Public transport information is essential for customers. Here guidance is provided on: types of information, location of and audience for information, making information easily readable, bus stop information sign (‘bus stop flag’), electronic information displays, and wayfinding.

Public transport information is essential for customers. Information provision can:

  • help potential customers to determine whether public transport is a viable option for their intended journey
  • help customers successfully undertake their trips
  • reassure customers about when their service will show up and where it will take them.

Information is useful for people taking unfamiliar journeys, which may be associated with anxiety.

Types of information

In general, the type of information to provide users includes:

  • signs at bus stops, including a bus stop sign (RP5 sign) and a bus stop information sign (also known as a bus stop flag).
  • timetable information, including bus stop number, local authority contact details and links to the local authority’s website and apps
  • a fare zone map
  • information on the schedule of services that operate from the stop or within the local area during the weekday and weekend
  • a diagram showing service routes and the location of the specific bus stop relative to the whole route
  • signage related to active modes to increase awareness of active transport to and from public transport
  • static or digital signage, although real-time arrival information is recommended as it:
    • reassures prospective passengers about the arrival time of their service
    • raises the profile of public transport as a travel option
    • may improve passengers’ perceptions about the reliability of services.

Location of and audience for information

Provision of information at a bus stop should carefully consider location and audience.

Place signage so it is intuitive and easy to find. Ideally, it should be visible to people waiting in shelters, but it must not block sight lines between bus drivers and waiting passengers. It is beneficial to locate the sign so passengers are facing the direction of the oncoming bus as they view the sign, particularly with real-time arrival information.

Present information so it is clear for a person unfamiliar with the area such as visitors and newcomers. Consider access needs such as audible assistance and braille (see the figure below).

Signage showing bus stop number in digits and braille. Source: Flow Transportation Specialists.

Making information easily readable

Following a robust accessibility approach will ensure good outcomes for all travellers, including disabled people. It is good practice to:

  • engage with the disability sector to review proposed bus stop designs
  • obtain a review of designs by disability groups like Blind Low Vision NZ and People First Aotearoa
  • adjust designs based on feedback (for example, increase font sizes and improve legibility of maps)
  • test signage with an external tester before and after information and signage are installed.

The table in the summary of signs and markings by bus stop classification above summarises the type of signage recommended for each type of bus stop and whether the component is essential, recommended or optional. Where items marked essential are not legislative requirements, departures should be approved by the relevant road controlling authority and public transport authority. More details are below the table.

Table: Overview of stop-specific information by bus stop type

Download overview of stop-specific information by bus stop type [PDF, 218 KB]

Bus stop information sign (‘bus stop flag’)

A bus stop information sign, known as a bus stop flag, shows stop-specific information (for example, the bus stop number, bus stop name, timetable direction of travel, and routes that use the stop). Where possible, mounted this sign on the same pole as the RP-5 (see the figures below).

Signs should be at least 1m from the kerb face and must be mounted perpendicular to the kerb.

At stops in town centres and central business districts, the information sign may take the form of a double-sided plinth, which must be clear of both the pedestrian through path and from the doors of a stopped bus.

Bus stop information sign and RP-5 mounted on a same pole. (Source: Auckland Transport)

Timetable information mounted on the bus stop information sign. (Source: Mark Edwards)

Electronic information displays

Electronic information displays (or real-time information) at bus stops are used primarily to give customers up-to-the minute information about when a bus is due to arrive at the stop. They can also provide the public with messages advising of planned service changes or major service disruptions, enabling customers to change their travel plans if necessary.

Real-time information displays are preferable to static displays. Some research[1] indicates that real-time information wait estimates are more than twice as close to actual wait times than timetables alone while perceptions of wait time may be reduced by the presence of real-time information.

Real-time information signs can be installed as stand-alone items (see the figure below) or integrated in bus stop shelters.

Standalone real-time sign mounted on pole. (Source: Metlink)

The figure below is a real-time sign integrated into a shelter. These signs should be accompanied with an audio button to cater for vision-impaired passengers.

Real-time sign incorporated into a shelter. (Source: Flow Transportation Specialists)

Some installations of real-time displays have been problematic and costly in New Zealand, especially relating to issues such as power supply connections, reliability, and overall cost to operate.

More recent technology developments such as various ‘e-paper displays’ generally offer lower power solutions, including solar solutions, with cloud-based connections making the whole connection task much easier and often cheaper to supply and install (the figures below).

Vandalism is also an issue where display signs are at a reachable height. Consider surveillance and maintenance when considering installing such signs.

When deciding where to provide electronic passenger information displays, give priority to bus stops:

  • on major bus routes
  • that cater for transfers
  • near major trip generators such as shopping centres and education facilities
  • near transport interchanges such as train stations and ferry terminals.

Prioritising these locations will offer more use of the resources per dollar spent, but real-time information is also appreciated by customers on lower-frequency routes where the cost of not knowing when your bus is arriving may be long wait times (for example, 30 minutes). In these locations, if real-time information displays cannot be financially justified, provide signage informing passengers of other ways to obtain real-time information such as phone numbers they can call or text and addresses of apps or websites they can use.

‘E-paper’ real time information display. (Source: Papercast)

‘E-paper’ timetable at Auckland Airport. (Source: Radiola Land)


Wayfinding is an important element of safety and security by preventing passengers from getting lost and providing confidence that the route continues to the intended destination.

A good wayfinding system:[2]

  • has an environment that is, to as great a degree as possible, self-explaining
  • is recognisable and consistent
  • is backed by plentiful on-the-ground research
  • is functional, accessible, seamless and interesting to a wide and varied audience
  • breaks complexity into a series of connected stages and well-defined routes that are easy to navigate
  • has good signage placement – signs stand out and can be seen from any angle or distance
  • enables anyone to reach their destination easily and quickly, by providing relevant cues and information
  • does not clutter the urban landscape – it is simple and concise, providing just the right amount of information
  • has maps and directories in public places that give a bird’s eye view of the environment for people to study before their journey.

Consider wayfinding for all bus stop locations and, if possible, integrate it with local street mapping displays and facilities (for example, integrate wayfinding maps and local area maps to assist with journeys outside the bus stop area.)

When developing wayfinding tools consider:

  • the orientation of the map (‘heads up’ mapping)
  • showing 500m or 10-minute ‘walking catchment’ circles around the maps to show the scale of the environment around stops or stations.

Develop public transport network maps to favour legibility, but remember this can skew distances. Therefore, consider the purpose of map thoroughly in its development to reach the right balance.

See the examples of wayfinding information at bus stops in the figure below.

Wayfinding information at unstaffed bus stops and interchanges. (Source: Auckland Transport)


[1] O Cats & G Loutos. 2016. Real-time bus arrival information system: An empirical evaluation’, Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems 20(2), 138–151. DOI: 10.1080/15472450.2015.1011638(external link)

[2] The key elements of a good wayfinding system are adapted from O Cats & G Loutos. 2016. Real-time bus arrival information system: An empirical evaluation’, Journal of Intelligent Transportation Systems 20(2), 138–151. DOI: 10.1080/15472450.2015.1011638(external link)