Round Bus Schedule Concept

In the years I’ve been playing with concepts for presenting Charlottetown public transit schedule information (map, mobile, printable, poster, phone), I’ve often wished for a way of presenting schedule information that breaks out of the columnar or tabular “here’s the times it leaves” format.

Recently I’ve been experimenting with a round bus schedule, with hopes that it ups the “at a glance” quotient. There are some significant challenges to such a design, the big one being that there are only 12 hours on a clock face and the transit system day runs for longer that 12 hours.

Here’s an early draft of what I’m thinking about. It captures on a portion of the University Avenue line, showing departure times from Confederation Centre from the first run at 6:45 a.m. and moving around until the 6:10 p.m. run, thus leaving off the last five runs of the day.

It’s by no means perfected – the tick marks on the clock face are too prominent, and I’m not sure I’ve effectively communicated the AM/PM combination (or maybe I’ve communicated it too much?). But I do like its “at a glanceness.”

I welcome suggestions for tweaks, or for completely different takes on the same design challenge.


Derek Martin's picture
Derek Martin on April 20, 2010 - 19:34

I like it, found it easy to get, and I don’t mind the big tick marks. The am/pm line is quite faint on my screen. Perhaps the late runs could go as text in the circle.

Bob Shand's picture
Bob Shand on April 20, 2010 - 20:18

Whoa — that confuses my poor mind. It took me more than a glance to get it.

When I see a circular thing like that I think of a ‘secret’ decoder ring. I could see having the times on the outside, then rotating the centre with holes cut in it, showing the time past the hour. If that makes sense.

Daniel Burka's picture
Daniel Burka on April 20, 2010 - 20:41

Can you explain the impetus for this more coherently? What’s the problem you’re trying to solve? Then we’d have a better chance of gauging the success of this design. “I’ve often wished for a way of presenting schedule information that breaks out of the columnar or tabular format” is fairly vague. What about that format doesn’t work for you?

josh weale's picture
josh weale on April 20, 2010 - 23:46

I like this a lot. There is a logic connected to it that just isn’t there with the columns of times…makes it much more “scannable”. The last five runs of the day do present a problem. AM arrows could be placed inside the circle with PM arrows on the outside, allowing them to overlap. Though you would have to find a way to make the Hour #s on the clock distinct from the outer arrows. And then you would invariably have those guys showing up to work late complaining about how they mixed up the AM arrow with the PM arrows this morning.

Ritchie Simpson's picture
Ritchie Simpson on April 21, 2010 - 12:38

What about using a spiral to mark the passage of the day, so that as the time passes you get closer to the centre; or using different dingbats for AM/PM? Or both?

Dave Cairns's picture
Dave Cairns on April 21, 2010 - 13:22

Since Time is linear, why not use a ‘yardstick’ type of display? This way different lines could have their own ‘line’. Also if you are thinking of displaying the current time it would simply be another line crossing the schedule lines.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 21, 2010 - 15:48

Well I guess you’re an advocate for the “good design solves problems” school then.

The problem I’m trying to solve is this. All of the ways I’ve seen (or created) to display bus schedule times to date have either stacked the times in a column, or run them together in a list:


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Because the frequency of the runs varies over the course of the day, the vertical or horizontal space taken up by each scheduled run doesn’t map to time, so I find myself having to spent a few seconds of scanning the times, then looking at the time before and the time after to get a sense of frequency, and then finally deciding what bus I’m going to take.

It’s as if shoe sizes went 5, 8.5, 10, 11, 17.

What I’m looking for is a design that allows me to map what’s already in my mind – the clock face with the current time – directly on top of the schedule, without the need for concept-translation, so that I can, in one glance, see the buses clustered around that time.

The challenge – and Bob points this out – is that if I depart (as I think I probably have) too much from the accepted notion of what a “bus schedule” looks like, then I’ve introduced a need for more concept-translation, which is a step backwards.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on April 21, 2010 - 16:14

Found a post here pointing to this interesting take on the daily agenda from MUJI, the Chronotebook:

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Seems to be based on a similar notion.


Tim's picture
Tim on April 21, 2010 - 16:34

How about a timeline?

I’ve been working with the Drupal Timeline module. Easy to use. You could create filters for routes or bus stops. I made a quick version here…. This is a visualization of one stop/one route I guess. You have the data to do some pretty easy to use timelines.

Take a look at… for lots of examples. I’m also looking intothe Exhibit module to integrate time/geo/subject metadata.

Nathan's picture
Nathan on April 21, 2010 - 19:17

The single column is awkward since it is an excerpt of a full table. The table, with other bus stops shown, becomes alot more meaningful since it also shows where and when a bus will arrive for each possible departure.

alexander's picture
alexander on May 3, 2010 - 04:33

A vertical timeline would be a little more compact, I think, and could fit in roughly the same format as a standard schedule. It would just have more blank space as the stops start to space out more — something a viewer can process quickly.

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