Marie Singleton, a seven-year resident of Lithonia, GA, volunteers her time nearly every day at Lithonia city hall. She works directly with Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson and Jackson’s two – yes, two – person staff, filling, needless to say, a huge void. So when the Mayor received an email about ioby’s Trick Out My Trip campaign, she naturally passed the challenge on to Singleton, who moved quickly to bring on several volunteer partners. They knew they couldn’t pass up the chance to improve their transit system through matched community donations – but where to even begin? “We need a lot,” says Singleton.
Singleton and her team decided to start with the most trafficked, and highest-visibility, points in their transit system, setting their sights on four main bus stops right in downtown Lithonia – all of them rundown and in need of repair, some needing new shelters entirely. By the end of October, Singleton hopes to see all four bus stops outfitted with the new benches, new side panels, and new shelters they need. The team is currently researching companies that manufacture bus shelters, and trying to decide which will best suit their needs.
So yes, the city needs a lot, but Singleton believes that if they start in downtown – for now – she and her team will have a great impact. “We start where the residents come to, and we start where the visitors come. When they pass through our downtown, when they see change, when they see movement, it’s gonna start challenging that view that people have of Lithonia.”
No small feat, that. Singleton says that Lithonia is plagued by an image it doesn’t need to keep. “We have to come up with a way to renew the identity of the city, and to get rid of the bad image. High crime rates, low income residential, stressed neighborhoods, bad schools – I mean, there is negative urban stigma that you find in Lithonia, and it doesn’t have to be like that. So all these small projects that we start are to make positive change, and to get people involved, get them excited about the potential that the city has.”
“We have to come up with a way to renew the identity of the city, and to get rid of the bad image. High crime rates, low income residential, stressed neighborhoods, bad schools – I mean, there is negative urban stigma that you find in Lithonia, and it doesn’t have to be like that. So all these small projects that we start are to make positive change, and to get people involved, get them excited about the potential that the city has.”
As icing on the cake, Singleton and her team plan to use the new bus shelters as blank canvasses on which they’ll post interesting factoids about Lithonia. She’s had a blast learning about the town’s history through her volunteer work, and she wants others to have that same opportunity, to feel that same pride.
“The community has to pitch in,” she says. “We need involvement. But people want to see things happen before they get involved. So for this ioby project, by putting the benches in the bus shelter, they will see the care, they will see that effort is taking place. They will see the concern from the city, and through this project I hope to get more people involved.”
Bringing the public transportation system up to speed is an important part of the effort to show Lithonians that their city cares, that it’s investing in a brighter future, and that they should feel good about following suit. “One person at a time, one project at a time,” says Singleton – a woman after ioby’s own heart.
See All Trick Out My Trip Campaigns
The ioby Trick Out My Trip opportunity is funded by Transit Center.
Fun fact: in 1906, residents of Louisville’s Shelby Park neighborhood each chipped in $2 to purchase land for a neighborhood library. That building still stands today – residents know it as their Shelby Park Community Center.
It was a perfect execution of crowd-resourcing, way ahead of its time, and Mark Noll, project coordinator at Louisville Metro Government, thinks it’s time to try it again. “We won’t be able to purchase any land with $2 donations today,” admits Noll, “but we could get a pretty cool bus stop!” And that happens to be just what the neighborhood needs right now.
Today’s Louisville, Kentucky, is not known for it’s public transportation system. In fact, most Louisville bus stops are nothing more than a pole and a dinky sign. Not exactly inviting – especially with temperatures up in the 90s during summer – and ridership numbers reflect the fact that the system is run down. But change may be on the horizon: by the time Thanksgiving rolls around, Louisville residents will have two brand spanking new bus shelters to be very thankful for.
That’s thanks to Noll, whose background is in urban planning, and who, when he learned about ioby’s Trick Out My Trip campaign, was all over it. “I see the potential of so many neighborhoods that just need a little investment, love, energy, a little sweat equity,” says Noll. “I really think we can turn around a lot of our urban neighborhoods.”
Noll and his teammates are the right guys for the job; two of them work in the Mayor’s office, on the innovation deliveries team, and the third is in the Louisville office of sustainability. Naturally, then, the designs for two new shelters they’re envisioning will be both cutting-edge and green, and inspiration is coming from an unlikely place: the city’s rubbish bin. At least half of the raw materials for the new shelters will be sourced from a bike parts graveyard of sorts, over at Bicycling for Louisville, and from the warehouse scrap pile over at First Build, a community of makers who design and prototype everything from benches to tables to robots. “We’re trying to use salvaged materials wherever possible,” says Noll. That cuts costs as well as the city’s carbon footprint.
I see the potential of so many neighborhoods that just need a little investment, love, energy, a little sweat equity,” says Noll. “I really think we can turn around a lot of our urban neighborhoods.”
On board with Noll and his team are local non-profit and advocacy group Bicycling for Louisville, Shelby Park Neighborhood Association, and sustainability-focused architecture firm Luckett and Farley. The three are in talks now to decide on their designs, so it’s going to be a quick and energetic turnover, and it sounds as though Louisville residents have a real treat in store.
Here’s what the team has decided already: “We want to turn them into places, destinations, gateways for the neighborhoods and gathering places,” says Noll, “almost urban living rooms, so it’s not just a bus stop. It’s a place where people socialize.” To that end, the team will install comfortable benches and big maps to help people situate themselves. Doesn’t being oriented make the trip feel shorter, after all? The team is planning to use LOTS of vibrant color throughout, to brighten up the drab concrete corners. They’ll also keep an eye out for the needs of bicyclists who have previously had no place to rest or park their bikes while they wait. On the team’s wishlist – for down the road – is a bike repair station.
The hope, as the team culls through various design possibilities right now, is that each of the two shelters will in some way reflect the culture of the neighborhood they serve – Shelby Park and SOBRO residents, get out your neighborhood pride!
“I think a lot of the time people may not be able to orient themselves and realize, ‘hey, there’s this really cool park three minutes’ walk down the street.’ So we want to draw attention to those neighborhood assets,” says Noll. Man, have we all been stuck in cars for a really long time, or something? Seems no one knows anymore how close and accessible our cities’ treasures really are to us.
To celebrate the completion of the two new bus shelters, and to make sure everyone’s got them well on their brainmaps, Noll and his team are planning a party on wheels. After biking (festively!) from one new bus shelter to the other, residents will land at a local bar and drink to the urban revival taking place right in their own backyards.
But that’s only the beginning. “We want this to be replicable,” says Noll. “We’re trying to do this on the cheap, and something that other neighborhoods can see and say ‘hey, we’d like to have something like that.’”