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Chicago Designer Imagines A Better CTA Arrival Times Sign

By Rachel Cromidas in News on Jul 14, 2015 8:00PM

Anyone who has agonized over the CTA train arrival schedule during the thirty seconds when the stations' digital, real-time signs do not show the next trains could see the argument for a much-needed redesign.

Ian Hall, a Chicago-based user experience designer, has pondered this problem as a regular CTA rider, and he recently proposed a solution in a blog post for Medium.

The CTA's current digital signs, Hall writes, only show users information on the train they want to take for about ten seconds every 40 seconds, before cycling through a series of other bits of information, including a screen that shows the weather (and the occasional advertisement), the next two trains coming in the opposite direction and, inexplicably, the two trains scheduled to arrive behind the next two trains. He writes:

"I ride the CTA every day and I barely stop when passing through the turnstiles (even though the “Ventra triple-tap” has slowed my roll). I’ve been counting my average time through a few CTA stations and it takes about 8 seconds from the door through the turnstiles and past the sign — not long enough to see anything more than one information cycle which may or may not be applicable to me and we can do better."

Hall set out to recreate a sign that could do all these things the current signs do, including showing multiple train times for multiple CTA lines in multiple directions, alerting passengers when a train is delayed and describing how far away each train is from the station—but without the lag time that would keep users waiting to see what's up with the one train they want to catch.

His results:

Hall later updated his design to include feedback from users on Reddit and Twitter such as adding more text to help out colorblind transit riders, as shown in the photo above.

Hall's design is unfinished, he says, but could be "a big step forward" for the CTA. "There are many opportunities to build on this first pass, like having the train destinations map to the side of the tracks the train will be arriving on, listing destinations below the train icons, and more," he wrote.