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Students Partner with SEPTA to Imagine the Future of Mass Transit

Manuel McDonnell Smith
Public Information Manager

Who says Silicon Valley has the market cornered on the crowdsourcing of good ideas? Recently, SEPTA partnered with Temple University to incubate ideas on improving transit from one of our most important customer bases: Young Millennials.

More than 150 students registered for the fifth annual DESIGNchallenge sponsored by the Center for Design + Innovation at Temple University's Fox School of Business. The event is an "innovative idea competition," where students are challenged to combine business and design skills to drive creative solutions to pressing urban issues.

The theme was "Mass Transit, Car Culture & Philadelphia's Quality of Life." Students were tasked with designing concept proposals to improve the city's transit system and address Philadelphia's car culture to achieve economic, social, and environmental dividends of a less auto-centric future. With transit as the theme, a SEPTA partnership with Temple on the program was a no-brainer. The Authority would benefit two-fold, by providing insight about the system to students and cultivating the students ideas for future improvements.

During the first part of the competition, students participated in a week-long series of behind-the-scenes tours led by SEPTA's staff. During each tour, students received an inside look at the operations and management of the nation's sixth largest transit system. In addition, they were able to receive expert advice and feedback on their ideas from the system's employees and leadership.

Finally, participants were divided into 20 interdisciplinary teams at the Kimmel Center for a full day of design collaboration and to produce their final proposals to a panel of judges. Judges included professional planners, Temple University staff, and members of SEPTA leadership team including Board Member Beverly Coleman, Youth Advisory Committee Chair Jeff Kessler and Director of Strategic Planning Byron Comati.

After a full day of student work and two rounds of judging, three winning proposals were selected (A tie for first place and a third place winner). Winners received cash prizes and a SEPTA-prize pack which included a free monthly transit pass. "I know that I have a couple of ideas that I will be using and I would like to see it happen again next year." said Comati.

The winning student proposals were:

First Place (tie): Smart Shelter
A smart bus shelter that includes real-time information on SEPTA arrivals, interactive bus routes, and ways to connect with SEPTA via social media and the web.First Place (tie): Smart Shelter
A smart bus shelter that includes real-time information on SEPTA arrivals, interactive bus routes, and ways to connect with SEPTA via social media and the web.

First Place (tie): SEPTA, Personalizing the User Experience
An app that riders can customize to their specific travel needs. The opening screen displays arrival times for the rider's nearest SEPTA station / bus. It also offers customized route planning features.

Third Place: SEPTA Connect
In-station video panels that guide visitors and new-to-Philly residents through the SEPTA system providing information on routes, how to ride SEPTA, where to find tokens, etc.

Students Pack Philadelphia's Kimmel Center for the Day-Long FOX Design Challenge.

A Temple University Student Presents His Team's "My Route" Proposal to Judges

To Become Familiar with SEPTA's System, Students Participated in Staff-Guided Tours.

In Addition to Station and Operational Tours, Students also Rode Select Parts of the SEPTA's System for Research.