Open Innovation Gives Bus Stop a Makeover

Published May-14-12

Open innovation contest to design an innovative neighbourhood bus stop.

University of Utah/Utah Transit Authority, United States

The Story:

Open Innovation Gives Bus Stop a Makeover Crowdsourcing is a useful tool to gather ideas and concepts from diverse sources. Typically, participation is open to all and the crowd is usually characterized by several recognizable features: it is heterogeneous (in terms of knowledge and background for example), participation is voluntary and a large number of people take part.

Bus Stop Innovation

Next Stop Design was an experimental crowdsourcing platform that formed part of a research project – “Crowdsourcing Public Participation in Transit Planning” - by researchers from the University of Utah in cooperation with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA).

The aim of the open innovation project was to work with neighbourhood residents to design a better functioning bus stop, but also to assess the feasibility of an OI approach to transit issues and to study how people participate in government decision making and urban planning.

Mass Participation

The first iteration of the contest was in 2009 when the public was challenged to design a bus stop for the University of Utah campus business loop. The response was lively and enthusiastic. More than 3,000 people took part and 260 bus stop designs were submitted to a specially created website. In addition, more than 11,000 votes helped determine the ultimate winner.

The 2010 contest built on the previous year’s success and tasked the crowd to improve a major public transportation hub in Salt Lake City, Utah. The area in question was the ‘Sugarhouse’ neighbourhood and designs had to be for improvements to a bus stop which is served by Utah Transit Authority buses.

Visitors to the Next Stop Design site were encouraged to consider a number of different elements in their designs such as accessibility, weather protection and access to transit information. For inspiration and to get the creative juices flowing, a photo gallery of bus stops from around the world was made available.

Winner Selected

The overall winner was Aaron Basil Nelson for his ‘Sugarhouse Lounge’ concept. The bus stop incorporates outdoor furniture pieces that offer a nod back to the heritage of the area, which was once known as “furniture row” for the number of businesses that sold furniture.

The sofas are cast in concrete and there’s a concrete table, motion sensitive outdoor lamp, coat rack, and a screen that gives passengers updated bus information while they wait.

The prize for this novel concept was a year-long pass for UTA travel.

Citizen Engagement

Such crowdsourcing initiatives offer a new form of citizen engagement, an unprecedented opportunity for people to get involved with all levels of their government, to help influence thinking, guide policy decisions and obtain improved access to information and better services.

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