Once again, a Fresno Area Express (FAX) ad in the Fresno Bee newspaper caught my eye. The ad was absurd, almost comical really. It was an ad about the transit agency putting up new signs at bus stops.
I found many things about the ad to be absurd. Simply the idea of spending money to tell Bee readers that bus stops will have new signs is odd. I'm all for giving the Bee advertising revenue, but this doesn't exactly seem like a good use of transit money. Also, if you're going to be spending money on something like this, I'd hope that the signs would be amazing. On the contrary, the new signs appear to be quite poor, and the three bullet points explaining the virtues of the new signs are pretty bad. Super bad. Finally, the last time FAX ran an ad in the Bee, it was for service changes that never happened.
Bus stop signs are a very important part of a bus transit system. As buses can stop anywhere, knowing the predefined locations where to be to catch the bus is of the utmost importance. The signs confirm to the rider that they're in the right place, that the right bus is coming, and that they will get to where they're going. For riders who have done no research beforehand, the signs should have enough information to get someone going towards their destination.
Or at least they should. A missing, unreadable or defaced sign removes a lot of confidence from the rider. If the transit system can't maintain a small piece of metal affixed to a poll, can they be trusted to arrive on time, and provide a safe ride? And if the sign is incorrect or missing information, then how does the rider know they're in the right place?
In Fresno, many of the signs have been washed out by the relentless sun. others, are dirty or have been defaced. Can you read these signs?
The signs also play an important guiding principal in getting people to the bus system. If the signs are too small, they don't help people know where to go. A new rider may know that the bus they wants stops at Shields and Chestnut. But where? Before, or after the intersection? A visible sign can help.
Can you spot the FAX stop?
Size is important in a landscape littered with signs. In the same way that FAX is marginalized on the road, even the important informational signs get a lesser treatment than useless signs aimed at drivers. Compare the size of this seat belt sign with the bus stop sign.
Of course, the most important part of the sign is the information it conveys. It's important to know the sign is about the bus system, yes, but isn't the bus route pretty damn important? How about the direction, terminus, and major stops along the way?
So what do the new signs do to address these concerns? Well, if your primary concern is a lack of humor on the business page, the ad does a fantastic job.
The sign itself? Not much use at all. It's a picture of a bus. Super important. Where the hell is the route information...? Yes, having a distinctive and recognizable bus image is certainly exciting....but what use is that to someone wanting to know if they have the right bus route?
And how is being reflective of any interest to a bus rider? Signs being reflective is of the utmost importance...if you're driving! Pedestrians don't have headlights that can flash beams of light on a sign. pedestrians needs street lights that actually work, not a sign whose apparently second best feature is that it's made of the same material other signs are made of.
Which leaves us with bullet point three. Apparently the picture of the bus is so groundbreaking that not only is it on both sides of the sign (!!) but telling us this information required an entire bullet point.
No route info. No scheduling info. No destinations. No bus tracking. Not even a damn website link. Just a picture of a bus, and a telephone number. Oh, and the word bus. Because the picture was sort of vague.
So who's the brave soul that will give them a call and ask for more information about this exciting new sign?