Mobile application for MUNI riders.

In 2016, we at General Assembly created an app concept to increase off-peak ridership on MUNI. We provided the convinience of planning a ride while providing saferty & security of riding in an off-peak time.

My Role

My Team

Collaborative project where everyone was involved in research & design. Responsible for synthesis, concepts & wrokflow designs.

Class project with two more designers. Lead the conceptual design phase.

Context

What was SFMTA looking for?

San Francisco Muni Transport Association (SFMTA) runs commutor services in San Francisco. SFMTA recognizes that if they increase the ridership on MUNI, especifically during off-peak times, everyone wins — residents, visitors, businesses, and the city itself. While the problem is large and multifaceted, SFMTA believes that improving their digital offering via their website or digital apps could lead to quick ­win improvements.

Problems

Low ridership in off-peak hours.

MUNI is packed during office hours and quite popular with daily commuters. The situation during off-time is completely opposite where is common to see empty buses running through the usual routes. Apart from being a financial burden to the city, the empty buses during off-hours signify the lack of trust and convinience in the transportation system. There was an entry barrier for infrequent commuters to use the bus service.

Lack of information on MUNI schedules, stops or routes leading to inconvinience for riders.

Information related to MUNI schedules, stops and rides is not handy to MUNI riders. Even with printed schedules, the buses often ran late. In some of the routes, the buses ran infrequently where riders had to wait long time, sometimes in desserted bus stops. Moreover, most riders did not know the bus routes to effectively plan their trips. Riders were looking for assurance before they rode the bus.

Solutions

Plan your trip on your mobile phone and get information you need.

With MUNI app, commuters can plan their trip by entering the destination and timings. Users can save the routes that they visit often. Once you choose a destination, get routes and directions to it. This provides convenience to the users.

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Real-time bus schedules and direction to the bus stops.

While inside the bus or out, users can track the buses to decide which one to catch and where to get down. While at home, users can see arrival time of next bus, without having to wait in a bus stop. This tracking adds reliability and convenience to the complex system.

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Approach

Understand the commuters behavior and commuting needs.

To better understand the SF Muni rider’s expectations and concerns, we utilized both qualitative and quantitative research methods. We started our study by talking to fellow classmates — who were MUNI or non-MUNI riders. This provided us with qualitative information about some of the deterrents for riding MUNI. One of the key finding here was that most of the non-riders thought it was too much hassle to commute using MUNI. They would rather use a car, even if it cost them more.

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We also visited MUNI bus-stops to observe and talk to the commuters. Although there was abundance of information about bus schedules and routes, it was complex and cumbersome in nature. Moreover, the information was only available in bus stops, not serving the potential riders who never reach there. We found some of the bus-stops hard to locate, as they were just marked on the curbs. We also got the first hand experience of long wait time between buses and a sense of uncertainty while waiting for the bus.

We wanted to get some insights about people’s travel habits and motivations for using public transport. A survey was created for SF bay area residents, and the findings here corroborated with our earlier findings. Here too, people chose convenience. Not enough information about MUNI was the other important theme that was emerging from both the studies. We found resources online, like the SFMTA Travel Decisions Survey Inquiry that reinforced our findings from our studies.

Convenience over everything else.
Users choose convenience over price or safety. Most users still prefer the convenience of a car over other available transportation modes. 


Safety not the biggest concern.
Safety was not one of the biggest concern, as we had anticipated earlier. Even in off-peak hours, people did not worry as much about safety as they did about the convenience. 


Lack of information, driving commuters away from MUNI.
In general, people need confidence and information about the MUNI Transit system in order to use it. Some of the concerns and cause for inconvenience were lack of consistent bus timings, infrequent buses and no knowledge of bus routes. The current MUNI app does little to alleviate these concerns.

Lack of information on MUNI schedules, stops or routes leading to inconvinience for riders.

Information related to MUNI schedules, stops and rides is not handy to MUNI riders. Even with printed schedules, the buses often ran late. In some of the routes, the buses ran infrequently where riders had to wait long time, sometimes in desserted bus stops. Moreover, most riders did not know the bus routes to effectively plan their trips. Riders were looking for assurance before they rode the bus.

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We created an experience map to highlight user’s important touch-points with MUNI and their emotional journey. The journey map is divided in three phases pre-ride, ride and after-ride. Each phase further shows the actions taken by the users, their feelings, emotions and fears. This gave us insights into the pain points, based on which we were able to propose solutions. Waiting and transits were considered as the lowest point in a rider’s journey.

Give the right information to the infrequent riders at the right time.

With good understanding of the problem space, we started brainstorming all ideas about solving the important problems. We looked at the existing features in MUNI app and prioritized them. Our initial ideas included task flows about planning a trip, purchasing a ticket and getting notifications about bus timings. The goal was to help the infrequent customers right information to plan their trips.

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Once we had the initial designs, we gathered feedback existing and potential MUNI riders. Through these studies, we gathered insights into the usage of the MUNI app. We created a quick prototype to evaluate the usability of this application. Our questions were also focused around the usefulness and usability of the app.

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Learnings

Look at the problems user has beyond the UI itself.

When we started on the project, we were lucky enough to look beyond the application we set out to design. In this process, we learned a lot about the concerns that the riders were having. It also helped us focus on the infrequent riders that did not understand the MUNI transit systems well. Most of this research was outside the scope of UI, but more focused on the interactions that customers have with the entire system.