With development booming and a new year looming, we asked local designers and architects from a range of disciplines what element of Boston’s built environment they’d like to see reimagined in 2017. Here’s their blueprint for tomorrow.
Surprise, surprise: Multiple designers suggested America’s oldest subway could use an update. “Every improper Bostonian has had to fight their way onto a packed train, only to see that a car a bit farther down was nearly empty,” says Jordan Nollman, CEO and founder of Sprout, a Boston studio that’s designed everything from apps to electric razors to labels for hard cider. “To help create a better overall experience and even distribution of riders, Sprout proposes designing a Smart Mat System using LED lights that would be retrofitted into the yellow safety mats in every T station. This would allow riders to know which cars have the most available space. Each train would be outfitted with sensors that know how full a car is and can relay that information to the Smart Mat and people’s smart phones. Before a train approaches, the lights will direct passenger traffic to the cars that are least crowded. This would also be paired with a redesign of the T’s app that would help users get up-to-the-minute train locations, ‘beat-the-rush’ notifications and occupancy levels. Sprout would also bring social connectivity to the app, with community-based reporting of issues and schedule changes.”
Meanwhile, Eric Gunther, co-founder of Boston design and technology studio Sosolimited, turned his attention to an invisible but inescapable part of Bostonians’ daily commute. “If you ride the subway in Boston, you’ve heard the beep, that high-pitched sound that plays when you tap your Charlie Card to enter. It might make you wince. You might not notice it at all. Either way it has made its stressful little mark on you for the day. At least once a month I think about how I would redesign that sound,” Gunther says. “I’d make it a softer, more rounded sound, with a tail that rings out as you pass through the gate. It has to cut through the noise of a crowded subway station, but I’d make it more natural sounding. Less machine and more acoustic. I’d give it some variation, maybe even encode it with useful information for commuters. I’d make it a warm, welcoming sound with a friendly melody that says, ‘Thanks for riding the T. You’re safe down here.’”