Let’s rewind a few months to look at how this City of Austin employee took a simple founding premise and made it a reality. “Water is a major, major concern here,” Melissa explained to us back in April. “Water quality, watering restrictions, keeping water. That’s a big deal.” Another big deal is the fact that many Texas commuters must endure extreme weather—like soaring temperatures and dousing thunderstorms—while waiting for a ride from public transit. To address both of these concerns, Melissa and her team brainstormed an East Austin pedestrian plaza that would feature a participatory public garden irrigated by an attractive rainwater-capturing shade shelter. Transit riders could take refuge from sun and storms, enjoy some greenery, and even help out by weeding the plants if they liked—all while just waiting for the bus! “We’re trying to really change the mindset of what these public transportation places can be,” said Melissa, “and how you can be innovative with architecture beyond just the typical: shelter, bench, trash can.”
Fast forward to now, when Melissa’s first fully-funded ioby campaign raised over $1,600 to gather community input on the design and buy some starter plants. This summer, her Mi Jardin 100 for $100 project is seeking to raise over $40,000 more to design and build the rain-catching shade shelter, organize community outreach to generate interest and buzz, and help maintain the garden.
A project on this financial scale might seem daunting, but Melissa’s experience serves as a reminder that anyone with a good idea, some basic training, and a can-do attitude can make great changes happen in their neighborhood. “This is just a very personal project for me, because it’s where I live, it’s where I work,” she said.
All of this year’s Trick Out My Trip projects are ambitious, innovative, and exciting. But most importantly, they are replicable. If you have a bright idea to bring rider-led change to your neighborhood, we hope that Mi Jardin and the other great transit projects our leaders are working on will motivate you to take that first step. You can visit ioby.org/trip to learn more about this year’s Trick Out My Trip campaign, volunteer to help with a project in your area, or chip in a few dollars for the cause—this week only, we’re matching the first $100 of every donation made, until the cash runs out!
At ioby, we’ve long been proud that much of our resident leaders’ work aligns with their local governments’ high-level priorities, and that many leaders make a point of working directly with their decision-makers to gain consensus and ensure that neighborhood voices are heard.
Right now, lots of exciting urban planning measures are being undertaken in the great city of New Orleans, both by local leaders and municipal and regional planners. Most have many goals in common.
The topic of transit in particular is getting a lot of attention these days, in places like the Regional Planning Commission (RPC) of New Orleans’ Citizen Guide. The RPC highlights the role of community engagement in planning for better transit and public places right in the guide’s introduction: “We want to hear from you. With competing needs and limited funding, our work is most effective with robust public involvement and support.” The guide also states that “RPC strives for a balanced, efficient and sustainable transportation system, one that takes into account the needs of all users, including motorists, transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists,” and that “RPC’s transportation planning philosophy and process emphasize accessibility, safety, system preservation, livable communities, [and] environmental sustainability.”
Similarly, Resilient New Orleans’ strategy identifies transit as a crucial city system that needs an overhaul, and resolves to “redesign our regional transit systems to connect people, employment, and essential services.” It further asserts that “developing a reliable and comprehensive multimodal transit network will help New Orleans be more resilient, enable low-income families to connect to opportunity, and improve safety and connectivity. This point of entry might seem like a single infrastructure project, but it has the potential to create benefits across sectors.” Resilient NOLA also shouts out “unprecedented resident engagement” in the research and planning efforts of the past decade that have been instrumental in shaping their current strategy.
Both of these organizations believe that resilience and sustainability begin and end with the citizen, and so do Heidi Schmalbach and her team at Arts Council New Orleans, who are pushing the same regional priorities forward with their Trick Out My Trip project, The Story Shelter on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. The project will hire local high school students to prototype and install a creative bus shelter and crosswalk improvements along Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. “Many people in the immediate neighborhood surrounding the Boulevard are transit-dependent, including a large percentage of elderly citizens and youth,” Heidi says. “People often wait for 30 minutes or more without shade or seating. This dynamic street and neighborhood deserve transportation infrastructure to match. While any bus shelter that provides a shaded place to sit would be an improvement, we will use a participatory process and public art to create a bus shelter that is functional, aesthetically pleasing, and which pays homage to the front-porch culture of our city by encouraging friendly interaction between users—while having a powerful and lasting impact on young people’s’ attitudes towards themselves and their neighborhood.”
[rendering inspiration via SF Streetsblog]
While Heidi is not currently working directly with PRC or Resilient NOLA, the parallels in their processes and goals are unmissable. For example, the story shelter project reimagines a more comfortable bus stop as an ideal place for neighbors to meet and socialize. This aligns neatly with RPC’s focus on the need for connected community places as well as with Resilient NOLA’s focus on creating hard infrastructure that encourages and supports transit use.
At ioby, we’re always heartened—though not surprised—to see our local leaders thinking along the same visionary lines as their city governments. If you want to join the NOLA transit conversation, visit ioby.org/trip to learn more about this and other Trick Out My Trip projects, volunteer to help, or make a donation to the cause—this week only, we’re matching the first $100 of every donation made, until the cash runs out!
By many definitions, Southern California is a paradise. It’s replete with lovely weather year-round; bountiful edible produce; beautiful landscapes with endless opportunities for recreation; and a world-renowned melting pot of cultures, cuisines, and languages.
But how do SoCal’s 18 million regional residents navigate their paradise? How do they travel between work, play, and home? The answer is not so sunny.
According to the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), “Southern California’s transportation system is becoming increasingly compromised by decades of underinvestment in maintaining and preserving our infrastructure. Transportation funding is scarce and insufficient. Many people in our region suffer from poor health due to chronic diseases related to poor air quality and physical inactivity. Our region is projected to grow to 22 million people by 2040. … Communities will need to make their neighborhoods more resilient to these changes.”
That’s a hatful, but it’s definitely not hopeless—thanks in no small part to proactive citizens like our ioby leaders.
ioby has successfully supported over 20 projects in Southern California since 2010. Now, as the area’s growing movement of citizen leaders looks to make a difference in how their neighbors get around, we see an increasingly important opportunity to leverage our expertise and resources to help them help their cities survive and thrive into the mid-2000s and beyond.
Many projects initiated by ioby leaders address at least one of the goals in SCAG’s 2016 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (2016 RTP/SCS). A great current example is the Trick Out My Trip 2016 Bicycle Hubitat in San Bernardino, one of many rider-led mobility projects that are growing in popularity as we speak. The “Hubitat” (“Bike Love at the Hub!”) explores the role of mobility in building community resilience. “The project provides bicyclists who live in the area or who arrive there by transit an opportunity to perform low-cost repairs on their bicycle to ensure that it’s in working order,” says Nina Mohammed, the project’s leader. “At an area with one of the lowest incomes per capita in the state, bikes provide transit users with a quick and easy way to traverse the infamous ‘first and last mile’ that exists between many transit stations and someone’s final destination.
When used in concert, each compliments the other and helps to provide a complete transportation system that is quick and easy to use.” The Hubitat operates out of the San Bernardino Transit Center, a multimodal hub served by 16 bus routes and a bus rapid transit line. The 2016 RTP/SCS’s goals of “promoting walking, biking and other forms of active transportation” and “promoting local bike networks by integrating them with the region’s transit system” are well-served by projects like the Hubitat.
Another aspect of improving transportation for all is examining the connections between pedestrian safety and public transit. For the Pico Aliso Neighborhood Project in Los Angeles, leader America Aceves and her organization Proyecto Pastoral have reviewed years of data gathered from local surveys, focus groups, and community meetings to determine which walking routes and intersections in their neighborhood are most in need of safety improvements—with an emphasis on those used to access public transit. They will now choose one of the sites and lead their community in developing, testing, and implementing appropriate safety improvements there. “Pedestrian safety and walkability are pressing issues in Boyle Heights, which is surrounded by six freeways and serves as a gateway into downtown Los Angeles,”Aceves says. The Pico Aliso Neighborhood Project also speaks to the 2016 RTP/SCS goal of “providing neighborhoods with abundant and safe opportunities to walk, bike and pursue other forms of active transportation.”
The Bicycle Hubitat and the Pico Aliso Neighborhood Project both aim to harness the knowledge and expertise of locals—the people who know their neighborhoods best—to develop and sustain meaningful transportation improvements in Southern California. They are exactly the kinds of projects ioby leaders all over the country are known for, and exactly the types of initiatives that are beginning to help state and regional governments move the needle of sustainable, collective transportation to create better-connected, healthier, and happier communities.
If you like these transit projects as much as we do, visit Trick Out My Trip to follow their progress, volunteer to help, or donate a little cash to the cause—this week only, we’re matching the first $100 of every donation made, until the money runs out!
If you’ve been following ioby, you may know about the incredible neighbor-led work in Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis, and Miami. In each of these cities, dozens of ioby leaders are working tirelessly to make their neighborhoods stronger and more sustainable.
Community organizer Kaela Geschke is rallying local artists and commuters to create Art Stop: More than a Bus Stop, a “neighbor-planned bus stop” in the Superior Arts District. The refurbished shelters will allow riders to take refuge from the elements, feast their eyes on a rotating selection of vibrant visual art, and enjoy the safe and convenient new features of solar-powered lighting and free wi-fi—all while waiting for a ride. “When hearing the word ‘transit,’ the concept that comes to mind is constant motion or movement,” Kaela says. “The ability to enhance this experience of constant movement is essential to the growth and viability of any community.”
Of her project Bus Stop Moves, ioby leader Allison Lukacsy says, “Our team noticed that waiting for the bus in Cleveland’s neighborhoods—on average 20 minutes—was idle time that could be put to better use by transforming waiting time into workout time with a bit of illustrated instructions and inspiration!” Bus Stop Moves will provide adhesive vinyl wraps, illustrated with simple, real-time exercises, to cover the glass panels of bus shelters in Cleveland neighborhoods were sedentary lifestyles and related illnesses like diabetes are on the rise. The exercises are meant for the average person to do in street clothes, on their way to or from work or school. As Allison says: “Next time you are waiting for a bus – don’t just sit there – don’t just stand there – bust a move with Bus Stop Moves!”
“With extreme weather in the summer and winter, Detroiters often have to deal with appalling conditions at bus stops, simply to get around our city,” says Renard Monczunski of his project, Adopt a Stop. “Lack of safety, lighting, seats, and information is the reality bus riders in Detroit face daily.” Renard and his team are adopting a bus stop on Warren Avenue which they will outfit with more ergonomic and accessible seating, current timetables, a weather shelter, and nighttime lighting. “By adopting a stop, we hope to bring more awareness to the underserved areas of the city that lack these basic amenities,” Renard says, “and to provide a more beautified, safe environment for the riders of Detroit.”
Ride, Rally, Ride is a two-pronged project led by Essence Jackson and Sara Studdard that will introduce permanent panels for bus stop schedules at the city’s major transfer points, and install three bike racks and bike work stations at popular transit destinations. “Downtown Memphis is an attractive place, both to residents and tourists,” says Essence. “This project will improve transit trips for thousands of Memphians, make our downtown more of an asset, and make getting around the city both easy and appealing.” As a major added benefit, Ride, Rally, Ride will be implementing some of the strategic points listed in the Mid-South Regional Greenprint, a 25-year plan to create 700 miles of greenways and bike paths across three states.
Susannah Barton’s project Safe Crossing at Overton Park started with a question: “How did the pedestrian cross the road at Poplar Avenue and Tucker Street?” When the answer came back, “Not safely!”, Susannah and her team began endeavoring to install new, high-visibility crosswalks on this heavily trafficked, seven-lane intersection. The crossroads is a primary entrance to Overton Park, the Memphis Zoo, Brooks Museum of Art, and Memphis College of Art, and is a heavily-used transit stop on MATA’s #50 route. “Visitors need safe access to these community assets,” Susannah says. Safe Crossing at Overton Park will also install visitor counters; the data they provide will help Memphis plan for additional multi-modal access improvements at this intersection and others.
ioby is thrilled to be continuing our longstanding relationship with the Miami-Dade County Office of Sustainability. “B.U.S. Miami is about creating community, and about using mass transit—which is something that we in Miami don’t do very often,” says Germane Barnes. His project, B.U.S. Miami, (which stands for Building United Spaces Miami) will transform the city’s now-barren bus stops into sheltered hubs for socializing and device-charging. Many Miami bus stops currently consist only of a pole in the ground. “When people have to stand—not sit—at an uncovered bus stop in Miami’s hot and rainy conditions, they aren’t too happy about that,” Germane says. B.U.S Miami will combine seats, shelters, cell phone charging stations, and an “umbrella share” system to make commuting by public transit a more comfortable, sociable, and attractive experience for all.
We’re so proud of all the creative, game-changing work ioby leaders are initiating in Cleveland, Detroit, Memphis, and Miami during this second round of Trick Out My Trip. If you like what you see, visit ioby.org/trip to follow each project’s progress, volunteer to help, or donate a bit of cash to the cause—this week only, we’re matching the first $100 of every donation made, until the money runs out!
Awhile back, ioby and Transit Center announced that our Trick Out My Trip (TOMT) campaign was coming back for round two. We love this program: residents with great ideas put in elbow grease and work alongside local transit agencies to improve the transit experience all around the country? And the money they raise is MATCHED?? BOOM.
If that doesn’t get your wheels turning, maybe these outcomes from our inaugural TOMT will:
In fall 2014, the first ten groups of local leader raised a total of $53,596 for their projects, including $26,152 in matching funds. In less than 12 months, all of their projects had been implemented.
By making their commutes easier and more enjoyable, our first round of TOMT leaders inspired their neighbors to consider what transit means to them and how their lives could be measurably improved with only a small amount of money and working together
These first-time TOMT leaders reimagined and reframed transportation and were able to influence small but meaningful changes to their transit agencies’ cultures and practices
Binh Dam, leader of the first TOMT’s TimelyTrip and MARTA Army campaigns, says, “We rallied more than 150 volunteers to mount our signs to 200 bus stops around Atlanta, providing essential maps and schedule information to riders. In doing so, we transformed the community’s desire for better transit into real outcomes, and we will use this experience to plan more exciting initiatives.”
Transit agencies took note of the work ioby leaders were doing, and some even decided to follow their constituents’ leads. “MARTA’s Trick Out My Trip campaign was a slam dunk for our customers and for the transit agency,” says Lyle V. Harris, a MARTA spokesman who worked on the effort with his colleagues. “In addition to paying for bicycle repair kiosks at a number of our rail stations as an incentive for more cyclists to ride MARTA, it helped us to forge some new relationships with the public and private sectors in ways that are still providing tangible benefits to our community.”
“We believe building a sustained advocacy effort for major change can start with smaller, citizen-led improvements to the transit system, which can leverage the necessary taxpayer dollars needed for more widespread upgrades,” says David Bragdon, executive director of TransitCenter. “ioby is the ideal partner in this effort. We’re excited to see the ideas that the campaign leaders bring to life.”
These awesome projects are strengthening relationships and morale among neighbors, improving transit infrastructure in meaningful ways, and setting a new bar for positive and productive citizen engagement. We’re just as excited and proud of this year’s leaders as we are of the last. Keep your eyes on the blog this week to find out why!