Riding and waiting for the bus is disproportionately more unpleasant in Chicago's neglected neighborhoods. Ironically, this is exactly where bus routes trace former bustling corridors on the west and south sides. How might we utilize existing assets to connect local residents with local businesses (and vice versa)?
Installing bus trackers in storefronts within a block of a bus stop offers arrival times for peace of mind, provides another option for shelter, and allows residents to interact with neighbor-owned businesses.
Our commitment to systems-thinking demands us to investigate root causes. With this in mind, our interview questions for users are shaped by some foundational questions that we ask ourselves as a team.
Current CTA shelters with bus tracker displays are located at major intersections, not prioritizing residents
We conducted user interviews with residents and small business owners to validate our initial assumptions. Common insights were revealed.
After conducting interviews, residents and local small business owners are nostalgic of the bustling commercial corridors from decades ago. They have confidence that their neighborhood can sustain a local economy if the correct framework is laid out.
We also validated that waiting for the bus is unpleasant.
Assumption validated. Even if they own a cell phone, users don't want to bother checking it for the bus. Other users don't want to check their mobile device because it's too much of a cost with their data plan.
Assumption validated. Residents want to learn more about their local businesses. Some are even embarrassed to go inside.
Residents who prefer taking the bus to the train like taking it because it's safer and it's closer. They take these qualities over speed. Most of these users are female.
Small business owners are looking for more analog methods of connecting with customers. They prefer customers that live in the neighborhood because they are more likely to become recurring customers.
Persona A doesn't bother using the internet to track the bus.
Persona B is hesitant about walking into nearby stores just to explore.
Persona C is a shopkeeper and digital marketing isn't working well.
Persona D has taken the bus for years, uses the tracker but would like to see the vacant storefronts filled.
After hearing from users, we prioritized a design direction that could improve upon the bus wait. We also wanted to prioritize qualities that encouraged face-to-face connections and sparked conversations unique to the neighborhood.
We submitted a previous version of this project to the Urban Urge Awards.
For residents who take the bus regularly but don't have internet access, they can find arrival times within a block of their bus stop.
Small business owners can connect with potential customers that live within walking distance of their storefront.
Residents are encouraged to explore the storefront since the display acts as an unrelated first step to overcome any initial hesitation.
While some business storefronts install displays in established neighborhoods, the displays actually act as a catalyst in neglected neighborhoods.
This simple action can bring neighbor-owned business activity back to these struggling areas and drive residential infill by encouraging community-driven self-reliance.
If you own/rent a storefront business in Chicago, in an area in need of economic and community development, be part of our simple but meaningful project. Apply here.
Please contact us about how to get involved.