JATA provides bus service on eight routes throughout the city. Routes and schedules are printed and distributed on the buses, but there has been little effort to share this information through newer media channels. As a result, people don't have the basic information they need to ride the bus. This is an obvious first step towards JATAs goal of engaging riders and potential riders.
JATA needs to identify more ways for potential and current riders of the bus to answer the simple question, "when will the bus come and where will it take me?"
We began the discovery process with a stakeholder interview to better understand the problem from JATA’s point of view. We also investigated JATA’s existing information resources: their route guide pamphlet, their website, their social media presence, and their bus stop signage (or lack thereof). Discussions with our stakeholder revealed the various forces at play within JATA that contributed to the existing state of JATA’s information resources. We were also made aware that a website redesign was underway.
We then rode the bus to talk to current JATA riders to get a sense of how they came to understand how JATA’s route system works, if they perceived any gaps in JATA’s information delivery, and what their motivations for taking the bus were. We also took this opportunity to assess the extent of smartphone ownership among JATA’s ridership.
We looked into how a variety of transit agencies deliver route and status information to their ridership. Projects such as Code for America’s Text My Bus project as well as a Stanford paper on the design and implementation of computer-generated route maps helped provide insight on how other transit agencies have implemented real-time bus tracking mechanisms and various principles for the design of bus route maps.
We developed two solutions to help JATA bridge their information gap, along with one recommendation.
The first solution is a new web interface intended to complement their existing website. The new web interface is centered around route information and is intended to be designed responsively. JATA’s current website does not make route guides easy to locate, and its lack of responsive design makes it difficult for users to use the website on mobile devices. We concluded after our bus ride that Jackson has a fair amount of smartphone owners (as opposed to users). The implied usage habits of this, in addition to the costs of developing separate applications to accommodate different smartphone platforms, resulted in the decision to implement responsive web design instead.
The website is intended to prominently display route alerts such as delays, reroutings, and cancellations; because JATA is exploring the implementation of GovDelivery, a cloud communications utility, this information would be populated via that service.
In addition, JATA is currently working on implementing route information in Google Maps through Google’s transit agency partnership program. Our web deliverable uses SVGs and CSVs for route and schedule information, but the website is designed so that these elements can be easily be replaced with viewports of the Google-hosted assets when those are ready.
The second solution comes in two versions. We designed new posters and signs to be deployed at bus stops and shelters to that riders know which bus line they’re on and where that bus can take them. The posters also contain a route estimate of when the bus will arrive at the stop on routes. This helps address gaps in physical information: bus stops currently lack any informational guides, and bus shelters contain cutouts of the route guide pamphlets (which are barely visible, especially from a distance). The new signage is intended to maximize the space allotted to make the information much more visible, functioning both as an information resource and as a marketing tool.
The recommendation we have for JATA is to improve their social media engagement. JATA currently has a Facebook page, but there are only 28 likes, two posts by other users, and nine posts. The Facebook page can be better utilized as a means of collecting rider feedback as well as dispatching information that may not necessarily warrant a website update. This would improve rider engagement, something that the riders of the bus noted that they would like to see improved.