Improving Rural Transportation Options in Orleans County

Human Centered Design prioritizes talking to and collaborating with the people who are most likely to be affected by a new program or service improvement. Aging By Design project teams work directly with clients to understand issues from their perspective. including how something looks and feels to end users and stakeholders. We take human experiences and the surrounding environment into account. Teams take steps to address a specific problem by building prototypes and gradually/continuously improving services with feedback from clients and community.

Review this post for more information on empathizing with end users, defining the problem, ideation, prototyping, and testing your proposed solution.

Orleans County Office for the Aging

The Orleans County Office for the Aging is leading an Aging By Design project based out of Albion, NY that reaches every part of Orleans County. The project team is focused on making rural transportation better by improving access to public transit options and prototyping and testing a volunteer driver program.

Introducing New Riders to the Bus

Orleans County is served by two public transit routes that connect the county’s two largest municipalities – Albion and Medina. Many older residents who drove private cars for most of their lives are unfamiliar with the basics of bus ridership.

The project team organizes “Parties on the Bus” every year to show new riders bus routes, bus stops, how to get on/off the bus, and how to use the lift.

“Riding the bus showed me how to get on the bus so that I could get places – maybe just shopping, doctor’s visit, the library.”

“We were very excited to work with our public transportation – you know we only have two options in our small County of Orleans. People are very intimidated by the public transport”

Volunteer Driver Program

For the rest of the county, which is not served by public transit, the project team has developed a volunteer driver program to help older adults get to medical appointments, go grocery shopping, and other destinations. In the first year of operations, the program has recruited more than 30 volunteers to share time and travel with older adults living in rural areas who can no longer drive.

“I hated to keep asking my family, so when this program came and told me I could get a ride…it’s wonderful, because it’s a chance to get out.”

“One eye opener with the volunteer driver program is how much the drivers get out of providing the rides. They formed relationships – it’s like companionship. We think we’re hitting some of those triggers of decline and improving life for both the riders and the drivers.”

The Orleans County HCD Process

The Orleans County OFA team worked together with older adults, caregivers, staff members, and volunteers to discuss issues and identify potential solutions.

The design team in Orleans County used dot voting to identify priority projects. The team put together low-cost / no-cost prototypes that could be used to address rural transportation issues. Dot voting, models, and user feedback are useful techniques that this team used to continue improving solutions, from idea to implementation.

“We came up with a great idea in our design team, to have a Party on the Bus…the people that did ride really learned how a route works, and if you need to stop how to make a stop. They really learned the concept of how to ride a bus.”

In their own words…

Listen to the audio clip below and watch the video to hear what participants and staff from the Orleans County Office for the Aging are saying about the approach, and the impact on their lives.

“It’s like getting to know somebody a little bit who is from a totally different world.”

For more information on Aging By Design, visit