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MacEwan University students pitch transit safety solutions to ETS in classroom partnership

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WATCH: MacEwan University design students partnered with Edmonton Transit Service to pitch solutions that would improve safety and the user experience on transit. Morgan Black reports – Jun 12, 2022

University students in Edmonton are examining how to create a safer space for public transit users.

MacEwan University design students partnered with Edmonton Transit Service to pitch solutions that would improve safety and the user experience on transit.

Over the course of a semester, students learned about the work already being done by ETS, spoke with transit users and then worked to make a product that was user-friendly and accessible.

Vik Chu and Dominic Lafrance designed a rider-companion app which would allow a user to track a friend’s trip and then notify them when they get to a destination.

“It was really valuable for us to work on a real problem with a real community partner,” Lafrance said.

Chu said his real-life client saw the proposed design’s potential.

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“I would say (ETS reps) loved it,” he laughed. “Yeah, overall I think they were impressed.”

Read more: Edmonton council react to transit safety report: ‘It’s a little slow getting started’

Chu and Lafrance both take public transit while also using private modes of transportation. Both said they were excited to search for solutions within a system they frequent.

“Before we even began our research, we had a list of issues because of personal experience,” Chu said. “When you start trying to propose solutions, you realize how much more work is involved and the amount of research you have to do.”

Lafrance said most people they interviewed said they feel unsafe on transit, but he gained perspective on the nuances of why that may be.

“(For example), cleanliness improves the perception of safety more so than having an increased security presence,” he said. “So it’s about figuring out how people perceive their own safety and how to make environments feel safer. That could also include more security for a safer experience.”

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Isabelle Sperano, an instructor at MacEwan University, said there was already a partnership with the City of Edmonton in place when she began working on the course, which is being offered for the first time.

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“I was looking for a community partner that would be interesting, complex and tackle social issues,” she explained. “I talked to the city and they had the idea of ETS.”

One of the projects will come to life inside LRT stations in June, in the form of infographics that better explain the safety tools available to users.

“Those boards are being produced right now. We are really looking forward to that,” said ETS’ Sarah Feldman.

“There were lots of great ideas from the students. Lots of them were more technology-based, so we need more time to assess.”

Read more: Search for solutions: How do Edmonton leaders improve the LRT system?

Feldman is ETS’ director of business integration and workforce development. She said she welcomed the students’ perspectives as her team works to improve riders’ experiences and try its own new ideas.

“We know people are coming back to daily patterns, and so I think overall we want to improve the environment to make sure everyone feels safe,” she said.

“It’s a very complex issue. It’s not one tactic or approach. It’s a lot of pieces that have to come together.”

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Chu said he is thankful for the first-hand experience to help create solutions for a system he feels passionately about.

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“There was tension between me as an ETS rider who wants things fixed now and the part of me that’s learned to become a problem-solver and designer that realizes the big problems aren’t solved overnight,” he said.

Sperano plans to offer a similar version of the project to her class next semester.

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