Posted by Michel on 01.12.2009

Maps by AIG London for Legible Bristol

Maps by AIG London for Legible Bristol

By Michel Verheem

According to urban management expert Professor Nicolas Low, Melbourne could turn into a transport chaos by 2030 if the government doesn’t change its planning tactics. Just building more motorways is not the answer.

“Melbourne needs an integrated transport plan, with rapid trams to shopping centres, pedestrian shopping streets, buses timed to meet trains, frequent and reliable modern trains with simple timetables, a network of quality bike paths connecting with rail stations. That’s the future the government wants and the public wants”.

At ID/Lab we strongly believe in sustainable transport. None of the staff here drives to work; we either cycle, train or tram.  One of the keys to better sustainable transport is providing people with better, and more local information. How can we get people to understand that they can easily walk to the shops, or that there is a nice park with BBQ facilities just a few streets down.

In the UK, the Legible City concept is very popular: Legible Cities is about improving and integrating the user interface between a city’s urban structure (its composing elements – land use, urban fabric, movement systems, streets and spaces) and its overlaying marketing, wayfinding and information systems. A key lesson from the places where the concept has been implemented is that cities will be more competitive and successful if the overlaying systems represent or mirror an accurate image and ‘mental map’ of the city, and if the information products and services are designed to reinforce the identity of the city itself.

The common thread to each of the projects is that they are ‘people’ and ‘place’ centred, considering the totality of the user experience at the outset, enabling the development of locally relevant and distinctive projects, and providing information about one’s local and adjoining communities in such a way that people understand that walking, cycling or public transport use is possible and rewarding. Possible outcomes are wayfinding signage, websites, printed information, hand-held applications, etcetera.

It seems to us that in (greater) Melbourne –as in all of the larger metropolitan centres– all of this is approached in a rather ‘ad-hoc’ manner, with individual councils developing systems ‘in splendid isolation’. A point in case is the discrepancy between the information (signage) that is being used in the Melbourne CBD and in the Docklands – there is no connection between the two (in fact, there seems to be little connection between the City and the Docklands overall……).

We are working with a number of organisations to look at the opportunity to develop similar paradigms here in Australia – and we can’t wait to implement them!