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Fashion Students Elevate Style of MTA Ridership

Otis Fashion Design Students Create Bicycling Outfits for MTA
Deborah Belgum

Despite more subways and light-rail train options than ever in the Los Angeles area, ridership has slipped 4 percent in nearly two years.

So last year, the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority—which runs the mass transportation systems in Los Angeles County with 2,300 buses and more than 80 rail stations—launched an action plan to go beyond traditional marketing schemes to attract new riders—particularly those young urban dwellers who might be more inclined to ditch their cars.

The board decided to turn to the worlds of fashion, music and social media to get the word out about the underground subway lines, the above-ground light-rail trains and the buses that can ferry you from Lynwood to Long Beach and from North Hollywood to Norwalk.

For the fashion element, the MTA, also known as Metro, turned to the senior-year fashion students studying at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles to develop stylish but functional bicycle wear that could take mass-transportation devotees from their homes to a subway or bus stop and then to work. Later there might be a night out on the town. More men ride bikes to buses and subways than women, but getting fashion-forward women onto bicycles is more challenging. Hence, the idea for fashionable bike wear.“We see this as an opportunity to attract a larger, more flexible generation to mass transit,” said Lan-Chi Lam, the MTA’s director of communications for Web and mobile. “There is a new rider and new demographics emerging, and we really want to tap into it.”

In October, a group of MTA representatives met with Otis teachers and students at the downtown LA campus to give them an idea of what they wanted in the fashion project. The project is a run-up to Metro rolling out a new bike-share program in downtown Los Angeles this summer that will have more than 1,000 bikes and 65 stations in the system. Passengers will be able to pick up a bike at one station and drop it off at another.

To get the fashion project rolling, the MTA board gave Otis a $25,000 scholarship, part of which is to help cover the costs of fabric and trim for the project, which was launched in January in a senior-year design class mentored by renowned designer Todd Oldham.

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