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Students tackle Baltimore's public transportation system

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The voices of young people can have the power to revive and transform Baltimore, starting with its very infrastructure. In Baltimore, transportation creates obstacles for its residents, and this is no less true for its young people. Late buses, skipped stops, and rude drivers are major barriers to students getting to school on time. Frequent school attendance is the best and only route toward a brighter future. Students from public high schools in Baltimore are not only taking note of this, but are also doing something about it.

Enter Wide Angle’s Design Team, a group of eight high school students from Baltimore, selected to create media campaigns that reduce transportation barriers and improve school attendance. In collaboration with Baltimore City Public Schools, the Baltimore Student Attendance Campaign, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, and the Maryland Transit Administration, the Design Team is unpacking the complex challenges of public transportation, and designing solutions that aim to create positive change.

The first media project promotes the Rate Your Ride program to Baltimore City Public School students. Rate Your Ride, a survey created by the Maryland Transit Administration, collects real time feedback via text messaging, website surveys, and phone responses from public transportation riders. The data collected allows the MTA to identify areas for improvement. Students used the basics of design (type, color, layout, image) as well as social design tactics (user ethnography, brainstorming, research) to create a multi-faceted campaign that would make using Rate Your Ride attractive to their peers. Students designed four posters and to be distributed to Baltimore City Middle and High Schools, business cards that will be dispersed to every student enrolled in city schools, and advertisements that will be on display in all 350 local bus shelters.

What’s next for the Wide Angle Design Team? Students have discussed ideas that range from visualizing the Rate Your Ride data, to creating a bus driver toolkit to help drivers interact with students. While the problems facing public transportation in Baltimore are numerous and daunting, student innovation and creativity provide empowering first-step solutions that can ultimately lead to a better Baltimore. Wide Angle’s Design Team is proof of that youth input is crucial in impacting large systems like the MTA and Baltimore City Public Schools.
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