Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
A Brazilian project asks frustrated bus riders to take matters into their own hands.
A year ago, Gabriel Gomes was waiting for the bus in his hometown of Porto Alegre in Brazil. Gomes had recently pasted a sticker on the pole next to the stop, a little white strip with a pink bus on top and the question, "What bus passes here?" in Portuguese.
An older lady, he recalls, was reading the bus numbers that fellow commuters had since scrawled on the ad-hoc sign.
He went up to her and asked what she thought of it.
She didn't know how to read, so looking at numbers helped her figure out which bus to take, Gomes remembers her saying.
The sticker was central to a community-driven project started by Gomes and his friends at Shoot The Shit—a group dedicated to inventions that "make cities more awesome," Gomes says. Most bus stops in Brazil do not actually list which buses stop there. The twenty-something guys came up with the idea in 2012, after conversation at a meeting turned to the frustrating difficulty that can be catching the bus in their city.
"The best part of the project is the 'open-sourceness' of it," Gomes writes on Facebook. "It's not our project, it's a project for Brazil."
It wasn't an easy idea to implement, though. Large-scale funding and implementation were difficult, so they made it as simple as they could. They designed stickers and reached out to the people most affected by the problem.
It's easy to use, Gomes says. Anyone can download the sticker and paste it without asking for permission. He says it's because it's so accessible that the project has spread to 35 cities. At the end of September, the concept is due to receive an award in New York City.
There's more to be done obviously, Gomes says.
"It is a simple idea but (we) need to get the government and local communities engaged to take the project to the next level," he says.