Can Technology Transform Public Transit in LA?
Li Wen in Airport Design, Los Angeles, Planning & Urban Design, Sustainability, Transportation

NETWORK_LA transit

The short film Network_LA Transit is a conceptual design response by Gensler Los Angeles to an open invitation by Sci-Arc, The Architect’s Newspaper, and LA Metro asking how the city of Los Angeles can shift people from their cars to public transit.

Increasing the movement of people, not cars, should be the goal of any public transit initiative. For this ambitious project, we propose an integrated set of ideas based on user needs and aimed at adapting the current system and improving its performance at the various scales. The belief is that a more responsive system and an improved user experience ultimately leads to the means to meet Los Angeles' transit challenge.

This design proposal is based on four ideas: 

  1. Increase vehicle choices  in the LA Metro system to include alternative modes of transportation, which provide various scales of public transport efficiency. 
  2. Increase flexibility of public transport by keeping existing transit stops but liberating the routes that connect them so that it may respond more immediately to user demand.  Also provide it an efficiency advantage with dedicated lanes and pull-in stops to allow for bypassing, as well strategically located underpasses. 
  3. Leverage existing data to increase flexibility and optimize choices by overlapping the location of all ground transport, stops and users through GPS to coordinate their relative positions, needs and capacity in real time.  To complete this triangulation, a GPS enabled app - tripFinder – automatically scans the network to sort and provide the user with the optimum trip itinerary while also optimizing the current status of the public transit fleet. 
  4. Expand the network and fill in the transport voids by granting access to this real time information through the selling of licenses to more and other alternative ground transport entities. This business could also be a potential profit center for LA Metro. 

The result is user-driven, on-demand system that responds to the needs of each individual rider, allowing the network to organically adapt to the shifting needs of its ridership to improve overall service. Los Angeles, as a city of multiple centers whose relationships are constantly changing, can now have transit routes that adapt to the needs of its passengers rather than forcing passengers to use multiple fixed routes.      

Thus a software solution that manages the users’ needs in real time, and assisted by a series of relatively small and achievable infrastructure improvements could form the solution to Los Angeles public transportation inefficiencies; thereby avoiding the type of large grand scale infrastructure work that is very disruptive of daily city life while risking being obsolete before it is complete.  This type of solution also speaks to the Los Angeles culture: in proposing a public transport system with personalized service, it reasserts the individualist mentality that has powered Los Angeles’s mythology for generations.  


The design team of Network_LA Transit looking for new ideas.



Li Wen is a Design Director who draws his inspiration from cities. He’s known for stirring the pot, theoretically speaking—and challenging assumptions about the built environment. He leverages his design thinking for both Gensler clients and his students at the USC School of Architecture. Contact him at


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