There are so many issues on the TTC’s “hierarchy of problems” that questioning the metropass’s design could seem frivolous or even extraneous. People don’t base their decision on buying a pass and taking transit on how good and appealing the actual pass looks — in fact, most people likely decide before they even see it. Yet any good designer will tell you it does matter, and conscientious users — or customers — may have more than a passing opinion on this item they live with for a month. Over at the New York Times City Room blog Sewell Chan wonders if the MTA card needs a makeover. Read the rest here:
More so than any credit card, library card or health insurance card, the MetroCard is the one piece of plastic that most unites New Yorkers. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority distributes 180 million of them — that’s not a typo — every year. The MetroCard is a fixture of anyone’s pocket, wallet or purse, a mainstay for any commuter, and — ever since the last tokens were phased out in 2003 — the only one way to (legally) ride a subway in New York City. And yet, few people spend much time looking at or thinking about the humble, homely MetroCard.
The M.T.A.’s recent decision to raise subway and bus fares got me wondering why all MetroCards all look the same — whether you buy the 7- or 30-day unlimited-card variety or the regular per-per-ride cards. Then I asked myself why the design of the MetroCard hasn’t changed all that much. (Emily Gordon, writing on the design blog A Brief Message, also spurred us to think about this in November.)
In my wallet, I carry not only the MetroCard but the transit cards for Boston and Washington, cities I visit fairly frequently. (Boston’s CharlieCard shows a cartoon commute and refers to the 1948 song made popular by the Kingston Trio. Washington’s SmarTrip card depicts above-ground subway trains whizzing by monuments.) During a vacation in London last year I used that city’s new Oyster card, which has a fairly abstract design with two different shades of blue. (Appropriate for English weather, perhaps.)
Chan went on to interview four design experts on their opinion of the MTA, and his readers shared theirs.
So what do folks think about the TTC Metropasses? The basic design changes each year, so there is some anticipation around the holidays when Torontonians (surely enough to be plural) wonder what the designers up at Davisville have created. This past year the month was spelled out in reflective dots (that do not scan very well) and were an interesting bit of disco-flash from the normally staid TTC. Otherwise, compared to the three U.S. examples above, TTC cards are rather busy with no defining characteristic other than the big A, which is somewhat confusing until you connect it to the “adult” meaning — though people probably feel good just being around an A rather than, say, C or D.
A neat idea would be to print an archival TTC photo on each pass, then they’ll become collector items. So, does pass design matter, and if so, what do you think of our metropass?
Thanks to Spacing reader uskyscraper for the link.