(Unedited) Podcast Transcript 323: City Legibility and Wayfinding
This week we’re joined by Tim Fendley, Founder and Creative Director at Applied. Tim chats with us about lessons he’s learned from doing wayfinding projects around the world including Legible London.
Jeff Wood (1m 31s):
Well, Tim, Fendley welcome to the Talking Headways podcast.
Tim Fendley (1m 33s):
Good to be here before
Jeff Wood (1m 35s):
We get started. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Tim Fendley (1m 37s):
I’m an information designer. I started my life as a typographer. So when I started to get involved in cities and realize that cities can be described in terms of City Legibility I thought it was kind of quite fascinating. Cause obviously as a typographer, you learned a lot about Legibility and Legibility to me and topography was kind of looking through a clean window. You don’t see the window, you see the wonderful view that you really want to be seen. The window doesn’t get in the way. For me, that was a good description of Legibility in a City sometimes kind of clouds you’re view of the city. You can’t see it and it doesn’t explain itself. And I really loved applying these type of graphic ideas to a whole City environment.
Jeff Wood (2m 20s):
How did you get into that? Like what leads somebody to start thinking about the built environment and how to get around it? And then also, how do you start that as a job?
Tim Fendley (2m 28s):
I was running a design company and Metta design with Eric Spiekermann and we were really strong information design. You know, we didn’t really do a big branding, which was kind of the rage at the time. And we did a lot of heavy information. So we redesigned all the forms of the company’s house. We did all sorts of things and a project came along in Bristol and we thought, well, this would be interesting. So we applied our information design early days, interaction design techniques to a city. And it was fascinating. It was a very successful project. How it kind of started was when we walked in the city really had already had an idea of how they wanted to kind of explain the City.
Tim Fendley (3m 12s):
But when we talk to people on the streets, it really wasn’t tackling the issues that they really had. So it was this observation fed back to the organization that lead to a very different way of creating inflammation in the street
Jeff Wood (3m 28s):
To help people in the city of Bristol. What was it that you learned to take with you going forward from that experience from the initial creation of Legibility
Tim Fendley (3m 38s):
You sign a, we were always taught to sitting in other people’s shoes to try and understand it from other people’s perspectives. I’m also an orienting, a margarita I use to actually do or in terms of competitions. So I’m a very good at map reading, but I’m not necessarily the person. This is four. So how, how do you try and understand how somebody’s on a journey for a job interview? They’re going shopping, they’re meeting friends there, going to the theater. How do you think the experience that, how can they have a better experience? How can they think they can do things? And as a designer, you want to pull out examples of where this has happened, anecdotes data, to show what peoples experiences are and the city we were dealing with in Bristol at the time, you know, if they’re wanting to do something really good and the drive to do things was the right drive, but they’d over complicated.
Tim Fendley (4m 32s):
It they’d created nine areas in the city center, which actually corresponded two wards, but not really the names of areas that are there actually on the ground. They’d gone through the process of design where they’ve colored them all and they’ve come up with a different icons for the mall, which were all of the same language and it kind of coded it. But the problem was for the colors are different versions of Brown. So, you know, in terms of an information system, keep walking until the signs become a chocolate Brown and then it will become light ground that isn’t really going to work. You know, I don’t think I need to explain, but what we did is we just came in and said, well, let’s have a look at how people are experiencing the City and the council.
Tim Fendley (5m 13s):
And we started to realize, Oh, my word, I see what the problem is. They’re just don’t understand why this new area we built is that it even exists because they can’t see it. So then to, in order to explain how to see what’s on the other side of the city, we thought we needed maps to be able to a place in the city to give people a picture of that. They can’t see what the Vista, and then we kind of got their trust in terms of, we were talking about logic based design and we went all the way through to delivering the system with the council. Umm, thinking about people’s experiences all the way a lot.
Jeff Wood (5m 52s):
So what’s the importance of, of, of the journey getting from point a to point B in the process.
Tim Fendley (5m 58s):
I think this makes me think about it. A wonderful quote from the air Wilson, which goes something like one of the issues with humanity is that we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and God-like technology. And we’ve done a lot of studying about those paleolithic emotions, our ability to navigate our ability to create pictures of places. And our minds is from hundreds of thousands. If not more years ago, instinct, if we couldn’t find where our camp was, where our cave was, you know, our family could die. It was pretty essential. So it’s a deep instinct that we’ve all got. I think what I’ve done is an orientation leader is being able to tap into that and know how to use it.
Tim Fendley (6m 41s):
But modern life means a lot of people don’t need to tap into it, which makes them a little bit blind and they don’t have to be one thing about medieval institutions is that they will focus on the part of the journey that they’re responsible for yet the experience from when you go to the shops or your meeting, a friend is from when you leave your house through to meeting them and getting back for you. You know, the experience is the journey. One issue that we have in the modern world in our urban environments is that when you’re on a journey, let’s just imagine you meet your friend. And then if we can’t at the moment, but we will be doing that soon.
Tim Fendley (7m 23s):
When you meet your friends and then journey back home. Again, you come across five, 10, 20 organizations in order to get there. You’ve got the organizer at your local council and you’ve got a, maybe a, somebody who put on the bus stop and you’ve got the bus service. You might using an app. You might be walking around the city center, et cetera. And one issue we have in cities is that these organizations don’t coordinate very well and it creates a, a fractured journey. So one of the things that we’re always pointing out is connectivity of organization’s is crucial to creating a journey that fits together. And there’s different ways of doing that.
Jeff Wood (8m 3s):
You mentioned the paleolithic city, one of the things that it makes me think about it, those YouTube videos with cats, where they put the cucumber behind the cat and the cat jumps because it thinks its a snake. It’s a kind of a cruel joke. You’re not really supposed to do that. Its mean to the cat, but it also makes me wonder what is the thing with humans that like if you did something to them, they would freak out because of their paleolithic mind. And I think one of the things maybe is putting them in a place where they have no idea where they are and they just totally have a complete freakout and they don’t really know how to get themselves out of it.
Tim Fendley (8m 37s):
That’s right. And I mean, I, one thing I wanted to point out was we often see research where you are asking people, what about your journey? What was your journey? Good, et cetera. We saw some of this research from Heathrow and it was all reasonably positive. And then we asked, well where did they do the survey? And it was at the gate. So one thing that’s paleolithic is when we have a bad experience, we try and forget it. So if you ask people at the gate, they might have had a bad experience gets in there, but they’re not necessarily going to tell you about it. And the other piece of research that we thought was really interesting is a lot of research has asked for people when they’re on our transport system or they are walking around the city.
Tim Fendley (9m 18s):
What about all of the people who won’t even get on the transport system or walk around the city because this is so uncertain, they’re not going to do it. They’re set at home. They are not doing that journey. I’ve not seen much research at all. He’s trying to find out what those numbers of like, and this comes back to something that’s paleolithic, which is humans. As humans. Look at the word on certainty. When you say something is uncertain, it’s a such a negative. The word lost is about uncertainty that people are lost in their life. It’s something as humans we avoid, we don’t like uncertainty. Look at the financial markets. What, what is the crash? It’s just uncertainty. It’s everybody been in certain and it’s the same with transport, same way of getting around and that factor of certainty and uncertainty.
Tim Fendley (10m 5s):
It doesn’t just, as we talk about it, a lot of some transport planners focus on this end rightly is a Legible City the work we do is all about giving people more confidence and more freedom, more ability to make more use of a place, which actually is what the organization that runs that place at once. So it actually is a very positive circle,
Jeff Wood (10m 28s):
But how can we reconcile the kind of the want of a messy, vital place that is spontaneous and drives joy? I mean, we hear about all of these cities that some billionaire or some country wants to build out in the middle of nowhere. And we know that they’re going to end up steril and awful, and there are going to be just kind of boring, but the places that we love or the places that are messy. And I think it was Jane Jacobs talking about the messy vitality of cities. How do we reconcile that with the need to have a, Legibility a need to be able to find where we want to go.
Tim Fendley (11m 1s):
I think it’s about degrees. We’ve worked a lot in London. I mean the couldn’t be much more of a messy cities, grief pattern on a shelf rebuilding in every city we worked in is astonishing how much they are changing all the time. You can’t control a city. That’s, what’s wonderful about it. I’m with Jane Jacobs on that, what our transport system is though, is a little bit of blue. In-between all of that that allows you to make use of it. So let me give you an example. I don’t think anybody would think that the London underground system is boring and stale. The London underground system allows you to turn up from any tube station, anywhere to 170 of them.
Tim Fendley (11m 44s):
It allows you to turn it up at any one of them and end up and the other one reasonably certainly now that is an incredible system. And when the tube system was built, it was built by different companies. There were different railway lines, they had different information systems. And I was dug into the history recently. What was interesting was that it was actually pulled together by an American. I didn’t realize, but before it was owned and made into a public utility, in a, in a fact there was a marketing agreement, the different railways realize that then you need to market these lines and how they connect to each other to benefit each other. So that the actual tube system, as a diagram started before it was all controlled.
Tim Fendley (12m 29s):
The really is a desire to create this connecting tissue, to allow the City to be really different actually, in terms of Legibility the more different, the City is the better it is. One problem we have when we get involved in master planning is a lot of our urban master planners. Architects kind of want things the same as the one a, they want this architectural similarity, which is really not good for Legibility. You really want difference. You want character. So places need character. The system that connects them needs to kind of fit together and be consistent. Coherent.
Jeff Wood (13m 7s):
Speaking of the tube map, one of the interesting stats on your website and something that you found when you were doing the research for Legible London was that 45% of the people use the tube map to navigate, which if you know the tube map, you know that it’s not geographically accurate, it’s not helpful when you get out of the station, but it kind of, I guess, tells you, you know, kind of the area, but, and I I’ve done that before too. I was in London for the Olympics in 2012 and I would get out my tube map and be like, okay, so where am I? And I thought that was quite an amazing statistic and shows a need for even more Legibility on the streets.
Tim Fendley (13m 44s):
So that statistic was a major driver of Legible London because again, it tells the organizations that there is an inflammation desire. There’s a need, people are looking for help and they are turning to what they trust, which is the tube map is totally inappropriate for walking, but they’re still going to try and use it. That’s very paleolithic. Oh, I can’t break this rock. I’ll try it with a bone. Oh, smash is my bum. Oh, well I’ll try it with another rock. Oh no, it works. You know, we try things, you know, we, we work with what we trust, even if it isn’t appropriate. The other stat that you might not have got was that the actual information that was on the street was being used by 3.7% of people.
Tim Fendley (14m 25s):
So all of the, there were 36 different systems in central London that we researched pedestrian systems. And then we’ll use a 3.7% at a time. Those two stats, we’re a big drivers of Legible London. They’d sort of like we’re spending all this money on 36 different systems that nobody’s using. And one of the main problems is people weren’t even seeing the systems because it was just clutter. It was just, well, it doesn’t help me. It doesn’t, I don’t recognize it. I can’t trust it. So the idea of Legible London was just like the tube system. We need to be a walking system that is predictable. You know, it’s going to be there, you walk it up for a tube station and it will be there.
Tim Fendley (15m 6s):
Don’t worry. You will be able to find your own Wood journey. That last mile again, that was from research. That was the problem was the last mile. There was a whole lot of projects going on about these walking super highways all the way across London. But from one side of Linden to another is about an hour to 20 minute walk. And we were like, yeah, some people are going to do these hikes. Some people are going to walk to work for an hour, you know, great cycle. Brilliant. But actually the vast majority of walking journey’s in London of which is a, I think it’s 55% of journey’s in London. A walking are within a mile or they are 12, 15 minute walk from a tube station from a bus station to where you are getting to any way longer than 12, 15 minutes.
Tim Fendley (15m 52s):
And you really consider are the forms of transport. Get on the tube, get a taxi, get a bike cycle higher, et cetera. So the chip system was actually giving you a map of the whole city at a higher scale, but nobody was giving you a map of your local area, the lower scale. And Legible London was a system put in to give people that, that picture of the lowest scale.
Jeff Wood (16m 17s):
And if we step back a bit, when was that decided to start thinking about that pedestrian scale and thinking about the mechanism to which you’re going to help people navigate it, which eventually called Legible London. But how did that all get started?
Tim Fendley (16m 29s):
I think for any project like that to happen, it needs some political will. The mayor of the time, Ken Livingston is fascinating seeing how Matt as work. He does two things. It sets an objective, which is we want to make London the best walking, sitting in the world by 2025, something like this or 2020, I can’t remember the exact date. And the other thing he did when he first became a, he was, he created transport for London, which was London buses, London underground, London streets, et cetera. He put them all together and gave them a strategic objective, which is to deliver transport.
Tim Fendley (17m 9s):
And the area that you have to look at is from building edge to building edge. In other words, the whole street. So we’re not here just to deliver bus services. We’re here to get people to places that TFL still is in a process of changing, understanding that strategic objective. I think that is incredibly a lot of foresight into that. The objective that he said, we want the most walking City to be honest, the councils we are working with and TFL will like, what does he mean? What does he mean? What does he want? How do you measure that? But what we did was it created a drive. It created a focus to actually, well, let’s do something about walking, did just station Legible London was a walking study competition.
Tim Fendley (17m 53s):
And we won, which was asking for a new standard of signs in central London. And we basically responded and said, we don’t think it’s a standard that you need. It’s a system. We found a, I think I’ve just covered at 36 different systems. Most of them fitting within current standards. Some of them, not, some of them developing their own, some of them were good. Some of them are really good pieces of care, but they just weren’t. They didn’t cover a big enough area. They weren’t consistent enough. They had an element of them that didn’t work for another area. You could look all of them and find an issue. But the main issue was we’ll London has got one chip system. It needs one walking system. That was an argument that took us about the hypothesis.
Tim Fendley (18m 35s):
I should say, that took us about two years to establish the facts that you mentioned for his 44 and a half percent actually were using the tube. And 3.7% we are using on stream information. What part of the driver’s to realize what peoples actual personal experience was? And the thing that’s our approach is we will try and stand up for that individual, the person who isn’t a confident map reader, isn’t a confident navigator, but it’s the person you want walking down Oxford street. Another fact at the time, which actually created the first prototype. So prototyping is something I really learned from product design and product design.
Tim Fendley (19m 18s):
You very quickly want to make a model. You know, having a drawing of something is not really valuable, but making a model out of clay or wood or cardboard is, is you get working with models straight away. And we borrowed that and everybody was nodding saying, yeah, this is a really good thing. We should do this. And we very quickly said, write well, let’s prototype something as fast as we can. It took us about four months to design a Legible and then the catalyst was Oxford street. So the man had put some money behind a business improvement district that we are saying we’ve got a help box history. Well, what’s the problem with Oxford street, 87% of people walking up and down Oxford street, never leave off the street yet. There’s a whole load of oases, wonderful gems on the hidden gems.
Tim Fendley (20m 3s):
I think they’re called them just on Fox street. St. Christopher’s place. Hadn’t the street things like This and they wanted, these are populated. So we work with people are walking around on the street because it’s certain, it’s a strange street. Its one of London’s few streets, streets. It’s got shops all the way down it and a big ones at either end. Therefore you’re going to keep walking up down. You Lees your friends and say, we will meet you outside Selfridges in at three o’clock. Everybody girls got that. I’m certain I’m not going to lose Selfridges. I can see it from miles away that certainty man, people didn’t want to go further. So we were like, well, we got to work harder to give people the confidence to wander off track. I give you another anecdote that we picked up by interviewing people.
Tim Fendley (20m 44s):
So I met a group of women who were shopping on Saturday. They come nearly every Saturday, every other Saturday, I think it was. And they come from Southwest London and they come in on the tube. And what they do is they get off at green park. If you know London green parks at the bottom of Mayfair is about 10 minute walk to work for the street that gets off at green park than the walk us through Mayfair, which is a lovely part of London, safe, easy, not that busy. He actually, and then they go onto up the street and then when they’re done, they go walk back through Mayfair to green park. It’s not a straight road, the switchbacks and crossings and all sorts.
Tim Fendley (21m 26s):
And what we say is the last time they came, I can’t remember her name. It was something like a Sarah wasn’t with them. And they realized that Sarah was the one who navigated. And so they didn’t go off a green park. Cause he was like, Oh, well we don’t know how to do it. So they went all the way to Oxford circus texts until they’ve got change a Piccadilly and get off Oxford circus. And then on the back of, Oh well we’ll go back to Oxford circus and get ourselves back. Because again, we know we can walk to green park, but we don’t know how to do it because it’s Sarah who’s guides. But Oxford circus tube station was closed at periodically close is for half an hour and a huge crowds.
Tim Fendley (22m 6s):
They said it was awful. Then you know, we maybe weren’t going to come to the day. I think I remember them saying, because I interviewed them. I remember this story. So they went through all the pain of Oxford circus when they knew they could walk back, they just didn’t have the confidence to do it. And it was like that for me, was really telling how do we create a system that could, when Sarah isn’t with them, there’s inflammation along the way, is the sign here saying this is where to green park. Okay, come on, lets try it. These things will help us. And the other thing that we learned about humans is soon as you work with the system and it works, you really want to stick with it.
Tim Fendley (22m 47s):
You know, how many of us are either a PC or Mac and there is no logic as to why you stick with one of the other. It’s just the fact that it’s the one that you know, and you are feeling confident about. And I’m a, I’m okay with my Mac. All right, I’m not gonna go.
Jeff Wood (23m 1s):
I have both. I have one right in front of your PC and I’m talking to you on a Mac, but I understand.
Tim Fendley (23m 7s):
So to have one system, we’ve got one system of cars, it’s got a steering wheel and a gear stick in the middle and an accelerator on the right and a break on the left. Right? And the clip sometimes on the very left and car manufacturers have learned, you don’t mess with that format because you want anybody to just jump in your car and not crash it. But when cars were first designed, the accelerator was a handle. The steering wheel was handlebars to begin with because it was a motorbike. They put four wheels on it and it took a while for the S the standard to evolve with a motor vehicle is quite quick, but everybody’s forgotten about it. And it it’s a City system is the same thing.
Tim Fendley (23m 48s):
If there is a system, it needs to be really well looked after and built on and not over a confused look at the tube system. It’s moved to evolve very carefully, have a 70 years now. And it’s evolving now, it’s adding new lines, it’s getting too complicated. There’s arguments to say that the new chief maps, which we’ve got all of these new lines on it, I’ve got too much on them. You know, that’s the right way to do it.
Jeff Wood (24m 13s):
It makes me think of the discussion around cycling too, these days, and a typology of cycling you’ll have the people that are super confident. And then you have the folks that aren’t confident and I don’t know the exact kind of typology of it, but basically you have, you know, for different sets of people, kids’ all the way up through these experts who are more than happy to ride their bikes with traffic. And it feels like there’s probably a pedestrian topology as well. And the other interesting thing that I was thinking of is that I know that when I go places are, when I go with group of folks, even like my family, we went to France in 2019 for a family trip and I was the navigator cause I’m on the map guy, right? I’m the person that kind of goes up. And, and I, I’m very proud of my map skills, but at the same time, it’s interesting to see how those things get assigned and making sure that everybody can access.
Jeff Wood (24m 59s):
That kind of knowledge is something that you all are trying to do. And I think that’s really fascinating and comparative to that cycling analogy that I was talking about, you know, I didn’t think about it that way before that there are certain levels of, you know, expertise when it comes to navigation. You talk about your orienteering skills. I, I’m constantly made fun of by my family for maybe sometimes being overconfident in my map skills. So,
Tim Fendley (25m 22s):
But Matt for reading is a learned skill. All the research I’ve looked at says is very little gender difference and a map reading. It’s just the men and normally are more interested in it and have learned more. And there’s another factor here at a very paleolithic, which is cognitive restriction. What your hair is. People say, Oh, well, I can’t read them that I’ve got no sense of direction. And other people you’re probably is somebody that goes well, I’ve got a good sense of direction and I can read a map and you are able to think you can do it. And the experience that we’ve got is that everybody can read a map. The, if you learn to how to do, and the map is a well designed for You. So one thing we did in Bristol and we did it in Legible London was the information that we put in the street.
Tim Fendley (26m 7s):
And then the last mile, which is one pillar of Legible London it wasn’t just about signs, how to map on it, because we realized London has got a hugely dense amount of information to give you can’t do it with the finger posts. You, you just got to have hundreds of them. So we use maps and then we thought, well, how do we get people who don’t read maps? How do we get people to engage with this system? Otherwise it’s a waste of time. And we did two things. One is we met them heads up in to the words they are the way that they’re facing. They’re not North. So what that did is it created and a much easier connection to understand where you are on the map and which way you’re looking. And if you can see on the map, the, the destination, if you want is to the right than the destination is to your right.
Tim Fendley (26m 49s):
It’s just cognitively easy. The other thing we did is the way we wanted to design them to be beautiful, because another thing is human is the, if something is beautiful, cat food for thought about considered, so people will engage with it more. And when you get people to engage with a map, they will look at it. That will go, Oh, that’s the air. And I, we didn’t know the rivers, not only just the other side of that. And then you’ve got people starting to build their own mental map and realizing that these maps on the street and not for only the people at You Jeff, he couldn’t read the map. What what’s interesting in all of the research we did, we found, I think it was 83% of people prefer the heads up, but the people who didn’t work quite VIM and that the map would be North of the majority of those were either military or had map reading training.
Jeff Wood (27m 42s):
So there, they were like, where’s the North arrow tilting their head sideways. I bet.
Tim Fendley (27m 47s):
So if you have learned how to map read, you want to be looking at a North map. I bet you can look at a map North up, see that you’re going down on a road and realized turning right means that way, even though it’s left on the map, you can kind of put yourself into that direction, but that’s as minority people who can do that
Jeff Wood (28m 9s):
Essentially now too, with smartphones square, you know, you can point your phone and it, you know, they give you the North arrow basically, or the arrow, you have your direction of your phone. And so you can start to see kind of where things are going, which is another interesting wrinkle. And all of this is that everybody has some sort of a Wayfinding device on them. I mean, most people now have smartphones. There’s still people that don’t, but for the most part, people generally have that. And so it’s interesting to think about how that’s wired our brain as well.
Tim Fendley (28m 34s):
Yeah. It’s a, w we’re not far away from having walking sat nav really there’s pros and cons that the certainty of a satnav routes is great. What do you do if you look at using Carsten, abs is you, you learn less contexts of the environment around you. You are just following a line and part of Legible London and the systems that we develop it’s about getting you from a to B, but it’s also about exploring and adventuring and trying different things out in an area. Understanding what the area has got to offer. One method we use is we call people. We use more mindsets than personas.
Tim Fendley (29m 13s):
So one mindset we call is actually came from TFL, was Striders and strollers. So you, no one minute you might be striding to a meeting. I got to get their get out of my way. I don’t want to make sure I’m there on time, but when you’re there 20 minutes earlier, you might be a stroller thinking, okay, I need to find a coffee shop and you will go on a bit of a circle hunt for a coffee shop, remembering where the destination is that you’re going to that’s one strategy, but thinking about how it works Sadie now is good for Striders. It doesn’t really look after a stroller who wants to explore and get lost. I mean, we also something very early on in Legible London we talked about it is we want it to give people the confidence to get lost, go get lost.
Tim Fendley (29m 59s):
Because when you want to find out where you are, you can jump back into the system and go, Oh, okay. We are here. I now know how to get back to base. You know, that the thing is a freedom that is pleasant,
Jeff Wood (30m 12s):
Right? When I was there, there were a Boris bikes there. Now, I guess that has a different term. So maybe there’s something else now, but they’re called the porous bikes. Now that might be missing something totally different. So its nice to kind of lose yourself on the bike or even just kind of disappear into a neighborhood or go somewhere and just know that on one side there’s a, a, you know, a place to park it and, and you’re leaving on the other side and maybe you just wander throughout the city on the other way. And you know, when I was there, I was there for two and a half weeks and obviously there weren’t sports going on all the time. So there was lots of hunts for a random thing. I was, I was looking for an antique map shop. So I was looking for pubs. I was looking for the map that changed the world. I was looking for all of these things around London and I wandered aimlessly in many of the times.
Jeff Wood (30m 52s):
And it was nice to do that. Technology discussion is also interesting because there’s so many companies now that are out there, especially on social media that our trying to nudge us and try to change our behaviors through just to kind of like a little nudges. And so I’m curious how, like, you know, Legible London does that for people outside of that tech world, you know, because you’re kind of doing it in a more analog way. It feels.
Tim Fendley (31m 14s):
Yeah, but I think the future is analog and digital working together. What’s behind Legible London is an agreed terminology. I was looking recently at a transport system and I looked at photographs, all of the station entrance names. Then I looked online and found four or five different versions of the names of these stations on different people’s maps and transport systems. What is at the core of the Legible system is an agreed terminology. It’s like it’s easy in London because the names of chip sessions, for example, are just so embedded, you know, Piccadilly circus tube station, everybody who draws a map at the city or try to communicate, it knows to call it that, but in a younger City or a transport system that’s less embedded.
Tim Fendley (32m 5s):
And if the transport system changes the names that’s even worse, names become really embedded in your mind and how to shift when they’re in there hard to get in and then help to shift. So the first thing that’s really important to develop transport system or walking system is the terminology often overlooked. And that’s how digital and physical connects together back to your question, you know, the digital has to represent and display the physical space. And I’ll give you an example. So we’re doing a lot of work in Toronto, work in there for a number of years, they’ve got 10 different regional transport systems, but it makes up the greater Toronto.
Tim Fendley (32m 48s):
And a lot of people, transport is a huge issue. When you first got involved back to what I was talking about earlier, part of the research, we talked a lot of people, but we also found some volunteers and we give them a journey to do, to try and understand how they experience journey. One volunteer was a daughter of somebody who was working with us and she was early twenties. And we just basically said, you’ve got to get to the other side of the greater Toronto and back again by different routes and then just record everything you do. So, you know, we didn’t ask her what tool to plan her room, anything she went on Google or Apple maps. I forget which one of those systems and plotted her route there plotted a route back then she embarked on that route.
Tim Fendley (33m 33s):
It was about three and a half hour journey, long story short. It took her 11 and a half hours to do that. And she didn’t actually make it back. It was dark and she rang her mum and said, can you come get me from the station and had enough 11 and a half hours? And it wasn’t, there was no services canceled, nothing was broken, everything was working. We checked, but what had happened one little mini example is she got on at union station and got on the fast train to travel a big distance. And she knew she needed to get off of this station and jump on to a bus to get and that part of the journey and what you’ve got in a lot of North America or a bus stations next to train stations and a bus loop sometimes cold in Canada.
Tim Fendley (34m 22s):
And there was one of those. So you can imagine it was a, it was out of town, out of the city center, but with a bus station, she got on the train. She didn’t know when the stop was never done this journey. She didn’t know which stop to get off. So she just looked outside at the station name at every station until she could see the name of the station with a Flint station of something, she never saw the name. So she ended up at the end of the line, which is in Hamilton, which is miles away. And then she got off and she was like, what, what, why am I here? There wasn’t a Flint station. And then the guy at the ticket desk was like, there isn’t a fence station on this line. And then they both looked at the phone.
Tim Fendley (35m 2s):
We realized that the Flint station was the name of the bus station, which was next to the train station, which was called something different. So what’s the problem here. Everybody’s running in their own systems. The digital system gave the name of the bus station where she gets the bus from, but why is the bus station? And then differently to the train station and the digital system didn’t tell you. And there were other examples of where this happened and we play this back to the organization. We said, station names, calling bus station, same name as the train stations are really important. And they said, well, politically we can’t do that because it’s run by people. It’s owned by different people. And there you’ve got the clash of the medieval institutions with the paleolithic emotions and the fact that God like technology can’t necessarily fix it.
Tim Fendley (35m 49s):
But for me was the microcosm of what we get involved with is we get involved in guy’s. We’ve got to go on to do some work here on the naming and we need the names that we can remember. We need names of the different within the names that have got character. We need names that you don’t change.
Jeff Wood (36m 7s):
How do you measure success when you all are finished doing work in a place like London or Bristol or Toronto, how do you measure what success is when you’re finished?
Tim Fendley (36m 16s):
Can we work a lot in a very close to T kind of transport planning field’s and transport planning has gotten number of ways of measuring success. They’ve got economic modeling Pryor. And one thing that we do is if you put a train line in, you can measure the number of riders you’ve got. So you can, you know, we’re gonna carry a million a year and we’re doing one and a half million. We are doing really well. The measures that we’re talking about, a kind of soft infrastructure and the hard to measure. So we’ve worked as hard as we can to do before and after studies. So one thing about working for TFL and London is the system was, went through a number of iterations, prototypes and two pilots pilots into, into a system. And a lot of studies we’re done to measure the impact.
Tim Fendley (36m 57s):
Has it went too long in order to release to the next round of funding. And the system is a fantastically and successful. One of the driver’s walking City in London was the walking was actually reducing in central London prior to the Legible London it’s now gone up 5%, which is a lot of journeys. I think it’s a recognition of Legible and it is now at 65% pretty quickly within, within a week or two, and satisfaction levels are high. It’s a matter of finding a way of measuring the impact that it’s having
Jeff Wood (37m 31s):
Another interesting stat. I love the stats on your site, by the way, there were a great was a 7% stat. Basically the 7% of journeys can be walked instead of taking by the tube, it would be faster. And a lot of people don’t take those because it’s easier to use that as you’ve mentioned, paleolithic mind to get between those two places. Cause you know exactly where it’s going to go. Yeah. So that’s interesting too. And especially during the pandemic, because you need to get more people off the tube and more people walking and biking and physically distant.
Tim Fendley (37m 58s):
Yeah. And I’ve got anecdotes. I hadn’t got a big study to show it, but how many people have I heard saying, I didn’t realize I could cyclin. I wanted to go into the office. So I’ve actually decided I’m going to cycling because I know I don’t have to go on the tube and I have to get near anybody, but the world just opened up. Their world just grew sort of like, I, my word, I can do this. I can not very paleolithic. And understanding the, we often use is the part of being human is we can’t see what we can’t see. You know, we’ve got a blind spot and we can’t see the blind spot. The brain fills in the brain fills in your knowledge, if you don’t know that there’s a river to the other side of that row of houses, then there isn’t a river.
Tim Fendley (38m 43s):
You’re not aware of it until you’re aware of it.
Jeff Wood (38m 46s):
Now, one of the other interesting things also is the proliferation of a framing of the 15 minute city. You know, mayor Hidalgo in Paris is talking about it. People are talking about it and all of the world is a way to combat climate change. I’m in a time of the pandemic, getting to places where they need to go health care, food, shopping, et cetera, to a certain extent it’s kind of a rebranding almost because they exist. They exist already. They’re just now naming them something to kind of, I guess, kick them off. And so how does that kind of framing that rebranding, that pushed to talk about them more lead to better outcomes?
Tim Fendley (39m 20s):
I think the 12 to 15 minutes City is, is a really natural human form from everything that we’ve read and studied. I think it pops up in a number of urban design texts in different guises. It’s the distance of a walk that you’re willing to do to go for a coffee or meet friends or go shopping or find a transport point. And if you look at London, you can see all these areas in how they bump into each other. And we have an established City like London these 15 minute neighborhoods have got names. It’s the social side of this work where people feel connected to an area.
Tim Fendley (40m 1s):
If somebody asked you a question, where’d you live, you immediately think about the context. So you’re in the U S and if you ask me, where do I live? I’d say Wire lived in London and then you’ve got, and I, I know London and all that. I lived that for 10 years and we were in London. I go, Oh, Clerkenwell, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Clarkenwell whereabouts in Cockwell. Oh, great. Something street. And so that’s human structure. We kind of have these groups to organize things. And the 12, 15 minute neighborhoods is one of those natural human form groups. And what we’ve also realized is that the brain has a grid pattern, but it plots geography on it.
Tim Fendley (40m 41s):
And it has these grip pattern. So this is the latest research that we’ve been reading. It has the grid patterns at different levels at different scales. So there is a grid pattern in your brain that tells you that Mayfair is next to Soho, which is the next two Piccadilly, which is next two, Marilyn, et cetera. They’re is a grid pattern in your brain. That’s an understanding that there’s a relationship with these points. So it’s really paleolithic to have these group sizes or these area zone’s in our modern cities. And I think it’s all part of feeling belonging. If you feel like you live in Clark, Manuel, you feel are more of an afinity to Clark as well.
Tim Fendley (41m 24s):
You’ve got more of a desire to keep Clark and well safe.
Jeff Wood (41m 28s):
What’s your favorite heads up display in the City? Is there one where you are very, you know, its the most interesting or the one that you can relate to the best or maybe one that gives you good feelings and memories?
Tim Fendley (41m 39s):
The favorite one I think is the prototype that we put in outside bond street. When you walk out at the steps at a bond street, two there’s a Legible London with a big map, right? For him to be on the street near the road, bond street is on Oxford street. And if you realize that its about 200 meters away from Bon street junction with the opposite street, which is a pretty nondescript junction. So it’s not a great name of a tube station. We actually observed people are arguing a family arguing about somebody saying this is a bond street and other people saying, no, no, no, no, no. We’re not for street.
Tim Fendley (42m 19s):
Look at Selfridges. So the fact that we put sign there, we allow people to see that bond street was to two meters away. We put an hour at the top saying in bond, Street’s this way. I hope we helped a number of families not have an argument.
Jeff Wood (42m 36s):
Oh that’s good. Are you all working in the Bay area at all?
Tim Fendley (42m 40s):
Yes we are. Yeah. We’ve been working for about four or is it four or five years for Google working with them on their campus? Further down the Bay area. We’ve developing a City system for Seattle. We’ve been working on some ideas for Portland and we’ve also just recently been working on the Salesforce transit center.
Jeff Wood (43m 0s):
That’s a fun one. Yeah. Yeah. We’re we are. I don’t know what to think about the Salesforce transit center. I like the idea. I think it’s interesting. All the problems that’s had in the future will be fun. But I imagine you all are working on trying to figure out how all the crazy amounts of transit agencies that the Bay area has kind of coordinate in that area.
Tim Fendley (43m 22s):
Yeah. When, when we were working on Toronto, we did some international examples and we said here’s an example of a connected system. And it was obviously it was London and some others Zurek and things like this. And then we said, here’s an example of a very disconnected system. And the best example for the most disconnected was, was the Bay area.
Jeff Wood (43m 43s):
That’s something to aspire to, I guess.
Tim Fendley (43m 48s):
Well, it’s interesting about Salesforce is, I mean, I can’t remember the exact budget. It was two or 3 billion, but I think that is symptomatic with a human desire to get into execution without really thinking. What’s the purpose of things. It’s to 3 billion spent on a, an amazing building in a number of uses the ability to grow. I think the, the, the symbol that San Francisco has got a proper transit station is a, in a very modern one is, is a wonderful symbol, but how you use it, how it integrates the different services, if it isn’t necessarily working as well as it could, let me put it that way.
Jeff Wood (44m 27s):
Yeah. That’s a good way to say it. I think we have lots of issues that we’re working on and hopefully they get resolved in some form or fashion. I think your discussion earlier about the politics and how hard it is to reconcile that with our human behavior and how the world actually works is one that’s even more difficult when you have 29 transit agencies. So we’re working on it. We’ll see.
Tim Fendley (44m 49s):
So we’ve got a new study out by spur. There’s a number of different, you know, seamless Bay area, TC. I know you have plans to do things that are, there are other plans. I think it’s called link or whatever. There’s a growing groundswell of how do we fit this together for the benefit of everybody. It’s like 5% people use transit in the Bay area. So it’s 57% in New York. So there’s a, there’s a huge potential. If you look at the transport planning, a future reports, you know, shed transport, self power transport are some of the most important ways to develop a sustainable environments.
Tim Fendley (45m 34s):
Of course we’ll always have vehicles, but you can’t just keep putting more vehicles on the road. Transport carries so much more per square foot of space and energy use. It just makes sense, but people aren’t gonna use it. If it’s too difficult to use, our vision is a transport system that is so unbelievably easy to use. Why wouldn’t you, why wouldn’t it just be one of you in your life today? I’m going to drive because I’m going to carry loads of bags, but tomorrow I’m going to go on the transit system because I get to read a book when I’m doing it. You know, I think I can see that vision. It requires a lot of things to align and it requires the designing of a system that everybody can do agree to.
Tim Fendley (46m 18s):
I think that’s the hardest thing to do.
Jeff Wood (46m 20s):
Yeah. I have to say to friends, if it doesn’t quite work for you, then you shouldn’t have to try so hard to use it. I think that’s the hardest thing is there’s been times when I’ve tried to take transit and the person or people that I was trying to go somewhere with just refused. They said, I’m not gonna do this. I I’ve never been on a bus or train before and I’m not about to start and it’s frustrating, but I can see where they’re coming from. I’m somebody that a quote unquote expert user I’m I’m in it for whatever it is. But you know, we have to make it easier for everybody. And you know, when people go to Paris or London or Singapore or other cities where they, haven’t kind of a, you know, mapped out and everything seems to be seamless, then people come back and rave about it.
Jeff Wood (47m 2s):
But then when they are back here, you get back on Bart after getting off the airplane and you kind of hang your head a little bit. I know I have a couple of times, but yeah, that’s the goal. The goal is to be seamless, to make sure that it’s easier than the alternative and making sure that our brain can get to where they want to go.
Tim Fendley (47m 19s):
So back to that point that I just mentioned, there was a fixation with the hardware is a fixation with tunnels and bridges and billion dollar tickets and that’s needed, you know, w the needs to be more of this heavy infrastructure. But to actually put the, the, the soft infrastructure end is seriously low cost compared to, and seriously high impact. And it, you know, if the Bay area, I could just make sense of the network that is already got it and make it easy to jump from one system to another and build again, get that connection. I think you’d massively improve ridership.
Tim Fendley (47m 60s):
And the attitude of your friends you talked about will be, Oh, I’ve heard somebody went the other day and said it was okay. You know, he said, I have to do it back to that cyclist. He said, I didn’t realize I could cycle. Yeah. You know, the can it’s, the services are necessarily poor. And this has happened in London 20 years ago. You know, only certain types of people went on the bus. Now everybody uses the bus. The bus is in London, carry twice as many people as the tube. You know, they are really well run. The clean. They’re a very busy and they’re very well connected to all of the stations that they stopped off at.
Tim Fendley (48m 41s):
There’s a lot of work done. So come out of the tube station, you can find which part do you want to get two, continue your journey. Your ticketing is just tap on, tap off everywhere. It’s easy. That’s the opposite of that? Uncertainty. How do you tackle them certainty? You make it really easy. The worry is going to run every 10 minutes, every 10 minutes, no matter what time of day it just runs. And nobody looks at the time on the two of you just go down to the platform and wait for the next one. You know, that’s a lot easier than looking on my phone and try to calculate it
Jeff Wood (49m 11s):
For sure. I totally agree. Well Tim where can folks find you online?
Tim Fendley (49m 17s):
A website is Applied information.group. There’s plenty of information about who we are and what we do on there are some of these examples and stats that you’ve said are on their, there’s a, an insights page with all the articles that we’ve been involved with will have obviously a piece where will talk about you, Jeff, as a reference to you. So thank you very much.
Jeff Wood (49m 38s):
Absolutely. Well, Tim, thanks for joining us. We really appreciate it.