The CMU Transit Display is an information digital display with consolidated informationon CMU shuttle and escort services. It communicates shuttle and escort functionality at a high level, provides basic instructions to ride, as well as bus tracking functions. By implementing this display, we aim to promote shuttle service visibility as well as provide opportunities to educate students about different ways to use these services to their full potential.
The shuttle and escort service provided at CMU is a convenient way for students to get on and off campus, yet many students failed to take advantage of it. As the ridership steadily declines, what is missing from this service that could be implemented to attract more student? How can we help to make this service more intuitive to the broader student population?
The three key issues that we found through our research regarding the CMU shuttle and escort service was:
Based on our findings, our solution to address issues with both shuttle awareness, as well as understanding shuttle procedures, is to strategically install digital displays in high-traffic areas throughout the CMU footprint.
These displays are meant to communicate basic information to the students about how to use the shuttle or escort systems as well as provide real-time updates on live shuttles/escorts system - this will both help to bring new users on board as well as provide easy access to information for experienced riders.
After rounds of background research, contextual inquiry, log data analysis and usability studies on existing solutions, our research team identified several ongoing issues with the shuttle and escort service, and summarized them into these four themes:
We decided to tackle the problem of students' confusion towards the service, as a solution to this problem would be most cost-effective in our perspectives. We soon realized that to tie low ridership levels with confusion around the shuttles ultimately came down to one key issue:
Escort and shuttle service visibility.
In our previous research, when student participants were asked about the CMU shuttle and escort service, many had the following to say:
I didn’t know what the services were
I didn’t know how the services worked or how to use them
I didn’t know the difference between the escort and the shuttle
With these findings in mind, we sought to find out why students had such limited knowledge of the shuttle/escort services, as well as come up with possible solutions to address this knowledge gap.
Aiming at the visibility issue, we first conducted contextual inquiries to observe shuttle/escort riders’ behavior in their context. We wanted to understand how they use the escort and also see if they notice the existence of escort stop signs.
After gathering lots of interview data from students and riders, we wanted to hone in on more of an administrative perspective, which is why we then conducted several interview sessions with CMU PD, CMU GSA, and CMU Student Affairs. Instead of hearing the “what”s (what shuttles students ride, what riders experience), we wanted to the learn about the “why”s (why the shuttles are laid out this way, why alerts can be slow, why signage is hard to find). Having this context from the higher-up stakeholders responsible for implementing the system gives us the reasoning behind why current situations are the way they are (as well as why it can be hard to make changes to the service).
With the data we collected from contextual inquiries and interviews, we created two affinity diagrams to organize and categorize our findings. We arrived at three key insights:
With these insights in mind, we looked into the current solutions that are supposed to provide information to riders about shuttle and escort services and conducted think-aloud sessions across campus on various students. We were able to learn how users reason about and interact with the currently available online resources, and allowed us to identify pain points in the existing design and breakdowns of information. The frequent problems are:
We combined the findings we collected here, and were able to arrive a five important insights:
Lack of signage for the current shuttle/escort system as well as the poor information management contribute to relatively low visibility of and awareness around the service in the CMU community.
There are certain constraints such as budget and rules (e.g. PAT’s monopoly over signage at bus stops).
Although both GSA and CMU PD are trying to promote knowledge about and engagement with the shuttle/escort system, the two parties do not seem to be on the same page all the time.
Details about transportation system tend to get lost and do not stick for riders because of constant information overload; it’s not a top priority of GSA or PD.
Information and procedures about shuttle/escort systems are scattered on CMU PD’s website.
Based on all the findings we have collected up until this point, we summarized several needs for users that we believed are most vital and brainstormed for design opportunities based on each need.
With each design opportunity, we created storyboards to illustrate scenarios, which we then used to in testing for speed dating sessions.
In general, students did not know much about the shuttles and escort systems (most had ridden once or twice, if at all), which matches our research findings saying there was a considerable lack of awareness of how the shuttle system operates.
Our findings align with some of the primary breakdowns observed in our previous research, that the shuttle system tends to struggle with:
Real-time Bus Tracking
In the end, we decided that a digital display would help us address the two primary pain points from our previous research findings:
Awareness of the shuttle/escort services
A physical display in a public place would attract attention from passerby. Placed strategically, we could directly inform users who may be standing around waiting for shuttles (a phenomenon commonly observed in our generative research).
Information management across all CMU PD platforms
By having our display include the bare minimum required by users to ride one of the CMU PD transportation systems, we could streamline the information search process for users and give them only the information that is immediately relevant. Users who are interested in learning more about the shuttles can go online to the CMU PD website or RideSystems.
It will also not be too much of a burden of the CMU’s budget, and will not violate rules and limitations since it will operate within CMU property.
We first created server low fidelity prototypes, then compared and critiqued them among ourselves. We arrived at one design that has two screens, showing basic information, route map, stop information and alert.
For the purposes of evaluative testing, we then created a mid-fidelity design that attempts to address some of the major pain points from storyboarding, speed-dating as well as contextual inquiry. We kept it low-fidelity enough to encourage suggestions and feedback from users, but high fidelity enough to communicate our design intentions effectively.
We then implemented five-second tests for our design. This involved printing out our current mid-to-high-fi designs on paper and showing them to various students around campus for exactly five seconds.
After showing the student our design, we asked a few follow-up questions regarding the perceived purpose of the design, any key features that stood out to users, and whether or not they’ve ridden the shuttle/escort services before.
We received major positive feedback from our participants. The key takeaway from this test are:
Users were able to identify the displays were different very quickly.
The design was intriguing enough to encourage passerby to check it out.
Existing formats of designs that are memorable to students should be kept.
Based on the feedback we received, we modified our design and tested out using the experience prototyping method. We printed out our newest iteration of designs and placed them in strategic locations where students already wait for shuttles or escorts as a way of delivering information directly to students that need it most. After a student approached our design, we waited approximately one minute to make sure they had time to digest the information. Then we approached the student and asked a few follow-up questions regarding why they approached the design, what they learned from the infographic and any improvements or suggestions we could make.
Our design was praised across the board by different students who found it “aesthetically pleasing” and “easy to understand”. Many students were able to distinguish differences between the two systems as far as zones vs fixed routes goes, which was a key goal of our design. Our research approach allowing students to come up to our design “in the wild” was an effective way of gleaning information from real shuttle users as we were in their actual environment.
Our solution to address issues of both shuttle awareness, as well as understanding shuttle procedures, is to install a digital display in strategic high-traffic areas throughout the CMU footprint. These displays are meant to communicate basic information to the students about how to use the shuttle or escort systems as well as provide real-time updates on live shuttles/escorts throughout the footprint.
This display would solve the problem of awareness simply by existing in the right place at the right time, as the implementation of a new exciting digital display in areas on campus would attract students’ attention and ideally engage them in learning more about the system.
This display would also improve the current state of information management by putting all relevant shuttle/escort procedure information in one map, eliminating the need for students to cross-examine multiple websites to stitch together trip information.
In addition, this also would include real-time tracking of shuttles and escorts, consolidating the benefits of other transit-tracking apps into one place.