Lost in transit? Prague plans to bring its orientation signs into the 21st century

Signs with up-to-the-minute info will be created based on an international graphic design completion

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston
Published on 26.02.2021 16:00 (updated on 26.02.2021)

Prague City Hall is preparing to modernize the orientation system on the city streets and in public transit. Travelers will see current information in smart signs at metro platforms, lobbies in train stations and bus terminals, and tram stops.

The appearance of the information signs will change, and the quality and scope of the information will be shown in a more modern and comprehensible form. An implementation study, approved this week by City Hall, defines in detail how the new Unified Information System will work. The next step is an international graphic design competition for the specific form of the signs and other elements.

“We are thinking about the passengers’ comfort, so when they arrive at stops they can find their destination and other information easily and without difficulty. The more transport options we offer in public transport, the clearer they must be. The foundation is clarity, good visibility, and up-to-date information,” Deputy Mayor Adam Scheinherr, responsible for transport, said.

“In the currently planned modern transport hub Smíchov Terminal, where city and suburban railways, city and regional buses, metro, trams, and P +R parking will meet in one place, it will be necessary to make sophisticated information signs so travelers can transfer easily between different modes of transport,” he added.

Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib said that after some pilot projects, signs would be replaced gradually during renovations, for example.

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“It will take some time, but the team has to start sometime, otherwise the current ‘non-system’ would only get worse,” he said.

The main goal is to unify signs to make them more comprehensible and to present the maximum amount of information.

The graphic design competition will be announced by regional transit organizer ROPID in the spring. “It will be public and international. We will look for a team of designers from many fields who will be able to work with Prague for a long time to create a new look for the entire information and navigation system,” Petr Tomčík, director of ROPID, said. The estimated costs of the competition are a maximum of CZK 5.4 million.

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Prague has also made progress in recent years in providing online information that passengers can use on their smartphones, but the signs at stations have not kept up with the advances of technology. The current navigation system has its roots in the 1970s and 1980s, and for decades, nobody has systematically developed and applied new knowledge to it, Scheinherr said.

“Prague is preparing large and beautiful public buildings for metro D, as well as new tram tracks and the railway to the airport. I can't imagine that there would be an information system from the last century that does not include what a team of top designers can do today and with the amount of online information we have available. It's like putting a compass in a new car instead of a basic navigation system,” said Adam Scheinherr.

While the graphic design competition is being prepared, newly designed elements will be tested in a pilot project at five transfer points – Florenc, Palmovka, Budějovická, Háje, and Nádraží Holešovice. Passengers will find digital panels with online traffic information, new maps of the surroundings, and signposts to nearby destinations.

New signs will also be on the pedestrian route from Pařížská Street to Výstaviště in Prague 7 and on the tram routes to Modřany and Holyně. Based on the evaluation of pilot projects, the implementation of 53 proposed measures in the feasibility study will be decided.

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Several important partial elements have already entered pilot operation. Passengers already have information on real-time connection delays when searching for a connection, and they can also look at the online delays of all surface connections of Prague Integrated Transport on a special map.

Screens are being tested that show the passenger how much time is left until the departure of the next two trains. People will find them in Kobylisy, Staroměstská, and Zličín stations, and in the near future, they will be installed in other places.

At the Palackého náměstí tram stop, a smart stop sign with current tram departures and a smart shelter with current information on tram departures are already being tested. In selected buses, a display of connections from the next stop is also tested on LCD screens.

The PID Lítačka application is being further developed. In the future, it should offer smart navigation, including clear orientation of complex interchanges and as a personal guide on everyday journeys thanks to personalized notifications of current changes or emergencies.

The Unified Information System project was launched in 2017, followed by the establishment of a working group that includes representatives of the Prague Institute of Planning and Development (IPR Praha), the Prague Public Transit Company (DPP), Prague City Hall, the Technical Roadway Administration (TSK), Prague City Tourism, and ROPID.