Walkable Urban Design Tool
Walkable Urban Design Tool
Do you know an unwalkable street? Imagine redesigning any street into something amazing using your phone. Viva pedestrians!
Do you know an unwalkable street? Imagine redesigning any street into something amazing using your phone. Viva pedestrians! Read more
About this project
The goal is to raise the social status of pedestrians through an interactive mobile service.
Help us inspire citizens to discover the walkable potential of their community. Align common goals of city planners with those of the local residents and put ideas into action.
In the words of Tim O'Reilly, "government, at its core, is about doing together what we can’t do alone". Citizens are stakeholders, designers and participants in constructing the vision of their neighbourhoods and streets.
Your backing not only helps us financially, but it illustrates the readiness of citizens to participate as stakeholders in urban planning projects. Each dollar we raise is a vote for participatory design between city planners and local citizens.
How the tool works
Identify a street you think should be designed in a more pedestrian friendly way.
Record your story about why you think the street should be designed in a more pedestrian friendly way.
Set the location of your street.
Redesign a more walkable design of any street, anywhere in the world.
What happens after you complete your design?
We're currently in discussions with the City of Austin to run a pilot using the prototype when it's ready to test with a large audience. Additionally, we're meeting with city planners and urban designers to understand their needs when it comes to real-time data.
Essentially, city planners can export data from the tool that tells them:
- what streets are most important to local citizens
- how citizens imagine themselves using local streets as pedestrians
- insight into current design "workarounds"
- how to align future urban planning projects with the priorities of local citizens
What's most impactful about this tool is the ability for everyone to visualise each others perspective in real-time. Instead of describing a design in words it's possible to create a sketch; which is a highly effective tool for communicating an intention. The insights collected by this tool save time and money because it's possible to extract real-time data that would traditionally take months of planning and coordination.
And the communication of design ideas aren't one-sided. City planners and urban designers can also use the tool to illustrate their design ideas and collect feedback from local citizens. Thereby recognising and rewarding participation form local citizens and encouraging collaboration.
What's involved in building this tool?
We need to raise $25,000 to fund the build of a working prototype and trial it as a pilot in Austin.
The more funds we raise the more features and capabilities we'll be able to add. Your donation supports our work building software that makes cities more walkable.
Your contribution will help us with steps one through three of the development process.
Development steps involved:
1) Develop a working prototype
2) Trial the prototype as a pilot in Austin
3) Refine the tool based on the findings from the pilot
4) Launch the tool globally
With your support, Key to the Street will release a truly revolutionary mobile prototype. Initially, there will be a pilot in Austin and once we’re confident that the tool works on any type of smart phone; it will be made available Internationally.
Scaling the prototype to a product that's ready to 'ship' globally isn't included in this particular Kickstarter project. We've applied for the Code for America accelerator and we're currently seeking a Board of Directors to help with startup costs.
Why do we need walkable streets?
Walkability has individual and community health benefits, such as:
- Opportunities for increased social interaction
- Increase in the average number of friends and associates where people live,
- Reduced crime (with more people walking and watching over neighborhoods, open space and main streets)
- Increased sense of pride
- Increased volunteerism
- Decrease carbon emissions
What is the true cost of unwalkable streets?
Quite simply, lack of walking is making us fat and isolated. We worry about the effects video games may have on our children, but we don’t ask ourselves the consequences of rarely experiencing walking.
Imagine a thirteen year old whose grandparents live in the next gated community down the road. The child must be driven out of the protected neighborhood onto a major traffic collector then into the secured community of the grandparents.
This preteen cannot walk to visit grandparents (or friends) even in a safe neighbourhood less than a quarter mile away. What kind of effect will that urban isolation have on a young person? Can you imagine never experiencing walking to school as a kid? It's sad, Johnny can't walk to school.
In the beginning, Key to the Street was focused on serving people local recommendations on their smart phones of shops and restaurants who source their inventory from local growers and makers.
Jess, the founder had been living in Melbourne, Australia; which according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's (EIU) most recent global liveability report was the most liveable city in the world in 2012.
But upon arriving in Austin, it was clear that first there needed to be a tool to make streets more walkable. Because what's the point of receiving local recommendations on your mobile phone you aren't able to walk to?
The “Made in Banff” Digital Media Pitch Session
At SXSWi in March 2013, Jess pitched the idea of building a collaborative mobile design tool allowing anyone, anywhere in the world to redesign streets to create more walkable communities. And she won!
The Banff Centre is a globally respected arts, cultural, and educational institution and conference facility located in Banff, Alberta, Canada.
Jess is now building a prototype with The Banff Centre. Kenny Lozowski is the Lead Programmer, Film & Media The Banff Centre and will lead the web development work for the prototype.
The Film & Media Research and Collaboration Lab performs investigations and assist artists with projects that incorporate video, sound, images, displays, robotics, cameras, sensor arrays and other media elements into technological art pieces that don’t fit within a traditional practise or framework. Human-machine interfaces, software development, electronic design, and bespoke system design are all a part of the development process in the lab.
What the 2-week Banff Centre-hosted Creation Residency includes:
- return flights
- 2 week accommodation
- professional resources include a wide variety of production and post-production services
- public presentation of the work created
What isn't included:
- research, development and planning costs
- dedicated resources outside of the 2 week residency
We need to bring on additional resources if we are going to attempt to build the tool as we've envisioned it. Web development is only one part of the work involved to make this tool a reality.
Risks and challenges
Jessica Lowry, founder of Key to the Street won a pitch session at SXSWi 2013 held by The Banff Centre. This means that the build will be co-designed remotely. A working prototype might take more time because the team is split between Austin and Banff.
Additionally, Jess has been in discussions with The City of Austin to partner on the project to ensure that the output of the tool is useful for city planners. The hope is to be able to export 3D print outs of street redesigns. If the redesigns aren't useful to city planners the tool won't be able to put ideas into action.
Everyone involved in the project understands the opportunity and the need to get the experience right for the people who want to redesign more walkable streets.
Jess is an experienced user experience designer. She designs wireframes, tests functionality with users, collects actionable feedback and uncovers insights as to user requirements.
The Banff Centre hosts professional resources include a wide variety of production and post-production services along experienced programmers, animators, videographers and audio personnel.
Additional resources are required and that's why we need to raise funds on KickStarter.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
Yes, once the tool is ready to be 'shipped' globally there is a monetization model; however, that is a long way off. We are not going to earn a profit from the prototype.
There is no need for us to try to earn a profit before we ensure the tool adds value and is useful.
Once the tool is ready for widespread use we expect to charge cities and urban designers a modest fee for access to the data the tool collects. This experience is similar to Google Analytic services. Cities will need to subscribe to our service in order to run campaigns, promote projects and run reports.
This is a great question, and one that we plan to answer during our pilot in Austin. We currently don't know exactly how cities and urban designers might use the data we collect and the design ideas we capture.
However, the potential ways for this tool to be used are as follows:
* identify unwalkable streets that are most important to a local neighbourhood
* capture how local residents perceive the street and the streets purpose in the eyes of local residents
* create co-design projects with local residents
* introduce street improvement changes before they happen and gather feedback from local residents
*uncover inexpensive 'workarounds' to current design or infrastructure challenges
Urban designers are skilled and highly capable designers. What makes you think local residents can do a better job at designing unwalkable streets?
There is no question that urban designers are skilled and trained to produce intelligent designs.
This tool doesn't propose to replace urban designers - or city planners for that matter.
My experience in User Experience and Service Design has proven to me that more can be achieved when you bring all of the stakeholders into the room to collaborate on a design solution. When it comes to walkable streets citizens are the most important stakeholder and in many cases they have been kept out of the design process.
This tool will allow an urban designer to illustrate their intention with the local community BEFORE any physical changes have been made. A better outcome will be achieved by gathering real-time feedback and allowing local citizens to participate by drawing their own solutions.
Defining 'walkable' is the exact purpose of the tool. Does 'walkable' simply mean that there is a sidewalk available? Or does it include bike paths, access to public transportation, neighbourhood watch, better street lamps or something totally different like becoming an exclusively pedestrian only zone?
Every community will have it's own value associated to the concept of what is and what is not walkable.
Each of us has our own expectations of what a walkable street looks like and this tool is going to help us align our thinking. Establishing a mutual expectation is going to help city planners deliver solutions that follow the communities way of thinking.
Additionally, there is currently a lot of work being done at The City of Austin on the topic of designing more walkable communities. I've met with many of the people involved in the Imagine Austin Project.
Check out this link to learn more about Imagine Austin ftp://http://ftp.ci.austin.tx.us/npzd/Austingo/web_IACP_full_reduced.pdf
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