Seamless Seattle Pedestrian Wayfinding Program

Overview

Seamless Seattle is the City of Seattle's new standard for pedestrian wayfinding.

An example of a pedestrian wayfinding map with a dark base An example of a pedestrian wayfinding map of Seattle with a light background

Four pillars underpin the Seamless Seattle wayfinding strategy:

  1. Modal Integration: Walking information deployed in stations, stops and interchanges, and integrated digital tools, that will connect transit modes to each other and last mile walking journeys.
  2. Local Distinctiveness: Development of a single, agreed city-wide wayfinding standard that will provide a consistent information layer, while allowing for local content, and potentially local design distinctiveness for historic landmark neighborhoods.
  3. Design for All: Development of planning rules to prioritize safe and accessible walking routes, prioritization of content to support people with greater needs and system design guided by strong inclusive design principles establishing accessibility of information for all.
  4. Systemization: Design standards with a high degree of commonality for planning and system design, to guide deployment of all city wayfinding. Supported by a back-of-house Content Management System run by the city and/or its partners to ensure system integrity.

Key Design Features

We incorporated the following key design features in this phase of work:

  • Heads up mapping on street signs to help the user to quickly orient themselves in reference to their immediate surroundings.
  • Pilot integration with King County Metro and Sound Transit to provide a more seamless customer experience.
  • Integration of illustrations, slope information, accessible entrances to transit, and publicly accessible through building Hillclimb assists to meet the needs of the widest range of users.
  • Use of proper contrast for legibility, optimization for color blindness, large type sizes, careful balance of content, and simplification of complex topography for accessibility.
  • Integration of braille and tactile panels providing orientation information on all signs.
  • Integration of non-English languages in specific areas.
  • Recognizable product design, tested through rapid prototyping, predictably deployed across different areas to maximize system legibility so users know where to go for information.
  • Careful design adaptations to respond to historic landmarked areas without reducing overall system legibility. 

What's Happening Now?

The planning and design phases are complete. We are now working to deploy the first phase of Seamless Seattle signs at Westlake Hub and Jackson Hub in 2020. Signs will be installed on sidewalks, inside Link stations, and at select bus stops in the pilot areas. After installation, the system of information will be evaluated to inform refinements to the design standard. If you would like more information about the visual design standards, please email wayfinding@seattle.gov.

Core Sign Family

Illustrations of the different pedestrian wayfinding signage

The Anatomy of Wayfinding in Seattle

An illustration of the various components of the wayfinding anatomy in Seattle with their description. These can be found below.

Area sign: Located at major junctions, on key routes, and in busy areas, area signs help people make decisions about their onward journey. They include area maps to allow people to find places, orient themselves, and replan their journey. 

Linear area sign: a specialist area sign, these support neighborhoods or character areas where destinations and movement are predominately arranged linearly, such as waterfront areas and trails.

Bus/street car shelter: local bus stops are supported by a local area map. 

Bus flag area map/marker: located on the bus flag, a vicinity map can have specific information about transit modes in the locality.

In station: Local area map allowing onward planning. Includes locations of local service bus stops. 

Overview sign: located at stations, transit nodes, and major parking lots, they are often the first points of contact people have with on-street guidance information within the city. 

Nudge sign: Located at decision points where people require binary decision-making about their onward direction.

Interpretive sign: Located at viewpoints, monuments, parks and open spaces, as well as commercial, cultural, historical, and sporting venues, where information will enrich people's experience of that place.

Public art: Designed and located in consultation with local communities, public art supports wayfinding in two ways: they help legibility of place - "I know where I am" - and they provide a language for people to use in describing their journeys - "Turn right at the Squiggle." 

Site-specific overview sign: Located at the threshold of monuments, parks, open spaces, and similar venues, they provide overview information, including mapping, activity areas, events, and operational information. They can also allow for more detailed story or history telling.

Route marker: Located at entrances to public routes through buildings, either on the building or freestanding in the right-of-way. These signs support and encourage the use of these step-free hillclimbs and routes.

Sidewalk medallion: Located on the sidewalk, these provide qualitative information about routes such as "Steep route/Alternative Route 200 feet this way." 

Place ID marker: located at the threshold of significant places, they identify the name of the place and can act as a meeting point for people.

Moving Towards a User-Oriented Approach

User-oriented wayfinding is provided seamlessly, without friction, across all modes, agencies and publications. Every change of mode, environment or media is effortless for the user, and information is founded on a consistent system architecture, visual identity and predictability. This requires an agreement by all wayfinding providers to collaborate and work with a single set of elements and rules to develop consistency for people at all touch points.

We are collaborating closely with our agency and community partners on the Phase 1 pilot installation at Westlake Hub and Jackson Hub. A user-evaluation of these signs will inform refinements to the design standards for future city roll-out through City, agency, and other partner projects.  

A graphic example of how user-oriented wayfinding works.

Community Engagement

Community members taking part in a public engagement session. Public engagement with a rapid prototype and user testing.

Throughout the project, public and stakeholder input was gathered using the following methods: 

  • 1 User Intercept Survey (40 respondents)
  • 3 End User Focus Groups
  • 3 End User Reference Panel Charrettes
  • 1 Chinatown International District Community Conversation
  • 2 Pilot Site Working Groups
  • Stakeholder Working Groups:
    • 4 Finance, Asset Management & Governance meetings,
    • 4 Product Design, Visual Design & Accessibility meetings,
    • 4 Digital Strategy meetings,
    • 4 Implementation Planning meetings
  • 6 Governance Stakeholder Interviews
  • Briefings to various Boards and Commissions
  • 3 Meetings with local Business Improvement Areas and Local Improvement Districts: Alliance for Pioneer Square, Waterfront Seattle, and Downtown Seattle Association.
  • Rapid Prototyping and User Testing at various locations

In total over 200 people were part of this engagement process. A report summarizing what we heard in these conversations is available below, titled the Engagement Summary.

Participants taking part of an engagement meeting.

Why pedestrian wayfinding?

To meet its growth and transportation aims, the City of Seattle has committed to increasing the percentage of trips made by walking to 35% by 2035. To achieve this ambitious aim, the City prepared a Pedestrian Master Plan in June 2017 that included a strategy to develop a coordinated wayfinding system (Strategy 5.2).

Wayfinding would not only make walking a simpler choice for many journeys, it would also help connect other transportation services that rely on pedestrian access. By increasing the awareness of walking as an option and the confidence that a walking journey will be supported, a wayfinding project is expected to help improve the walkability and accessibility of Seattle.

More people choosing to walk is not only good for people's health and the environment, it is an important option for managing transportation demands, especially during the current period of growth and change.

People conversing in an engagement session. Users studying a prototype wayfinding signage.