Thesis for MFA Design & Technology at Parsons School of Design
UX Designer & Reseacher
Figma/Figjam, Adobe Creative Suite, Google Apps (Google Slides, Docs, etc…), Overpass-turbo.eu
Through redesigned bus routes and app, I hope to urge policymakers and transport officials to the current bus system, utilize UX/UI methods in transit redesign, increase rural mobility, and improve the user experience.
As a Maltese American and lover of public transit, I was interested in using my design skills to improve Malta’s public transport system. The project spanned from Fall 2022 into Spring 2023, ending with proposed designs for the route system & app. I was interested in infrastructure and information design, but also in how design decisions can assist in resolving social issues. The final proposal was presented at the Design & Technology Symposium at Parsons School of Design.
Due to long wait times, inefficient routes, poor user experience, and a general lack of support, Malta's buses are failing.
And even though the island is small enough for greener transportation and the buses are free, the population has become very car dependent. This unhealthy dependency has led to Malta's road fatalities at almost 10 times higher than the rest of the EU.
White Paper Research
I compiled existing research on transit globally and concerning Malta. This includes works by the Times of Malta, ARUP, and Dr. Therese Bajada, a full-time lecturer on transport studies at the University of Malta.
Social Media Input
I collected various social media input from platforms like TripAdvisor and reddit. The comments were organized by either positive, neutral, or negative sentiment.
"Timetable could best be described as 'fluid'. Don't rely on it to get you somewhere on time..."
"Superb value for money."
"It's not that bad really but it is not universal. For example, some routes have a bus every often... some areas have bus scheduled every 30 minutes":
I created a survey (based on feedback from SMEs) to collect the population’s input on the buses. The survey has a total of 30 questions consisting of a consent agreement, demographic questions, questions on the bus interior, exterior, the bus routes, and the app. The survey is meant to be dispersed digitally and in-person.
In order to disperse the survey online through social media channels like Twitter, Instagram, and r/Malta, I created graphics to support the Google form.
Posters and stickers were also dispersed at bus stops or on bus routes. The stickers were made on a letter-sized sheet of sticker paper. One paper could print out 8 stickers, and these minimalist stickers would also be dispersed throughout Malta.
With 45% of survey respondents neutral towards the existing app, the app’s main pain points involved inaccurate timetable data, no GPS tracking of buses, no helpful alerts, and no journey support during routes with transfers. To resolve these issues, I’ve redesigned the app with transfer-oriented journey planning, GPS tracking, notification alerts, and electronic payment support.
App Navigation Map
GPS tracking is accessed through the “Bus Stops & Routes” tab, where the user can view approaching buses based on the route or the desired bus stop. Therefore, rather than the current system of simply being informed that a bus is approaching in an estimated amount of time, the user can see exactly where that bus is as well as receive an exact amount of time. Residents will no longer have to wait aimlessly at a stop with inaccurate timetable information
The journey planning is designed specifically to support transfers, with step-by-step directions of which bus stops to wait at and what routes to utilize
This design moves away from the current bus route design of a spider web pattern, with every route meeting at a main bus terminal. Undoubtedly, a spider web system lacks efficiency as it assumes a single point of primacy.
To increase the bus system’s reach and efficiency, I am proposing a route map with as many overlaps as possible. Thus, providing more opportunities for interconnectivity and transfer. The reimagined route system allows destinations to be accessible by, at most, 2 routes. Furthermore, they are on preexisting roads with bus stops, so no additional roadwork is necessary.
In Defense of Transfers
With a design that increases opportunities for transfer, anywhere is accessible by up to one transfer. However, it can be wrongly assumed that transfers are less desirable than direct services. For the criticism “people will not transfer, transit must provide direct service” (Common Misconceptions in Urban Transportation in Transportation for Livable Cities by Vukan R. Vuchic), this is proven as an incorrect generalization, as resistance to transfers is actually the result of unreliable service or bus stops without shelter or ample seating. Therefore, it is important to include an improved app, better bus stops, and increased bus frequency with a route redesign for a more effective bus system.
Finally, I provided further context through a symposium talk. The purpose is persuasion, demonstrating the deep research and thought process behind my designs. I highlight with supporting data visualizations the importance of community-based design decisions, the historic/economic context, rural mobility, and the project’s feasibility.