THE COMMUTE: Last week, we discussed the switch to condensed and light (or thin) font along with the switch from uppercase to uppercase and lowercase lettering. While uppercase and lowercase lettering may increase sign legibility of the street name, legibility of the street suffix often suffers if a two-line format is used. The switch to uppercase and lowercase was well publicized, but the switch to narrow and / or thin font was not.
Archive for the tag 'the commute'
THE COMMUTE: Last week, we took a brief look at the history of New York City’s street signage, which, traditionally, has been all uppercase. Several years ago, studies were conducted that showed, supposedly, that the use of upper and lowercase lettering is more visible than uppercase. Perhaps since we now live in an internet society, in which the use of uppercase letters is considered tantamount to shouting, we made the switch to lowercase.
I do not believe that upper and lowercase letters are easier to read. There are several disadvantages to using upper and lowercase letters as opposed to all uppercase. This is especially true when using sans serif fonts. Sometimes lowercase i’s can appear to look like lowercase l’s if there is too small a space between the dot and the base of the letter. There is also no distinction between a capital I and a lowercase l. For example, in the name “Illinois,” you have what appears to be three of the same letter adjacent to one another.
These are minor problems. The biggest problem with using upper and lowercase letters within a constricted space, such as on a small sign, is that some of the letters go above and beneath the guidelines, meaning that a smaller-sized font must be used, and smaller fonts reduce visibility. The most important factor in determining visibility of a sign is not that the letters are uppercase, or uppercase and lowercase, but the size and width of the fonts.
Given the same size fonts and font widths, I don’t doubt that uppercase and lowercase fonts are more visible. However, a straight change from uppercase to uppercase and lowercase is not what the DOT has done. They also have switched from a regular font to a condensed or narrow font, making the newer signs less visible than the older signs — not more visible as originally promised.
THE COMMUTE: Street signage is as old as New York, first appearing on the sides of buildings, usually in white letters on a dark blue background. It also appeared early on in rural areas at intersections atop a small pole in a crisscross fashion in white on blue or with black lettering on a white background. All signs were in uppercase block letters and were meant to be easily read by pedestrians and by drivers and passengers in slow-moving or stopped vehicles.
The signs affixed to the buildings were gradually replaced by signs on poles, placed at right angles in heavily populated areas. (That probably explains how the Gravesend sign in the lead picture escaped DOT’s eye in 1970.) As more vehicles used the roadways, more signs were affixed to the taller street lights to be more easily seen from larger vehicles such as trucks and buses.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, some street signs also displayed the street name you were on in a little oval above the name of the intersecting street. Some cities also showed the address numbers on the block under the street name. That never really caught on in New York City.
THE COMMUTE: However, it is all the same to the MTA.
In using the transit system in New York, there are rules one must follow. When they are not followed, there are and should be ramifications. The rules, however, need to make sense; the process for fighting summonses needs to be a fair one, and the punishment should fit the crime. However, not all the rules make sense, the process is not fair, and the punishment is not always just. Worse yet, you can be fined or even arrested for doing nothing wrong and not breaking any rule or law, yet you can also be found guilty! That is just wrong.
THE COMMUTE: In Parts 1, and 2, we discussed how the MTA could make subway and bus service more attractive so that it is not the choice of last resort. There should not be standees on the trains near midnight, and local buses need to be more reliable, among other measures. Yet there are still other reasons why many refuse to use buses and subways. It has to do with little concern for customer service and a lack of honesty on the part of the MTA. This leads to general distrust of the agency, in spite of all the hard work they do to keep the system up and running.
THE COMMUTE: Last week, I began discussing why the MTA is responsible for transit being the last resort for many while at the same time asking residents to leave their cars at home and choose transit. We discussed unnecessary crowding on the subways, and extra long waits for buses. I left off by giving an example of how, after waiting an unusually long period for a bus, the MTA makes you wait even longer by instructing drivers with one or two standees to not stop to pick up intending passengers.
THE COMMUTE: It’s a last resort, because the MTA makes it that way.
It’s just another example of MTA hypocrisy. Tell people to leave their car at home and use mass transit whenever possible, yet do little to make transit more enticing, such as opening closed station entrances. Most passengers use mass transit because they have no other choice. If your trip is too far for it to be comfortable to walk or cycle, your remaining choices — if you don’t have access to an automobile — are cab or car service, of if you do, the car or a bus. Taxis are prohibitively expensive for one person making a long trip. Express buses are limited in their destinations and are also not cheap. If parking is scarce near your destination or is prohibitively expensive, then the subway and or local, limited or Select Bus Service (SBS) are the only choices left. It is the choice of last resort for most. Few make the decision to leave their car at home if parking is not a problem. Why?
THE COMMUTE: Continuing from last week, the fare in Toronto was $3 a ride with transfers. Seniors pay $2. There are discounts when purchasing multiple tokens and tickets as well as weekly and monthly plans. We chose the $11 daily pass, which, by the way, is transferable after the first person is no longer using it. The pass can be shared by more than one person on weekends. We used four trains and at least six different streets cars so we got our money’s worth.
THE COMMUTE: I recently came back home from a week-long vacation in Niagara Falls and Toronto, Canada. I also stopped off on the way back in Albany and Kingston, New York. I will spare you the hundreds of photos and videos of Niagara Falls, and will concentrate only on the transit- and transportation-related aspects of the trip.
THE COMMUTE: On June 23rd, I wrote how there were unacceptable gaps in bus service on the B1 and B49 at the same time on a recent Sunday afternoon. Wondering if this was just a fluke or a regular occurrence, I decided to check Bus Time on the previous Sunday, June 22, after I boarded a B1 bus eastbound at Coney Island Avenue without any wait and noticed a second B1 right behind it. This is what I uncovered.