One of the most important issues for urban mobility systems to reach their purpose of providing users with mobility and accessibility is the information provided to them about the services offered (Filipe and Macário, 2006). In the specific case of public transport the provision of information is critical not only to the ones that are already used with it, but also to those not familiar with. Information can be provided in many different forms ranging from printed media, such as timetables and maps, to verbal media like instructions or messages sent by the transit staff, as well as to electronic media such as real time display panels and on-line trip planners (Cain et al., 2007).
Transit maps are considered one of the most traditional means of providing information to users. They represent the public transport network and have the primary task of helping users navigate through it. Those maps are usually schematic diagrams that depict locations, directions and connections of service lines and stations, and do not normally include service information like travel time. The information associated with this kind of media is crucial to the user’s travel decision, serving as powerful planning tool to guide individual preference and to improve the overall system efficiency (Guo, 2011).
Although transit maps are considered the main trip planning media and the most popular amongst users, especially when there is no other source of information available (Cain et al., 2007), the differences between the design of the transit maps produced represent a barrier for an adequate reading by users. To overcome this issue some efforts have been developed, such as the NCTR guidebook, helping in the design of printed transit information material (Cain et al., 2008), the set of guidelines for the development of transit maps proposed by Allard (2009), as well as the research by Avelar (2002) and Avelar and Hurni (2006).
Besides the research focusing on the design of transit maps and the development of good practices for their construction, a new research field has emerged on the effects of transit maps on travel decisions (Guo, 2011). Its focus is related to the impact of transit maps on user perception and their usage of the system. That relationship might have significant implications for transit operation and planning, with transit maps serving as a potential planning tool to solve operational problems and improve system efficiency.
Some studies that investigate map effects on user choices have been developed in the last years. Vertesi (2008) analyzed the effects of schematic maps on people’s spatial cognition and their wayfinding behavior in London. Hochmair (2009) compared the effect of different transit map designs on route choices in Vienna and found that the inclusion of headway information on the maps favored the choice for faster routes. Raveau et al. (2011) investigated the impact of Santiago de Chile’s Metro map on its passengers’ route choice and found that the route directness and the angular cost depicted in the map do matter.
In the specific case of BRT systems the use of transit maps is still underexploited like in the majority of bus systems. This happens due to the high density of bus lines which makes difficult their representation and consequently the reading of the maps. However, as a BRT network has a structuring character in an urban mobility system, the representation of only its main (or trunk) lines allows a more efficient map design like the ones developed for Metrobús in Mexico City, TransMilenio in Bogotá or Curitiba’s RIT. Besides, as many of the BRT systems are still in their initial phase, having only one or two corridors in operation, development and implementation of maps in a progressive way to guide user navigation seems to be a promising activity also to promote this kind of systems.