Designing Chicago: New Tools for Public Transit
Designing Chicago: New Tools for Public Transit
How would you change the way a million riders navigate the CTA? Join our team and design the transit app you've always wanted.
How would you change the way a million riders navigate the CTA? Join our team and design the transit app you've always wanted. Read more
About this project
"So what are you waiting for? Here's your opportunity to get involved in an app that could transform your every day commute."— Core77
"[Designing Chicago] hopes to demonstrate the power of the average citizen." — Fast Co.Design
"New Tools for Public Transit promises to be a more holistic approach to accessing the mass of information needed to make public transportation more user friendly."— GOOD
We are creating a new mobile app for navigating public transit. There are three ways in which this app is different than anything else out there.
1. It seamlessly integrates bus and train into a single route.
2. It uses real-time data from the CTA and other transportation sources around the city.
3. It’s designed by the people of Chicago--and you could be one of them.
That’s right. We don’t just need your money (though, of course, it’s critical). We want your participation! Join our team, and come build the transit app that you’ve always wanted.
Plus, the need is there! Apple's next iOS release, coming this fall, will no longer have Google Maps. Apple's providing its own Maps application, covering driving and walking, but public transit will be pushed onto third-party apps, like this one. In other words, you'll need a new transit app! Want to help design it?
What will this app do?
Rather than simply telling you what bus to take, the vision for our app is to make your entire journey better. While we want to create the full set of features with you, our backers, we've got tons of ideas for how the app might make your trip great.
- It could let you pay your fare without taking out your wallet
- It could tell you whether you'll get a seat on this bus, or to wait for a seat on the next one
- It could wake you up right before your stop
- It could know you were traveling with a stroller, and give you a route with elevators at every stop
- It could keep track of how much gas you've saved, so you could justify those new shoes!
- It could integrate with hyperlocal weather, know it was going to rain between your home and your station, and remind you to grab an umbrella
- It could include a coffee shop pit stop on every morning trip
- It could sync with your calendar, know you had an appointment, then work backwards to tell you when to leave the house
- It could give you great transit-related excuses whenever you were running late
- It could help you find locations for bike parking, car-sharing, taxis or the Metra
- It could send data back to the CTA, so they could know where to locate their next bus stop
These are just a handful of ideas that could be a part of your next transit app. If you participate, you can join this conversation in a very meaningful way.
What does it mean to participate?
We’re excited about all our rewards, particularly those that will appeal to fans of transit, visitors to the city, and people without smartphones. However, where we’re really hoping to blow your mind is with our options for active participation. If you really love the CTA, really hate the CTA, have always wanted to be a designer, or are excited to put your creative or technical skills to good use, consider joining our team of like-minded citizens!
You’d look great as an Urban Scout.
Urban Scouts are city dwellers who gather up information and ideas to help inform our app’s design. If you are curious, open-minded and creative, always have ideas for how to improve things, or just love to complain about the CTA, this might be the role for you!
You’ll attend a kickoff party and meet lots of like-minded citizens. You’ll get access to a new training video each week, and you’ll do fun assignments (up to 8 in total) that teach you a little about design, and a little about people. Your notes, photos, stories and ideas will appear on our DesigningChicago.com gallery, and your input will directly influence both the vision and execution of a tool that makes it easier, faster and more interesting to get from point A to point B.
You’d be amazing as an Urban Icon.
Urban Icons are Chicagoans who are passionate about learning and practicing user-centered design, and who want their work to have a real impact on society. As an Urban Icon, you are basically signing up for a real-world educational experience where the project is to design a transit app. In addition to Scouting, you’ll attend two high-impact workshops led by George, Sara and rotating Advisory Board members. You’ll learn about design for social innovation, then put those skills to use on distinct research and design challenges. Each workshop will be hosted at Greater Good Studio in Chicago, and all workshop supplies, training materials and food/drink will be provided.
The project has three phases, two of which require active participation:
Research is about understanding the rider’s needs, so that we can be sure to create something that people really want and use. During the Research phase, Urban Scouts and Icons will go out into the city and gather data in response to 4 separate research assignments. The assignments will be posted in fun and instructive training videos on our project website, DesigningChicago.com, throughout August and September. Assignments are designed to help you see the world with new eyes, and to really observe both your own behavior, and the needs and actions of others. Scouts will take pictures and jot down stories, and send that data in, where we’ll post it on the project website. Then, we’ll run a Research Workshop where Urban Icons will find patterns in the data, craft compelling insights and frame big, generative design opportunities. Basically telling everyone, “Here’s the areas where we can make the biggest difference for riders, and for the city.”
Design is about imagining new ways to meet the rider’s needs, through everything from app features and interactions, to new services and platforms. In the Design phase, Urban Scouts and Icons will brainstorm ideas that respond to each of the design opportunities, which will be posted as training videos on our project website throughout the month of October. They’ll explain their ideas with words, sketches and analogous benchmarks from other fields. They’ll send in all these ideas, using templates we provide, and again their ideas will appear on DesigningChicago.com. Then, we’ll run a Design Workshop where Urban Icons will sort and cluster the ideas, build ideas into larger concepts, and visualize, prototype and test out those ideas. Basically deciding, “These are the features that are most wanted and needed right now.”
Build is about taking the app from concept to code. In the Build phase, Greater Good Studio’s developers will develop and test every aspect of the app, making it ready for launch in April 2013. When the app is ready for testing, Urban Icons will receive a code to download a beta release, and they’ll try it out and give ongoing feedback. Once we’ve received feedback from the field, we’ll launch it and every backer will receive a free download.
Who are you guys?
We’re George and Sara Aye, and we run Greater Good Studio, where we use design methods to solve social problems. We’ve learned, practiced and taught user-centered design at many of Chicago’s leading innovation institutions—firms like IDEO and IA Collaborative, and universities like the Institute of Design at IIT, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. A theme of our work has been leading large teams, and with New Tools for Public Transit, we plan to assemble our largest yet. Greater Good Studio is based in the Logan Square Design Building, run by the fine folks at Bright Bright Great.
DesigningChicago.com is a two-way channel created to help us communicate with backers and track progress throughout the project. Check it out - it's already live! All Urban Scouts and Urban Icons will be credited on the website, Scouts with name/link and Icons with name/link/photo/bio. We’ll share regular updates with project backers on the site throughout this nearly-yearlong journey. And of course, we’ll be documenting the process with photos, blog posts and video confessionals.
We’re going to learn a lot, and we think you will too!
Where the money goes
The story here is short: developing an app is expensive. Estimates have ranged from our advisors, but the baseline cost of development has averaged around $100,000. This app has the potential to integrate data from multiple public agencies, such as real-time bus and train arrival information, car-sharing, bike-sharing, taxis and even traffic. Our development partners will resolve all that complexity into something simple and elegant, but that is no small feat.
There are also administrative costs related to running a project of this scale, including support of the project website (both human and technical), production of training videos and hands-on workshops, space and supplies for the workshops, and of course, each reward comes at some cost.
Incidentally, this project started out as a plan to redesign the CTA train map, and back then, the ask was much smaller (a measly $25K). But all signs pointed to the fact that print grows more obsolete every day. Still, the hardest part of switching from map to app was the need to significantly increase the ask. We’ve decided that we’d rather not get funded, than get funded but not be able to deliver. So we’re asking for the absolute least that we truly need, and our designs will work within this budget.
Did I hear something about a party?
Our project campaign started with a launch party the evening of July 9th. Over 200 Chicagoans joined us to help Greater Good Studio begin its second year with a bang, and to celebrate the start of this project’s incredible journey.
Our second party will be more like a kickoff rally, giving Scouts and Icons a chance to meet each other, grab their t-shirts and meet the founders and advisors. Our final party will be in 2013 when the app is officially launched, and boy, is that gonna be a big one.
Since designing an amazing mobile app is an ambitious challenge, we have assembled an Advisory Board for the project. These folks are each experts in their respective fields, including design, transit, technology, education and civic engagement, and they have been advising us since this project was just a twinkle in George’s eye. Look for their guest appearances throughout our Kickstarter videos, the backer rewards, and the Urban Icon workshops. We feel lucky to know each and every one of them! Thank you, Advisors!
Drew Brooks—Senior Designer at IA Collaborative
Onny Chatterjee—MBA Candidate, Class of 2013, Kellogg School of Management
Andrew Clark—Experience Designer, LUNATIK + Minimal
Tony Coppoletta—Manager of External Electronic Communications at CTA
Sara Frisk—Brand Experience Lead at IDEO, President of AIGA Chicago
Graham Garfield—General Manager for Customer Information at CTA
Liz Gerber—Assistant Professor at Northwestern University, Segal Design Institute; Faculty Founder of Design for America
Erin Huizenga—Lead at Gravity Tank, Founder/Executive Director of EPIC
Dickon Isaacs—CXD Design Director, Motorola Mobility
Jeanne Ragan Isaacs—Design Research and Strategy Consultant
Simon King—Interaction Designer at IDEO
Daniel Rees Lewis—Learning Strategist and Educational Researcher at Design for America
Dennis McClendon—Cartographer at CTA for over 10 years
Sami Nerenberg—Director of Operations at Design of America
Mayo Nissen—Designer and Strategist, ReD Associates, formerly at Urbanscale
Jeb Ory—CEO at 5 Degrees
John Tolva—Chief Technology Officer at the City of Chicago
Sandor Weisz—Designer at Everyblock
Massimo Vignelli—Design legend, notably the creator of the "Vignelli" map for New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority, 1972–1979
For more info on our Ad Board, see our project website.
About Greater Good Studio
Located in Chicago, Greater Good Studio uses design methods to solve social problems. Founders George Aye and Sara Cantor Aye are user-centered researchers, designers, consultants and teachers, and they firmly believe in the power of design to change the world.
George Aye is a tenure-track professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where his work focuses on human-centered design for social impact. Before founding Greater Good Studio, he was the Lead Designer for the CTA where he designed a prototype bus for the CTA's new Bus Rapid Transit service. From 2001 to 2008, George was a design consultant at IDEO where he designed products, services and environments for brands like Eli Lilly, Steelcase and Pepsi Co. He regularly speaks and hosts workshops on design for non-designers. George remains wildly optimistic that we can solve the most entrenched problems of our time, together for the greater good. George received his B.Eng. in Engineering Design Visualisation from Bournemouth University, UK.
Sara Cantor Aye teaches design research at Northwestern University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Lake Forest College. Prior to founding Greater Good Studio, Sara was Research Director at IA Collaborative in Chicago, uncovering innovation opportunities for companies such as Nike, GE and Charles Schwab. She is a board member of EPIC, a team-anchored coach at Design for America, and a mentor at Northwestern's Engineering Design and Innovation program. Sara works as an advocate for the user across every step of the design process, and believes in an asset-based approach to human-centered research. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University, and her M.Des in Design Planning from the Institute of Design at IIT.
Urban Scouts can be in any major metropolitan area that has public transit, as our research and design assignments will work for any public transit system. In fact, we encourage non-Chicagoans to apply as we need a global perspective!
Urban Icons will have a harder time participating if they don't live in the Chicagoland area, as our workshops will take place at Greater Good Studio in Chicago. However, if you are not in Chicago and would like to pledge as an Urban Icon, please contact us and we'll find a way to make it work! (There's a lot one can do with video chat these days!)
We think that existing transit apps leave some big things out. The main one is that few apps integrate bus and train. Chicago is a city of multi-modal riders, and we don't know any that integrate bus and train well…except Google. But the issue there is that Google doesn't use real-time arrival data, just scheduled times - which are not exactly helpful when you're deciding when to walk out the door.
So people jump from app to app. It's a clunky experience. Plus, as far as we've heard, iOS 6 won't have an in-built transit app, so Chicagoans are going to have to find their own third-party app anyway. We think the need is there, and the city is ready.
We're using Kickstarter because it's a place to both raise money and find people. An awesome app does cost a lot, and the best way that we could imagine to raise that kind of money was to offer an engaging educational experience. Hey, we are teachers, and our teaching is really unique. Do you have any other ideas for how we might a) raise the money and b) find the participants?
John Tolva said it best: We couldn't do this project alone, even if we had a million bucks. "It's not a man-hour thing, it's a perspective thing." We want to invite lots of voices to the table for perspective. Ultimately, we are the team that filters, leads and creates the final solution. We just don't want to get ahead of ourselves.
Our strategy here is social: we want to help the most people possible to learn the CTA, have a better experience, and ultimately choose transit more often. We think there are lots of tools to do this, and an app reaches some of them well (smartphone users), while a paper map reaches others well (tourists, Chicago newcomers, people who have just moved or changed jobs, those who navigate visually or take pride in learning the system).
Since current paper maps are free, we don't think people should have to pay for it. Giving away the paper map also provides local businesses with a marketing opportunity and a chance to support public transit in a really local, tangible way. If we only wanted to design a paper map, we could probably do it for much less money, and with much less fanfare.
But we think the best possible experience is enabled by technology. Charging a modest amount for the app feels reasonable to us. And inviting the community in feels like the best way to both a) create something amazing and b) raise the funds needed.
Even more interesting, the two tools could work together. But that's another idea for another brainstorm...
As an Urban Scout, you do not need any design experience, just a curious mind. This role is particularly suited to those that are interested in engaging with the design community and committed to making an impact through learning and action.
As a Urban Icon, it helps! We will be expecting your participation to be significantly more direct, engaged and hands-on. Experience in research/design/innovation either through school or professionally will be of benefit. If you have lots of experience, perhaps you will be given more of a leadership role at the workshops. But we encourage anyone with a passion for creativity, problem solving and empathy to sign up.
Assuming we are funded on August 8, the project will begin with the Kickoff Party on August 17th, and the first training video will be posted that same day. Training videos and updates will be posted weekly, and assets from Urban Scouts (photos, stories and ideas) will be posted in real-time as we receive them. The project plan is to spend 6 weeks on Research, and 6 weeks on Design. After that, we move into the Build phase, which we're estimating taking 6 months, depending on the tools we design and how complex the development needs to be.
We'll post a new task in a training video each week during the phases of Research and Design. Each phase has 4 tasks, for a total of 8 tasks. However, Urban Scouts can choose to do as many or as few tasks as they'd like! If you only want to tell us your one big idea, great! We'd love to hear it. If you want to send in 15 photos of your commute, awesome! We want to see them all.
Then you'll be missed! But don't worry, we'll ship you your shirt. (We'll grab your shipping address in the post-Kickstarter survey). And there will be plenty more opportunities to get to know your fellow Scouts and Icons, online or in person.
Depending on how many Urban Icons sign up, we may host multiple of each workshop, on different nights of the week. So you'll sign up for the dates you're available, and hopefully within those options, you can find a night that works for you.
It depends how many Urban Icons sign up, but we are currently planning to organize each workshop (about 4 hours each) with no more than 30 people, in order to allow everyone enough hands-on instruction to really contribute.
There's actually very little hands-on management required for the Scouts, though we're prepared to handle anything that comes up. Our website http://DesigningChicago.com will have a Scout Headquarters where all the stories, pictures and ideas will be stored and displayed. Each week, we'll post a training video that tells you what task you're doing, why you're doing it, and some "how-to's" for doing it well. After that, we'll keep an open dialogue with Scouts on the blog all week, and Greater Good folks will be pulling and printing the work in preparation for our workshops.
Initially, yes. We plan to develop the app for the leading mobile device platform (which is Apple’s iOS). However, assuming our project is funded and the app is financially sustainable, we plan to evaluate and assess other platforms, like Android, Windows Phone or simply a mobile optimized website.
Because we don't know what transit riders really need and want at this time, we have not selected a development partner. We are talking to some potential developers through our advisory board, but will start the search in earnest upon successfully being funded.
If you'd like to be considered as part of the search for development partner, please contact us at http://mailto:email@example.com.
My organization would like to sponsor Chicago. How can we pledge at a higher level than the $10K max that Kickstarter allows?
Please contact us at http://mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to talk about higher levels of sponsorship with organizations who find a meaningful connection to this initiative.
My organization would like to sponsor a different city. How can we bring this project to our US or international metropolis?
Greater Good Studio is excited to bring participatory design and civic engagement to other cities and transit systems. Foundations, corporations and government officials, please contact us to discuss options for Designing Your City, at http://mailto:email@example.com.
Our goal is to create a great app experience first, and then to get it into as many hands as possible.
The Android development landscape has a number of factors to consider: the wide variety of handset models from handset makers, as well as the range of versions of Android OS (the latest is called Ice Cream Sandwich, but the most common version is two releases ago, called Gingerbread http://developer.android.com/about/dashboards/index.html)
Apple's hardware and software releases are also complicated. But it seems the opportunity to develop a very impactful transit app is upon us, as the upcoming release of iOS 6, will not have Google's transit directions any longer due to a shift in Apple's mapping strategy.
We are charging a nominal amount for pre-orders in order to cover the costs of development, however upon release, our app will most likely have two business models; a free version supported by ads, and a paid version ($2) that will offer premium features and no ads.
The budget of $125,000 is enough to see us through to completion, including research, design, development and testing. We are projecting sales of ads and the app, once it's launched, to sustain it through continued maintenance costs.
The CTA has limited resources and doesn't see app development as part of their service offering. The CTA has an open data policy and makes its data readily available to the developer community. We don't believe the CTA ever plans to create its own official app, although they are very encouraging of third-party developers like us.
Why should I "donate" to a project that's being created by a business? Is Greater Good Studio a non-profit?
There are two potential answers to this question. The first is that funders would receive rewards, such as the recognition of being a contributor to local innovation and the distribution of a paper map with their name on it. The second is that funders may be interested in making a return, in which case we are happy to discuss terms. We are open to discussing revenue sharing of the app, for example, or being on the project board, with the ability to provide strategic guidance throughout the project's development.
Greater Good Studio is not a non-profit organization; we define ourselves as a social business, which is mission-driven (using design methods to solve social problems) but still sustainable through traditional revenue streams such as consulting fees and teaching contracts. We believe that social business is the future of business, and asking for donations is not something we intend to do frequently in the future. We view this large ask as a way to kick-start the development of an educational platform that could potentially become a separate revenue stream for us down the road, bringing more citizens in contact with the design process as an enabler to work on problems that matter to them.
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