Service and App improvement in response to transportation challenge
Academic / Collaborate with Yeonhee Lee and Vincent Kim
2018.09 - 2018.10 (3 Weeks)
The L Train Subway in New York, which carries 400,000 daily commuters between Manhattan and Brooklyn, will be partially shut down from April 2019 to at least July 2020 due to the repairs on the Canarsie Line tunnels. In this project, we did design research about the influence of the L Train Closure and focused on providing alternative transportation for the L Train commuters. We developed the idea of shared-bus service and redesign an existing shared-bus application called Chariot. Our improvement concentrated on making a community where commuters can find their companions and have more suitable routes.
L Train Subway Closure
In early 2019, the L train Subway in New York City will shut down between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 15 months to repair damage caused during Hurricane Sandy.
What makes the L shutdown so challenging is that unlike other big transit disruptions like blizzards and hurricanes, life is otherwise expected to continue as normal. That’s a daunting proposition for the roughly 275,000 riders who currently take the L across the river or within Manhattan on a daily basis.
L Train Subway Closure plan
Commuters who will be influeced
According to MTA's plan, they will provide alternative transportation options that have the capacity to accommodate 100 percent of current L Train customers—79% on the subway, 17% on the bus and 4% on the ferry. But we are curious whether the plan will work and are the NYC residents ready for this?
Alternative transportation provided by MTA will include increasing subway services such as more trains in existing J/M/Z Lines, more bus service on existing routes and additional five bus routes between Manhattan and Brooklyn, temporary ferry service, roadway configuration enforcement, etc..
The New York City Department of Transportation(NYC DOT) also has some plans that have begun some implementation beginning in summer 2018. The plans consist of redesign streets for buses and bikes and building bike systems, etc..
Having learned what will happen to the L Train Subway Closure and what's going be done about it. We started to learn about L Train riders through preliminary interviews. We designed the discussion guide and interviewed 23 people around the L Train Subway station. The interviewees varied from L Train riders, MTA workers, local shop owners, etc..
Interviewing an L Train rider
Through these preliminary interviews, we found out that some people were not sure the time and stations that will be closed and most people have no idea on what to do after L Train Subway Closure. But they believed that they may have to waste more time and money for the commute. Some interviewees even thought about moving to another place.
Based on those findings, we made preliminary personas to decide whom we want to interview in the next step.
HMW (How might we) brainstorm
Having seen many problems with the L Train closure, we started to think about which one will be our focus.
We brainstormed all the problems that came into our minds. All questions started with "how might we...". Then we did infinity mapping and classified all the problems into three categories: active reaction, passive reaction, action.
Then we voted for the problem that we feel more urgent and crucial. Most voted problems included "How might we inform L Train riders about the closure?" "How might we provide alternative transportation for L Train riders?" "How might we support people living near L Train?" etc.. Having seen some desperate people during the preliminary interview, we decided to focus on "How might we provide the alternative transportation for L Train riders?".
We did the first ideation to figure out possible directions to our question by methods including brainstorming & flash card and Crazy 8 (Design Sprint method by Google).
Some Crazy8 ideas
Some achievable ideas include:
- Express bus between Manhattan and Brooklyn
- More trains for alternative lines
- Shared bike/ scooter/ bus
- Shuttle bus between the train stations and neighborhoods
- Company-run shuttle bus for workers
The first two ideas overlapped with the official plan from MTA and DOT. So we turn to the direction of shared-transportation and shuttle. We made a sketch of our first crazy solutions that combine these together. Then we do further research in understanding our users.
Interview record of a scooter rider
Based on what we've got from the previous quick interviews, we made personas to figure out our target users and their pains.
Based on our personas and the plan MTA has proposed, we reached out to people who have other choices of transportation rather than the L Train. We interviewed city-bike riders, scooter riders, and shared-bus service users.
Interview record of a shared-bus service
Through the interview with a shared-bus service, we found shared-bus was promising. Comparing with scooters and shared-bikes, it's more suitable and accessible to all kinds of people. So our MVP idea was to provide better shared-bus service to L Train riders. However, the current shared-bus service hasn't been well developed yet. In particular, the service that the interviewee introduced to us------Chariot, was problematic but also could be more helpful. Then we started to look into this service and think about what kind of service it should be.
Target service research: Customer Review
So we looked into the Appstore and Google Play to see customer reviews of Chariot.
We classified the complaints into four categories: riding experience, UI, Technology, and Customer Service. We were surprised to see so many complaints about the experience of riding a Chariot, and that was also our focus as designers.
Among all these complains we identified the five most urgent problems:
- Users cannot see the future bus schedule
- Users cannot book a seat in advance
- A bus schedule can be changed or canceled without any notice
- Buses are often full and cannot find an available seat
- There aren’t enough routes
In response to the problems above, we came up with two main solutions to improve the user experience.
The first one is to allow users to book their seats in advance and the company arrange buses based on the reservation information.
The second one is to build a community where people who have similar routines can meet and create their own routes based on their needs. When there are enough people for a new route, the users can send a request to Chariot and Chariot will provide the ride in the new route. By this way, the routes of Chariot will be more efficient and riders can fulfill their needs easier.
Sketches for the idea of building a community
How the community helps improving the routes and addressing user needs
User flow and wireframe
Then we started to design the new user journey. Since the current Chariot has a subscription system, we decided to keep that and mainly focused on improving the user journey of the subscribers.
We did user testing of the user flow and basic wireframe. And users gave us numerous helpful feedbacks.
After iteration based on user testing, we started to make hi-fi prototypes and test them again.
Case 1: There's an existing route suitable for the user
Case 2: There's no existing route suitable for the user, but there are similar routes that are recruiting on Chariot Community.
Case 3: There's no suitable route at all and the user can create one and call for more people to join.
Besides redesigning the application, we also made promotion campaigns to introduce Chariot 2.0 to more people, especially L Train Subway riders. Since the most noticeable way is to put advertisements on the train or on train stations, we made two pairs of different style posters for both the trains and the platforms.
Prototype 1: Deliver basic but important information by using message and maps of L Train area
Prototype 2: Point out some pain points and compare the experience of Metro Trains with Chariot
During user testing, we found that users are more likely to pay attention to the vertical posters rather than horizontal scrolls. So we focused on iteration of the vertical version posters.
For the first prototype, we used more keywords that response to user needs and re-formatted them to a shuttle. And for the second prototype, we made the comparison clearer and pointed out the advantages of Chariot straight forward.
For our next step, we will do more user testing on our high-fidelity prototype. We would test more about how much the new service, especially the Chariot Community, can contribute to a better riding experience of Chariot.