Problem statement

In an urban area, trust in public transportation service (bus mode) is affected by the lack of updated and relevant information, knowledge that is necessary to make well-informed decisions. The possibilities of interactive systems could contribute to enhance the user experience and therefore build trust in this service.

The need for trust in the public transportation context is fulfilled by giving the users a tool to share and obtain recent and relevant information and hence increase their social capital.

This tool also opens possibilities of improvement, from the point of view of the companies that provide the public transportation service.

As mentioned before, users of PT face issues that affect their productivity daily. This problem can be related to a range of factors like time, space or geographical location. This thesis argues that a mobile app that applies the principles of social interaction effectively and that focuses on the user’s needs can help to enhance their experience, making the service more reliable.

A user-centered approach to this problem starts by perceiving the main factors or constraints that people find in their day-to-day journey. In a visual interface that addresses this problem, these factors need to be represented as close to the conceptual model of the users as possible, allowing them to access the interface and the information within the transit system without additional frustration in the process.

Mr Harry C Beck (1903-1974), designer who draw the diagrammatic Underground map (Image from London Transport Museum, at http://www.ltmcollection.org/resources/index.html?IXglossary=Tube%20Map).

History shows that designers have been trying to figure out how to display transit information to users in a way that extends to how we understand spatial relations, using diagrams with different interpretations, some with more rigor than others (Rawsthorne). In recent years, technologies such as Google Maps and Mapbox, have provided a real reference of the users and their location. This is commonly used in applications and games, as recently epitomized in Pokemon Go. All these new methods, technologies, and applications, as explained by Norman, are constantly improving and evolving the experience; but seem to have the same mistakes and challenges; challenges that can be addressed with an understanding of human needs, capabilities and behavior (8).

A Case of Study, the Context and the User

Public transportation is a complicated system and it is important for the operation and growth of any urban area. The efficiency of a transport system affects the wellbeing of the people: time spent traveling to different activities, air pollution, or safety issues. Thus, this chapter suggests a practical overview of the context and the everyday conditions users must deal with.

To contextualize the case of study, the city of San José is in the Great Metropolitan Region (GAM) and is the main urban area of Costa Rica, its main public transport system lies on the bus modality. The GAM includes almost half the population of the country, and like most cities in Latin America the population is young, only the 6.03% is older than 65. Taking this into consideration, the target audience of this thesis are between 18 and 25 years old, mostly college students and young workers, who use the bus regularly and haven’t acquired a personal mean of transportation yet (Bussiere 73-74).

In a survey taken in the 90’s about the origin-destiny of trips people did in the morning and the evening, 60% were done using the bus, 12% in car, and 27% walking. This has probably changed, increasing the car rides, due to the increasing number of vehicles owned by people in San José; but still, the bus remains as an important mean of transportation for many people, especially for attending college or work. In general, the public transportation system offers a worthy service to the main urban midpoints in the city like in Figure 3, although it offers problems to travel between some peripheral spots, this limits the interaction for some people who don’t have a car or won’t pay taxi (Bussiere 79).

Urban center in San José
Urban center in San José (Author’s Image).

Currently, for many of the users their intentions to catch a bus at a scheduled arrival time are foiled by some of these factors:

  • Buses can be early or late
  • Commuters can be late or leave early
  • Overcrowded buses
  • Changing routes
  • Scattered stops

As Buxton says in his book Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design, “To adequately take the social and physical context into account in pursuing a design, we must experience some manifestation of it in those contexts (the wild) while still in the design cycle—the earlier the better” (Buxton 37). This is especially true when the context involves people interacting with each other in a context of common spaces in the cities; hence in a later chapter, the research in the context helps to empathize with the potential users of the app as well as their daily matters in general.