Giving Puhinui that Human Experience Once Over
On Friday (30 July) I joined my cOlab colleague Rob Mayo with some other interested parties to give the newly operational Puhinui Interchange the “Human Experience” once-over. That is how well was the human experience using Puhinui Interchange (as it is a major interchange between train services and the Airport Link that runs to Manukau and the Airport) was and what lessons can be taken for when the next set of transit interchanges are built either domestically or internationally. Note: this was not a test of my Southern Line and Airport Link journey from Papakura to Manukau via Puhinui; that is on Tuesday when I am back in Manukau for a workshop on the Osterley Way works that have been trialled for the last few months.
It did not take long for my train to get to Puhinui Station even with the crew change at Wiri So at least I know my trip can be quicker than using the Great South Road or Southern Motorway as it currently stands. Once I got to Puhinui I got off and started my once-over of the station. The objective is simple: how easily can I with bags make my way to the Airport Link and vice versa without getting lost. The answer? Scroll further down.
I will post all my photos here as a slide show for you to look at yourself so you can see what I saw:
The verdict is: Station looks great physically; human experience and human geographies wise? A lot of room for improvement at Puhinui with the lessons learned from Puhinui to be applied elsewhere on the network.
Straight away I saw more than one passenger asking for directions to either:
- To the Airport Link OR to the trains from the Airport Link
- Which stop for Manukau or the Airport
- Where are the toilets
- How do I get up there with the pram aka where is a lift
- Where is the coffee cart?
What makes it more “fun” was it was me being stopped more than once and getting asked either of the five questions while myself was certainly having fun with Number 3 given I needed to use to loo (it is a 180 pivot to your right from the escalators or stairs to the loos),
For the above to happen straight away is not a good Human Experience at all – not right off the bat with a brand new interchange as well. So I went looking around to see why those five questions were being asked and the reasons were pretty universal:
- Inconsistent messaging
- Missing messaging
- Inconsistent iconography
- Missing iconography
- Incorrect message format
Inconsistent messaging is often a big reason people get lost making the human experience sub optimal. Puhinui got referred to as: Puhinui, Puhinui Interchange and Puhinui Station. The correct term is just simply Puhinui with the icons showing bus, train and airplane. Otahuhu and Manukau operate on the single name with its plinths with Manukau Bus Station carrying that name to Manukau (rail) Station to allow delination purposes (as Manukau allows bus to bus transfers without touching the trains where as Puhinui does not).
Also as you see on the picture above the Te Reo and English versions of Airport Link Bus are on the same line. Internationally that is a no, as the bold is interpreted as a destination especially to visitors. If dual languages are used it is always: the indigenous language on top, English underneath, and the international standard icons to the left or right. The only thing in bold is either a major destination or the Exit.
Lack of wayfinding was also apparent with me wondering where the lifts and even the escalators were and if they would be suitable for large bags that one might have behind on their way to the Airport. As for the loos? Well then I hope you were not busting to go….
This is a big one for me – even more so than finding a loo; that is which platform for the To Airport or To Manukau services. You will notice the trains have which Platform but the buses do not. This can lead to major confusion and was a major part of passengers asking which stop to use. This is very critical for bus to bus interchanges as well as multi-modal changes.
Where is the loo?
I should not need to come up the stairs or escalator and go where in hell is the loo before transferring to my next service. An overhead bar sign at the top of the escalator should point: Loos 180 turn to the right, exit to the Airport Link to the left, Customer Service to the left, while on the reverse a sign pointing to the trains and what the next two services are.
The Network Map is the correct version with the Airport Link showing both to the Airport and Manukau. Problem? The rail platforms and trains do not show the Airport Link to Manukau meaning confusion for anyone wanting to either use the bus to Manukau or backtrack along the Eastern Line to Manukau. Messaging needs to be consistent. Also note the name again Puhinui Station where it should be just Puhinui for the entire complex or Puhinui Interchange if you must.
There were other lessons to be learnts like the Aircraft icon not matching the same way as the arrow (the nose of the aircraft always points the same direction as the directional arrow for consistency) and different colours used for the same icon rather than the same universal colour.
Overall the Station is very nice physically (so a monolith) but the human experience and human geographies were again missing in action.
Lots to take away from Puhinui with hopefully the lessons learned from the Once Over being seen at other projects like the Eastern Busway, Airport to Botany Stage 2, North West Bus Improvements, Northern Busway extensions, and Westgate Interchange. Also from those lessons learned the manual needs to be reviewed and reformatted so the messaging and iconography is standardised, universal and puts the human experience above the looks of the physical monolith.
Because in the end those five constant questions mentioned above should be a rarity not the norm…