Participatory Design and TDM

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Earlier this fall, our assistant program manager, Titi Onabanjo, participated in the Toronto Global Goals Jam at George Brown College. The event brought together professionals and students from various disciplines to work on projects contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Here’s what she learned and how it applies to our work in transportation demand management.

The Toronto Global Goals Jam gave me the opportunity to be involved in a different type of stakeholder engagement exercise that I was not accustomed to. It was exciting to collaborate in a multidisciplinary team and learn about charrette design from a team of designers. The process got me thinking about how this approach to problem solving could be applied in the world of transportation demand management.

What is a charrette?

A charrette is a collaborative and creative process that brings together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds to ideate, design and prototype ideas. 

At the Global Goals Jam there were six different challenges that teams worked on. I was assigned challenge six: Citizen Engagement. We were to design a tool to enhance citizen engagement in the city, that captures and communicates the voice of the disenfranchised. The idea was for us to brainstorm solutions through the eyes of our target group: citizens who are not normally engaged in the decision-making process.

During this exercise, I learned about user personas and their journey. Who do you design for? What does life look like through the eyes of your target demographic?

Participatory design

Throughout this process, I encountered participatory planning and design concepts and started thinking about how these concepts can shape TDM work.  Participatory design is regularly used in community planning, where residents are treated as the experts. This is essential to building equity in development projects and is based on the idea that no one is more knowledgeable about their neighborhood than the residents. An example of a successful project is the City of Toronto’s revitalization of Regent community park.  

Participatory design and transportation demand management

The way we design our cities encourages single occupant vehicle usage by making driving usually the fastest, most convenient way of getting around. TDM leverages how people make their transportation decisions to encourage people to try alternative modes of transportation such as cycling or carpooling. If the goal of TDM is to make taking sustainable modes of transportation easier or more attractive, people should inform how policies and programs are developed.

How this applies to our work

At pointA, we work in collaboration with our clients to develop solutions specific to their transportation needs. Every client has different needs, and to determine the best solutions, we conduct baseline surveys, onsite interviews and tabling events to get our clients’ perspective on the issues. We use baseline surveys and onsite interviews as an opportunity for employees to tell us what type of solution they would like to see.  

For instance, in our work for the Consumers Road Business Park, we conducted a survey to measure interest in a new GO bus stop in the area, shuttle service, and more carshare vehicles across the business park. This data is shared with the City of Toronto and GO Transit to inform decisions on improvements for the area.

As we expand our services and pivot away from exclusively working with workplaces and into working with communities, we plan to expand our use of participatory design, particularly charrettes in our programming. As we learn more about the commuting challenges of the different demographics of our community, we aim to develop a wide array of programs that fit the needs of everyone in our society, from school aged children to seniors.

Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash


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