within the wider context of the variety of transit information aids that exist. Another important goal of the review was to obtain existing guidelines and research on the design of printed materials, both from within the United States and abroad, and to synthesize these into a cohesive list of best practice recommendations. Task 2 was actually two sub-tasks based around a survey of transit agencies across the United States. The survey instrument was designed to obtain an understanding of the issues facing each agency in designing their materials. The other sub-task was to classify the sample materials sent by each agency in order to obtain an understanding of the designs currently employed across the transit industry. The document ends with a conclusions section. Supplementary Report to the Final Project Deliverable: "Designing Printed Transit Information Materials - A Guidebook for Transit Service Providers."