Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Designing Sustainable Transport in Queensland.

It took me a while to decide whether I would attend this workshop or one on Advanced Theories of Change, but finally, I realized that the stage the NEH’s project is at, deserves more time invested in learning experiences closer to action than to theory.

The workshop was organized by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, which has an area working on sustainable transport for Brisbane called Travel Smart. It wasn’t so much about a lecture and activities for us to understand the concepts that were given to us. Instead, they wanted us to give them ideas about what to do to encourage citizens to use public transport. They would give us some info about what they do, and the findings of one of their market research for us to let them know what we would do if we were them. I liked the approach. It felt close to some sort of co-creation.

The experience made me remember that I have so many preconceived ideas that I cling to. In their market research, they interviewed about 4000 people in Brisbane to find out what sort of drivers and their reasons to drive there are around. They found 7 categories. Some don’t drive, others love tuning and showing their cars, others have to drive…I had a very narrow and judgmental idea that people drive their car pretty much because they can. But there are different reasons, and more than that, there are different reasons why people don’t use “greener” means of transportation.

For one of the activities, each group of 4 to 5 participants was given one of the market segments to analyze and come up with an idea to persuade/convince these people to use more public transport. My group had the “all convenience” type of drivers, who were mostly business and working people based around the CBD. These guys drive basically because the public transport is not convenient and not efficient for them. Buses are often late, some leave in areas with little to no access to transport, or frequencies are not enough. My group came up with two ideas. One was to develop an application that would tell citizens which, not only would help them plan their journey, but that would also tell them whether the service is actually on time or not. The idea emerged from the repeated inconvenience of being at a bus stop waiting, a time board that tells you the bus is picking you up, and no bus is on the scene. These business people don’t have the 10 or 15 minutes extra that buses and trains sometimes take. So knowing not just when the bus is meant to arrive but when is actually arriving, would help them make the decision as to whether walk to the station or not. But this is for those who have close access to public transport.

For those who don’t, we thought that a car sharing scheme would be the most convenient option. A website where people would say where they need to go and by what time they need to be at their destination, and for drivers to say where they usually drive to. It was also said that instead of the government trying to control the website, they would just build it and let the public to establish the specific rules of how they would use each other’s services. And that, maybe, if carpooling results cheaper and more convenient than driving a private car, and results in a good opportunity for unemployed drivers, there would be a possibility that some would decide in the future to become dedicated drivers, giving passengers more confidence and reliance in the service.

But then, after all groups shared their ideas, I realized that we were all trying to make public transport and other alternatives more convenient to citizens and thought that, maybe, complementing that with making the driving experience completely inconvenient would be much more effective. How could we do that? I remember then David from Creative Communities who more or less says that when we give drivers hundreds of signs of how not to drive, we treat them like idiots, as if they don’t have the capacity to assess what is dangerous and what isn’t. If we paint lines on the floor for cyclists to use, drivers tend to be closer to the line, but if there are no lines drivers tend to reduce the speed and pass carefully. Of course it is risky for both the driver and the rider, so it is not a measure to be implemented alone, but I believe that for a culture like ours, not having signs or lines to tell us what to do, would certainly make the driving experience absolutely unbearable. It was just an example to give the idea. What would make the driving experience absolutely uncomfortable??

Also, I believe that it is not just about convenience. To me, the bigger concept should be improving the experience. Yes, it’s good if the bus is on time, but it is so annoying to find a grumpy driver, as it is for the driver to find certain types of passengers. What sort of approach can improve social relationships in a bus trip?? Quite a few months ago, after doing my workshop about The Art of Place Making, I thought about having someone in the bus telling you the story of the suburb or street you were in. I know a lot of people prefer to read or do something else, but something along those lines could help passengers to have a better day, which would result in more empathic relationships with strangers…wouldn’t it?? Ideas and thoughts welcome...I'm not an expert about twitter but I think it's worth giving it a go to this conversation there. 

No comments:

Post a Comment