How do you design the future of regional buses? Or rather, how does one design future travel based on all the new learnings around design thinking and automation that has surfaced these past few years? This was the intriguing and challenging task presented to us by the public transport network Skånetrafiken last year.
The problem being a mix of holistic travel experiences and a multitude of micro interactions called for a wide skill set but made it all that much more interesting. With great help and collaboration from Skånetrafiken and their transportation partner Scania we have been looking at it from different angles with the intent of creating great travel experiences for Skånetrafikens customers. The challenge as always is to find simple answers to complex problems, where individual needs as well as the overall experience is accounted for. If you ever wondered what it actually takes to get people out of their cars and into buses and an even crazier concept, enable them to do actual work on their commute, read on!
To gain an understanding of the current travel experiences on the regional buses we set out on what you might call soul searching but what designers refer to as the research phase.Interviews with travellers, observations, journey mapping along with the identifying of different user groups and interaction points on the buses was carried out to establish a platform of empathy. Through this we gained insights which could be formulated into guiding principles for our design approach, one of these was the need for inclusive design.
If we only use our own perspectives as a starting point, we end up with products and services designed for people of our own age, with our interests, gender and physical abilities. Inclusive design doesn’t mean making one thing for everyone but rather to design a diverse set of ways for everyone to participate in an experience with a sense of belonging. Practically speaking, what that means is that there is a great deal of flexibility in a regular traveler as opposed to one confined to a wheelchair or with a guide dog companion and this should be accounted for.
The interviews conducted during the research phase gave us an understanding of travel group pressure points and motivational drivers in electing taking the bus and expectations of that trip. There were certain needs that were recurring; the need for personal space, for the commuter to be able to work, but also the co occurring need to be able to travel together. We anticipated a need for flexible solutions but the research groundwork made it quite evident.
To make sure that different aspects were accounted for, we created a team with different skill sets right from the outset; designer, engineer, service, and our sustainability expert, all part of the team from the get go.
An essential part of the work process has been for our team to facilitate co-creative workshops with the teams from Skånetrafiken and Scania. We all To make sure that different aspects were accounted for, we created a team with different skill sets right from the outset; designer, engineer, service, and sustainability expert, all part of the team from the get go.bring different skill sets and perspectives into these workshops and to ideate, evaluate, test and select ideas together has been a key part of the process. Getting out of the office helps shedding bias and can even be somewhat cathartic at the best of times.
Focus area framing
Arduous but essential, insights gained has to be translated, along with our research, into directions and focus areas for our ideation process. To enable this project segue, we met up with the teams from Skånetrafiken and Scania and defined which areas to focus on going along into the ideation sprint.
Skånetrafiken core value pillars like sustainability, cleanability and inclusiveness were picked as overarching principles. Apart from permeating all solutions and working with traditional sustainability tools as checklists and material choice, one focus area particularly targeted sustainability, the choice of taking the bus instead of the car. How might we convince more people to use the regional buses? Looking back at the great many sustainability discussions we have taken part in just this past year, sustainability coupled with a conscious choice and enabling that option by design has probably been one of the single most interesting parts of design for us as a team.
Ideation aiming to facilitate that choice has to relive the travellers decision making process, be able to show real time comparison with taking the car and provide additional services connected to traveling while at the same time giving the traveller value for time. You can’t ask of someone to cease in a bad habit without offering a way forward.
One way to do this is to aim your lense towards the journey from door to door as a whole. What if shared bikes and the bus system could be linked to create a convenient transportation combination? A Skåne by bike/bus integration would aid the traveller through the entire experience. Through an app you could find a rental bike near you, bike to the bus station and then pre book and pick up a bike after your bus ride to reach the final destination. Such a concept could later be extended to include carpooling to the bus station as well. This is a holistic concept, that truly would bring sustainability value. The key feature being able to reassure the traveller of an arrival time, a seat and a bike.
Great passenger experience enablers are comfort, convenience, functionality and smart technology. Following were other focus areas on how to manage personal space and comfort, how to create an atmosphere that is welcoming and comfortable but also provides a good flow and finally how to work with information/communication to all passengers about their respective journeys.
Weeks of cardboard-supported ideation and prototyping back at our studio (and in a full size scrap bus!) turned ideas into concepts of the future travel experience. Curious about that work? More will follow soon.
—In Partnership with www.skanetrafiken.se
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Written by Johanna Tunlid
Co-Authors, editing and illustrations: Erik Jonsson, Aleksandar Andreevski, Johan Liljeros & Markus Ånskog