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.