At a meeting in spring 2007, I asked TTC staff if they would consider a proposal to conduct an inventory of signage categories in the subway. It would give us firm numbers on how many instances of how many different kinds of signs there are. The response was a guarded yes, which instantly made my proposal solicited.
So I sent it in. And never heard about it again. Here is what I gave them, with dollar figures redacted.
Sample inventory of TTC signage categories
This document is a proposal to research, photograph, write, and publish an inventory of all non-advertising signage in a sample of TTC stations. The result will be solid numerical data on which to base a possible future program of signage development and testing.
It is accepted that signage on the TTC is unstandardized, somewhat random, deteriorating, and likely confusing or dysfunctional to passengers, including passengers with visual impairments. Nonetheless, signage can be assessed empirically, as this project will demonstrate.
Count and document, categorize, and photograph every sign in a representative sample of stations.
- The investigator and TTC will decide on a list of stations to canvass. (Proposed list provided below.)
- With a valid photography permit in hand, the investigator will introduce himself to collectors and staff in each station on every visit.
- Photograph all signs in the station. Where necessary, also measure signs or photograph with visible scale.
- Categorize and summarize signage.
- Submit and publish reports and statistical analyses in various accessible formats.
- Only signage inside stations, including bus and streetcar platforms, will be assessed. For safety reasons, signage elsewhere on station grounds will not be included.
- The investigator will not unreasonably block or impede movement by passengers, staff, or others, and, wherever possible, will confine assessments to periods outside rush hours.
- Only publicly-viewable signs will be canvassed – hence no signage inside staff washrooms, for example.
- Only signage on TTC property will be assessed – hence no signage located in third-party buildings attached to or leading into subway stations.
Categories cannot all be established in advance of field work, but some that will surely be useful include:
- Original signage on walls and on enamel plates (using original TTC typeface or other)
- Signs conforming to current sign manual
- Etched signs created by pantograph machines
- Handwritten or home-printed signs
- Signs with Braille and/or tactile lettering
- Signs blocking other signs
Photographic documentation will be useful in itself. But because this is also a counting exercise, it will be possible to crunch the numbers and arrive at some estimates of the real-world effects of signage. The project will report:
- Numbers and proportions of signs in each category (particularly useful for sign types known to be deficient, like handwritten signs)
- Weighted averages:
- What percentage of stations have what percentage of sign types?
- Based on usage statistics for each station, what percentage of passengers are exposed to each sign type?
- Ads will not be photographed, but they will be counted and categorized according to certain criteria:
- General caisson size
- If advertising the TTC itself
- If blank
- Signs conflicting with ads or vice-versa will be documented.
At conclusion of project:
- In-person presentation to TTC staff of up to 30 minutes, followed by Q&A. Additional presentation, of likely shorter duration, to Commissioners, if desired.
- At TTC’s option, two bound copies and one loose-leaf, three-hole-punched copy of written report. (TTC may opt to print in-house.)
- At TTC’s option, the written report may include all photographed signs or only a sample.
- If delivered pre-printed, the report will use double-sided printing, will use recycled-content paper where available, and will be economical with image sizes and pagecounts.
- Tagged PDF of written report. (Tagged PDFs are reasonably accessible to people with various disabilities, including blind people using screen readers, and are printable.)
- CD-ROM of all sign images and valid, semantic HTML files to display them.
- Spreadsheets of findings and numerical analyses in Microsoft Excel format (and reasonable additional formats that TTC may request).
As part of this process, the results of the survey will be published within 14 days of delivery to TTC. This is a project that will be of interest to riders and the media – and to transit fans, most or all of whom are online and are engaged in using the Web to explore the TTC and its history.
- TTC may post the provided HTML files and photographs, the tagged PDF, and spreadsheets on its own Web space, or they can reside at
joeclark.org, or both. (For public distribution, spreadsheets will also be available in open-source formats like OpenOffice.)
- Photos will also be published at a custom account created at Flickr.com for this purpose.
The investigator receives a bound copy of the report at TTC’s expense.
Needed from TTC
- A photo permit valid for at least 60 days from starting date.
- A Metropass for the month the project starts and one year’s Metropass subscription.
- A letter sent to TTC’s head of security and senior special constables describing the project and introducing the investigator, who can provide a photo to accompany the letter.
- An appropriate guest ID to present to collectors and other staff (if the photo permit will not suffice).
- A contact person, with telephone (and preferably also cellphone) number, for security staff, collectors, or other employees to call with questions.
- Statistics on station usage patterns and ridership numbers.
- Project requires 14 work days. Reports will be submitted no later than 30 calendar days after commencement date.
- Typical stations are allocated 0.4 days for photographing, counting, and canvassing. Multi-line stations are allocated 0.6 days each.
- 18 regular stations × 0.4 days = 7.2 days
- + 5 multi-line stations × 0.6 days = 3 days
- + 3.8 days for collation, writing, editing, printing
Proposed station list
The list below includes:
- Stations with internal bus and/or streetcar bays and stations with exterior connections requiring transfers.
- Stations on all lines.
- Intermodal stations, including multi-line stations and others with connections to GO Transit.
- Stations with high, medium, and low traffic.
- Stations recently upgraded and stations scheduled for upgrades.
- The sole non-subway station, Queen’s Quay, for comparison.
The proposed list contains 23 stations, neatly 1/3 of the conventionally-stated total of 69 stations. But, if multi-line stations are counted separately (of a total of 74 stations using that method), the actual sample is 28 stations (39%).
Category Station(s) Additional features Shortlist from “Beautifying Subway Entrances” project Museum Museum and St. Patrick are part of the University Renaissance; evaluating them allows us to do a before-and-after comparison. Selecting only two other stations avoids overrepresenting downtown stations St. Patrick Two of Osgoode, St. Andrew, King, Dundas, College Intermodal Bloor– Stations with multiple subway connections. Yorkdale and Union are included because of their connections to GO Transit, but are not viewed as multi-line Kennedy Sheppard–Yonge Spadina St. George Union Yorkdale Planned renovations Islington Allows before-and-after comparisons Kipling Pape Victoria Park Warden Sheppard Bayview Sheppard–Yonge also separately included Scarborough RT Ellesmere Kennedy also separately included Planned accessibility upgrades Jane Jane Station permits Before and After comparisons with planned Transit City LRT network North York Centre Exterior surface connections requiring transfers Dufferin [None] Combined bus and streetcar connections St. Clair West [None] No surface connections Chester [None] Non-subway Queen’s Quay Viewed as a de facto 70th station