Archive for August, 2016

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Seeking Transportation and Finding Art

If you spend more than an hour with me, you quickly learn that I am a transportation nerd. Even when I go on vacation, I cannot stop myself from observing how people move. In July 2016, I traveled to Colombia with a DC-based church for a mission trip. I traveled to Colombia a few days earlier than the rest of the team because I wanted to see Mio, the public transportation system in Cali. Yes, my entire purpose for going to Cali was to see public transportation.

My first day in Cali, I set out on foot to find Mio. As I was walking down the street, I noticed a ten story mural. I did not want to stop and look, because I was on a mission to get to Mio. Eventually, I navigated my way to the main Mio route. When I saw the route, I witness that Mio does not operate in a bus lane. It operates in A BUS STREET. There was an entire street dedicated to the bus in a relatively narrow street curb to curb. I was as emotional as a five-year-old seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time.

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The challenge of Mio is that the ridership is so high, every bus was stuffed to the gills. Even though I came to Cali to experience the public transportation system first hand, when the bus doors opened and I was faced with the mass of people, I decided to pass. I do not do well in overcrowded situations.  With my plans to ride foiled, I walked back to the ten story mural.

After taking in the mural and all of its intricate details, I noticed another one not far away. I started walking toward the second mural. Then I noticed more. Needless to say I ended up on an adventure around the city to find the murals, which people in Cali call graffiti. I explored Cali by foot for several hours hunting for murals.  Here are some of my favorites:

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After getting back to my hotel, the experience reminded me about the importance of public art in cities. Murals, sculptures, and other forms of public art create a sense of place that, in supporting the community’s creativity, encourages walkability.  In the Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places, the Urban Land Institute found public art slows cars and make streets more attractive for shoppers and pedestrians. Other places can follow Cali’s example of encouraging murals as a tool for encouraging walking.

 

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

Selma pic

When Access to Transportation Impacts Your Potential!

I grew up in Selma, Alabama, which is a small town in the deep south, where the options for public transportation were walking and taking a cab. While people rode bikes, they weren’t used to commute but more for little kids to visit their friends around the neighborhood. Growing up I considered having a car as a luxury item that was far beyond the reach of my household. I reflect now, as an adult, and realize the immense impact that growing up without a car in my household had on the opportunities that I could pursue.

For background, my grandmother raised a lot of her grandchildren and we were always dependent on another family member or friend to take us to places such as church, the grocery story, or special occasions. We all walked to school. I walked to my elementary, middle, and high school. All of these were nearly a mile or more away through a variety of neighborhoods. I can vividly recall during my elementary and middle school years jumping across or walking under trains when they obstructed our path home. Dangerous, right? But in our naivety we didn’t want to wait thirty or more minutes for the train to move.

Our lack of viable transportation options impacted all of our decisions. In third grade, I scored highly on an achievement test and was labeled as gifted. I was presented the opportunity to be a part of the gifted program, but there was one immediate challenge, the school that hosted the gifted program was a few miles away and I didn’t have a way to get there. As great as the opportunity was, we had to say no. I’ll never know what other opportunities this might have led to.

Other times, I felt the impacts of a lack of transportation. Around the age of 10, I started piano lessons ; however, I soon had to quit because  paying cab fees or gas money for someone to take me combined with the costs of the lesson became too much for my grandmother to bear. In high school, I got my first job at a local restaurant. I took a cab to and from work every day but when I realized that the hours that I was assigned barely compensated for the cab fare, I quit the job. Anything that I had to do solo was a burden because my transportation options were so limited.

Not until high school did I start overloading my schedule with extracurricular activities because I could finagle a ride from classmates who had cars or those who had parents who were gracious enough to give me a ride. Of course by that time, there were other things that I could not participate in because the foundation had not been set at an early age such as dance, band, and some sports.

Unfortunately, Selma has not changed regarding transportation access. It makes me think of all of the young kids who do not participate simply because they don’t have a ride to tee-ball, softball, football, band practice, or whatever their hearts desire. This lack of transportation leads to new generations of missed opportunities and access to programs that could lead them to a different future. In a place where the high school dropout and crime rate is high, I wonder if access to transportation could be one factor in changing that paradigm.

At Nspiregreen, I’m the environmental principal, but this is what I love about the work we do. We help build and expand transportation systems to improve access and mobility for all people. Through our work, I want to make sure that no one misses an opportunity simply because they did not have a ride.

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC an environmental consulting, urban planning and public engagement firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.

 

Howard County LPPRP Public Meeting

Tips to Design for Public Engagement

In my previous post, Designing to Connect Communities, I explained why content visualization is useful for communicating complex ideas. Today, I want to share three basic tips of creating a good content design and some examples from Nspiregreen’s projects. These tips may be useful when designing a PowerPoint presentation, a poster, or any other document to communicate your ideas more effectively.

Consider the audience

When we do outreach in the District of Columbia and other cities, we expect to engage people from a variety of backgrounds, education levels, and even languages. Therefore, we know that we need to focus on using simple and non-technical terms, as well as graphics to explain complex transportation and environmental concepts. If, on the other hand, we are preparing an internal document for a client, we use more technical language while at the same time maintaining a visually appealing design.

Below are different versions of a poster we created for the Rock Creek East II Livability study.  Within the study area there are a large community of Amharic and Spanish speakers. We designed a poster in English, Spanish, and Amharic.

Figures 1- Considering the Audience

Use images instead of text

Images are a universal language that can facilitate communication (you can read more about this in my previous post). When we work with communities, we not only use simple, non-technical words to explain a concept, but we create diagrams, illustrations, graphs and figures that help the reader to better and faster understand the ideas we want them to understand. Our aim is to reduce the amount of words used to describe a process or other ideas.

When I am in the process of designing a poster, I take some time to get inspiration. I do this by searching for design ideas on Google or Pinterest, including how to create an appealing process diagram or illustration that could help summarize an idea. There are many online resources of free or low costs images, icons, and illustrations.

Here is an example of a board we created for a public meeting for the DC Stormwater Plan, where we reduced the text to the minimum, and we used icons and graphics to support a list of action items.

Figures 2 - Use images instead of text

Choose the colors carefully

There is a fine line between a nice design and a document that looks like a piñata. We carefully choose the colors we want to use for each project. Having too many colors can be distracting, making it difficult for readers to focus the attention on the content. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than 4 different colors, which might include black and white.

For instance, the Vision Zero Action Plan we worked on last year (here are some good insights we had: link to 2 blogs) contained 2 main colors: red, which is the District of Department of Transportation (DDOT)’s branding color (our client), and blue. The other 2 colors are white and black. If you need more color variations, as we did, using different shades of those colors work well. The following image is one of the pages of the Vision Action Plan, which summarize some statistical facts through graphics, using only the branding colors.

Figures 3 - Choose colors carefully

To create visually appealing documents, there is no need to be a professional graphic designer. As any other skill, it takes a bit of research, time, and practice. Following these tips might give you a good place to start. If you find these tips useful and you want to know more, stay tune as I keep as I keep posting more tips in our blog in the future.

Fabiana I. Paez has a background in Geography and Cartography. She is passionate about creating visual designs to communicate and engage people in social and environmental causes.





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