Street signs for pedestrians will be harmonised across all different departments and walking paths under a new pedestrian wayfinding system, Transit Jam has learned, with a new sign standard to be the major output of a $5.4 million project awarded to Arup earlier this month.
A consultant familiar with the project spoke to Transit Jam on condition of anonymity, and revealed details of the project that the government had kept under wraps.
“Transport Department (TD) doesn’t want a pantomime horse,” said the consultant, spelling out a long list of departments that will unify their pedestrian signage under the two-year consultancy study. “They want to develop clear, legible, consistent, coherent standards throughout the territory.”
Signs employed by, for example, Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Housing Authority, Highways Department, Home Affairs Department and MTR exits will all be based on one consistent design manual, and will likely feature innovations such as Geo-QR codes and near-field communication (NFC) protocols to link to users’ mobile phones.
As well as cross-department standards, the consultant says standards will be unified across many different walking types, including footpaths, walkways, hillside escalators, bridges and pedestrian subways.
While TD had previously employed Transport for London Consulting to develop pilot street signage in Tsim Sha Tsui, the consultant said this new project is likely a “clean sheet”.
“Part of the project is a review, so they’ll be looking at what’s been done, but they have a clean sheet to move forward,” they said.
The Arup team will also be responsible for running a public consultation and for coming up with a name for the wayfinding system.
The end result will be a manual with specifications for street map creation, guidance for creating pedestrian network nodes and links and a strategy for sign clutter reduction, as well as guidance on artworks, structural specifications and assembly methods. The project will also integrate with existing myMap and Lands Department data and other government data sources.
“They’ll be basically bringing it to market,” says the consultant.
The first signage systems will be seen in Central, Sham Shui Po and Tsim Sha Tsui, chosen as three very different districts, and could be in place by the end of 2023.
Only 14 companies were allowed to bid for the project, first announced in April 2020, and all those requesting documents had to sign non-disclosure agreements. But the consultant said that while it looks secretive, there’s nothing nefarious about the system and that the project represented good value for money.
“There’s nothing wrong with this. I don’t think TD are doing a very good job of communicating the job they are doing, it probably comes from some angst – but the project looks good, it looks nice.”
In 2018, Transport for London Consulting developed a pilot wayfinding system for Tsim Sha Tsui, with two monoliths in the style of London’s popular wayfinding “legibles” and five wall-mounted signs to encourage walking. The project cost HK$3 million, TD said at the time, and would be expanded if popular.