A multidisciplinary approach toward improving bus schedule readability

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus


Printed schedules are critical to mass transit mobility, perhaps no more so than to bus transit users who often embark from locations where information is not provided. For economic reasons, they also rely heavily on transit. Schedules are their lifeline. After becoming concerned with the readability of its bus schedules, New Jersey Transit (NJT) enlisted an interdisciplinary research and design team from the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) to analyze, redesign, and test the agency’s bus timetables over an 18-month period beginning in 2003. The process included precedent research, community outreach, graphic design, laboratory testing, and survey methods. It began with a literature survey and review of timetables produced by other agencies. Two focus groups were convened to incorporate user viewpoints. Based on these methods and acknowledging the institutional and production constraints of the agency, two prototype timetables were designed for one of the agency’s most complex bus routes. The prototypes and the current schedule for the route were time-tested in a laboratory with 30 participants. A survey was given to the same participants. The analysis of the experimental data was partially inconclusive due to high error rates for all schedules tested. However, in the survey, a majority of participants showed preference for aspects developed in the prototypes, offering the agency important production recommendations regarding font sizes, text orientation and graphic display methods, as well as institutional directives regarding data transfer, maps, zone designations, passenger information, and telephone contacts. This article recounts this process and offers to the larger transit community the conclusions of this interdisciplinary approach, not combined in this manner before, to make bus transit more attractive and efficient.


Permission to publish the abstract given by the Journal of Public Transportation.