Two years ago, while riding a city bus in Tulsa, I had a thought.
I’d been riding the bus off and on for a while. The service itself was really great — the buses ran on time, were generally clean, affordable, the drivers friendly. I was, however, consistently frustrated by basically every element of the graphics, maps, signage, branding and various printed schedules — and don’t get me started on their website (it’s since been updated, apparently using web standards from the late nineties). The buses almost always went where I needed to go, but finding my way there via their maps and schedules was quite a challenge. People who rode often had a sort of route memory, and it’s easy to see why they needed to. Consulting the map was a source of endless frustration.
I’m a lover of transit design. The first time I saw a Massimo Vignelli NYC subway sign, I had someone take my picture with it. I was once given a transit map shower curtain as a housewarming gift, and I have a drawer full of maps from every city I’ve visited. I’ve always wanted to design a map, but never knew where to start. Then I read a newspaper on a bus (I’m a regular well-respected man-about-town, apparently) and came upon an article about a light rail proposal. Tulsa’s always proposing light rail. I love trains, but I suspect it would be a disaster, but that’s another post. I started thinking about what the wayfinding might look like on a Tulsa Train system. And I thought of the bus map, and I got sad.
And then I got excited.
I got home and spent all evening sketching, doing research, completely re-thinking the transit system of my home city. What if there were Rapid Bus (BRT) corridors? A commuter rail system serving the suburbs and the awkwardly located airport? My mind was buzzing.
Over the coming days as I continued to work on this project, the scope intensified. While originally I wanted to plot theoretical new lines and rail service corridors as a kind of de facto Urban Planning exercise, it became clear that information design was the core of what I was after. I couldn’t do anything else until I had a solid core, building upon the existing service.
And so, two years ago on Friday, I started this project. Then I got busy with life and freelance work. Then I moved to Austin. I was pushing my pet project on down the road and making excuses. Lately I’ve been thinking about it again, and I’m committed to finishing it this summer.
I’ve been making progress. If you’d like to follow along, check out Transit Tulsa, a tumblr where I’ve been posting status updates and talking about what I’ve learned.
After being back under the Texas sun for a couple of weeks now, I’ve had time to mentally catch up after my amazing whirlwind of a trip two weeks ago. It also occurs to me that it all happened so quickly that I didn’t really get a chance to share (in any detail at least) what I was even doing on the road.
I was traveling with the amazingly talented poet, spoken-word artist and dear friend Lauren Zuniga. We’ve been talking about me coming along on a trip with her for a long time, and things just fell into place this time. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, and it was seriously so much fun.
I’ve got more snippets to post from the trip, and I’ve been busy logging footage and audio I collected along the way. I’ll likely be posting some snippets of those videos here in the near future, and I can’t wait to share all this with the world.
I’ll be posting more photos, and some journals from the trip, over the next few days. Please stay tuned. 🙂
Tonight Lauren performed at New Hampshire State University University of New Hampshire. Met lots of fantastic progressive young minds — also felt a little old. College kids are pretty young these days.
Other points of interest: ate the most amazing lobster roll ever (resisted urge to post food pic), drank delicious coffee (the caffeine is creeping back into my life), talked about gender and sexuality in a car while driving through a pine forest, ate “Mexican” food (sorry, New England, it’s just not your forté), and met lots of interesting people. And in case anyone’s wondering, I’m a little bit in love with Portland, Maine (and not just because of the seafood).
This week I’m tagging along with the amazingly talented Lauren Zuniga on the final leg of her tour throughout the Northeast and filming a short documentary.
We had breakfast this morning at a giant wooden table at a coffeeshop in Lawrence, Massachusetts, among what I could only describe as a sort of industrial ruin. I’ve been in three states today. I really like pointing cameras and microphones at things and people I find interesting. More soon.
I’ll be posting snippets and updates from the road this week, so check back (or comment on this post and select “Notify me of new posts by email”