How to find your train at Flinders Street Station

You have arrived at Flinders Street Station and you’re trying to find where your trains leaves – so where do you look?

Under the clocks

You’re probably going to look at one of these screens – but what order are the trains being displayed in?

Redesigned layout for the 'main' next train summary boards at Flinders Street Station

It isn’t alphabetical – South Morang occupies the first two slots. Is it ordered by the network map? Possibly – Cranbourne is next to Pakenham, and Alamein is next to Glen Waverley.

Worked it out yet?

I’ll give you the answer – the next two services for each line are displayed, no matter where they terminate, and the lines are grouped by their operational ‘groups’ – ‘Clifton Hill’, ‘Burnley’, ‘Northern’, ‘Caulfield’, ‘Cross City’ and V/Line.

The same ordering logic is applied on the smaller ‘summary’ boards scattered around the station, just squeezed into less space and with a smaller font.

Redesigned layout for the 'small' next train summary board at Flinders Street Station

Given that the PTV network map has shown each group of lines in a different colour since 2017, why do the screens at Flinders Street Station persist with living in the monochrome past?

Fixing the problem

Turns out Transport for Victoria asked the same question in 2017 and set to work finding a better way, lead by senior user experience designer Carolina Gaitan.

They defined the problem in terms of user experience.

Then came up with a way to test out their hypothesis.

Spending three days sending people through a mock up railway station.

First navigating using the current monochrome design, then a new design where each railway line was a separate colour.

And the result – navigating the station was was easier with colour.

What else did they find?

An important part of the new design was realising that there two groups of users of Flinders Street Station: people unfamiliar with the station, and those who use it every day.

Some signage is tailored for people trying to find their way somewhere new.

While others deliver ‘how long until the next train to X’ information to regular users.

So what next?

Turns out what was learnt through user experience testing is being put into practice, with a wayfinding upgrade coming soon:

Flinders Street Station will be the first station across the metropolitan network to feature signage and information screens where each line has its own colour for easier navigation.

Though I take offence to the boastful “first station” claim – until the 1990s the Melbourne train network used a different colour for each group of lines.

'Metropolitan Transit' network map

As did the next train displays in the City Loop until 2011.

Red, green, blue and black: nothing on the next train displays at Flagstaff station

Everything old is new again?

Further reading

You can find a summary of work at the UX Australia 2017 website: ‘Flinders Street Station: A journey to implement UX in wayfinding and customer information‘. The full set of presentation slides is also available.

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10 Responses to “How to find your train at Flinders Street Station”

  1. Nick says:

    I hope one day they’ll put up basic information such as when is the next direct train to North Melbourne, Southern Cross or Richmond.

  2. mich says:

    Wayfinding in Melbourne is pretty poor.

    You often need to guess how to get from one side of the CBD to the other side.

    If you followed advice from station workers, you would end up too many times going twice around the loop.

  3. Jezz Chrimes says:

    It will be interesting to see if some of these changes are also applied to the PTV application and Google Maps. Two things that tourists to Melbourne are encouraged to use. Google Maps currently only shows the XPT in colour on the map of Melbourne. It would be incredibly helpful if they could show the line colours on Google Maps.

  4. Peter says:

    Marcus, I have discovered that the “unfamiliar users” system was in place in NSW at least 30 years ago, where it was apparently a “disaster” – not least because it had to be updated manually by an operator!

    http://cdn.timetable.org.au/thetimes201612issue.pdf

    The Australian Timetable Association carried the story in its December 2016 newsletter.

    Hopefully a modern, automated version of the system will be a little more successful!

  5. […] plans to make it easier for passengers to navigate through Flinders Street Station by making the wayfinding signage clearer to follow – but during my travels around Me;bourne’s rail network, I’ve spotted a different […]

  6. Pierce Norman says:

    Marcus,
    Would Flinders Street Station be easy to navigate for commuters who are blind and/or deaf? What advice would you give such persons?
    Thanks!

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