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BART Mobile Ticketing 

Overview

Introduction

Bay Area Rapid Transportation (BART) provides accessible underground trains throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, serving almost 130 million riders annually. As a car-less college student, my peers and I heavily rely on BART to get us from one place to another in a timely and cheap manner, within SF. However, the process to get on the correct BART train often feels inefficient and stress-inducing, as one has to deal with automated ticketing machines at the station and the stress of boarding the correct BART train in time.

 

The following app redesign was a side project to learn Sketch and also tackle an issue that hits close to home.

Problem

Research has shown that the majority of user problems with BART stem from:

  • A lack of efficient technology at BART stations

  • A lack of user awareness regarding BART resources

 

Responses revealed frustration among users with the inefficiency of working the automated ticketing machines at BART stations. Users said that the process of using the ticket machines is generally straightforward but feels time-consuming, especially when you have little time to catch a coming train, loaded too little or too much money on your Clipper Card*/Ticket (no automated feature in machine to calculate exact fare), or are traveling in a large group and have access to a limited amount of machines in the station.

 

Furthermore, in order to board the correct train, the majority of interviewees said they relied on some external source such as Apple Maps, a BART route map posted around the station, or a fellow passenger on BART. Some users complained that these methods could be unhelpful at times, and a common user experience reported was boarding a BART train in the wrong direction.

 

BART currently offers an app that has a BART “Fare Calculator” feature and also contains an extensive “Plan Trip” feature to map one’s personalized route via BART. 100% of users interviewed stated that they didn’t know about the BART app or never used the BART app.

 

*A Clipper Card is a physical card in which users can upload money at a discounted rate and use for various Bay Area Transportation modes such as BART, Cal Train, AC transit, etc.

 

Current Design of the BART app:

Solution

  • Offer a mobile ticket feature within the BART app that will streamline the ticketing process and popularize the app altogether

    • ​Mobile Ticket Feature: will combine ticketing and the existing “Fare Calculator” and “Plan Trip” features to simplify user experience

The Process

Research:

User Personas

                                      Emily 

  • Bay Area college student

  • Rides BART a couple times a year when traveling from the airport to school or with a group

  • Buys a standard BART blue ticket at automated machines whenever she takes the BART

  • Relies on other people and Apple maps for directions when riding BART (has gotten lost before)

Pain Point: Dreads taking the BART because she feels she can’t adequately prepare for the ride beforehand, wants to feel less stressed during the process 

                                          Michael

  • Bay Area college student

  • Rides BART 2 times a month to hang out with friends in San Francisco

  • Loads his Clipper Card on automated machines whenever his balance is low

  • Relies on past experiences and BART maps at the station to figure out which BART route to take/where to make switches

Pain Point: Frustrated that he has to consistently check Clipper Card balance at automated machines to see if he has enough money, wants to get to his friends faster

                                    Annie

  • Recent College Grad who lives in Berkeley and works in the Financial District

  • Rides BART 5 days a week for work

  • “Adds value” to her Clipper Card online and skips the machines

  • Takes the same route everyday so never has to look at directions, checks online for service delays and schedule updates

Pain Point: Annoyed that it can take up to 5 days to process her Clipper Card refill online, thinks it would be convenient to take care of everything in one place

Insights

Strangely enough, the BART app already tackles a lot of these user issues, such as containing up-to-date information advisory warnings and schedule changes. Additionally the app gives you the ability to “Plan Trip” from Point A to Point B by taking into account whether you will walk/bike/drive to and from BART stations, and the most efficient route to take for your entire trip. Usability tests also showed that users generally preferred the BART app’s navigation over Apple Maps. However, based on my user research, interviewees didn’t initially know about the app, as it is relatively new, or they didn’t feel the need to download it as they could just Google the same information when they needed access to it, especially people who rarely used BART.

A mobile ticketing feature will eliminate user time spent at the station and make adding value to a ticket/Clipper Card more seamless; it will also allow for users to purchase their tickets with their exact route in mind, including their journey to and from BART stations. Additionally, this feature will incentivize users to download the BART app and have access to more stress-reducing features.

Prototyping

Design Decisions:

  • Broke down the existing “Plan Trip” and “Fare Calculator” features to further simplify the user’s journey

  • Mimicked aesthetic and UI theme on this government-funded app

  • Crafted mobile ticketing feature with original content and also incorporated content included in the existing app, BART ticketing machines, and the BART to Airport app*

*The BART to Airport app is a new application which is actually testing out mobile ticketing by BART exclusively for group travel to and from airports.

Prototyped Frames (Made on Sketch)

Home Page 

Buy Tickets

Plan Route and Buy Fare

Walk and Transit (Top Button)

Chose Route

Chose Route

Buy Fare

Clipper Card Option 

BART Blue Ticket Option

Mobile Tickets:

Mobile Clipper Card * 

Mobile BART Blue Ticket*

*Click on clipper card/ticket image to enlarge, and then scan at gate

Considerations/Next Steps

BART is currently testing out mobile ticketing with their BART to Airport app, making it clear that they are considering a mobile ticketing feature. However, with the BART to Airport app, they are targeting groups instead of focusing on the individual experience; my intention with this redesign was to make the individual rider's experience smoother. Furthermore, since BART hasn't switched over to mobile ticketing quite yet, and the enterprise is government-funded, it is important to consider that making the switch over to mobile ticketing may be financially or technologically difficult. 

 

Additionally, in creating this mobile ticketing feature, I did not plan on fully eliminating the current system of automated ticketing at stations. This wouldn’t even be feasible as there are riders who don’t own smart phones, and automated machines can still serve as a valid back-up option to a phone. Therefore, my intention was to make a feature that would complement the current ticketing system.

 

Going forward, I would like to advance the BART app by designing push notifications that can be sent based on a user’s regular or singular trips with advisory warnings and/or schedule updates. Right now, BART offers a text and email subscription which will send a rider updates via text or email. This could easily be transferable to the BART app.

 

Lastly, I’d love to go further with this idea and spend more time modernizing and simplifying the UI of the app. BART is operated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), and I hope to hear feedback on the plausibility and usefulness of this redesign.