How can we implement a process for students to travel to and from Michigan State University's campus in a quick and cost-effective manner?
In this project, I served a User Experience Researcher and User Experience Interactive Designer.
Kate Whalen, Chase Hicks, Valeria Obando
To initiate this project, we observed the MSU community and identified the transportation experience to be problematic due to the stress it caused to students. We actively and collaboratively worked on researching and better understanding the sources of this stress.
For the first section of our research, we decided to observe and focus on students as they engage with different transportation systems and different travel times to get to campus. In this phase, we timed how long it took students coming from an external place until they arrived at their classes on campus.
From the graph, we can observe how predominant the yellow lines are in comparison to the rest, this was because most of the students we encountered used this system to get to their classes. While the time using a car to get to campus is still in some cases faster than walking, in most of the cases it takes the same amount of time for students to walk than to ride a car. After talking to some students, we found the preference for this method as opposed to driving, is due to the difficulty of finding an empty spot to park in and the amount of traffic there is on campus making this system less effective and more stressful in comparison to the rest.
To understand the transportation systems students more frequently use we also observed the northwest entrance of Wells Hall (a very circulated building of the campus) and found students arriving to campus by foot, car (driving or being dropped off), bird, moped, bus, bike, or board. As we go deeper into our research we observed the traffic on campus is created by a large number of cars from which the large majority are occupied by only one passenger despite many of them coming from a very similar route congesting the campus and limiting the number of parking spaces that are available throughout the day.
Based on these annotations, we built a persona and mapped out the current sequence in which he gets to campus.
Randy is a new student at Michigan State University. As an engineering major, he was placed in Holden dorms (South of Campus). Randy is a freshman so he is unable to obtain a parking pass. Also, he made the mistake of bringing a weak bike lock to campus and thus, is no longer biking to class. This leaves Randy feeling stressed and hopeless as his classes are all far away from his dorm room and his transportation options are now limited. Under the current transportation scenario, Randy’s options are:
1. Walk to and from class
a. Requires time
b. Requires mobility
2. Ride the bus
a. Requires planning
b. Missed route = late
3. Skip class
The current system provides few options for transportation among students who don’t have a car. For many students, walking to class is impossible due to a variety of reasons. Some students have major time constraints with other classes, jobs, etc.. Meanwhile, other students with a physical injury or disability do not have the option of walking. In addition, riding the bus can often be unreliable, especially for new students. A bus being delayed or a bus full of passengers can outright prevent someone like Randy from getting to class.
For this reason, we seek to intervene in the areas where the bus system and other transportation methods lack organization and effectiveness. Every day a persona such as Randy would:
1. Walk to the bus stop
1. Walk to the bus stop
2. Check bus arrival time
4. Get on the bus
5. Pay fee
6. Check GPS location
7. Exit bus
The underlined areas signify the areas in which we would like to intervene and propose an alternative.
From this research, we proposed a digital platform for carpooling that alleviates the traffic around Michigan State University as it will reduce the percentage of cars on campus. We also aim to provide a twofold platform that can benefit both sides of the spectrum - riders and drivers. Student drivers are provided the opportunity to make some extra money and meet other students on campus, and student riders are provided the opportunity to get to class safely and easily at a reasonable price while also meeting other students on campus.
In addition, not only will carpooling decrease the levels of stress in students and aid them monetarily but it will also impact the community's environment as it will protect their health by decreasing the number of emissions there are in the air. This will also help to efficiently use non-renewable energy sources and conserve them for the long term as the resources usually used by one person will be utilized by more. Current travel options include biking or riding a “bird” although due to the changing weather conditions it is rarely used as students switch to warmer and safer transportation systems as are buses and cars. For this reason, we provide not only a comfortable way of traveling but a safe and fun one. In this way the scenario for our persona would change into:
1. Use app
2. Select ride
3. Receive notification of arrival
4. Get in ride
5. Pay driver
6. Exit car
We developed a series of user stories in order to prepare for the ways that users could use or misuse the application.
The prototype serves as a model of what our app intends to provide to our users. It maps the user flow as they interact with our service either for the first time or as a regular user.
When creating an account, members will fill out a form, this form serves as the platform for the app to understand the user’s preference and provide a personalized experience. Under the form, the user will be able to choose between 1) being a driver, 2) being a passenger or 3) both. Then, they will be able to fill out their weekly schedule including the time they usually leave their house and the time they go back to it. This will help pair the users' schedule to that of other users with the same or similar schedule to maintain a somewhat regular group to go in the car to help users feel safer and more comfortable with the service. For those who have chosen to be a driver or both a driver and passenger, the form will include questions regarding the type of car they will be using, the general condition of the car, and the spaces available in the car.
After users have completed filling out the form, they will be directed to the main dashboard. For a driver, the dashboard will display a map that will show them where they are. Upon entering their initial location, destination, and amount of empty spaces they have that day, drivers will be able to see the amount of time it will take them to arrive there, the number of stops there is on this route and where these stops will be. The stops the driver will be seeing won’t be higher than the amount of available spaces they input and the route will not deviate them too much from a route they will usually take without passengers. Upon accepting the route and arriving at a stop, the driver will have the option to share their live location for passengers to easily find them and will display the passenger's phone number to call them in case they can’t find them. After dropping passengers off, drivers will be able to rate each individual passenger.
For a passenger, the main dashboard will also display a map of the location they’re at. As they have previously entered their regular schedule they will be given suggestions to what car to drive in. Passengers will be able to see the route close cars are going through and select their current location or select a stop in case they want to ride a car that will come before. The cars that will be displayed will only be those with empty spots. Passengers will then confirm the car they will be riding to avoid overbooking. After being dropped off, the passengers will have the possibility to rank the driver. In the case a user is someone who is suddenly going somewhere in a time that was not determined in their regular schedule, they will be able to choose a car just as a passenger with a regular schedule would.