The Challenges of Passenger Communication – Part 2 Addendum

06 Mar

A very brief entry for today, but something which serves as a comparison.

After the first part of the series went up on my site, a friend, Thomas, got in touch and mentioned how German timetables are displayed and how much more information they communicate in much the same format. To support the ‘Option 1’ of my post on Thursday, suggesting that the information should be more efficient in design here is a picture taken at Karlsruhe Hbf two weeks ago that shows how the timings are displayed in Germany.

You’ll notice the information is largely similar. Timings are again broken down into hours, the operator, type of train and platform are all noted as well, although several improvements over the current Dutch design are immediately noticeable;

  • The days of operation matrix is not shown, but a key is used to denote on which dates and which days of the week the train runs.
  • A Train Number, which is important when locating a train for which you have a reservation, is also noted. This is also efficient because, like the Dutch system, it gives you a clue as to what type of service it is.
  • An extensive and, more importantly inclusive, key and legend is presented on the right hand side. It breaks down type of train service, facilities available on board, days of service etc;

Then there are the more specific travel details;

  • Times of arrival at the listed stops are shown for the services. This gives the passenger a proper indication of route, service and duration. For example, travellers to Mannheim can see the 21:25 RegionalBahn service stops more frequently and taken 53 minutes. The 22:00 to Frankfurt, which calls at Mannheim, takes just 22 minutes, as it’s an Intercity Express. Immediately passengers can then make more educated decisions about the route, the stops and inevitably the price of the ticket.
  • ALL trains are noted, regardless of route. This is a point of efficiency where a decision has been made to be completely inclusive. A lot of information is thus displayed, which can overwhelm a passenger, but this is offset by having a complete list and so no other information source needs to be referenced.
  • Finally, and this is quite subtle but very informative, a symbol is used to tell the passenger about the inclusiveness of the listed train stops. You’ll recall in the previous post there were many services listed that had exceptions in their stopping points, or many stopping points omitted that contributed in one way or another to a lack of efficient, consistent and relevant information. On this timetable a circle with a black centre dot is used to denote either that up until a certain point all stops are noted (and that after it becomes a summary list), or that the list is completely inclusive and that all stops are noted. Again check the 22:00 to Frankfurt, where both Mannheim and Frankfurt are listed and that, according to the circle with a black dot, those two stops are the only calling points. Then check out the 22:06 to Neustadt where KA-West and Wurth are listed and because of the presence of the dotted circle, those are the only two stops until that point.

This format is more efficient, consistent and relevant than the Dutch format for the above reasons. Information is more complete and comprehensive. Yet even now the lack of a complete list of stops can still be improved upon. You also know when the train will arrive at those points, allowing you to either plan a connection or plan a pick up, and you are alerted to the choice of faster services.

It can be argued that this is still not as efficient as a plain A-Z listing which is familiar at British stations, but yet it does show how even a simplistic format can still be very informative if presented in the right way.

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One Response to “The Challenges of Passenger Communication – Part 2 Addendum”

  1. Thomas March 7, 2010 at 4:41 pm #

    Spot on analysis :)
    Especially the arrival times for the stops help a lot. And since this plan is somehow smaller than the Dutch versions, it made room so that in German railway stations they usually have an additional plan for arriving trains.
    Thats nice for knowing when you can step in to trains – and of course for people who wait for arriving friends.
    They dont have that in Dutch stations as far as I can tell.

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