1 Introduction

As one of the most important key nodes in public transit network, bus stop is the basic infrastructure that helps passenger riding along bus routes [1, 2], and also bears the responsibility of transferring with pedestrians (including bike riders) and other transportations. In addition, the bus transportation has more choices in setting bus stops and lines. The density of bus transportation network is much higher than the density of urban rail transit network (see Table 1). As a result, the riding information that different kinds of signs (for example, bus stop board, neighborhood map and bus operating diagram, etc.) set at bus stops covers a much wider effective radiation range and influences more people. The information service level of bus stops has direct influence on passenger satisfaction both for bus services, and for the entirety city transportation.

Table 1. Station numbers of bus and urban transit of major cities in China*

The bus travelling information often conveys to passengers and pedestrians by various public transportation signs, e.g. bus stop board, neighborhood map and bus operating diagram, which combined by graphical symbols, text, numeral and color. Public transportation signs are the essential public information communication system that guides passengers travelling safe, well ordered [3].

1.1 Public Transportation Signs

The construction of bus stops in China, take Beijing as an example, the public transportation signs used at bus stops are two kinds: bus stop board and city map (see Fig. 1), they are often centralized set, that is, the majority travelling information in passengers’ needs are provided by bus stop boards. The advantages of centralized setting are easy to read without searching. But the disadvantages are also obvious. First, it does not fit well with the changed bus lines and bus services. In 2014, the reform of bus fare and subway fare were launched in Beijing, 40234 bus stop boards needed to be changed [4], a lot of manpower and material resources were cost as only one piece of price information should be changed. Second, the bus boards’ setting positions are easy to become the localized congestion points and impede passengers boarding or alighting.

Fig. 1.
figure 1

Photos of bus stops

The public transportation signs used at abroad bus stops are various: circuit board, current station sign, bus stop board, neighborhood map, bus operating diagram and bus operating time table (see Fig. 1). Those signs are modularized designed and set, that is, according to the needs of observing in far or close distance, they are set at different positions. As the bus stops are divided into multiple information release spaces, the advantages of modularized design are easy to change information carried, easy to be read. But the disadvantage is that passengers need to find information that set at different position. They can’t obtain information at one point.

The current Chinese national standard [5] only specifies one kind of bus transportation signs — bus stop board, while does not mention others. Moreover, the design patterns specified haven’t widely used in various regions. As results, the bus transportation signs used are various; information carried can’t meet passengers’ needs, the design patterns are inconsistent. Extracting the information of bus stops carried, classifying the information in terms of passengers’ needs, we can arrange the information appropriately according to the degree of association and passengers’ interests when making the plan of bus stops. It can facilitate passengers’ travelling, also ease the bus stop congestion, and improve the service level of bus transportation.

The current studies on bus transportation signs often focus on the existing problems of the bus stop boards’ design and improvement. In Chen [6] opinion, there are four main problems in the design of bus stop boards, e.g. unable to identify one-way or two-way lines, unable to find the bus stop position on the opposite side of the street, lack the transfer information, and lack the direction of the bus routing in the city. He also comes up with suggestions on design principles and methods. Wang [7] analyses the common visual elements used in bus transportation signs design, e.g. graphical symbol, diagram, text and color. He proposes the specifications in design the visual interface of bus transportation signs.

1.2 Kano Model

Sun [8] investigated the bus stop boards at Haidian District in Beijing using small sample size and found passengers unsatisfied with Beijing bus transportation signs. He summarizes existing five main problems. Ding et al. [9] conducted a survey on bus stop boards in Shanghai. The survey includes 12 aspects related with design and reading effect, e.g. color scheme, legibility, font size and Information comprehensive. They propose improvement of bus stop boards design based on survey results. But current studies do not analysis the attributes of bus riding information.

In his model, Kano et al. [10] distinguish five types of product or service quality attributes according to their objective performance and the feeling of users. The five quality attributes are must-be, one-dimensional, attractive, indifferent and reverse attributes.

Since 1984, Kano model is widely used in the management of various fields, e.g. hotel business (Chang and Chen [11]), commercial bank (Chen and Kuo [12]), stationery industry (Chen et al. [13]), the Internet Protocol Television industry (Jan et al. [14]), people management (Martensen and Gronholdt [15]), product development (Matzler and Hinterhuber [16]), and international airlines (Shahin and Zairi [17]). But, seldom studies use Kano model in the design of public transportation signage system.

In order to provide qualitative and quantitative suggestions for design and setting bus transportation signs, this paper analyses the common bus riding information at bus stops using Kano model, categories them into different information attributes, and then comes up with improvement technical suggestions. It would help to improve the information communication effect of bus stops, raise the efficiency of passengers boarding or alighting, and create a convenient and safe riding environment by using standardized designed and set bus transportation signs.

2 Methods

This paper aimed to improve the design of bus stops’ signs in Beijing. Firstly, The passenger satisfaction for common signs at bus facilities was surveyed and analyzed by using questionnaires. Secondly, those signs that scored highly unsatisfied were picked out. The riding information carried by those signs and in urgent need were analyzed and categorized by using Kano’s model. Finally, based on the possible improve aspects analyzed and good practices around the world, a new design of Beijing bus stop was provided.

2.1 Passenger Satisfaction Survey

Based on the field investigation of Beijing bus transportation signs, this paper conducts passenger satisfaction survey on bus transportation signs. The primary objective of the survey was to provide BMCT (Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport) with a means to identify passengers’ concerns on bus signs. Seven kinds of signs which commonly used at bus facilities were surveyed, for example bus stop board, bus operating diagram, neighborhood map, vehicle sign, safety sign, price sign and accessible sign etc.


This survey conducted from May to August 2014. A total of 558 questionnaires are collected, among which there are 549 valid questionnaires. The ratio of men to women was 56.5:43.5. Regarding the age distribution of the participants, those under the age of 25 was 25.5 %, those between 26 and 45 accounted for 50.8 %, those between 46 and 65 accounted for 20.9 %, while those over the age of 65 accounted for 2.7 %. Regarding the education level distribution, those under the education level of senior high school or technical secondary school was 9.1 %, those with undergraduate education level was 59.75 %, while those over the education level of Master degree was 9.65 %.

Questionnaire Preparation and Analysis.

The questionnaire included two parts, respondent self-report part, and test part. In the respondent’s self-report part, the following personal data was collected: age, sex, education level and riding frequency. There were 7 multiple-choice questions and 1 open question in the test part. The multiple-choice questions investigated passenger satisfaction on bus transportation signs that set at transport facilities (e.g. origin-terminal station, bus stop, bus vehicle). The open question collected respondents’ ideas about existing problems and improvement suggestions.

From the result of the survey, three kinds of signs were scored highly unsatisfied. They were: bus operating diagram 58.11 %, bus stop board 44.99 %, neighborhood map 36.98 %. Passengers’ urgent needs were: time of next bus, transfer with other transportations.

2.2 Kano Questionnaire Survey

Based on the result of passenger satisfaction survey, this paper chose the normal setting place of the three highly unsatisfied signs, made extended analysis on the riding information of the place, and then using Kano model to classify the information attributes. As the three highly unsatisfied signs are normally set at bus stops, we use Kano model to analysis the bus stop’s riding information and the information attributes.


The Kano questionnaire survey conducted from March to May 2015. 400 volunteers participated in the survey, 353 valid questionnaires were collected. The invalid questionnaires were those incomplete, or the number of R/Q category answers over 2. The total valid percent was 88.25 %. The ratio of men to women was 61.5:38.5. Regarding the age distribution of the respondents, those under the age of 18 were 5, those between 19 and 44 were 241, and those between 45 and 59 were 79, while those over 60 were 28. Regarding the education level distribution, those under the education level of middle school was 2.5 %, those with senior high school or technical secondary school was 9.3 %, those with junior college was 22.1 %, those with undergraduate education level was 51.1 %, while those over the education level of Master degree was 15 %.

Questionnaire Preparation and Analysis Method.

According to Kano model, 13 riding information were included in the questionnaire, those information were mainly selected from three unsatisfied signs (bus operating diagram, bus stop board, neighborhood map), other common used signs and passengers’ urgent needs. The questionnaire was formulated by questions in pair to which volunteers can answer in one of five different ways. By combining the two answers in the Kano evaluation table, the riding information can be classified. The functional form of the question was to collect volunteers’ attitude when one specific information was provide at bus stop; while the dysfunctional form of the question was to collect volunteers’ attitude when one specific information was not provide at bus stop. A sample-paired question for “Number of bus route” was given in Table 2. For the functional form and dysfunctional form of each information, there were 5 × 5 possible answers. And the combination of the questions in the evaluation table produces six different category A, O, M, I, R, Q (see Table 3) (Matzler and Hinterhuber [16]).

Table 2. Functional and dysfunctional questions for “Number of bus route”
Table 3. Kano evaluation table

3 Result Analysis

The questionnaire is evaluated using the Kano evaluation table in Table 3. Combine two paired answers to the functional and dysfunctional questions in the Table 3. And the attributes of 13 riding information can be gained according to the frequency of answers (see Table 4). In Table 4, there were six must-be information, one one-dimensional information, three attractive information and three indifferent information. Furthermore, SI/DSI were calculated using the formula of Matzler and Hinterhuber [16]. A SI/DSI sensitivity matrix was drawn (see Fig. 2). The three riding information, i.e. Time of next bus, Neighborhood map, and Bus operating diagram, marked as attractive category, were in full accord with the passenger satisfaction survey.

Table 4. Kano result table
Fig. 2.
figure 2

SI/DSI sensitivity matrix

4 Discussion

4.1 Riding Information Attributes and the Design of Signs

Limited by road environment, the spaces of bus facilities are narrow. Based on the result of Kano questionnaire, when designing the bus transportation signs, we should arrange riding information rationally, i.e., the important information should be arranged at outstanding positions in the sign board, to ease passengers’ difficulties in reading and comprehension.

Attractive information, one-dimensional information, and must-be information can improve passenger satisfaction highly. Those three attributes should be presented at positions with visual dominance by using bigger font size, significant contrast color. Indifferent information doesn’t much concern passengers at all, but it needs to be informed in bus operation. This attribute should be presented at unimportant positions with smaller font size.

4.2 Riding Information Attribute and the Setting of Signs

When setting the bus transportation signs, factors like information attribute, available positions, and observation distance should be taken into consideration. A vertical, stratified arranged bus transportation signage system could be constructed by presenting information at suitable positions and appropriate heights.

Attractive riding information can improve passenger satisfaction significantly, such information should be set at outstanding positions of bus stops, e.g. at the top of bus shelter, or at the back plate of bus shelter, as individual sign as possible.

One-dimensional information is linearly correlated to passenger satisfaction; such information should be integrated with other information as key information.

Must-be information is to meet the basic need when passenger travelling. If this attribute is overlooked, passengers will feel quite dissatisfied. It is essential to extract and integrate the “common factor” information, like price, which content is the same in different bus stops, and then present this kind of information at one position to save bus stop space and reduce maintenance cost.

Indifferent information is not the main passenger need; such information should be integrated with other information as auxiliary information.

Based on the above discussion, a new design and setting plan (see Fig. 3) for Beijing bus transportation signage system has been proposed and included in the Beijing local standard DB11/T 657.3 “Public transportation signs for passengers — Part3: trolley and bus”.

Fig. 3.
figure 3

Modularized bus stop design

5 Conclusion

If one has investigated and studied comprehensively into the need of bus service and the characteristics of bus operation, the Kano model can give an accurate judgment on bus stop riding information service improvement: guarantee providing all Must-be information (e.g. Number of bus route, Name of Origin and Terminal stop, Time of first and last bus), improve actively the one-dimension information (Transfer), outstand those attractive information and SI > 0.5 information, that is, set those information at the top of bus shelter, or, set in large format.