Thursday, January 19, 2012

User Constructed Transportation Tools:

An Emerging Ecosystem

By Lexington Griffith

Transportation is what allows urbanism to function and flourish. Without efficient and readily available transportation options, the critical mass of people and ideas that we call urbanism can not occur. The importance of movement of people and goods to planners and citizens alike can not be understated. Design is often centered around tenants of movement, resulting in much of the built environment that we are used to seeing today. With such recent focus on the re-emergence of the city core and its associated urbanity, it is interesting to view some of the things various “unofficial” groups have embarked upon to make movement that much easier.

One Bus Away

With a goal to bring real-time transit information to the Puget Sound region, One Bus Away was created by Brian Ferris, a graduate student at the University of Washington. Put in his own words, “[I] developed this site after too many late nights in the rain, wondering if the 44 would ever come” ( The application allows users to track where their buses are in real time at any stop in the region.

OBA main website page (

What originally began as a one man operation eventually garnered the attention of transit agencies around the Puget Sound who are now beginning to integrate the application into their own transit strategies. Simply put, the application showcases a non-institutional construction to improve the urban environment.

OBA screen on 3rd Ave – SDOT (

OBA Android Application

System Maps

Maps have always been used to describe and visualize the built environment on a macro scale. The construction of maps is an important factor in conveying and circulating information to others. With Seattle’s extensive transit system, many have found official transit maps confusing, or at worst, utterly unreadable. Looking at the image below, it is a mess of lines with little to no contextual information on routes.

King County Metro System Map (

In seeking to induce changes on Metro’s map making process, some have taken it upon themselves to create simple, easy to read route maps. The level of clarity and route information is infinitely better. Hopefully Metro takes notice.

Oran Viriyincy’s Frequent Transit Network Map (

Another Example -- Oran Viriyincy (

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