The Rollsign/Destination Sign Thread

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Re: The rollsign thread

Postby MBTA3247 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:29 am

The font is Helvetica.
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Re: The rollsign thread

Postby djimpact1 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 7:42 am

MBTA3247 wrote:The font is Helvetica.

Thank you...I was too involved in searching for/compiling the pictures that I became lazy when it was time to look up the proper font name.
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Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to stay?

Postby djimpact1 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:23 am

With the exception of the current Blue Line cars (which I believe their destination signs are sharp), will the MBTA ever utilize exterior-facing rollsigns again in the future vs. utilizing current LCD destination displays?

The main reason I ask this, concerns the Green Line signage. I believe I read somewhere that the exterior-facing LCD destination signs have a 12-character limit. How does a single-line 12-character limit prove useful when anything beyond 12 characters must be abbreviated? That doesn't provide a sign that's "pleasing" to the eye (IMO).

Why is a single-line sign better than older rollsigns which could have a route letter and double-line signage (i.e “B Boston College via Commonwealth Ave”)? Is there a feeling that there’s no more need for such detailed signage as this, and if so, how the heck could you abbreviate that?!

Do trains not run express anymore on any branch (like the old “E Heath Street-Park Street” signage)? If so, how would one know it’s an express train that doesn’t go the full length of the branch until you begin to get on-board and hear the automated/operator announcement?

LCD signage is, well, as good as any other piece of technology we use. Great when it works, and typically completely useless when it malfunctions. At least there was a hand-crank option for the older rollsigns…what would an operator do if during transit, the exterior signage shorted-out and didn’t display anything?
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby octr202 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:35 am

It all seems to depend on what type of sign is chosen. SEPTA is putting LED signs, almost identical to what's used buses, on their Kawasaki LRVs, and Muni is replacing the roll signs with quite readable displays on their Bredas. I do wish that the T had used those displays (look much more like the Blue Line cars) than the ones they did, especially since the Red Line's 01800's were already showing that the LCD signs apparently don't hold up well by the time the Type 8's came along.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby jamesinclair » Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:09 pm

Some of the LED rollsigns I saw in switzerland were great. Full color, very readable.

Dont confuse the technology with poor implementation of it.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby The EGE » Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:14 pm

Type 9 drawings I've seen look to have LED displays for the horizontal interior line maps, so I suspect they will have LED rollsigns as well.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Nov 23, 2011 3:17 pm

Backlit dot matrix LCD's suck. It's 1990 technology, and the Bredas show it can't even contain all characters in the word "Boston College". They're also bulky units with fluorescent bulbs that need changing, susceptibility to vibrations and collission (bulb), and susceptibility to extreme cold weather (LCD screen rupturing when frozen). I bet when they start getting replaced by decade's end on the Red Line 01800's and on Green since they're probably not rated for more than 15 years.

LED's work extremely well on the bus fleet. You can see the route destination clearly from a mile away, and the screens can squash the font a little for destinations with a lot of letters. LED's are also so mass-manufactured for all kinds of uses that they're dirt cheap these days. Ultimately it'll be less of a pain at the carhouses to never have to change an exterior-facing bulb than continue keeping the LCD's in working order. I wouldn't be surprised if LED's start showing up as interior lighting before too long, too. They make tubes of white LED strings that fit the dimensions of tube fluorescent fixtures, so an existing fixture can be retrofitted by swapping out the interior ballast for solid-state wiring. I saw that done at a gas station in CT a couple months ago. Another thing they'll probably do within 10 years on existing cars when the prices get cheap so they never have to change a bulb again.


We're not totally done with rollsigns. The rehabbed Red Line 01700's will be around another 10-12 years after their ongoing rebuilds, even as the decrepit 015/016's and Orange Line 01200's get (hopefully) retired without much further delay. And of course Mattapan, although those rollsigns don't mechanically "roll" anymore.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby diburning » Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:27 pm

12 character max.... B BOSTON CLGE. I always read it as "Boston Cludge" (kludge) but that's just me ;)
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby MBTA3247 » Wed Nov 23, 2011 9:16 pm

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:They make tubes of white LED strings that fit the dimensions of tube fluorescent fixtures, so an existing fixture can be retrofitted by swapping out the interior ballast for solid-state wiring. I saw that done at a gas station in CT a couple months ago. Another thing they'll probably do within 10 years on existing cars when the prices get cheap so they never have to change a bulb again.

Have you looked at LED stoplights? Unless they've been radically improved since the first generation, they'll still have to replace light fixtures, though not nearly as often.

And of course Mattapan, although those rollsigns don't mechanically "roll" anymore.

What do you mean? The PCCs' rollsigns work just fine from what I can see.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby caduceus » Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:09 pm

MBTA3247 wrote:Have you looked at LED stoplights? Unless they've been radically improved since the first generation, they'll still have to replace light fixtures, though not nearly as often.


I think they point of them is that they rarely need replacement - you can suffer a fair number of LED failures before it becomes necessary to replace the unit itself.

But it's one thing to make a big dot out of a bunch of little dots, especially when you can suffer some failures and the general masses will still recognize it as a stop light. It's another thing to make crisp, readable, changeable displays out of them. Not out of the question, but more expensive and less able to survive multiple element failures.

I think part of the problem with rollsign replacements is balancing cost, resolution and readability over a distance - pick two.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby Type7trolley » Wed Nov 23, 2011 11:22 pm

caduceus wrote:I think part of the problem with rollsign replacements is balancing cost, resolution and readability over a distance - pick two.

Is it just me or do traditional rollsigns win all three?
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Thu Nov 24, 2011 9:43 am

Type7trolley wrote:
caduceus wrote:I think part of the problem with rollsign replacements is balancing cost, resolution and readability over a distance - pick two.

Is it just me or do traditional rollsigns win all three?


They still have to be backlit with fluorescent bulbs. Ones that need more immediate changeout if they fail because then you can't see the route destination well. Rollsigns also have higher failure rate when they rip. Plus problems of the electric ones on the Green Line cycling poorly, ones frequently showing the wrong destinations when operators forget to change them (not a problem with the electronic signs where it's all automatic), and difficulty indicating short-notice expresses and short-turns.

No need to overthink it...electronic's going to win on convenience every time. And LED's going to win on readability over dot matrix LCD every time, and maintenance over every other type of sign every time.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby TrainManTy » Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:21 am

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Plus problems of the electric ones on the Green Line cycling poorly, ones frequently showing the wrong destinations when operators forget to change them (not a problem with the electronic signs where it's all automatic)


Are they automatic though? Yesterday while walking to the train station I saw a train entering Science Park with the boards reading "Lechmere," from where it had just departed. Both cars were Type 8s.
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby djimpact1 » Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:04 pm

Before I provide a post, I hope everyone has had a great Thanksgiving holiday with your family/friends, and enjoyed however you choose to celebrate it. Now...
octr202 wrote:Muni is replacing the roll signs with quite readable displays on their Bredas.

Great pics. Look at that...readable & double-lined sign capabilities!

diburning wrote:12 character max.... B BOSTON CLGE. I always read it as "Boston Cludge" (kludge) but that's just me ;)

My point exactly! The current Green Line destination capabilities can't even accommodate a full read-out of "Boston College"...which in itself, is certainly NOT a lengthy amount of characters. I don't care if it's "understood" what it is abbreviated for...it just looks (IMO) sloppy.

F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:They still have to be backlit with fluorescent bulbs. Ones that need more immediate changeout if they fail because then you can't see the route destination well.

As far as I know, both the old rollsigns & current LCD destination signs have backlit bulbs in-use. How would the old rollsign's bulbs need any quicker changing than that of the LCD one? I have trouble enough seeing the LCD sign from a distance when lit, so I would assume when the lighting goes on that unit, so does the readability of whatever's displayed.
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:Rollsigns also have higher failure rate when they rip.

They do? I never heard of there being a chronic problem of ripping, for either the LRVs or Type 7s. Is there further proof of this?
F-line to Dudley via Park wrote:No need to overthink it...electronic's going to win on convenience every time.

Maybe on convenience, yes. But reliability?...
If you have a cell phone in which the OS is malfunctioning, and you can't make calls, or you have "poor reception" a good ol' landline phone won't give you those problems.
If you're typing a document, and your laptop gives you a "blue screen of death" which might prove to be unrecoverable, a typewriter won't mysteriously erase/corrupt the information just provided in your work.
If you are reading a book on a tablet (a la Amazon Kindle), and the screen has refreshing problems preventing the next "page" from displaying properly, a good black-and-white actual book will have its pages turned without difficulty deciphering what's being displayed on the next page.

My point...electronics are certainly convenient, and can be extremely useful in providing ease of execution in a certain task, but what happens when they malfunction? Depending on the problem, there could be a need to completely replace a major component(s), if not replace the device. At that point, the convenience factor doesn't exist. I can't imagine an old-fashioned rollsign would have a great deal of repair time behind it, regardless of the issue (burnt bulb, rip, busted gear, etc.)
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Re: Are exterior rollsigns gone for good? Is LCD here to st

Postby 3rdrail » Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:26 pm

How did everyone's Thanksgiving go ? Did everyone have sufficient turkey and it's accompanyment ? If no due to financial issues, PM me by tomorrow evening. I've got tons left over, and you're welcome to come over the weekend to finish it off with me.

Regarding roll signs, if they are LED, they either work spectaculary or there a dud. Unfortunately, it's darned expensive to fix a dud, because it usually involves swapping it out for a better unit. A plain old time-honored rollsign has worked for nearly 100 years. It's a simple process whereby white letters shine on a black curtain from the light bulbs that lay directly behind, usually with very good result, and last through both hot and cold temperatures, snow, fog, sleet, torrid, and freezing temperatures, but...it's old school. As noted above, I dopn't see any new equipment coming out with roll signs. Frankly, I'd be shocked if they did. The LED's are looked at as a splashy way to dramatise a manufacturers product like a Vegas casino sign, the rollsign which can not meet in intensity. Hopefully,and probably, they'll get better as they evolve.
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