Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

The Pittsburgh Wave Station

The Wave Station tailors the existing and emerging suite of transportation services to bridge specific neighborhood mobility gaps.

Photo of Joe Nickol
2 0

Written by

A person’s wave is a powerful thing. It can mean ‘hello.’ It says, “I see you, I am over here.” It can hail a cab, notice a friend, and welcome you to a place. It is the embodiment of energy and can change someone’s day for the better. From front porch to street and back, it is a true neighborhood-based phenomenon. To create a more seamless, welcoming, and intuitive commute, then, let’s create something that fosters more waves, less fingers. 

Commuting begins with a point of entry into a system: jumping off a porch step, sliding into a car, clicking into a bike, waiting at a bus stop or calling for an Uber. It is here where a user makes a decision that works best for his or life and wallet. It is at this point we have the greatest opportunity to not only influence behavior but to meet people’s needs and solving their problems in meeting them. 

Most transportation thinking is supply based. It typically asks how can I get light rail, launch new wi-fi enabled rolling stock, build a new off-ramp, or create more complete streets. With each solution, it asks the user to adapt to it rather than the reverse, hoping that they will. But oftentimes, they do not. 


The answer is in how we approach the problem. Rather than supply-driven , our philosophy and practice is, on the other hand, demand based. It asks how can we use existing services/tools to tailor the incremental trial and error phase of practical responses to meet the needs of the users? It creates a powerful, defensible force that can then shape the supply of what gets built.

This is critical because the needs of each neighborhood are different: job access, food security, education, nightlife, commerce, safety, etc. So instead of adding yet another one-size fits all widget to the mix, our approach is to co-develop a platform for existing and emerging services with neighborhoods and their end-users. The platform is built on an ethic that is a dynamic mix of community planning and pure Pittsburgh jitney hustle. Using specific needs identified with a neighborhood, it pulls together a tailored menu of existing/modified delivery and transportation providers to first confirm needs through testing and then develop services in scale with the demand. As demand grows or needs change, the configuration of the menu can change as well. Over time, hypotheses become tests and, once confirmed, tests can become permanent neighborhood infrastructure that improves the commute to and from it. 

We have developed much of the components of this platform already. Our Neighborhood Playbook has been used nationally to bring neighborhoods and leaders together to solve problems and to grow based on those solutions. Through this “operating system” and approach to neighborhood development, we have created Bird Cages, popup district ride-sharing stands, moveable bike racks, neighborhood-installed street calming, and transportation demand curve influencers such as neighborhood-based coworking locations. The approach does not begin with an answer but a question. The rest is a sense of discovery and collective problem solving that not only solves a transportation conundrum but creates a place that is unstuck, growing together, becomes happier, and inspires more waving and less fingers.  

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

The Wave Station is a platform where end users can access a specifically tailored mix of mobility services and where the services, themselves, interconnect to form a seamless neighborhood-based transportation and distribution network. No two Stations will look the same. Some might be geared toward improving access to a high-traffic retail scene. Others could be more residential that provide a mix of delivery lockers, carshare, Uber Pool pickups, bike/scooter share, etc. Over time, these locations will morph into places where food delivery and mini markets may pop up, public spaces with amenities around them, or even enhanced as service types and sophistication evolve with the demand. These won't be made for places but with them to not only ensure that they are smart in how and who they serve but to also unleash creativity and character such that each Wave Station has its own artful personality, reflective of the people who use it.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Ready to Scale - you have completed and expanded your pilot and are seeing adoption of your solution by your intended user

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

YARD & Company ( is an international urban growth firm based in Cincinnati, Ohio, that uncovers demand for extraordinary places and crafts design & development strategies for shared investment in their future. We are the authors of the Neighborhood Playbook, the Bird Cage, and several other demand-based neighborhood growth engines.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Funding Request

  • $25,000

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

Our proposal involves a mix of hi- and lo-tech solutions. It works closely with many existing and emerging service providers, the Pittsburgh Wave Station proposes to work with agencies such as the URA, the Land Bank, DOMI, and neighborhood-specific organizations such as Community Development Corporations to identify and solve problems during a pilot year. In the pilot year, we propose to work with up to four neighborhoods or districts ($25,000 per place) with diverging needs to sculpt a neighborhood-based mobility platform. The pilot neighborhood service mix can then be opened up to developers to create additional services or platforms to complement, organize, or grow from what is established. It will be a designated open-platform, mobility service R/D zone. The profit model of the Station will come from service micro-assessments per use and targeted marketing. The real payback for cities, of course, is the neighborhood growth that clusters around these new premium service locations.

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

Measuring success will not only entail traditional transportation metrics of use from improved reliability, predictability, speed, comfort, safety, etc. but how well this platform and the actual physical place it sponsors strengthens the neighborhood and its people through investment, growth, and even how often people wave to one another. Ultimately, we can see every neighborhood in Pittsburgh having one or more Wave Stations, each with their own intentions about the services and connections it fosters.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Diana Avart

Hi Joe,

I love that your solution plans to adapt to the needs of individual neighborhoods and the people that live in them. Each and every one of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods are unique and have different ways of going about things. The most successful neighborhood-base projects come from learning about the needs, desires, and assets of the neighborhoods themselves so they can be addressed and optimized instead of given a generic solution that work for many others, but not all. Thanks so much for bringing in this perspective through your submission!

- Diana, Facilitator

View all comments