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Fostering Local Ownership

Decisions about the design of transportation systems are often made without consideration to local culture or history, and applied across an entire system, leading to bus or light rail stations that look and feel the same regardless of the neighborhood in which they’re located. While these systems may function well, their lack of contextual specificity prevents them from creating a sense of belonging within the local community. They might serve their intended function, but their design — or lack of it — turns them into isolated archipelagos that stick out like a sore thumb, rather than highlighting and elevating the context they are placed in.

Challenge: How can transportation systems reflect communities’ culture and preferences to ensure local ownership and use of these systems?

There is a growing understanding that providing access to new transportation choices does not necessarily address issues of equity. Transportation systems designed with culturally and locally relevant elements are more likely to be loved and therefore used.

Solution: Arts and culture can help accomplish local goals like improving health, encouraging walking and biking, or increasing transit ridership by incorporating community-sourced artistic and design elements into transportation projects to foster local stewardship and use.

The goal of much site-specific art in transit is to create transportation infrastructure that visually represents communities’ ideas, cultures, and stories.

Explore this approach through the following detailed case studies:

Image of Little Mekong Night Market. Large crowd sits underneath a red tent at night.

Little Mekong

Western Avenue Station of the Green Line, located in Little Mekong—a district in the Summit-University and Frogtown neighborhoods of Saint Paul with a high Asian-American

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Photo of the Atlanta, Georgia skyline

En Route

Not a typical mural project, En Route, a project between the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), Fulton County Arts & Culture, and The TransFormation

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Image of a person sitting on a bus looking out the window mid song. To the person's left are three empty bus seats. Behind the seats is a window.

Oakland BRT

When a new bus rapid transit (BRT) system was being planned in Oakland, California, a local nonprofit helped deepen community outreach and employed young people

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Image of Voices of Remembrance, a work of public art commissioned by TriMet that references the Japanese internment camp that was built during WWII at the site that is now the MAX Yellow Line Expo Center station.

Voices of Remembrance

Portland’s MAX light rail stations are full of examples of site-specific works that relate to their surrounding places, people, and history, including Valerie Otani’s Voices

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Image of person playing inside a newly redesigned bus station stop

Moving Stories

The Indianapolis-based project Moving Stories sourced stories from bus riders about what makes Indianapolis home for them; then shared those stories through images and quotes

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A parade passes under a statue of a Puerto Rican flag in the Paseo Boricua neighborhood of Chicago. The city gifted a matching pair of flag statues to the Puerto Rican neighborhood in 1995. Flickr photo by Emily.

Paseo Boricua Flag

In the 1990s, a coalition of more than 80 Puerto Rican community organizations and business leaders came together to prevent displacement of their community in

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