Cleveland and its visitor's bureau are working on a Seamless Cleveland wayfinding system that will connect the city's great destinations by foot, bike, bus, trolley and train.
“Cleveland offers so much, but hides it very well,” observes Applied Wayfinding Information Design, the firm behind Legible London, a system that has encouraged walking and other options to driving. “The first impression of empty lots suggest nothing is going on.”
It took the firm only six months to deploy a simple but effective (evidenced by visitors walking 62 percent more) system in London using signs, maps and mobile apps that draw on the experience of discovery at a walkers pace.
Images of the London system and Applied’s recent study of Cleveland reveal that, as Helen Mirren says in Gosford Park, anticipating your guest’s needs makes it the perfect servant.
Clear, well-placed information and some changes to the built environment—like the promised conversion of Ontario Avenue through Public Square into a green space—will reveal Cleveland’s “secrets,” promises Applied.
They produced “Seamless Cleveland: A wayfinding master plan” for Positively Cleveland and the city. The 45-page document shares impressions as a visitor navigating from Hopkins Airport to downtown and to destinations like the lakefront, University Circle and Tremont on foot, bike, bus, trolley, and train.
“The sense that Cleveland is small and difficult to access is compounded by physical barriers such as the Memorial Shoreway, Cuyahoga River and the now desolate Millionaire’s Row,” they note.
Visitors can easily miss hot spots like East Fourth Street and The Rock Hall which are a stone’s throw away from Public Square, they add.
They suggest better signs—in front of Terminal Tower marking it as the city’s central transit hub or on the HealthLine station at Public Square noting that the art museum is a short ride away. Digital Kiosks in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art and at Public Square would point the way downtown on the HealthLine or across the Mall to The Rock Hall.
All of Cleveland’s major destinations are connected by an easy walk, bike or transit ride, Applied points out. An effective wayfinding system thinks of the entire city as connected (when cities define districts, they set up artificial boundaries that don’t serve visitors well). For example, the city's current bikeway signs could be retrofit with destination markers.
The point from “Seamless Cleveland” may be that Cleveland should anticipate that many travelers come from big cities, and do not expect to get in a car from the airport or when downtown.
Applied’s sketches of where to place signs point out how we’ve missed the obvious places—like Hopkins’ main concourse directing visitors to Public Square and University Circle via the Rapid. Or at parking lots downtown that are at pedestrian scale. Legible London’s maps simplify information, including the crosswalks, entry ways, public spaces and key spots within walking distance.
Sometimes, less is more; a lesson lost on cities, transit agencies, and specialty groups who work in silos on their own signage and “wayfinding” systems, Applied says.
Two “use cases” in the study are effective at illustrating how the system works. In one, a business traveler is cued by a sign at the airport to ride the Rapid downtown, and to load a mobile app which shows her that walking to her meeting at the Med Mart and then to dinner at E. 4th are easy. A family in for the Browns game is handed a map at the hotel where dad also loads the mobile app. They walk to the Hard Rock Cafe and then hop on the C-Line trolly back. The experience encourages them to walk to the stadium.
Making obvious and seamless the Cleveland experience is a good goal. It is encouraging that the consultant also sees transit lines as an under performer here, and encourages more visibility and marketing of the assets within easy reach on a train or bus like W. 25th Street, Gordon Square and Shaker Square. It is conceivable that a Seamless Cleveland system include in its mobile app destinations bike and walking distance from all major stops of RTA (i.e. from the W. 117th Rapid station).
The list of local backers of the plan filled a page. Applied points out that the seamless system with a single-source of data, maps and imagery can only happen if they collaborate.
Downtown Cleveland Alliance partnered on the study and is also doing some planning work to make Cleveland more walk and bike friendly with its Step Up Downtown initiative.