Transit in LA exists. Really. In fact, Los Angeles in undergoing a major transformation and modernization of its public transportation system, including its payment system, TAP. But in the era of mobile phones, TAP is falling behind.
What if there were an app that empowered transit riders to check their TAP card balance, reload its value, and scan their phone at the faregate?
Project Type: case study
Deliverables: sketches, wireframes, hi-fi mockups, clickable prototype
Tools: pen & paper, whiteboard, Photoshop, Sketch, Marvel
My initial research focused on two methods: contextual inquiry and user interviews of riders of LA. These provided invaluable understanding of market need and existing pain points.
I visited the Downtown Santa Monica Expo Line Metro Station during the evening commute, and watched riders purchase TAP cards, refill them, and enter the faregates. Common issues I discovered:
• Riders ran out of value on their TAP cards, but didn't know until the faregate told them. Even frequent riders, the "power users," didn't know. They would have to turn around, get in line to use a ticket machine, wait at least five minutes, and miss their train. Why not save them some time by reloading value on their phones before they get to the station?
• Tourists tried to just buy a one-way fare for $1.75, only to realize they must purchase a $1 TAP card to access the system. Why do they need to buy a piece of plastic they're only going to use once?
• Frequent riders and tourists are forced to use the same ticket machine. Tourists slow down the frequent riders, and frequent riders stress out the tourists. Why not distribute the load onto everyone's personal devices?
• The TAP card itself, once its purchased and has value, works great at the faregate. A mobile app needs to compete with the simplicity of the TAP card--just TAP it and go.
From the user research, it is clear that a mobile ticketing app for TAP is needed to simplify transit riders' lives. The user research also guided my design principles for the app: keeping it a quick and easy way to pay for their travel. I limited the app to three MVP features:
1) Check TAP card balance
2) Reload its value
3) Scan at the faregate
And that's it. Other travel apps already help riders navigate the system (Transit app, Google Maps, etc.)--there's no need to overlap with them.
User testing is needed to determine any other pain points for the app. A partnership with LA Metro and its TAP card vendor would be beneficial to make a mobile ticketing app a reality.