A design-focused study of mode choice doesn’t consider the many ways people interact with and travel through urban environments.
Joe Cortright considers the approaches of design thinking in understanding how cities work. Several years ago, Ford commissioned the design firm IDEO to look at the urban travel experience and how it could be improved in the future.
"IDEO conceptualized the design task by sending groups of its employees to a restaurant a few miles away via different transportation modes, so they could assess the challenges each faces: the subway (too smelly), Divvy bikeshare (too dirty), and Uber (too expensive)," writes Cortright.
But he argues that IDEO was not asking the right questions by focusing solely on transportation. IDEO’s own offices are in a dense neighborhood in Chicago with many food options within walking distance — versus a restaurant several miles away — and the choice to locate there demonstrates how cities can be better designed to meet the needs of the people living and working in them.
"The real failure in design thinking here is IDEO viewing this task as primarily choosing between different transportation modes. Of course, they are free to frame this question however they—and their paying client—would like. But from a broader policy perspective—and from the perspective of citizens and consumers, we’d all be a lot better off if we’d make the design conversation about how we arrange our cities," says Cortright.
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HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research
Rowan University's Department of Geography, Planning, & Sustainability
City Of Oakland
Hillsborough County Public Schools
City of Raleigh
This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.