Tactical Urbanism in Seoul

Usually transport planning is directed by local authorities and citizens have limited possibilities to directly transform their surrounding. Or in other words, it is a top-down development that includes public participation through formal procedures. There are exceptions and examples of bottom-up approaches, organized by private entities or local groups. Such a grassroots development can be described as tactical urbanism (or guerrilla urbanism). For literature about that concept, I recommend The Street Plans Collaborative. In Seoul there are two very interesting examples of tactical urbanism.


Tactical Urbanism #1: Red Arrows at Bus Signs

The information table at a bus stop shows the number of buses and their complete route. But the routes cover a large number of stations and it takes a long time to find the current station. In 2011 Lee Min-ho (이민호) decided to put on red arrows on each route information. He rode on his bicycle from bus stop to bus stop. He managed to stick on arrows at 100 stations per day. Through SNS he inspired other people and in 2012 various media outlets wrote about him. It became a real movement with many volunters. Seoul recognized his efforts and the city government adapted the idea as an official measure. Now the red arrows are expanded to the whole city.

Seoul Red Arrows

(Source: Facebook)

Sorry, I can’t find a good picture of a bus route with the arrow but here I zoomed into a picture from my phone:


Tactical Urbanism


Tactical Urbanism #2: Bus Queue Marking

The second action in Seoul related to tactical urbanism is relatively young but it has huge potential. Probably you experienced that long queues at bus stops often block the sidewalk. This issue occurs at rush hour in areas such as Gangnam, Sadang or the CBD. The LOUD Project (“Look over Our community Upgrade Daily life”) tries to solve this problem by design since last year. I saw their measure in Myeongdong but there haven’t been many people waiting for a bus at that time of the day:

Tactical Urbanism

The pavement marking suggests that the queue should leave some space, so that people can pass. You can see more pictures of the project and some other design ideas on the official page. It is organized by the “Public Communication Lab” (공공소통연구소) at Kwangwoon University. Seoul officially supports the project and it will be tested in various areas. Both measures are great ideas and everybody can easily understand the purpose and how to use it.

About This Author

Co-Author of Kojects. Interested in Sustainable Transportation, Urbanism and Korea.


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  • Thanks for this info. Public US participation during planning for nre systems needs improvement too.
    However rearding your first itim: Modern data processing and electronics can eliminat the need for rote signs in the first place. Point and click on a sreen map the destination desired. Computer determes the route, transfers, etc, and prints out with ticket purchase.

    Walt Brewer

    Walt Brewer 3 years ago Reply

  • Wow, this is great info. When I was working at an office in Gangnam, the bus queues were exceptionally long with no real direction. I’m glad someone thought of this and hopefully people will abide by it !

    The red arrows would’ve definitely helped me when my Korean was exceptionally bad !

    zergsprincess 3 years ago Reply

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