Travelling safely in Chicago on public transportation— UX Research Study

Note : My research study was in a group and we focused on Chicago mainly because the people in city were our accessible users and for in-person interview and observations.

According to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation, the number of violent crimes on trains and buses has risen to a level not seen in over a decade.

This year, violent crimes account for more than 26% of the 1,863 crimes reported on the CTA (Chicago Transit Authority).

Even though there were far more riders in 2018 and 2019, violent crimes accounted for only 13% of all crimes. The deployment of effective security on the CTA has not kept pace with the increase in violent crimes.

The goal of this project is to interview commuters who use public transportation in Chicago to understand and investigate people’s commuting experiences and how they deal with uncomfortable situations encountered while traveling. The information in this report is based on one-on-one remote and in-person structured interviews. We investigated how people travel, what applications they prefer, and what precautions they take when traveling alone at night. Before proceeding with the interview, users’ consent was obtained, and only responses and general demographic information were recorded.

We interviewed a variety of people, primarily young adults with diverse lifestyles. The interview findings were used to develop four distinct personas. The findings primarily focused on a lack of safety, which caused people to feel anxious and scared when traveling alone at night. These findings will be used in future designs aimed at assisting people with individual travel safety via public transportation.

Our interview process had two dimensions — first a qualitative interview and then a quantitative interview to get more detailed observations and focused and non-biased outcomes and results.

Inquiry plan

Our inquiry plan was based on Zoom calls, phone calls, and in-person interviews. We first decided to look through articles and papers to research overall safety problems in the United States on public transportation and then focus on the safety of travelers in CTA. We focused on CTA travelers only because of our scope of interviews and population base limitations.In addition to this, we sent out a Google survey form to understand the initial demography of our users and also a general overview about their travel routine and difficulties.

Google Form Survey (Prior to Long-Form Qualitative Interviews)

To better form our questions for the long-form qualitative interviews, we sent out a Google Form to a bigger user group. We had hoped to potentially find some unique insights to help us create more effective qualitative interviews. The result more so showed what we might expect in the interviews than anything too groundbreaking.

The following is the demographic Google Form and the total results:

Scroll within the area to view the whole form

Insights — Below are the data visualisations of the insights we got from our initial survey

Conducting inquiries

For preparing and taking the interviews, our whole team collaborated over Zoom call and prepared a set of basic questions to be asked in the interview and additional follow-up questions as and when required during the interview process and based on the responses from the interviewee. each member communicated and traveled with neighbors, friends, and relatives living in Chicago, as well as senior graduate students while taking the interviews and asking them the questions so that it is contextual and personalized. In order to do affinity mapping and create personas as a result of our activity, we decided to use Miro as a collaboration tool.

Miro Affinity Diagram

We did an affinity mapping to analyse all of our interview notes and come up with actionable insights that would help us create personas.

Affinity diagram

Miro Link for better viewing:

You can view the board for your reference

Recognising group dynamics

After successfully completing our interviews, we noticed a stark difference, as they were split between international and domestic users. Our group has four international users and one domestic student. Since our data were collected through a convenience sample, we interviewed the people we knew. That meant four international users interviewed nine international users, and one domestic student interviewed three domestic users. Upon discovering this, the domestic student conducted one more interview to have more data on domestic users. Differentiating between international and domestic users is important to recognize new vs. seasoned users and cultural differences.

International vs. Domestic Users

The CTA is a hub for a very diverse community to travel all throughout Chicago. These users can differ in many ways, from gender, to age, to even whether they are international or domestic users. From our data, users were mainly differentiated by international vs. domestic.

Notable Similarities:

Both users care about their safety when taking public transportation. Although, intensities are more likely different as domestic users are more familiar with the surroundings and navigation. Still, both use the same apps/resources on their phones to create the most efficient and safest routes. When they’re in potential danger, both users would try to contact/update family or friends.

Notable Differences:

International and domestic users both have different preferences between riding trains and buses. International users prefer buses as they feel they are safer in terms of being a mode of transportation on a road. This allows them to hop off and escape danger more quickly if need be. If something were to happen while on the bus, they’d be able to reach the conductor more easily, as they are in the same space. International users still utilize trains, but they are not culturally familiar with potentially unsafe riders on the train, such as those who are unsober. Domestic users prefer trains, primarily due to their reliability when arriving and reaching their desired stop. Some who rely solely on trains feel buses are hard to navigate, as trains are required at every stop, but bus stops need to be requested. In terms of safety, domestic users see trains to be more dynamic, in the sense they have a better possibility of escaping a situation by moving into another cart, or just hopping off the train and catching the next.

International users may not be aware of what the CTA offers that domestic users are, such as the emergency button in train cars. Both users are doubtful on how the CTA can protect their safety, but believe the transit authority can implement it in different ways. International users want more security with weapons. Specifically for the users we interviewed, many have experience with public transportation in India. There is security they trust with their safety, for example, female cops on female only trains. Domestic users are wary of more security, especially police officers. According to the domestic user interviews, many are worried about the innocent people who are using the train as refuge and the possibility of racial profiling.

Although international users who are newly acquainted with the CTA and domestic users may have been taking it for most of their life, they have similar habits to reach safety. These users’ biggest difference is how they believe public transportation can become safer.

To further explore differences between users, personas below have been divided by male and female, international and domestic users to illustrate the nuances of experience by gender.

Persona 1

Persona 2

Persona 3

Persona 4

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