T-ventures: Personal Adventures on the T

By Aneesh Agrawal, Jane Coffrin, and Catherine Caruso

The data say that T riders have a lot of strong, different ideas, questions and feelings about the future of transportation in Boston, but there are many T riders who still are not making their voices heard. We want to tell this story because we love the city of Boston and want to make sure everyone has a say during the policy planning process. For example, the dataset GoBoston2030 collected last January during record snowfall has over 200 questions related to snow and inclement weather, making it clear that Boston transit needs modernization to handle the needs of citizens who weren’t able to make it to work. One respondent asked:

“If I don’t get to work, I don’t get paid. I don’t have a car and rely on the T. Is it possible to build/redesign a public transportation model that does NOT need to be shut completely down because of snow? When will the MBTA see management and operations that plan and prepare for the most common obstacles?”

Our audience is the citizens of Boston, both those who currently use public transit as well as those who will use public transportation in the future. Last January, the city of Boston launched the GoBoston2030 campaign, which aims to use citizen feedback to guide the planning process for the next 15 years of Boston’s transit system. Gathering continuous input is essential to making this process a success. Our goal is to engage our audience in conversation by getting them to tweet @GoBoston2030.

We started our data exploration with a list of over 5000 questions from Boston area residents compiled by GoBoston 2030. The questions have been categorized and broken down by station, making it easy to perform an initial analysis of the data.

Here’s a sampling of the question set:

  • What is the plan to update the T in the next 10 years?
  • Why can’t the T work like a ski lift? Constant flow of cars that slow to near stop on platforms for loading, keep moving to end of the platform, and immediately take off again for next stop. Then, a new car arrives just as the last one is leaving.
  • How can we make the T more affordable?
  • Will there be massage chairs on the bus and train?
  • How can we make the T more convenient for parents with strollers/young children?

Some of these are whimsical, while others are more pragmatic. The question database is a great starting point, but it’s fairly large and impersonal, so we wanted to put faces to the feedback. Although GoBoston2030’s initial data collection period is over, with their Action Plan scheduled to be released this summer we wanted to highlight how Boston citizens can continue to engage in the process in a simple way, and make their voices heard.

We gathered personal stories from local T riders via short interviews and compiled them into a short video, with the goal of building momentum for aggregating feedback that can extend to viewers. We used interview clips of feedback from real T riders to make our message more personable, and show our viewers that T riders are already making their voices heard, and they should do the same . A video is also a highly appropriate media format for GoBoston2030 to share directly on Twitter, which will help drive the call to action for riders to tweet back @GoBoston2030. Keeping the video short makes it more likely viewers will watch to the end of the video, and including humorous clips such as the doors closing on an unlucky rider helps build empathy and a connection with the audience.

This video could be a prototype for a series of short videos released periodically by GoBoston 2030 throughout the planning process. Follow up videos could include more interviews, longer interviews, and more parts of Boston’s public transportation system.

How will commuting in Boston improve by 2030?

By: Katie Marlowe, Phillip Graham, Gary Burnett, and Felipe Lozano-Landinez

The data say that Boston’s transportation system will be more and more stressed in the future. At the same time, it is clear that there are many issues that commuters face today. We wanted to tell this story because it highlights the efforts that the Go Boston 2030 initiative is undertaking to create a better transportation system for the City of Boston and also encourages additional community involvement in the endeavor.

Our audience for this project is two-fold. On one end, our posters target the every day Boston commuter who is affected by the transportation consistently. On the other side, our presentation is geared towards the Go Boston 2030 leadership team, in the sense that we undertook this project as if we were communication consultants hired by the committee to establish a public dialogue and the presentation is our final meeting with the committee to present our deliverables, the posters.

Our two main goals for the project, enacted via the posters, are: 1) To let Boston’s commuters know that their concerns are being taken into account and 2) To encourage Boston’s commuters to engage with the Go Boston 2030 initiative.

We used two main data sets for this project. The first one was the “Responses to the GoBoston2030 campaign” categorized qualitative data set from Catherine D’Ignazio (provided via Rahul Bhargava), and the second one consisted of quantitative data from the Goals and Targets report from the Go Boston 2030 initiative (link here).

We decided that the most appropriate way to tell the data story would be through a human perspective that made each poster relatable to the average commuter that was also augmented with a few numbers to corroborate any explicit and implicit claims and show the seriousness of the Go Boston 2030s efforts. With this in mind, we found that the most effective way to achieve our two goals would be via both qualitative and quantitative data.

For each poster, the qualitative data introduces the concerns of a commuter from the Winter 2015 survey, creating a human and emotive rather than an abstract and un-relatable dialogue. Then, numerical data is used to corroborate the concerns, showing that the Go Boston 2030 initiative has looked into this. After, we provide a qualitative response from the Go Boston 2030 initiative to the qualitative data previously posed, and then provide numerical backing to show that the committee has thought through the issue at hand deeply and is setting goals and measuring progress rigorously. At the bottom of  each poster, we have a link so that the commuter can access additional information.

The qualitative data set from Catherine D’Ignazio was used for the qualitative data to help frame the dialogue of each poster, while the Go Boston 2030 Goals and Targets report was used for the quantitative data and Go Boston 2030 responses.

These posters are representative of what would be a larger poster campaign that has location-targeting for commuters. Each poster would be placed in the location where it is most likely to be read by a commuter that can highly relate to its story.

For example, our Access poster would be placed in the Alewife and Malden T stations, to directly address the commuters that are positively affected by the planned change.

Efficient Commute

Similarly, we would place our Safety poster near bike “parking lots” in the city and Hubway stations.

Bike Lanes

And as a final example, we would place our Reliability poster in T and bus stations/stops throughout the city.

Late Train

Put Longwood on Boston’s Safe Cycling Map

Team: Reem Alfaiz, Argyro Nicolaou, Michelle Thomas

Our team created a video for Longwood Cyclists, a group of people who live or work in the Longwood area and want to make sure that Longwood gets its share of safe cycling infrastructure in the wake of the GoBoston 2030 campaign. This video is intended for online use and dissemination. We also created an accompanying Poster to be distributed and put up in the broader Mission Hill area.

The data from the GoBoston 2030 dataset show that a large portion of Boston residents are concerned with safe and easy bike access. Our audience is cyclists in Boston, specifically those living in or commuting to the Mission Hill and Longwood areas. We hope to encourage bikers to reach out to the Mission Hill Council Representative, Josh Zakim, and call for infrastructure reform to accommodate and encourage bike commuting as well as sign a petition to be sent to him. The GoBoston 2030 campaign has already shown that Boston’s City Council and the Mayor are committed to some sort of transport infrastructure change. Our video and campaign want to make sure that the Mission Hill area, and Longwood in particular, where so many people work, don’t get left behind in this process.

When looking through the GoBoston 2030 data, we noticed that the majority of questions written in were about issues of access (1297 out of 4719). We took a closer look at these questions and noticed two things; 25% of the questions were asking for safer options for bikers (325 out of 1297 questions), and some of the most striking ones mentioned the Longwood medical area, specifically problems on Huntington Avenue and Longwood Avenue. Some examples:

When do you think the Longwood Medical Area will be connected to the Charles River Bike paths via a barrier separated cycle track or lane?

As a commuter from Watertown to the Longwood medical area, I bike as much as possible.  The worst part of my ride by far is the portion on Longwood Avenue. I avoid Huntington Ave at all costs as it is substantially worse.

How are you going to improve bike paths and bike safety on major roads like Boylston St, Brookline Ave and Huntington Ave ?

We chose to create a character from this area using exact quotes from the data. In this way, we are putting a face and giving a voice to questions from the spreadsheet. Creating a character from the area using a combination of voices and issues will help us reach a wide audience and make people personally connect with the issue.

We chose to tell this story as a personal narrative video.  A video allows us to show an actual person, making it far easier to relate and pull the audience into the story more. It also allows us to physically show the route of many commuters. This is very relatable to Boston residents and shows recognizable landmarks. It also visually depicts the problems and dangers of a very common commute, while grounding it in reality. This also provides additional impact, clarification for those less familiar with cycling, and intense relatability for cyclists that know the area. Video also lends itself well to changes in mood, letting us shift the tone at the area of the character’s  accident to add weight to the incident. The video contains a direct call for action at the end, so viewers feel there is a way they can help bring change to the issues they just witnessed. In all, a video with a character directly rooted in the data creates a more personal data story with direct visual impact at a high level of relatability for Mission Hill and Boston residents.