Mind the gap: navigating the space between digital and physical wayfinding in public transit


  • Anthony Ferri Technical University of Munich
  • Monika Popp Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität


Wayfinding in public transit environments is especially complex, combining both spatial and temporal tasks for users to reach their destination. However, a gap exists between users’ needs and existing infrastructure design. With the introduction of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to the broader public, the wayfinding process has shifted from more traditional methods to more digital approaches, leaving individuals with the task of navigating the space between both physical and digital milieus. The exploratory study presented in this paper provides insights into physical and digital navigational practices in public transit wayfinding systems. The method employed was that of a Destination-Task Investigation, a qualitative mobile interviewing method used to capture participants’ feelings, thoughts, and experiences. The study focuses on three transit spaces within the network: (a) aboveground transfer stations, (b) belowground transfer stations, and (c) on transit, and reveals that participants often relied on their smartphones instead the physical wayfinding infrastructure. Moreover, participants were found to use their smartphones in three navigational approaches: (1) Directional Confirmation, (2) Current Positioning, and (3) Future Planning. Results show that participants preferred the Directional Confirmation approach in both aboveground and belowground transfer stations and used their smartphones for navigational purposes most often while on transit. The study also helps illuminate that the presence of a robust wayfinding system within a public transit system increases user trust in the overall system. This study contributes to better understanding user behavioural patterns which has significant relevance for researchers as well as practitioners.


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How to Cite

Ferri, A., & Popp, M. (2023). Mind the gap: navigating the space between digital and physical wayfinding in public transit. European Journal of Transport and Infrastructure Research, 23(1), 63–84. Retrieved from https://journals.open.tudelft.nl/ejtir/article/view/6261