Design Research II: NYC Transportation & The MTA

Overview

In the second part of the project, our group focused on three key stakeholders that encompassed our topic.

Stakeholders:
- Politicians, leaders, and union representatives — leaders who make decisions based on budgeting, upgrades to the services, etc.
- General public — anyone who uses transit every day or has used it in the past.
- Organization (MTA) — the company that is providing the service for millions of riders.

Role:
I focused on the general public for this project, and the research techniques I applied were surveys and conducting follow-up interviews.

Survey

I used the Google Survey form to create our survey. I distributed the survey on a slack channel called Product Hive, a UX designers community that discusses user experience challenges, upcoming products, mentorships, portfolio review, and more. The second channel I focused on was a Discord channel called Citizen Center by Access America #HumanityForward, it’s an Andrew Yang initiative that focuses on making a more streamlined government website where people would be able to access voter information, register to vote, apply for state benefits, and more. Additionally, I posted the survey to my Twitter account, and I had few engagements from there, which resulted in a few participants.

We had sixteen participants who answered sixteen questions. The questions’ formats ranged from multiple-choice to rating, short written, or long-form entries. I started the survey off light with the first question being a softball and warming up our participants to the survey.

You can find our survey here:
https://forms.gle/cPyRgZniVSULZSCP9

Results from Survey

For the short written or long-form written entries, those questions had the best responses. What contributed to these types of responses everyone has different pain points, and a form allows a participant to speak freely.

Something that caught me off guard was the number of riders who use the kiosk to pay for transit tickets over the MTA’s mobile app was 87.5%. The MTA rolling out the OMNY program is a digital and contactless payment system that will be fully rolled out by 2022. The MTA will be slowly moving away from physical tickets, and you will eventually need a smartphone or credit card to enter the turnstiles. Based on conversations that I’ve been following and as well the interview I conducted, consumers see this as a disservice to people who don’t have smartphones or credit cards. There are also privacy concerns about whether if people’s credit card information is being safely stored and does OMNY has the right infrastructure against hackers.

I’ve been pondering what the MTA’s thought process surrounding and what is the best use of resources and time versus upgrading tracks, ensuring public safety measures, creating new paths/roadways, or improving accessibility for handicaps throughout the city.

Another question that generated an interesting insight, it’s hard finding information about planned meetings or decisions that have been made on transportation. It made me think that maybe there should be a forum or a better place where riders can voice their concerns, or attend meetings and voice their opinions since they’re the ones using it every day.

Follow-Up Interview with Participant

After the survey was conducted, I reached out to everyone who provided an email to see if anyone would be interested in doing a follow-up interview. I was able to hear back from one person, and the main objective was to get a better understanding of what they wanted to see improved upon and what their current concerns.

Questions:
1.) What service do you use the most?
2.) MTA is rolling out a new initiative called OMNY, which is a contactless payment method for buying transit cards and usage for entering turnstiles. Do you have any opinions or concerns with a program like this?
3.) Do you think the MTA is justified to raise their prices to combat the low ridership levels and future improvements that can be used to improve the subway system?
4.) If you could improve one thing, what would it be?
5.) What do you think of a reward system? The more you use your transit card and fill it you receive some sort of reward? Could it be a discount on the ride, monthly unlimited pass, or cashback? Think of it as a loyalty program.

Interview: I have a video interview, but the participant asked if I only post the audio.

Listen here:
https://soundcloud.com/matt-kane-447519824/transportation-interview

Conclusion

Overall, it was a fun project to work on. I wish we had more time to explore more users and conduct a few more interviews. I always find it interesting to do research and to find different patterns or trends that may impact a decision. Transportation is a huge issue in NYC, and there are a lot of great discussions surrounding the topic. Hopefully, we figure out a solution that works for everyone.

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