The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is the seventh-largest U.S. rapid transit system by ridership, serving five counties in the Greater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area. In the spring of 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, SEPTA recognized that ridership patterns were likely to change long term. SEPTA’s response was to prioritize the development of a Branding and Wayfinding Master Plan. Entro collaborated with SEPTA, its riders and many other interested parties to develop the Master Plan, which includes the creation of a new tier of SEPTA services under a new name (“SEPTA Metro”) and visual identifier for the network, as well as new route names, wayfinding signage, and maps.
SEPTA had long understood that their signage and information was inconsistent and often difficult to understand. The wayfinding system and messaging needed to be more intuitive, accessible, and inclusive for riders of all abilities. The undertaking of the Master Plan presented a unique opportunity to change the perception of a frequent transit network from that of individual lines, the Market-Frankford Line, the Broad Street Line, the Norristown High Speed Line, the City Trolleys (10, 11, 13, 34, 36), and the Suburban Trolleys (101, 102), to a unified network. These lines are the backbone of the SEPTA network, and they account for a large portion of total ridership. Historically, these lines were constructed and operated by separate private companies. Thus, over time, the brand perception for the Rail Transit Network has been fractured by comparison with the Bus Network and Regional Rail Network, which are recognized and communicated as integrated systems.
Community outreach was prioritized throughout the process and informed all solutions. This effort included: station audits, meetings with stakeholder groups, external agencies, and advocacy groups, an online survey, a Tobii Pro eye-tracking study led by the University of Pennsylvania, and a 2-month public outreach period conducted at completion of the Master Plan effort. Research findings provided the insight the team needed to create an inclusive and accessible transit experience aligned to the diverse ridership needs.
In developing solutions, the team started with the brand and then extended their focus to the development of a clear visual vocabulary and information hierarchy. Previously referred to as the “Rail Transit Network,” we renamed the system “ SETPA Metro”, with a corresponding system identifier that will unify the system and help riders easily recognize stations at street level.
Each line will be identified by its own color (many carried over from the existing system for ease of recognition) and nomenclature which reflects the trunk and branch system, namely, a single letter with an additional number indicating the service pattern along the route (B1, B2, B3, etc.). By using both colors and letters, the wayfinding information can be understood by non-English speakers and people with color vision deficiency. A new approach to the network map prioritized the full frequent transit network, and a simplified version of the line maps focused on transfers and access rather than a geographic representation of the line.
Next Steps: Entro is now working with SEPTA to complete the SEPTA Wayfinding Standards Manual and Phased Implementation effort.
Find out more by reading SEPTA’s Wayfinding Master Plan.