Upper Arlington Commission on Aging
Age-Friendly Innovation Center
As people get older they become more likely to experience mobility issues. Driving becomes more dangerous as one ages, which can limit an older adult’s opportunity for social connection. Social isolation and loneliness can occur as a result, with potential negative impacts on one's physical and psychological health.
The Community Connector Bus Stops in the suburban neighborhood of Upper Arlington, OH provide an opportunity to emphasize the features of the Community Connector bus system that make it an appealing mode of transportation for older adults, while the stops themselves become valuable social spaces for community members of all ages.
Community Connector Bus Stops
Encouraging Mobility and Social Connection Amongst Older Adults
At the beginning of this project, the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging and the Age Friendly Innovation Center shared their plans of introducing a bus to the city of Upper Arlington, Ohio as a way of encouraging safe mobility and social connection amongst the city's residents aged 65+, who account for approximately 18% of the city's population. It was expected that the bus would address the specific needs of older adults in the community by providing rides to along a scheduled route.
My job was to come up with a design solution that would contribute to the effective implementation of this bus system.
I began by analyzing the results of a comprehensive survey of older adults in the city of Upper Arlington that had been conducted in 2018 by the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging. The survey was sent out to older adults who resided in Upper Arlington and asked a variety of questions about the respondent’s life. Shown is a sample of the responses.
Primary research was conducted as part of a group with my research partners Lauren Goslee and Sabrina Young. We designed and ran two codesign research sessions that ran for two hours each. The codesign sessions were held with groups of 5-7 participants, all of whom were residents of Upper Arlington age 65 or older. Codesign activities included group interviews, mind mapping, image collaging, and conjecture feedback.
Primary Research Insights
public transportation is a way for older adults to stay safe and mobile in their community
participants want a solution that appeals to all older adults regardless of driving ability
participants are interested in being able to socialize with other older adults while using a transit system
Secondary research consisted of reading books and articles surrounding mobility, older adults, public transit, health and wellness, city planning and policies, and social connection.
Secondary Research Insights
as people get older they become more likely to experience social isolation and loneliness, which can greatly affect their physical and psychological health
an older adult's quality of life is closely tied to their level of personal mobility
driving, the main mode of transportation for many Americans, becomes more dangerous as one ages
people are more likely to use public transit if they can walk to it and have a comfortable place to wait
bus stops market the existence and quality of the service to new and existing riders
bus stop amenities can make the wait easier to endure and can make riders feel safer
Older adults who are socially isolated are at an increased risk of:
The research insights extracted from the primary and secondary research led to the idea of bus stop design as a way to support the proposed bus system. While the bus itself addressed mobility, the bus stops provided an opportunity to address social connection.
It was important to me that the bus stops be places where people want to congregate, even when the bus wasn't running. This meant thinking of the spaces like parks or small plazas and considering elements that would typically be seen as non-traditional for bus stops.
I created a moodboard that combined images that convey an informal playfulness with images of existing amenities and motifs in Upper Arlington.
This helped me to create a visual language that I hoped would be playful enough to encourage social interaction at the stop, while still acknowledging the aesthetics that currently exist in the city.
In these sketches I brainstormed ways that civic and social activities like volunteering, mentoring, and community gardening could be incorporated into a bus stop. I was also very interested in the idea of creating “outdoor living rooms” that were spread throughout the community and connected via the bus.
I noticed that many of my iterations included repeating elements like seating, lights, overhead covering, ground covering, and plants, which I then separated from one another and began iterating on individually.
The pergola structure and the canopy provides shade and introduces color to the stop. The design of the pergola is more traditional and draws from elements of the traditional, romantic revival architecture styles that are common in the houses and shops in Upper Arlington south of Lane Avenue.
The planters sit along the edge of the the bus stop and define the space, provide support to the pergola, and contain bold and colorful plant varieties. The simple form of the contemporary planter boxes draws out the contemporary elements of the more traditional pergola.
The seating at the stop consists of two benches that can seat 2-3 people and are angled slightly towards one another to encourage socialization. Perforations in the metal on the horizontal surfaces allows for water drainage, while the bright color and rounded back contribute to the informal and welcoming feel of the stop.
A table that complements the benches gives riders a place to set goods picked up on errands. This prevents things like boxes and bags from being set on the ground where they might otherwise become wet, dirty, or a tripping hazard.
The painted "rugs" on the ground of the bus stops help to define the space as well as contribute to the informal, community living room feel. The rug patterns are reminiscent of Middle Eastern Kilim rugs and combine contemporary geometric forms with traditional old-world charm. The rugs are painted with a series of three stencils which makes the application of the intricate and precise patterns relatively simple. The specific rug patterns painted at each stop vary to allow for individuality amongst the stops.
The lighting sconces provide light to help visitors at the bus stops feel safer as it gets dark. The sconces are inspired by the old-world gas lanterns that can be found on the exteriors of homes throughout Upper Arlington. The bus stop sconces have been designed with a simplistic and geometric twist that allows the sconces to pair with the contemporary planter boxes.
I then began assembling the bus stop elements in a three dimensional environment. I made both digital and physical models to get a sense of construction and how the elements relate to one another spatially.
The Community Connector Bus Stops serve as both a transit stop and an informal, “outdoor living room” space for the community to gather. Older adults who are waiting to board the bus are able to socialize with one another at the stops, and when the bus service isn’t running the stops can be enjoyed by people of all ages, encouraging intergenerational relationships and fostering a stronger sense of community.
The bus stops will be located around Upper Arlington along the Community Connector’s route. The stops are designed to fit within the dimensions of a standard parking space, which means they can be installed in the parking lots of popular destinations like grocery stores, restaurants, banks, parks, libraries, and doctor’s offices. The exact number of stops depends on the route, which has yet to be planned. As the service expands, the number of CC stops would increase accordingly.
The design of the stops includes architectural plants which have bold and distinctive shapes, while the integration of bright flowers acts as another source of color in the design. Here you can see some suggested varieties for planting. I took the mature size of each plant, whether they attract wildlife like butterflies, and the time of year in which the plant blooms into account with my suggestions. Selected plants varieties and the patterns in which they are planted differ between stops to give each stop its own unique touch.
Materials and Maintenance
To ensure that these stops were able to continue to serve the community into the future, I had to make sure that these stops were as low maintenance as possible. I selected a range of durable materials and hearty plants, with the idea that maintenance such as watering the plants and performing minor repairs could be performed by volunteers from the community.
35 page research document
57 page process book containing research process, design brief, concept development, scenario of use, materials and planting suggestions, maintenance plan, project impact, and opportunities for further exploration
finalized Community Connector Bus Stop concept
digital and physical models
a video explaining the Community Connector bus stops
experienced working with an outside partner
practiced designing and conducting codesign research sessions
practiced identifying a problem space and design opportunities
self-guided the entire design process