Next steps — San Jose Wayfinding Project

OED has been working with other regional entities including SFO and SJC, VTA (others) on developing an integrated way-finding approach that provides block-by-block guidance to visitors to Downtown San Jose while also relating to way-finding initiatives throughout the Bay Area.

Downtown San José is home to more than 200 dining, retail, and entertainment venues in a very walkable setting at the hub of the Valley’s transit network.  Unfortunately, trying to find your way around Downtown can be challenging, particularly for a new or infrequent visitor because:

  • Downtown has multiple distinct subareas and districts with varying levels of activity and identity.
  • “Dead blocks” – stretches of parking lots, vacant units, underutilized lots, or blank walls – frequently separate subareas and keep people from exploring.
  • Existing wayfinding measures are primarily auto-oriented, directing drivers to parking lots or to freeways.
  • Signage that may be relevant to pedestrians is not pedestrian-scale or predictable.

Points in Downtown that are priorities for wayfinding signage placement

The first step was producing a Wayfinding Program Development Final Report, funded by the Knight Foundation, which laid out a path for scoping and implementing a comprehensive wayfinding program; a digital “base map” with critical information about the Greater Downtown; an interactive online and print map of the Downtown, which has been used daily and for special events; and a regional partnership to implement the recommended system beginning this year.

Most recently, in April 2018, City Council accepted a report on the Downtown Wayfinding System, which included findings and recommendations for a wayfinding program for Downtown San José and a commitment to collaborate with the work of the Regional Mapping and Wayfinding Partnership, led by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).  Additionally, Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate and execute a Master Consulting Agreement with City ID LLC for wayfinding and placemaking design services for an initial three-year term ending June 2021.


Signposts for San Jose – Wayfinding Totems

In May 2018, staff and City ID began to develop digitally based maps, information, and product design standards for San Jose’s local wayfinding system.  This work built on the previously developed Downtown maps and was the first time that industrial designers began to design initial structures – totems, or structures with informational displays of maps and wayfinding directions.

City ID held stakeholder workshops and conducted site visit research and observations in July, October, and November.  Four types of totems are being recommended – Arrival, Navigation, Hotspot and Route.

The first phase of the program will focus on delivering a static, potentially illuminated, Navigation totem. This type of signage will be deployed at key intersections and is designed to help a user get oriented and the be able to plan and navigate a route to a destination.  The totem information will contain a downtown district and landmark map, combined with a ten-minute walk map that highlights specific types of street-level activity to help pedestrians explore.  A mock-up of the Navigation totem was deployed in front of the convention center during the NHL All-Star weekend festivities the last weekend in January.

Visitors consult a mock-up of a navigation totem, being tested at the Convention Center during NHL All-Star weekend in January, 2019.

The first deployment of wayfinding totems is proposed to be along San Carlos Street, between the McEnery Convention Center and San Jose State University.  This corridor was selected because the convention center consistently hosts large events with thousands of attendees, yet these attendees do not seem to venture out to Downtown’s SoFA District, just two blocks away. Similarly, San Jose State students often do not explore beyond Second Street into the SoFA District.  San Jose State has expressed an interest in partnering with the City to develop a wayfinding system to help students fully integrate into Downtown and assist visitors in finding their way to and around campus.  The recently built Student Union contains conference space that Team San Jose is utilizing as overflow for larger conventions and conferences such as Nvidia’s GPU Tech Conference in March.  Staff and consultants will evaluate the impact of the pilot with quantitative and qualitative data regarding trips by students and visitors.

We will be bringing updates to the Wayfinding program in the future. For more in-depth detail, please see the video of the 2/25/2019 presentation to the Community & Economic Committee.