“Easy-to-read” Information in Public Transport - Its Perception, Impact, Value and Application

“Easy-to-read” Information in Public Transport - Its Perception, Impact, Value and Application


Elmar Fürst, WU Vienna, Christian Vogelauer, WU Vienna


Using local public transport, understandable pre-, on- and post trip information is of crucial importance. We discuss the concept of “easy-to-read” information, its perception, impact, value as well as the application of this important concept.


“Easy-to-read” information in public transport - Its perception, impact, value and application
Elmar Fürst
Christian Vogelauer
WU Vienna
Text-based notices, bulletins, signposts as well as pictograms and icons are the main source for public transport users to get the necessary information for their trips. Information is needed ‘pre-trip’ (for planning a journey; e.g. web-based route planning, information on interchanges, etc.), ‘on-trip’ (while being on a vehicle or at stations on the way to the destination; e.g. timetables, displays, signposts, pictograms, destination information, information on disruptions, etc.) and ‘post-trip’ (for orientation purposes, finding the ‘way out’ and navigating the “last mile”; e.g. plans of the surrounding area, etc.). As can be seen, the range of written and displayed information provided by public transport operators is far stretched. In principle, such texts can be too long, over-boarding and highly complex in their structure or - contrarily - presented in a short, simple and understandable manner. Hence, quite regularly information is therefore not sufficiently accessible which renders the use of public transport services complicated for some people.
A second important source of information is spoken announcements, which might not only suffer from acoustical or technical problems (noise, audibility, etc.) but also from the speaker’s local accent, the rate of speaking, a complex wording or a bad structure of sentences. Moreover, information not being repeated or shown on any displays often cannot be acquired and understood properly. An inattentive or impaired person can therefore easily miss relevant information and possibly even get into troublesome situations.
As can be imagined, not all passengers using public transport services are able to understand or decipher all the information provided. This might in some cases be due to a lack of education (illiterates), restricted mental capacity (persons with cognitive impairments) or simply due to being a foreigner in the respective country or being unable to speak the local language (some migrants and tourists).
All of these groups suffer heavily from not being able to fully utilise written and displayed information. However, the affected persons on the one hand represent important customer segments for public transport providers (in terms of passenger volumes) and on the other hand they are legally entitled to not being excluded from public services. Furthermore, it has to be mentioned that solutions enabling the persons concerned to better access the provided information also improve the usability for most other public transport passengers.
With the implementation of “easy-to-read” information in public transport systems most of the problems the above groups are facing could be avoided or at least reduced significantly. However, the general awareness for the availability of “easy-to-read” guidelines - not to mention the employment of them - is mostly missing among public transport providers and public authorities.
A project of the Institute for Transport and Logistics Management of WU Vienna engaged this problem and investigated the awareness and knowledge of public transport service providers and public authorities towards “easy-to-read” measures and solutions, the importance of persons concerned for the provision of public transport and possibly planned steps for the future to improve the integration of these groups in the offered services.
The proposed article will firstly clarify the term “easy-to-read” in a public transport context and provide information on its importance. Building on this definition, the respective target groups will be identified and their specific needs will be highlighted. As the central piece of the article, the findings of a qualitative survey conducted among a large number of public transport providers in Austria and Germany on the current perception these companies show towards “easy-to-read” measures, the impact such implementations would have on the respective systems and, if so, which applications are currently employed will be presented. Eventually, we will derive policy implications for public authorities and guidelines for public transport providers for a more widespread implementation of “easy-to-read” solutions in public transport.


Association for European Transport