Improving the CTA ‘Next Train’ displays

December 2, 2013 at 9:18 pm

The CTA recently finished installing next-train display screens in every station except a few (which will be reconstructed soon). They’re a nice addition. I have one problem with them, though, which I’ve written about before: The screens show too much irrelevant information.

At most stations the screens show not just the next train arrival time, but also the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sometimes sixth train to come. This isn’t necessarily a problem, except that the only relevant information for passengers will be the arriving and next-arriving trains. Showing all other trains after that comes at the expense of showing the most pertinent information. The best example I can think of is how the Paris Métro displays the information, on static displays where the terminus, next arriving train, and the train after that are shown:


At the Belmont station, for example, showing the fourth and fifth next trains to come means not showing when the next train is coming. If you’re debating whether or not to get on a crowded train, being able to look up and see how much longer you’d have to wait for a train is important – but with CTA’s current screens, you may have to wait up to 40 seconds to see that information.

Even the newer two-line screens show the fifth and sixth-next arriving trains.

Image: Steven Vance.

This is a trivial problem, of course, remedied by getting a train tracker app for a smartphone, or just waiting it out. But the CTA controls the information on the screen, and could easily change it to make the displays more user-friendly. So here’s a rough sketch of what I think a better display would look like:

CTA Screen-01

And for larger, multi-line stations:

CTA Screen-1-01

All information is displayed one one screen, the screen showing the weather and time is done away with, and the screen could be changed on a whim to display delay information if necessary.

What do you think?