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Placemaking Within a Community

Community-based design and implementation of bus shelters to serve spaces for rest, wayfinding, and gathering and as neighborhood landmarks

Photo of Bangseh Akuchu
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As I have been studying the site and walking down the streets (via Google street view), I have noticed that there are very few/barely any bus shelters at the bus stops in the impact area. In addition, the ones that I did see looked old and not very ADA friendly.

The idea that came to my mind was the design and implement bus shelters along Michigan Ave in the impact area. Bus shelters can be inviting places where people are welcomed to meet and gather, in addition to waiting for a transportation options. The can be recognizable landmarks within a neighborhood to help residents orient themselves and navigate around. 

The intent of these bus shelters would be to serve as sheltered spaces for commuters to wait for the bus but also as placemaking/landmarks for the neighborhoods. This design solution would be in collaboration with members of the community and assistance from local design firms in the area. With the community input in the design and ideation phases, each of these shelters would take on a different identity that corresponds to the community that it is in.

In addition, to creating distinct landmarks for the neighborhoods, new and improved methods of wayfinding could be embedded in these structures to help new residents and visitors find their way around. Improved signage, wayfinding graphics, and schedules can be included in the shelters to serve all the functional needs of the residents. So residents and visitors wait for transit options they would have a safe and functional place to wait.

This solution can be piloted for one neighborhood and if it is successful can be scaled into other neighborhoods.

How will your solution benefit residents, workers, or visitors in the Michigan Central Station impact area? (1,000 characters)

This design solution would provide a landmark that would be unique and distinct to each community as well as create a destination for the communities and providing sheltered waiting spaces for the residents. These landmarks can be used by both residents and visitors to help them navigate the city and know when they are entering a different neighborhood. Visitors and residents can have an identifiable place where they can gather and meet up with one another. This can lead to an improved sense of safety within a neighbor since these would be distinct and visually inviting spaces in the neighborhood. Residents and visitors would also benefit from embedded wayfinding to help them navigate the transportation system. They would have an inviting space to wait for transit options, know when buses are coming, and have a recognizable place where they can meet their rides.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

I haven't personally tested the idea at scale, but there are various other studies and research in which bus shelters have been shown to improve transportation conditions as well as community interaction. One example that I am drawing from in Atlanta, this has been done within a couple of neighborhoods and it has been shown to improve neighborhood conditions as well as transportation ridership.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

At this point in time, I am submitting as an individual. I am an architecture student at Georgia Tech. There are also other students that I presented this idea to that would be interested in assisting with the research and studies to refine the project.

Size of your team or organization

  • I am submitting as an individual

Are you submitting as a student team?

  • Yes

Are you submitting as a team from the Impact Area?

  • No

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

I am imagining allotting around 50,000 for one shelter. This amount can be fully defined as the designs begin to get fleshed out and they know exactly what it will take to fabricate each of them.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

To pilot this idea, I envision starting with one community, probably Historic Corktown, and having meetings with some motivated community members to discuss and design their neighborhood shelter. The initial meetings would be to identify how they view their draw out key elements that can be used for the design. The next meetings would be to hopefully contact and involve local firms to host design charettes with these community members to start getting design ideas down on paper and making initial models. After that, the top proposals would be presented to the rest of the neighborhood for a community vote. Finally, we would prototype and implement the selected design scheme within the neighborhood. The funding requested would mainly be used to prototype and fabricate the shelters. Some of the funding might be used to host the meetings but I only envision that as providing potential food and supplies/materials for the meetings.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

The success of this design solution could be measured through a "post-occupancy" survey and evaluation. The survey can be sent out to the residents of the community to see what they think about the shelter and see if they see/feel any initial improvements to the neighborhood conditions. We can also track and see if there is an increased ridership at the stops that have the shelters versus the ones that don't have shelters.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

In the initial design phase, sustainable options can be explores to make the shelters more sustainable and biophilic. Solar arrays can be implemented to potentially make the structures self-sufficient and vegetation can be added to improve the visual and ecological qualities. Since each community would have a vested interest in the design phase of the shelter and they would serve as a landmark for the community, the hope is that they would be more inclined to help maintain the structures.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Mackenzie Fankell

Bangseh Akuchu Thank you for sharing this proposal! I am a Michigan Central Station Challenge facilitator. Many community members have shared that bus stops are difficult to identify and lack benches and shelters. There are not enough signs that explain the bus stops or schedule. I think that Detroit has a big need for improved bus shelters! I like the idea of designing each shelter to display the personality and culture of each neighborhood. What other features within the shelter do you think would be important to help citizens navigate the bus system?

Photo of Bangseh Akuchu

Hi Mackenzie, thanks for the response. Asides from placemaking, wayfinding would be an important focus of the design. At this point in time, my thinking is that an electronic display would be implemented within the shelters to provide an up to date schedule and arrival time of the buses. As well, the display can also implement a map feature to display all the other available bus stops and connections to other bus systems.
Another option that I am looking at/discussing with friends who would be able to help me accomplish it is the implementation of a navigation feature. Users would be able to input their intended destination and the system would be able to provide them with options on how to get there. In our initial discussions, an approach we are looking at would be a way to integrate a feature that would link to Google Maps, since Google Maps already provides public transport options when you search up directions.