By: Mengyu Gao, Vice President, 1UP Chapter at Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School
How would you feel when the bus does not come often and the bus stops are uncomfortable to wait at? As aspiring urban planners and designers, students from Pierre Elliott Trudeau High School (PETHS) have decided to improve the experience of using transit.
The Inspiration — how we got here
Markham’s sprawling urban form makes it unfeasible and expensive to operate frequent rapid transit. From single-family houses built before the 90s to the newer townhouses, the density ranges from 3 to 10 units per gross acre. This density is far from what is needed to support frequent transit which, according to the Ministry of Transportation, is 15 units per acre.
Two bus lines serve our school:
- Line 8, which runs north-south on Kennedy Road, has a frequency of 16 mins at peak time.
- Line 18, which runs east-west on Bur Oak Avenue, has a frequency of 30+ mins at peak time and 72 mins off-peak.
Since the buses do not come often, and we as high school students are not in the position to increase their frequency, we initially focused on improving the waiting experience. Through surveys and first-hand observations, we found out the following problems: high noise level, uncomfortable and unsafe waiting spaces, lack of heating, and lack of transit information.
As a 1UP school chapter, we contacted York Region Transit, the local transit authority, to ask for shelters, since two of the bus stops next to our school are unsheltered. However, after visiting the stops, YRT staff concluded that bus shelters are unfeasible due to multiple factors, such as utilities.
Unfortunately, the idea of doing anything on the YRT property wasn’t going to be possible. We spoke to our mentor, Janice, and together we believed it would be best to instead look into improving other aspects of a transit user’s experience that don’t involve any physical intervention.
The Design Process
After more brainstorming, we decided to design a bus pamphlet that is better suited to the students at PETHS. This idea originated from the Grade 8 Parent Night, where parents and future students came to visit our school. We set up a booth at the entrance to provide transit information. They asked many of the same questions and we recorded them down.
Common questions include:
- How do the fares work when I take a TTC bus in York region?
- Do I have to pay when I transfer?
- What is a Presto Card?
We realized that the official YRT pamphlet did not include much information. It only had a map and a schedule. This inspired us to redesign the bus pamphlet to help answer some of these questions.
After adding FAQs, fare chart, connection information, and other necessary information, the pamphlet becomes more readable and user-friendly.
From this experience, we have learned the importance of user-based design in the urban planning process. The goal of this project is to provide valuable and convenient transit information to PETHS students to promote transit usage. If we put the needs of the users in mind, the product will meet their needs, thus encouraging more students to use transit and promoting sustainability in our school community.
The official release date of this pamphlet is April 2019, when it will be distributed to students at bus stops. The pamphlets will also be distributed on the Grade 9 Orientation Day, with the hope that it will increase transit usage among the new students.
As members of 1UP, we encourage you to join our movement as changemakers to create a more sustainable future for all of us.