Art and BART: How students taught me to take another look at public transportation

Shannon Tracey Headshot

Don’t look now, but there are artists on your bus.  And your train.  And they’re taking inspiration from their journeys on public transportation throughout the Bay Area.

This fall, students from the California College of the Arts (CCA) brought their pens and paintbrushes to TransForm in exploration of “travel writing.”  Led by the acclaimed author Faith Adiele, this team of fifteen writers and visual artists were given a Clipper card and a mission: go forth, and capture stories of the Bay Area’s transportation system.

And so they did.  In pursuit of fodder for their essays, ‘zines, infographics, and drawings, the artists took to the roads and rails with AC Transit, BART, Caltrain, and ridesharing.  Their final products document everything from how to bring your bike on public transportation to portraits of “Dogs of BART.”

Check out a few of the incredibly rich pieces they created:

Farmers Markets near BART – poster by Brenna Layne






Bikes on Public Transportation – infographic by Laura Bee







Birdman – collection of drawings, interviews, and photos by Roy Huerta







The Leisure Trail: A visual guide to undiscovered spots via the 51A – art by Lisa Wong

Dogs of BART – ‘zine by Liza McVinney







Drawing inspiration

Now, I spend a lot of time writing, and specifically writing about public transportation, biking, and walking.  But I don’t always think of what I do as art.  Sure, I tell stories – but they’re primarily useful, not aesthetic.  My main goal is usually trying to liven up the wonky world of transportation policy so that you, dear reader, do not end up slumbering over your keyboard or phone due to boredom.

But these storytellers and digital painters reminded me that there are so many more exciting angles to traveling through our cities and our region.  Their “fresh eyes” introduced me to new BART riders, new destinations, and new perspectives – and their work shows just how beautiful and vibrant our movement to transform transportation should be.

To be sure, there will always be policies to explain and planning documents to review.  TransForm is here to digest dense DEIRs and support STIPs…and help you get involved in making an impact on the outcomes of transportation and land use decisions.

Sometimes, though, the best starting place is someplace new.  So as we approach the end of 2014, I pledge to find more creative ways to wield words and images on our blog, and beyond.

You can help – email me with your story ideas, and I’ll follow up to see where you can take us.

Today, the CCA travel writing class is celebrating their finale with a pizza party/performance at Zachary’s Chicago Pizza in Oakland (featured on Adrien Karaan’s “BART Crawl and Drunchies” map), followed by a visit to Smitten Ice Cream (featured on Kseniia Zhuravskaia’s “Ice Cream by BART” map).  If you follow the hashtag #FreeRangeGodsofBART on Twitter, you might catch a glimpse of the artists in action.

Over the coming months, we’ll be featuring more of the students’ written and visual pieces here on our blog as well as Facebook and Twitter.  Stay tuned for more student pieces starting in January.

And keep your eyes peeled next time you see someone tag their Clipper card with a sketchbook in the other hand.  They may just be about to draw you into a new view of public transportation.  Literally.

Learn more about ENGAGE at CCA, which coordinated the partnership with TransForm.


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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit