Raise your hand if you think the DC Metro could use a little spruce. 👋
Smart cities have realized the increasing need to place a greater focus on public transportation. If we want to make it as easy as possible for people to make the sustainable choice, it's important to have our transit be reliable, frequent, and convenient. It's also important to have it be a pleasant experience for the riders.
The DC Metro was completed in 1976, so it's on the younger side — London finished its first underground car in 1863! The advantage of being the newer kid on the block, though, is that we can learn from everyone else. What works, and what doesn't? Let's take a look.
As a country, Japan has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. Many of them actually take place at subway stations, so they looked for a solution and found one: blue lights. The calming color helps put people at ease, so they are strategically placed around common problem areas to help conductors notice any suspicious behavior close to the tracks. Who would have thought? The country has seen a sizable decrease (more than 80 percent!) in suicide attempts near areas that have blue LED installations.
London took a page out of Japan's book: The European Railway Association (ERA) deployed blue-light technology in the U.K.'s Underground for similar reasons. It worked — not only have these special lights seen success with suicide prevention, but they're also helping to lower anti-social behavior and crime activity.
The lights almost put people in a spotlight, creating a subtle change that encourages people to question their decisions. Some theorize that the blue color is also able to influence people because it resembles police lights. They're both reassuring to some people and a warning to those thinking about committing a crime.
Lights are also being used in the land down under. Australia experimented with directional lights to help guide people during rush hour periods. The system incorporated cameras to pick up on slow- and fast-moving transit-goers to help better direct the flow of traffic.
The idea was to see if they could decrease congestion by utilizing the walkways and subway platforms efficiently, and it was a success! The big lesson here is to be creative — out-of-the-box ideas like this can make a huge difference.
Chicago is beginning to hop onto the blue train with a new petition calling for lights to be installed at every station. This change could be beneficial to test on DC's Metro stations in order to decrease crime, increase mental health, while helping to direct foot traffic during rush hour periods.
Directional lights could also be used to help cut down on crowds at stations in major cities that are constantly bombarded with tourists, like DC. Imagine tourists moving just as fast as locals on pubic transit, not doubting if they got on the right car, the right terminal, or the right side of the track.
Implementing a small change like this could have significant benefits for riders, making the choice to take public transportation easier than ever.