A powerful transit brand is derived from the goal of providing seamless connectivity from the ﬁrst mile, all the way to the last mile of a journey.
Based on analysis of all outreach and guiding principles as framework, priorities were established in order to summarize findings and provide a basis for decision making moving forward.
Develop a system that can be understood by new and longstanding riders alike.
Design for accessibility and universality.
Build off what works (retain what is culturally important) but not at the expense of comprehension.
Allow for growth, flexibility over time.
Use terminology and language that speak to riders, not staff.
Why are we recommending calling the Rail Transit Network, SEPTA Metro?
It’s hard to help someone navigate if you can’t tell them what they’re navigating
Not having a name — and as an extension, an identity — is a major contributor to the existing ineffective wayfinding. We are recommending the term “Metro” for a few reasons:
“Metro” is descriptive and functional. It means frequent, convenient rail transit service that can be used for all sorts of trips, all day, at an affordable price.
Having one name, “Metro,” simplifies the way we can all get directions and navigate the frequent transit network. Currently, individuals need to know the line they are meant to take to get directions. Just like we know “Regional Rail,” we now have a simple way to understand the frequent rail transit network.
Allows for single symbol to repeat for system awareness.
“Metro” can be applied to services that are heavy rail, light rail, above ground, below ground and everything in between. To put it simply, we needed a word that made sense if you were on the Market-Frankford Line or the 101 Trolley. Metro makes sense as the solution to reference all our different rail transit services.
It also translates well across languages, most particularly Spanish and Chinese, the second and third most spoken languages in our region.
- Line Name (Short)
Single Letter “Lines”
- Line Badge (Short)
Square symbol with Single Letter and Unique Color
- Line Name (long)
Provides further context about Line and Access (Builds off historic naming equity)
Our selection of colors was deeply influenced by the public’s input. The consistent use of colors within wayfinding can provide a supportive quick visual cue when someone navigates SEPTA.
We’re recommending that orange and blue be kept for the Broad Street Line and Market-Frankford Line because those colors are highly recognized. We’re recommending that green be kept for the Routes 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36 because these trolleys are most commonly associated with the color. Purple will be kept for the Norristown High Speed Line, but we are recommending that the color be used more prominently so the association is strengthened.
Notably, we are recommending that the Media-Sharon Hill Lines have their own color, and that the Route 15 has its own color. This helps differentiate between SEPTA’s three separate trolley systems; and it helps our riders, old and new, tell where a certain trolley goes and where it doesn’t.
Every color has been modified to be brighter and more vivid, reflecting the vibrant and diverse nature of the Philadelphia region. Our inspiration for this aesthetic change is the lively and colorful murals and street art found throughout the city, and the Philadelphia Global Identity Partnership’s efforts to develop a global image for the region that more accurately reflects our strengths. The brighter colors also provide a higher degree of contrast against a black background – our recommended system wide color.
We fully recognize a successful solution needs to solve for those with color vision deficiency. Given this, color is just one visual cue within our consistent visual vocabulary. The layering of letters, shapes, and names is intentional to ensure an accessible, universal solution.
SEPTA’s current icons are inconsistent — sometimes, a route may be shown in a circle, sometimes in a square or rectangle, and sometimes just in plain text. We are recommending that rail lines be shown within a square, while bus lines be shown within a circle. This is already the most common method used within SEPTA communications, but it will now be employed consistently.
Right now, SEPTA Rail Transit lines are either referred to by formal terms (“Market-Frankford Line”) or with numbering, like a bus route (the “Route 11 Trolley”). To help standardize communications network-wide, we are recommending that the same naming system be applied consistently for all lines. This is essential not just for wayfinding, but for making sure riders understand the full extent of the system. Why did we pick letters?
- Simplicity: Letters are short, easy to remember, and easy to repeat.
- Universality: Letters widely understood, regardless of language. Even in communities that don’t use the Latin alphabet, letters are commonly used for wayfinding.
- Accessibility: The consistent use of a letter paired with the line color provides an accessible solution that can be understood by those with limited English proficiency, challenges with literacy, and color vision deficiency. The scale of message that can be achieved through this simple icon also enhances legibility for those with visual impairment.
- Authenticity & Momentum: We want to build off what works, while getting rid of what doesn’t work. Letters can be based on currently used nomenclature – like “B” for Broad Street Line or “L” for Market-Frankford Line – to make the transition easier and retain what makes our system special.
- Flexibility: As SEPTA thinks about the future, using letters for rail lines enables us to anticipate any growth or operational changes in the system.
- Memorability: By identifying lines that share at least a portion of their route by a letter, and by not repeating that same letter for another line, we help people create a “mental map” of the network. Most significantly, the catch-all term, “Trolley” can now be clarified by identifying the three separate routes as individual letters.
Explanation of terminology
Example: Broad Street Line
- Service Pattern
Stop Pattern or Trunk Pattern
- Service Pattern Name (long)
Provides context for Service Pattern
- Service Pattern Badge (Short)
Square Symbol with Letter / Number to Identify Service Patterns within Line increases accessibility to all riders
What does each letter mean?
Using letters instead of numbers allows us to choose abbreviations that build off of currently used nomenclature, instead of starting over. There is reasoning grounded in research and engagement for the choice of every letter, but we also want to hear what you think. Read more:
L: This probably comes as no surprise, but the most common name for the “Market-Frankford Line” is the “El”. This nickname has been around for generations, and it shows no sign of going away, with almost 75% of respondents to our survey using it exclusively. By choosing “L” as the abbreviation, we are formalizing what is already in use – and in speech, most people won’t have to change their terminology at all.
B: This one is easy, “B” means Broad Street Lines.
T: The term “Trolley” is pretty Philadelphian, but it is also most commonly and consistently used for the 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36. However, there is no consensus on how to refer to these great routes that link the western neighborhoods to Center City with a traffic-bypassing tunnel. Subway-Surface Trolleys, “Tunnel Trolleys”, “West Philly Trolleys”, or, if you have a good memory, you can list out the numbers. Now, we can easily refer to them as the “T” lines.
M: for “Montgomery” or “Montco,” the Norristown High-Speed Line links the SEPTA system with Montgomery County’s seat (Norristown) and in the future will connect to its largest employment center (King of Prussia). The problem with this term is that the NHSL is not actually “High Speed” and it’s not recommended to name a line after its destination, because that’s only true in one direction. “M” is a general term that refers to the primary geography served.
D: for “Delaware” or “Delco,” the Media-Sharon Hills lines are located wholly within Delaware County and connect the SEPTA network to the county seat, Media. As with the “M,” we want to move away from naming lines based on a single destination; so “M” or “S” for Media or Sharon Hill are not recommended.
G: for “Girard”, the Route 15 primarily follows one roadway, so like “B” for “Broad Street Line” the reference will help users remember where they can find it.
Adding a number to the letter allows us to talk about different types of “B” trains, or “T” trains, in a consistent and predictable way – not all of them are the same!
Right now, each line has their own way of doing that – think “local,” “express,” “limited,” or “spur” – and this makes learning to use a new line hard. In our research, understanding different services was identified as a particular point of confusion for riders, many of whom reported catching on the wrong train as a common problem. To simplify, a local Broad Street Line train will be labeled the “B1”, with the express “B2”, and the spur “B3.”
The trolleys are a bit different – while the 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36 have typically been thought of as five different lines, we’re going to start talking about them as one line, the T, with 5 different services, the T1, T2, T3, T4, and T5. Same with the 101 and 102, which are one line, the D, with two different services, the D1 and the D2.
New signage will refer to the direction of the train consistently. For example, an eastbound L train will always go to “Frankford” while a westbound train will always go to “69th Street.” Current signage uses these terms now, but sometimes also refers to other stations like “5th Street” or “Allegheny.” Some signs don’t refer to stations at all, saying instead that eastbound trains are going to “Penn’s Landing” or that westbound trains are going to “University City” – terms you can’t find on any SEPTA maps. While a lifelong Philadelphian would understand these references, this sort of inconsistency is very confusing to new riders, who might think that each train is going to a different place altogether. It is even more confusing for people who don’t speak English, who may not understand the meaning of these terms but are just looking for the same word to be repeated to find their way.
In addition to consistent destination terms, we’re proposing to use cardinal directions as a supporting identifier of direction. On the SEPTA network this is relatively easy because most trains head in the same direction without changing (for example, we don’t have any lines shaped like U’s that make cardinal directions confusing). Additionally, Philadelphians already use neighborhood names based on cardinal directions – like “South Philly” or “West Philly” – so many transit riders are already thinking that way.
We recommend that the SEPTA signage use the font Roboto because it is a highly legible font that can be used consistently across all wayfinding tools, whether they are printed maps and announcements, digital displays, or signage. It was important for us to find a font that was open source (which means free to download and use), so that we can ensure it is easily available across all the departments within SEPTA that create these elements. We also wanted something that was unique to Philadelphia, so not a font you see on the transit signage in every other City.
Do all signs need to be in multiple languages to be understood by non-English speakers?
No! The more we rely on a set vocabulary of letters, numbers, colors, symbols, and pictograms, the less translation needs to be done.
There is already an L bus. Won’t that be confusing?
Have you ever tried to ask someone about the L bus and they thought you were talking about the Market-Frankford Line? It happens all the time. As part of Bus Revolution all routes and route numbers will be up for discussion, including the L bus. A potential solution would be to use numbers for buses and letters for rail lines moving forward.
Why are you proposing T1, T2, T3, T4, and T5 replace 10, 11, 13, 34, and 36? Won’t this be a big change?
Yes, it will take some getting used to, but we believe that the new system will allow both new and longstanding riders to take full advantage of our amazing trolley network. During our research we heard a lot of confusion about the differences between our many trolley lines, both in the city and suburbs. By grouping these lines together, we can be clearer about which trolleys run into Center City via the Market Street Subway tunnel, and which trolleys do not.
The current numbers are leftovers from the old citywide streetcar system (along with many of our bus numbers) and they correspond to a network that no longer exists – that’s why the numbers may seem random today. SEPTA is currently redesigning its bus network through the Bus Revolution project, and Trolley Modernization is going to make our trolleys look and run more like trains. There’s never been a better time to think big.
PATCO is an important piece of the regional Metro network. Are you working together on this project?
We are happy to report that SEPTA and PATCO are working together to eliminate the real and perceived barriers between our services. PATCO will be featured with equal weight on our maps and signs for each of the SEPTA Metro lines, and our two agencies are coordinating on the unification of our wayfinding systems to make SEPTA-PATCO trips more seamless.
Why is “15th St/City Hall” being referred to as one complex?
15th Street Station and City Hall Station are actually just one station with different platform areas. Calling them different names is useful for SEPTA employees when we want to be very specific, but from a rider’s perspective it can be confusing. You may remember this article which outlines the problem well.