BART launches crowding level icons

BlinkTag was comissioned to design BART‘s new icons representing crowding on trains.

The constraints were tight: icons could be no more than 16 x 22 pixels in order to fit’s current trip planner and should be easily understood without a legend.

Initially, there were four levels of crowding to iconify: low, medium, high, and very high, but we suggested BART simplify to just three: light, moderate and heavy, and aggregate the data on the backend instead.

Using a window frame and passenger heads ended up being the best way to communicate the data. Thinking it through as a BART rider, low crowding to me means “I can probably sit down” whereas high crowding means “I’ll probably have to stand up”. Attempts to represent standing people in an icon were not as clear as using one, two, and three heads. For fun, here are the original concepts:

BART crowding icon concepts

These are two of the final icons, which will be used on the web and mobile BART sites.

BART crowding icons

Because knowing how crowded a train will be is very important to BART users, this small change to the BART website garnered some press attention from MUNI Diaries and SF Examiner.

“The new feature is a response in part to record ridership levels on BART, giving riders another tool to find a train with more space, if they have flexibility to make their trip a little earlier or later. The crowding level estimates are based on historic data; BART’s web team worked closely with BART’s scheduling department to coordinate the new feature in an effort to give riders more choices.”
Read BART's official announcement →
Read MUNI Diaries article →
Read SF Examiner article →