Year III: Auckland Transport Project Week Four

Mission: AT Rail

13 days remaining, paperwork is due on the 9th of April; and the verbal presentations are moved to the following day (YAY!)

Warning: You are about to read an essay. If you are interested you’re welcome to stay but I wrote this entirely for myself as seeing my thoughts in a written format helps to validate my thinking.

It’s crazy to think that there is effectively two weeks left in this project! I suppose it shouldn’t be a hard concept to grasp, after all time does what it does best- fly ridiculously fast leaving all of us in panic in its wake.

On Monday I spoke to our ever helpful lecturer Rob Mayo in order to verify my thoughts around my concept proposal. My proposal had two central themes; the promotion of fitness and enabling a community to connect and grow. I gravitate towards the first theme especially as I feel that it is a better way to address Auckland Transport’s aim to increase patronage of rail travel. It addresses a factor that discourages people from travelling to their daily destinations by rail (or any other public transport means). After all, it is undoubtedly easier to walk only a few metres to take the car than spend up to half an hour or so to the nearest train station under unpredictable weather circumstances. This is done by implementing a point-reward system, in which users gain points if they walk to the station and as their points accumulate to a certain level they are able to choose their own rewards provided by Auckland Transport.

The theme of enabling a community to connect and grow seemed to resonate with the Auckland Transport panel as my proposal aims to give the users a sense of ownership and belonging with this responsibility to care for their own station. They were interested in this notion of involving the users in the process of maintaining ‘their’ station to eliminate the process of blind-guessing what they might want.

Though I gravitate towards one aspect of my proposal, I am rather reluctant in choosing one and parting with the other. I find merit in the idea of enabling a community to grow and within it start a rail culture that can be unique to New Zealand. I was just unsure that getting Auckland Transport to launch ‘missions’ like ‘’Dress your Station for Christmas” was the best way to implement the concept. It needed to be more tangible, and preferably something that both Auckland Transport and rail travel users would be interested in.

Rob Mayo gave light to a system that already existed which reminded him of what I was trying to implement. Fix my Street it is called.  It is a system that allows New Zealand residents to report vandalism or property wreckage within any streets of New Zealand and most importantly to them-their own.  It carried the same theme of giving the users (or in this case NZ residents) a sense of ownership and belonging. It gave them the responsibility over what they should have the right to call their ‘own’ as a community.

It is the essence that I want for my own concept.

Discussed within our lengthy chat was a sound way to incorporate the community aspect within the dominant aspect (as I have decided) of promoting fitness. The potentiality of combining the two main themes of my proposal lies in incorporating both through the point-reward system. Of course the concept only works if the incentives provided are very strong. The type of rewards users can choose from must be something they would like to have as this will encourage their best efforts to walk to the station. Preferably it should also support the activity of walking to the station. The items that I had in mind were a keychain with an incorporated torch, things that will improve their visibility to vehicle users as they walk to station such as neon shoelaces, neon wristbands, neon phone cases and matching neon earphone sets. The reward items should also be things that Auckland Transport will not feel as ‘too much’ to give such as discounted travel fares in the form of vouchers allow a user to have two free consecutive trips per every nine trips for a month, or converting their accumulated points into HOP money which they can then use for an integrated travel (as HOP cards are valid on different modes of transport).

Where the community aspect comes in is here- users also have the choice in donating a sum or all of their points to gain improvements for their stations or earn points by reporting vandalism and wreckage of property by submitting a photo depicting their concern(s) to Auckland Transport for verification.

Initially my focus lies on developing the app only for the first contact parts of the user with the public transport system, but I cannot help but explore its potentiality to become an app that becomes a person’s ‘buddy’ in all their public transport travels.

At this point in time, I am ready to propose the final skeletal framework on which the app will run on, but I still have to make sure that the app is user-friendly and is most intuitive to use. The information should come to the user and not the other way around. The interface should be easy to use with reassurance that it works via sensory feedbacks. The user should feel comfortable making that daily journey to the station as the app provides a direct connection to assistance should they ever need help.

This relies heavily upon the simplicity of the app. The icons should be easily recognisable. The app should flow from one screen to the other. It should deploy information in a way that is not overwhelming.

I plan to release prototypes on Monday to test on my Industrial Design peers, collate their feedback and retest on the Wednesday after which should validate the final refinements of the app.

On top of this, a task bigger than an elephant still stares me in the face. My portfolio must reflect the work that I have achieved from day one to today and until the end. In previous projects this is where I have failed myself. It is rather depressing if I let it become a habit so as per usual at this stage of a project the stress levels are neck-high.

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