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September 21 and 22
2 days, 2 disciplines, 2 ways to participate – defining our professional roles and uniting to build more equitable, accessible and inspired communities.
Grand River Transit (GRT) and Metrolinx have partnered to engage the community and design an on-demand transit service in Breslau, a fast-growing residential and employment area in the Region of Waterloo currently lacking transit connections. This project aims to provide better access to nearby jobs, local destinations, and other GRT and GO Transit routes, aligning GRT’s ongoing desire to learn how best to deliver flexible services in a cost-effective manner in difficult-to-serve areas, with Metrolinx’s interest in encouraging on-demand transit pilots by municipalities in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to enhance first- and last-mile connections to transit.
In order to fully grasp the needs and preferences of prospective users and avoid making premature decisions around such details as service hours, stop locations, and vehicles, GRT and Metrolinx engaged the services of the Kitchener-based human-centred design firm Overlap Associates to coordinate the service design process with a variety of community stakeholders. Overlap’s methodology, known as “design thinking,” is an iterative and collaborative approach to problem solving predicated on the consideration of individual circumstances and needs. Problem solving is “de-risked” by co-designing with end-users, building solutions in small, testable steps, and collecting feedback while there’s still time to improve the results. However, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into the planned engagement program, and this required adaptability and creativity from the project team to execute the project in a pandemic context.
Service prototypes' were developed, and a number of survey iterations, one-on-one interviews, and virtual workshops were used to hone in on practical, popular, and appropriate service recommendations. In this session, presenters provide an overview of how Overlap and GRT adjusted their engagement plan to account for the COVID reality without sacrificing inclusion of community members and organizations in the service design process.