Oh, the humanity!

Blogger Jarrett Walker is a public transport and urban development consultant from Seattle, Washington, USA. The focus of his blog, Human Transit (which is listed on TRANSIT’s blogroll on the left side of our site), is to understand the social connection that make public transport effective and help communities become stronger and more cohesive.

Walker’s blog looks at various aspects of public transport and urban development, from urban planning and street design to landscaping with effective public transport service in between.

Walker has regularly commented that one of the best examplar cities for public transport and urban development is Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Walker was interviewed recently by The Buzzer, (a blog that is part of TransLink’s communication’s effort and one of our favourites) as part of their “I Love Transit Week 2010 activities. He also gave a presentation to TransLink staff about various aspects of public transport from design to branding to communications to customer service.

TRANSIT found the comments from Walker to be quite interesting, especially where he focuses on the branding of public transport services and routes. For example, he suggests that there should be a maximum of 2-3 brands or logos present on a public transport service – for example:

    Jarrett identified three main uses of surface areas on vehicles and informational transit signage. They are:

    1. the identity of the government funding agency in charge
    2. the identity of contracting operator
    3. the usefulness of the service to the customer

      If we look at the example of any transport service run by Transport for London, we see the following:

      • Specific Roundel Logo (e.g. London Buses, Underground, Croydon Tramlink);
      • Transport for London Roundel Logo (Transport for London is the Contracting Operator;
      • The Logo of the Mayor of London (who is the chair of Transport for London).

      In Toronto, on the other hand, public transport services are run by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), a public corporation with a monopoly. TTC vehicles display two logos – that of the TTC itself, and the logo of the Ontario Government (which provides a great deal of capital funding). Occasionally, the Canadian government also provides funding and the Canadian Government’s logo can be seen on TTC Vehicles.

      Now, consider what logos we see on Malaysia’s main public transport services, namely the RapidKL LRT lines and buses, KL Monorail, KTM Komuter and RapidPenang bus services.

      In all cases, only the corporate logos are present – in the case of RapidKL, RapidPenang and KL Monorail, the specific logos of the companies are present. It is very hard to see logos of holding company Prasarana on any of the vehicles…and there are no government logos whatsoever. Similarly, KTM Komuter trains have the KTM Komuter logo but the KTMB logo and Malaysian government logos are nowhere to be seen.

      Is the government ashamed to let it be known that they are indirect owners of public transport services operated by subsidiaries of Prasarana (RapidKL, RapidPenang, KL Monorail), and KTMB (KTM Komuter, ETS) – both Prasarana and KTMB being 100% owned by the Ministry of Finance…..

      Perhaps it is a matter of political ideology – the idea that government ownership or sponsorship is somehow unfair to private operators.

      But look once again at the example of Transport for London, which is a private corporation with shares traded on the London stock exchange. Transport for London owns all of the Underground services in London, but bus services are provided by mostly private companies – contracted to Transport for London.

      Perhaps the government is simply ashamed of the companies themselves? After all, considering the number of complaints that the public has about these government-linked (really government-owned) companies, is it possible that they want to de-emphasize the connection and make it seem as if these corporations are failing on their own (rather than because of poor regulation, lack of enforcement and insecure finances)?

      Do take a look at the rest of Jarrett Walker’s presentation to TransLink staff, especially the areas where he suggests quick ways to deliver information to the customer (for example, changes to map design, or the use of colour) and shape thinking (for example, using the word “connect” or “connection” to replace “transfer”).

      We do believe that some of his points and suggestions should be noted by the various stakeholders in the Malaysian public transport industry.

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