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A Suite of Samples:
My Communications Work on RapidRide

Gary B. Larson, Seattle, Washington

Coming soon!

RapidRide Coming soon! frontRapidRide Coming soon! inside

Front          Inside

Click on the thumbnail graphics for larger versions of the brochure front and inside, or download a PDF file, 2.7MB of the brochure.

This Web page features several brochures for which I managed production before and after the launch of a new type of bus service, called RapidRide, in October 2010. Operated by King County Metro Transit, RapidRide offers frequent, easy-to-use and all-day bus service with increased comfort and convenience.

RapidRide has specially designed buses and passenger shelters, with a yellow and red color scheme that's incorporated into RapidRide customer information and marketing materials.

I was Metro's chief of information production and distribution when we developed and distributed the startup materials. As project manager, I consulted with management, project staff, and the marketing team to plan the content, design and distribution of the materials.

I handled writing, reviews and editing for the brochures. And I supervised graphic designers on my staff who worked on these brochures and other related RapidRide signs and materials. I also supervised warehouse staff responsible for storing and distributing the brochures.

Below I highlight two of the roles I played in producing these brochures.

Developing easy-to-use customer information

I chaired a team of Metro staff with representatives from all work groups involved in planning, operating and marketing RapidRide. It included people with diverse interests from my staff, transit operations (a bus driver), transit planning, community relations, market research, customer service, and route scheduling.


RapidRide timetable frontRapidRide timetable inside

Front          Inside

PDF, 1.19MB

Focusing on our goal: to develop a unique timetable for customers to use for RapidRide. It had to model key features of the service; specifically, it had to be easier to use than Metro's typical timetables.

King County had sought new funding from taxpayers to develop and operate RapidRide -- six bus lines serving the busiest areas of the county. So there was much management interest -- and thus staff sensitivity -- to make sure RapidRide would be efficient, effective, and valued by customers.

Simplifying the timetable: All members of the timetable team supported the goal to simplify the timetable. But each member's idea about including or not including certain information affected the timetable's simplicity.

As chair, I reminded members of our goal at times and led discussions on how to handle our differing ideas. I also worked with my graphic designer multiple times to create and adjust the layout -- responding to team ideas and offering new versions for further review.

Getting approval: I interacted with the RapidRide program manager, who had definite but also changing views about the timetable. He believed RapidRide service would be so frequent that it hardly needs a timetable. I worked to clarify his ideas and discuss with the team how to adapt to his differing views. He eventually accepted the timetable had to contain certain, simplified information to explain key points about using the service.

In addition, I also shared a near-final version of the timetable with a transit advisory group of bus riders. Their comments were positive, though we did incorporate a couple of their ideas into the timetable.

Serving customers with limited English proficiency


RapidRide paying fares frontRapidRide paying fares inside

Front          Inside

PDF, 1.87MB

Another role I played while developing RapidRide materials actually was on a parallel communications project. King County had decided to set a policy for translating certain public materials into other languages, as required by a presidential order.

Our fare brochure for RapidRide, for example, contains the English text in six other languages. I strongly supported the translation effort, but I also was the Metro representative in a group trying to make sure the policy allowed flexibility for effective, responsive alternatives to translating documents.

Interpreting English for customers: To help gain that flexibility, I led a graphic design task to establish use of Metro's key alternative. It's built on Metro's existing use of interpreters to aid customers with limited English proficiency when they phone our Customer Information Office. My idea was based on Metro's long-used method for providing materials in accessible formats; I had been involved earlier in developing that process.

I worked with one of my graphic designers to develop an "international symbol" meaning "interpreter" for use on transit materials. Besides the word "Interpreter" in English, the symbol contains Interpreter translated into the most common foreign languages in King County or the most common languages in targeted distribution areas. It also provides Metro's phone number for the Customer Information Office.


RapidRide Report frontRapidRide Report inside

Front          Inside

PDF, 1.89MB

Going international for RapidRide: I mention that process because Metro tested the Interpreter symbol for the first time on materials we produced for the launch of RapidRide. The first RapidRide line serves an area of southwest King County with a large number of people with limited English proficiency. The symbol contains Interpreter in six languages besides English.

Because of the positive response to the symbol in those materials, Metro is now using it in nearly all newly published customer information and marketing materials. And other county divisions and departments are considering use of the symbol -- with their own phone number for people requesting an interpreter.

Translating in plain language: In addition, as an editor concerned about clear, concise writing, I wanted to build plain-language principles into the translation policy. If county writers follow those principles, I urged, our materials would be easier and less costly to translate into other languages, with fewer errors. They would also be easier for all English speakers to understand and use.

The plain-language principles I recommended are included in the written translation process manual for implementing the executive order by King County Executive Dow Constantine. The manual and a link to other plain-language tips are on the county's Translation resources Web page.

If you have any questions about the samples and process shown here, please call me at 206-937-2993 or send me an email message.

Thank you for your interest.
Gary B. Larson

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Updated June 8, 2012.