Seattle is currently experiencing its greatest population gains this century. Seattle's primary transit street, Third Avenue, saw a 60% increase in daily transit usage while simultaneously experiencing a sharp decline in rider satisfaction within the last few years. Of particular concern were bus stops and boarding areas: their ability to provide accessible and accurate transit information and physical integration into the sidewalk environment.
Our challenge was to better understand the experiential variables contributing to the decrease in satisfaction and prototype human-centered solutions to influence long-term design strategy.
Seattle Department of Transportation and Department of Planning, Seattle Metro, Seattle Department of Human Services, Seattle Downtown Business District, MID ambassadors and University of Washington Department of Sociology.
We conducted initial research with transit riders, operators, and stakeholders through field observations, contextual interviews, email surveys, and time-lapse photo analysis. The insights from these studies were complied and synthesized into a transit rider journey map, which served to provide a customer-first narrative to the data while highlighting opportunities to improve the experience.
Prototype & Iteration
Discovery research highlighted a lack of streetscape amenities as a primary issue in the transit rider journey. As a result, a “Traveling Street Lounge" was prototyped to evaluate different furnishings and spaces for pedestrian use. This prototype provided an opportunity to learn how pedestrians would use and perceive alternative transit waiting areas, how variations of these spaces could be integrated into an already crammed sidewalk environment, and ideal locations for implementation.
In testing the design concept, we evaluated pedestrian behavior patterns and reactions over a 2-month timeframe through field observations, intercept interviews, and guerrilla co-design exercises. Additionally, a series of “street lounge coffee speed dates” were arranged to partner project stakeholders with either local businesses or daily transit riders to discuss the space and experience. The research team partnered with sociologists and the Downtown Seattle Association ambassadors as collaborative researchers.
Given the team’s inability to be constantly present during the prototype phase, pedestrians were prompted to provide feedback via voicemail or Twitter. These methods yielded additional, and sometimes deeper insight into the prototype experience; such as how the space created a delightful experience in the environment and a suggestion to try the prototype in a different location. These first hand accounts were extremely useful artifacts when communicating insights back to project stakeholders.
Insights from the discovery research and prototype evaluation were assembled into a final report and presented to stakeholders. Specific recommendations included design elements to add/subtract, preferred locations of lounge placement along Third Avenue and typical daily use patterns and space activation suggestions. The research team then worked side by side with the design team to develop a next iteration of the lounge. These next iterations are currently being developed by the City of Seattle with federal transportation funding allocated for construction of street lounges along Third Avenue.