How effective are Sheppard-style signs?

In early July ’07, I started a write-in campaign to preserve old TTC signs. TTC staff were acting as though they have authorization to “remove” and destroy signs at St. George (including the only example of Paul Arthur’s original sign design), and at Pape, Victoria Park, Eglinton, and Islington/Kipling. In fact, TTC commissioners had not authorized staff to take that action. But they haven’t prevented staff from doing it, either!

Many people wrote in to the TTC. Within a week, we were informed that the Paul Arthur signage at St. George would be kept in place indefinitely. This is not what I wanted – the signs are a 14-year-old remnant of a one-off prototype and could be removed. But TTC did agree not to destroy them.

Later, in an off-the-cuff remark at a press conference, TTC chair Adam Giambrone promised to retain old signs and donate them to either a revived TTC archives or, according to his statement, the Toronto Archives.

It’s all been badly and unofficially communicated and they’re still missing the point in some ways, but we appear to have achieved the goal of preventing TTC from destroying signs.

What now?

Dismissal by Adam Giambrone

While the Paul Arthur signs were tested, the sign “standard” that the TTC threw together for the Sheppard subway never was. In the last couple of weeks, TTC has been acting as though the answer to every question about signage is “We have a standard and we use it in all new or renovated stations.” The “standard” is the problem. It hasn’t been tested and it is very easy to demonstrate performance failings.

In an interview conducted by E-mail (so it was not an off-the-cuff remark), Giambrone dismissed me and this campaign:

I think it’s fair to say that wayfinding signage is very important to the TTC, and not a “frill” at all. They can keep testing every implementation of its standards, but I suspect that too much continual tweaking would compromise consistency, which in turn compromises the overall effectivess of the signage across the system. That said, I would be happy to support a review of the signage... if it is in fact determined to be somehow lacking. Other signage issues aside, I have not been advised that the current standard itself is a problem, except, of course, by Joe Clark.

Shorter Adam Giambrone:

Let’s set aside for the moment the fact that “continual tweaking” is the problem in the subway – i.e., there is no system. Let’s take him at his word that signage could be “review[ed]” if it were “determined to be somehow lacking” and if other people complained about it.

This is where you come in.

How well do Sheppard-style signs work?

This is another request for you to write in to the TTC with your own experiences using Sheppard-style signs. They are in use on the entire Sheppard line (including the Yonge-line station at Sheppard), at Downsview, at Osgoode, and a few other places here and there (like part of the Pape bus platform).

This is not a request for comments about how much you like or dislike the system. A lot of people like it because it at least looks uniform. Uniformity is an improvement, but uniformly standardizing on a system that doesn’t work is no improvement.

And apparently this is a popularity contest: We seem to need a lot of people to write in with functional complaints before the issue is taken seriously.

I need you to write in and ask Commissioners to give your opinions and experience of how the Sheppard-style signs work. One more time: This is not an invitation to submit comments about how much you like or dislike the signs. We’re talking function, not looks.

Where to write

There is a general TTC page on this topic.

  1. You can send E-mail to GSOEmail2@TTC.CA.
  2. You can send a fax (easy on many computers these days) to 416 485-9394.
  3. You can write a letter to:

    General Secretary
    Toronto Transit Commission
    1900 Yonge St.
    Toronto  M4S 1Z2

Address your correspondence to the General Secretary or just to the Commission.

What happens then?

And if you disagree with any of the above, state your case. But remember, this isn’t about looks.

Revision history

Posted, with a call to write in to save TTC signs.
Updated with a call to write in with your experiences with the functionality of Sheppard-style signs