CARTS Transportation Experience Design

CARTS is a public bus transportation system that serves the rural areas surrounding Austin, Texas. It helps connect people to the major transportation systems (Capital Metro and Greyhound) in Austin and San Marcos. Stephanie participated in a two-day design sprint that addressed problems with the CARTS rural transportation website. Using Jeff Gothelf’s Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience and IBM’s Design Thinking Field Guide, Stephanie created a campaign and a prototype landing page that would help CARTS attract new users.


Online Interactive Prototype.

Pitch Deck: Long_CARTS_PitchDeck


Step 1: Hopes and Fears

Using a version of IBM Design Thinking’s “Hopes and Fears” exercise, everyone participating in the design sprint scoured the CARTS website and social media to find what works (smiley face column) and what doesn’t (sad face column).

What works 🙂

You can bring your bike on board, On-Demand scheduling for Doctor or Shopping, Save $ on Gas, They have a good response time on Facebook, Covers 169 communities, Fast riding to destination, Protect the environment, Don’t need to find a parking space, Fast and on time, Don’t need to drive, Units stay busy, Connects with other services, Rides for under-served population (elderly, disabled, rural), Without service wouldn’t have transportation to doctors and grocery store, Can get from Southpark Meadows to Campus 35 minute/$6 round trip, ADA compliant, Partner services as alternatives/supplements, Recognizable brand and identity, Much needed service in rural areas, Stations are nice, Discount programs, Provides connectivity options.

What doesn’t work 😦

Stations are open different days and times, Website is overwhelming/too much information, No app or way to book online, Fare cards can only be purchased online and cannot be purchased at stations, Confusing pricing, No way of letting people know if they are running late, No backend routes, Long call and wait times, Confusing Bus #’s, Not mobile friendly, Mobile app: you have to click map to see route, Waiting long time/late, Complex process to ride, Main site not mobile friendly, Bus stops inconsistent/no info, Monday-Friday only, Too much information on the website, No search feature, Late, Am I gonna be by myself if a I schedule a Country Bus, Reservations by phone/prepaid cards online, Consistently inconsistent, What about Kyle community, Fares are confusing, Cannot control time well, Long wait for a bus, May not stop close to my destination, Not friendly to riders, Late, Never on time, Always delayed, Can I just see a “Start Here” and “End Here,” Late complaints, No weekends/holidays, Some bus stops lack seating, Site UX complicating and confusing, It’s all complicated to use fees and schedule, No online reservation system, Route labels are not ADA compliant, Confusing color-coding and number, Help/support is insufficient, Insufficient transportation vehicles, Confusing pricing, Can’t see where bus is–is it late? Did I miss it?, Do you also have to get passes with other transportation systems?

Step 2: Personas and Empathy Mapping

Out of the online research, Stephanie and the other participants identified three core users: working commuters, elderly non-drivers, and newbies/visitors. Using empathy mapping, Stephanie helped develop three personas: Professional Paul, Newbie Alexa, and Early Iris.

Professional Paul is a long-time user of CARTS. Paul thinks parking downtown stinks; feels like he should get a loyal customer discount; says “I need a ride on the weekend”; and does stay organized using his phone.

Newbie Alexa is new to town. Alexa thinks about where she wants to go; feels a little lost; says “Where is the bus stop?”; and does look for everything online.

Early Iris is getting up in years. Iris thinks about safety; feels worried the bus will forget her; says “How long will this take?”; and does have frequent doctor’s visits.

Step 3: Try and Buy

Scenario 1: Early Iris

Stephanie, from the perspective of Early Iris, attempted to go through the site to schedule a trip to a doctor’s visit. For this scenario, Stephanie assumed Early Iris would have first tried to call CARTS, and upon receiving an “Out of office” message would ask a son or daughter to do online research for her. This is where Early Iris’s son begins the process.

Iris’s son

  • Clicks on “Medical Transportation” button
  • Clicks on “See Schedule” button
  • Is redirected to informational page
  • Calls the number provided only to be met with “We are closed” message
  • Clicks on “HHSC Medical Transportation Program” link
  • Is redirected to outside site, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services
  • Scrolls down to “Getting Rides”
  • Reads the instructions
  • Discovers that his mom must schedule this two full work days in advance! 😦

Scenario 2: Purchasing a Bus Pass

In another scenario, Stephanie went through the steps of purchasing a Fare Card.

  • Clicked on “Fares and Passes” tab
  • Scrolled to bottom of page and clicked on “Go to the Card Service Center” button
  • Clicked on “Purchase New Card”
  • Was met with a message that visitors should call first to make sure their area is serviced
  • Called number and was met with “We are closed” message
  • Proceeded through steps
  • Noticed there is no place to input email address
  • Paid fee and clicked submit
  • Discovered at end of transaction that it will take 7-10 business days to receive card
  • Received an attractive packet in mail about 5 days later! 😦
  • Not really sure how to use it. 😦

Step 4: Needs Statements

Based on research in steps 1-3, each persona got a “Needs Statement.”

Paul needs a way to get from home in Bastrop so that he can get to class by 10 am at Riverside ACC on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Alexa needs a way to explore San Marcos so that she knows what her options are for shopping, eating, studying and hanging with friends.

Iris needs a way to get from Bastrop to Heart Hospital so that she can make her once-per-week cardiac appointment with 2 business days advance.

Step 5: Prototype Sketches

From this point on, each participant chose a user for which to create a solution. Stephanie chose to create a more welcoming, less overwhelming online environment for Newbie Alexa.

Proposed Solution to Alexa’s “Needs Statement”

Stephanie’s idea is that hotels will purchase one day free passes from CARTS to give to guests at check-in. The Free Pass will be for one day of Interurban traveling. Guests can activate the card and using an “Easy Planner” quickly pick a place to eat based on suggestions generated by the CARTS website.

This system is a friendly introduction to the CARTS website, routes, and buses so that new users will feel less overwhelmed and more comfortable with the wide array of services offered.

Step 6: Paper Prototype

Stephanie created a sample “Free Pass” that Alexa will receive at check-in at her hotel. Using the information on the Free Pass, she then visits the CARTS website, activates the card, and then chooses a destination.

The purpose is to address the problem new visitors have with the overwhelming options and to create a sense of eagerness to use the bus system.

Step 7: User Testing

After a few brief user tests of the paper prototype, Stephanie built a few screens and loaded them into InvisionApp for online testing. Stephanie continued to refine her product based on user feedback.

Step 8: Final Prototypes

Version 1 (after first round of user testing):

Version 2 (after second round of user testing):

Version 3 (after feedback from instructor and 1 more user test):

NOTE:  This project was completed in partial fulfillment of the MFA in Communication Design degree, Texas State University, ARTC 5360L, UX Design with Grayson Lawrence.