In 2017, I started a project during my UX course at HackerYou to solve harassment issues and discourtesy in the public transit system in Toronto. I learned that many cities repeated the same mistakes – creating reporting apps that just made the problem even worse.
Most harassment issues were dealt with by commuters from the same ride. The design solution needed to encourage the shift of a negative mindset by enabling people to help each other instead. My initial prototype was selected as one of the course's top projects at HackerYou's Demo Night.
I found in my initial research that the discourtesy was one of the top complaints. After posting on Reddit, many commuters defended drivers' attitudes as they are faced with daily challenges, all while attempting to pay attention to Toronto’s hectic traffic.
On the passenger's side, the daily stress from work combined with packed a commute, created the perfect storm for negative emotions to arise.
I went to a streetcar stop near the busy intersection of Spadina and Queen Street. The initial reaction of people I approached was hostile.
This confirmed some of the insights I uncovered on Reddit, stating that the reason TTC drivers were rude was that passengers were being rude to them first started creating some hypothesis:
• Harassment initiated by drivers is rare, and most of them are caused by passengers against other passengers or drivers
• Rudeness from drivers is usually motivated by passenger infraction or hostile behavior towards them
• A negative and stressful environment creates a negative feedback loop
In 2017, the TTC was repurposing a reporting app based on the failed proprietary app Elerts. Used in different US cities, it failed to generate user adoption. It allowed users to send photos and messages to the transit police but the police would not arrive in time.
Commuters were also using the app in a way that encouraged racial profiling/discrimination by submitting false reports.
Conducted in Stockholm, cameras that could read car plates and calculate speed rates were placed on a street. If the camera caught a particular car traveling below speed limit they would be automatically inserted into a lottery draw.
The money was pulled from others who surpassed the limit. The experiment was a success and resulted in a 22% reduction in average speed. The experiment was a great inspiration for positive reinforcement to be used on Commuto.
I discovered that most cases of harassment were solved by other passengers moving the harassed person away from the aggressor. This discovery led me to read about the new field of positive psychology.
I framed the design problem as: "How might we improve passenger relations by using positivity and encourage people to help each other?" I realized that what I really needed to impact was the negative mindset, enabling a shift to positive.
I printed out some surveys and engaged with people on the street to ask them to fill out forms. I also recruited Reddit users and others students from HackerYou to ensure I had a more diverse population. A summary of findings:
• It's Not Reported
Most people do not report a harassment problem to the TTC because they either never experienced it or think there will be no followup.
• Positivity Might Work
Respondents liked the idea of using positive reinforcement to reward good behavior for drivers and passengers.
• Harrassment is contained
Harassment originate from marginalized populations, such as people with mental illness, or addicts, it is not common among common passengers.
Busy female in her mid 30s who works in PR and commutes daily via TTC. Her goal is to arrive at work in time. Feels that TTC is too packed
Assertive male in his mid 40s. Experiences lack of cooperation. Needs to focus on traffic threats. His goal is to keep to his schedule and accidents
When a driver says "good morning" give him a high-five. When someone saves you from harassment or offers you a place to sit, thank the person.
It works through a points-based gamification system in which, by accumulating laughs, high-fives, any user of the app can unlock achievement titles. Points can also be redeemed through sponsors.
I started doing a walkthrough of the app by doing phone interviews with Reddit users. Despite having supposedly validated my hypothesis, the app was just not good enough to develop user adoption.
To be habit forming I needed more features that were not distracting but also useful. A major concern was privacy and how to reduce possible stalkers.
My prototype was selected as one of the course's top projects and was presented at the HackerYou's Demo Night.