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Tama (Cat) – The Friendly Stationmaster

When you saw the title, you probably thought I was a little bit crazy!  How could a cat be a Railway Stationmaster? However, in Japan, a cat named Tama was hired to be a stationmaster. It’s quite hilarious!

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Source: http://www.iridetheharlemline.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/1_.jpg

Tama was the stationmaster at Kishi Station, on the Kishigawa line, in the City of Kinokawa, Japan.  In 2004, the station was nearly shut down due to financial problems. But citizens insisted to keep it open until 2006. In cutting the budget, a stationmaster needed to be selected from employees of local businesses nearby. It was then, Station Manager Koyama adopted a cat named Tama, and Koyama promoted his cat as the Stationmaster of Kishi Station in January 2007.

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Although her job was to greet people, she took lots of naps. Tama became the first cat Stationmaster in the world and the only female working at the Station. People traveled all over come to see Tama, and due to her fame, approximately 1.1 billion Yen was added to the Kinokawa economy by the end of 2007.  With more people traveling to Kishi, business was booming. This led to a boom in goods and souvenirs sold. Tama saved this station, and made it one of the most popular station in Japan.

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Source: https://www.hisgo.com/us/destination-japan/wakayama/tama_cat.html

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Source: https://www.hisgo.com/us/destination-japan/wakayama/tama_cat.html

Some train and taxis have pictures of Tama painted on them. The city really embraced the unique character of Tama.

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Source: http://www.greenshinto.com/wp/2015/08/12/cat-shrine/

In 2010, Tama was promoted as “Operation Officer” in recognition of her contributions, and her sister and mother became Assistant Stationmasters.  Sadly, Tama died in June 2015 of heart failure. Not long after, her apprentice Nitama (another cat) became the new stationmaster.

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Source: http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/24/travel/new-cat-stationmaster/index.html

Using an animal as an official mascot isn’t new but it is different in the field of transportation. Having Tama as a symbol of the station was an interesting way to draw customers and visitors. I love interesting communities and I’m sure there are many people who are fond of cats and dogs. In the District, people who love cats can go to the Crumbs & Whiskers Coffee Shop. They are popular because people who love cats can spend their whole afternoon surrounded by cats while having their coffee?

Do you know any other similar stories about places that became famous because of animals?

Check out this Animal Planet video of Tama, the stationmaster

Tama(cat)-station master

 

Mei Fang, is an urban planner with a strong passion in urban and landscape design, she also enjoy looking for the variety culture inside of the city.

 

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Networking In the Transportation Industry

One of the reasons I love working in transportation is the community. Everyone in the transit industry says it’s such a small world, and in the four years I’ve been involved, I am discovering that to be true. In this industry, people you meet, however briefly, will most likely pop up again years down the line. As a result, I quickly learned that one of the best ways to not only forward your career but to actually enjoy it, is to get involved in industry groups, whether they focus on advocacy, career advancement, or simply socializing (if you haven’t heard of the board game Ticket to Ride, it’s transit-nerd heaven). Starting my position at Nspiregreen (this is only the beginning of my third week) has been making me think a lot about my experience in the industry and how most of my opportunities and friendships were made possible because of all the volunteering and networking I’ve done.

My introduction into the transportation world in DC was when I volunteered for Sustainable DC’s transportation working group. Through those efforts, I met a DDOT employee who I learned a lot from, but whom I didn’t necessarily expect to have a lasting impact on my career. Fast forward two years and I’m applying to be a transit planner for HDR. That very same DDOT employee was the client for the project I was being hired for! Needless to say, that connection helped me get the job.

Later that year, HDR sent me to the WTS-DC holiday party where I met the then-Vice President of the chapter. After spending the night bonding with her and other members at the cheese table (because everyone knows many great moments in life are directly related to cheese), she invited me to join the board as co-chair of their Mentoring Program. Four years later and I am still holding the same board position, and am in awe every year about the amazing mentors and mentees I get to work with. Being on the WTS board and participating in the Mentoring Program have been incredibly gratifying experiences that I recommend to everyone. In fact, after meeting most of the Nspiregreen employees years ago while working with them on a DDOT project, I was able to stay in touch by convincing them to join the Mentoring Program. Three of the five other staff members (and a former employee) here have participated in the program as either mentors or mentees and I will be working on convincing the other two to participate once applications open up again next year.

The final factor in helping me decide to write my first blog post about networking in the industry is my first project with Nspiregreen—helping with public outreach for Vision Zero in Alexandria. Normally when you begin a new job, it takes a little while to adjust to the people you’re working with and feel like you are a part of the team, but I happily discovered that I would be spending my outreach time working with people that I met at YPT (Young Professionals in Transportation) events towards the beginning of my career. Despite not talking to them for years, that shared experience was enough to feel like I had been working on this project with them for as long as any of my Nspiregreen colleagues.

I am very excited to join the Nspiregreen team because these women are known for their ability to network and engage the community, whether within the industry or out in public. I have so much to learn from them and hope to step up my game even more. And because of their vast network and involvement in all types of projects around the area, I can’t wait for the opportunity to work with even more incredible people all throughout the industry.

Stacy Weisfeld is a community and transportation planner whose career has been driven by her passion for environmental sustainability. She is adept at engaging the public, bringing together unlikely allies, and finding innovative solutions to unexpected problems. She serves as a board member for Women’s Transportation Seminar, is certified with ISI Envision Sustainability, and is a graduate of American Public Transportation Association’s national Emerging Leaders Program.

 

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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