Four Future Visions for Urban Transport Environments

Last year I taught an advanced interaction design class, in which students were tasked with improving urban landscapes through the use of digital technologies. Four teams, after their initial analysis of urban everyday scenarios, chose to work on transport environments. This post considers the projects the students produced, showcasing a variety of future solutions to some of the issues posed by transport today. The students focused particularly on design considerations, though technological limitations were also taken into account.

Ambient Bus Shelter

This group looked at digitally enhancing a bus stop. They came up with a design concept of how to augment a shelter with digital information by adding digital displays to the various surfaces of an existing bus stop, going through a lengthy process of interviews, surveys, observations and prototype iterations before coming to the final product. This demonstrates the process of iteration that all good design solutions go through, before getting to the point where the end result seems so simple it’s the only way it should be. Though it seems an obvious result, the path to get to that point is long and not straightforward. The students had to discard their ideas and backtrack their initial design goals a number of times throughout the semester.

The final concept envisioned a ticker-style screen in place of the advertising currently found on many bus shelters. The screen would provide information on incoming buses, how far away they were, the capacity of these buses and whether they had disabled access and Wi-Fi. On the back of the shelter, a live, real-time map of the area could be displayed with bus routes overlayed and where the buses were on the map. What’s important to note is all of this information is ambient and passive – users don’t actually have to interact with the screens but they are there if needed.

Project members: Geoff Lazarus, Darrell Rivero, Matthew Ritchie

Crowd Distribution

The introduction of smart transport cards bring with it huge opportunities in understanding how customers use the transport network through the data that is recorded through these cards. This project started with the basis that the digital record a smart transport card provides could be used to recommend the best possible train for a particular commuter – which carriage to get on and off.

Based on the profile of the customer and knowing based on historical data that the passenger is going to a certain station at a certain time, and knowing where the exits are at that station, a display or screen at the ticket barrier could inform the passenger which platform to go to and in which area to stand to get an optimal carriage. This has the benefits of spreading passengers along the platform easing congestion, and ensuring more passengers get a seat.

A possible addition would be the use of sensors inside trains or on platforms to determine the current capacity of each train carriage. That way carriage capacity could be balanced against the optimal carriage for a particular passenger in terms of entry or exit from the station, making sure everyone isn’t on a single carriage because they all want one exit at Wynyard Station.

Project members: Rowan Lucas, Nick Woods

Tunnel Racer

This project looked at congestion and crowded spaces – here it’s for a transport environment but this sort of idea could be used anywhere in a city. It’s for situations where large groups of people slow each other down because they’re not moving optimally and tries to get people to think about how they walk and move.
In the particular context of the Devonshire Street Tunnel at Central Station, students came up with the idea of “gamifying” the tunnel to encourage people to move through it in a more orderly (and potentially faster) fashion. Displays would be placed at both ends of the tunnel and the centre which would show symbols representing people moving through the tunnel, along with their speed and direction. Based on where you entered the tunnel, you would be placed on a particular team and have to ‘race’ against the others.

Project members: David Dembo, Damien Fonseca, Elizabeth Gilleran

Virtually Linked Bus Shelters

Customer safety is an important aspect of any transport system. This group tackled the problem of safety at bus stops at night. After an extensive process of analysis and iteration, they decided on the idea of linked bus shelters.

How it works is that each shelter is recorded and displayed to other shelters. People waiting alone can see others waiting at the same time at other bus stops. The project implements the idea of passive surveillance – because you know someone else can see you you feel safer. The bus stops wouldn’t be lined sequentially in terms of which shelters you can see – the system would simply pick a stop where someone’s waiting at that very moment, so there is always someone else visible in the virtual link.

Project members: Adam Smith, Lachlan Sunderland