The Works

Crowdfunder Ioby Wants to Solve Your Biggest Little Transit Gripe

Got an idea to improve your bus stop? You could get funding for that. (Photo DanTD)

If you are a transit user, you might not have very fond feelings about the place where you catch your bus or train or streetcar. It may feel lonely or unsafe or just dirty. You may experience the ride itself as less than comfortable or pleasant. You might struggle to make the “last mile” connection that gets you to your home at one end or your workplace on the other. You might find yourself gazing out a grimy window at the passing landscape thinking, this could be a lot better.

Now you have a chance to put your transit improvement ideas into action through a competition called Trick Out My Trip. Ioby, the neighborhood crowdfunding platform, is partnering with Transit Center, a new non-profit dedicated to improving the transit experience, to solicit ideas for making public transportation “faster, more reliable, more comfortable” on the very local level. Interested groups must start the application process by October 6th. The ideas should be non-digital and should focus on a “single node” within a transportation system, such as a bus stop, train station, parking lot or bike-share dock.

Applicants submitting winning proposals will receive up to $4,000 in matching funds to implement their plans.

The organizers hope that the competition will result in the kind of grass-roots solutions that would never occur to transportation professionals — and that those ideas will spark change higher up in the municipal structure as well.

“For the most part, investment in transit comes in billions of dollars,” says Erin Barnes, executive director of Ioby (which stands for “in our backyards”). “Our focus has always been on small projects. We want to see solutions led by riders and people who actually use the services, rather than municipalities.”

Barnes says that her group was inspired by outside-the-box ideas already out there in the transit world, such as the community gardens found in some Tokyo train stations, rural bus shelters where local residents have created and maintained a homey environment, or metro stops with bike stations and bike repair facilities.

As it stands today, the transit experience in the United States can be demoralizing for riders in a way that planners may not take into account. Fear of sexual harassment, difficulty in safely crossing the street to reach stops and stations, and uncertainty about service reliability are just some of the problems out there. Organizers hope people responding to the Trick Out My Trip challenge will come up with creative solutions specific to the places they know best.

“Often you’re just standing by a sign hoping that the bus will show up,” says Shin-pei Tsay, director of research and development at Transit Center. “There’s such a disconnect between the people who are providing the service and the people who are using it.”

Ultimately, the aim of Trick Out My Trip is to increase the general public’s sense of possibility and power when it comes to making that bus or train ride a better experience. “Our goal is to reach riders rather than policymakers or practitioners,” says Barnes. “What our role in this can be is building out a larger group of people who care.”

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Sarah Goodyear has written about cities for a variety of publications, including CityLab, Grist and Streetsblog. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Tags: trainsbusescrowdfunding