I take a ferry to and from work. On my way home other passengers and I board at Gate E in San Francisco next to the Ferry Building. There are two different ferries to Alameda:
- One ferry goes to Harbor Bay which is the Bay Farm eastern end of Alameda. The line for this ferry forms on the left side of the Gate E pier.
- The other ferry goes to the west end of Alameda to the Alameda Main Street terminal. This is the one I take. The line for this ferry forms on the right side of the Gate E pier.
I am a seasoned commuter who has taken the ferry for 5 years, so I have no problem knowing which line to get in, but I wish I had $1 for every newbie, oftentimes people who are going home after a San Francisco Giants game, who get in the wrong line. They see that the Harbor Bay line is shorter and think they're going to one-up all of those people waiting in that much-longer line. Then when our ferry arrives, and it's all aboard for Alameda Main Street yet their line does not start moving, they look confused and don't know how to proceed. For both ferries the tickets are purchased once on the boat, so there isn't a ticket seller who can provide direction as to where to line up beforehand. Though it's only happened a handful of times, a ferry may dock on the opposite side of its normal location, but it's a pretty safe bet that our ferry will be on the right.
Gate E has an electronic sign that lets would-be-passengers know the departure times of the next ferries to Harbor Bay and Alameda Main Street. Most of the time, the display is blank. The city of San Francisco or the Blue and Gold Fleet who operates the ferry (or whomever operates the electronic sign), could certainly use its display to direct people to the correct line when not showing the departure times. This approach provides the information before boarding. The electronic sign can be dynamically changed in the event a ferry has to dock on the side other than its normal location. As creatures of habit, even when a boat docks on its other-than-normal side, passengers still line up in the time-honored locations.
Here's a mock-up:
Autodesk has its innovation genome project that we use to foster innovation. One of the 7 questions used to organize brainstorming that can lead to innovative ideas is What can we use in a new way?. Here's a hint: your sign. Now if only the people responsible for the ferry signage would get innovative!
Innovation is alive in the lab.