We need to do the hard work to make transit easy

Trillium’s tagline has been for years “We make transit easier to use.”

The reasons for that are big. We want to change human action. We’re environmentalists, safety advocates, accessibility rights activists, social scientists that recognize transportation as critical to the provision human services, bikers, riders, and walkers dedicated to seeing fewer cars on the road and a healthier, happier world.

But while the reasons are big, the steps we take to fulfill our mission are small. Each person on the margin who we encourage to take the bus instead of drive, once a month, once a year, because when they opened the agency website it was transparent to them and gave them what they needed, is the person that adds up to the change we seek.

Our philosophy depends on the idea that small things make a big difference. That means focusing on the small and indirect things that add up to making public transit easier to use.

Making things easy isn’t easy itself. It requires investigating and working out the problems before our riders experience them. It requires meticulously defining the complex process of transit scheduling so that we can eliminate as many of the steps as possible when we present it to the user. It requires questioning what we think is important and effective and impactful, and looking at what makes more people ride transit.

Often times, this leads us to suggest fundamental changes to how our clients conceive of and create rider information. Once or twice we’ve even stressed those clients out by making suggestions to change practices that they held close. For example, suggesting an agency remove distracting introductory text from the top of their website, or extend their project timeline to allow for more thorough and careful work.

Making transit easier to use is hard work. We can’t take the easy way out ourselves as practitioners. We have to be willing to work hard and make difficult choices to help our riders out. We need to rebuild transit from the ground up—all while every day continuing to get everyone to the medical appointment, market, job, or class that they need to get to.

It’s tough. It’s uncomfortable. It’s confusing and difficult for us as consultants and transit agencies.

But if it makes transit simple and changes lives—that makes the work worth it.