My local train operator, Scot Rail, operates a ticketing system based on peak and off-peak travel times. Peak time is rush hour, off-peak is not. As a traveller you have to know when you'll be travelling so that you can get the correct ticket. It's a simple concept to explain but I see it going wrong every single day. Trust me, just hang around the station at 4.45pm and watch people argue with barrier staff and curse at (inexplicably) rejected tickets. Usually the unfortunate person is told to queue up again and buy a new ticket. They inevitably miss their train.
So what's going wrong? Well, this poster might be to blame. It's the rules for Peak and Off-Peak tickets. I challenge you to understand it. Go ahead, read the words:
Let's pick it apart.
- CLARITY. It's utterly confusing. Times and locations are chucked about like info-vomit.
- NEGATIVE. Everything's "not". It doesn't tell you when you can you the ticket you're holding, just when you can't.
- MARKETING. "Just the ticket for a great day out". Who cares? Why does this misplaced marketing message get a bigger font and prominence than the rest of the more important information? I reckon the person who typed this poster in MS Word came up with the pun before the actual content.
- STRATHCLYDE PASSENGER TRANSPORT. The SPTE is a Scottish quango that, er, has 'something' to do with the Subway and Zonecards. Point is, no one in the land could tell you whether their journey falls within the "area" of SPTE. No one. This message doesn't make sense.
- HIERACHY. Which style of emphasis am I supposed to read first? Is it the big font? The bold stuff? The underlined bit? What bit am I supposed to remember?
- HRS. Only one time has "hrs" after it. I know this is nit-picking. Couldn't help it.
- A.M. We know that 0900hrs is "in the mornings". No need to spell that out.
LOCATION. It's not clear from this photo but the poster is located nowhere near the place where you buy the tickets. It's beside the barriers so by the time you read it you've already bought the wrong ticket.
So I've had a go at improving it. I reckon that the poster should be simple and easy to understand for someone in a hurry or unfamiliar with the rules. Here's version #1:
But, look at those ugly hatched areas! I have no idea what compels Scot Rail to have special rules for 21 minutes of the day. Really - is there no way, for the sake of simplicity and communication, that these could be removed? Is there no way that SPTE or Scot Rail could slide their fares by, say, 15 minutes? If they could, then it'd look like Version #2:
There are still a few problems which, with more time, I'd fix. For example, I'm not that keen on 24-hour times but everything else on the network is 24-hour so I guess this poster should be too. But I think that this version would make life a lot easier for barrier staff and bewildered travellers. The only thing left for Scot Rail to do is to hang it somewhere useful, such as beside the ticket machines and ticket desks.