for Chicago Transit Authority (mock project)


The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is the second biggest public transportation system in the United States. In a city of 2.7 million people, about 1.6 million riders rely on its service on an average weekday. The CTA experiences a range of issues—delays, interruptions, and closures that cause a negative impact for riders. Over the years, there has been a decline in ridership and an increase in car traffic in the city of Chicago. For this mock project, my team was tasked to create a digital solution to increase ridership and confidence in the CTA rider community. Our final product had to leverage Google Maps’ API, a mapping platform that provides data of track location, distance, direction, and current traffic conditions


I worked within a team of three UX designers in four-week sprints: (1) User Research, (2) Concept Development and Testing (3) Reiteration, Testing, and Final Deliverable. Although the responsibilities were shared throughout the process, each designer created conducted interviews, created wireframes, and led user testing.

This was a mock project to help the UX designers utilize the UCD design process. Outside the mock project, I took the initiative to create the UI for our final design to showcase my visual design abilities.


CTA riders need to feel more in control of their safety during their commute, so they could utilize the CTA regardless of the time or environment.

Our research validated that there was a decline in overall ridership. However, we learned that rail ridership stayed pretty stagnant over the years, and delays didn’t attribute to the decline significantly. The problem we saw was that there was a decrease in rides per rider.

As we look further into this decrease, our research presented that safety affected rider’s commuting experience. Nearly all riders had experience risky situations on the CTA. Past experiences led riders to opt for rideshare or to choose not to travel during times when they feel unsafe. Some riders felt powerless when witnessing disruptive behaviors on the CTA.


As a result of research and numerous rounds of iteration, my team converged to our final solution that focus on addressing safety with a transit app.

Chi Line helps riders avoid undesirable situations during their commute by creating alternative routes with other riders’ submitted safety reports. Keep the CTA safe for everyone.

Sam sends a safety report during his commute.

Sam is using the Red Line to run errands. During his commute he notices that there’s an intoxicated rider causing commotion. Sam decides to report this rider.

Sam sends a safety report during his commute.

Sam is using the Red Line to run errands. During his commute he notices that there’s an intoxicated rider causing commotion. Sam decides to report this rider.

Jackie takes safer route to her destination.

Jackie is meeting some friends at restaurant after work. She was planning on taking the fastest route but decides to take an alternative route instead due to a safety alert.
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Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) made gradual improvements with their digital product. But there was a declining trend in CTA ridership.

Current offering allowed for individual alerts, per transit line or location but wasn’t responsive enough to increase customer satisfaction. Riders needed a product that had a holistic understanding of riders specific route. Although delays and interruptions were inevitable, they needed transparency for the specific outage affecting their commute. My team included of CTA and Metra commuters who had exposure to these interruptions and delays—this hit home for us.

In response to the brief, my team had the following initial assumptions based on what we know as CTA and Metra commuters:
Assumption 01
CTA riders don’t plan their commute ahead of time if they were taking a daily route.
Assumption 02
CTA riders prefered one CTA transportation method over another for various reasons such as cost, convenience, and comfort.
Assumption 03
CTA riders used varying methods to overcome transportation-related interruptions when they encountered one during their commute.
Assumption 04
CTA riders relied more on ridesharing services such as Lyft, Uber, and Divvy as another means of transportation.

COMpetitive analysis

We found that the public transit space was saturated with apps and services.

To further familiarize ourselves with the transit space, we looked at what digital resources CTA riders utilized in their daily commute. We identified our top three competitors to be GoogleMapsTransit, and Moovit. These competitors offered navigation information for many modes of transportation—public transportation, ridesharing, walking, and biking. Also, they provided information of current delays and interruptions. Also, most services even provided alternative route options during these delays and interruptions.
[+] The app provided a comprehensive details of travel options with real-time traffic condition. Commuters can plan their travel and easily compare their travel options.
[-] The app did not display all the possible route options. Also, the real-time status wasn’t accurate as other dedicated transit apps.
[+] The app had a minimal approach to their transit experience. The public transit app displayed real-time status of nearby transit and route navigation for public transit and ride services.
[-] The app provided service status details, but did not provide alternate route options in response to these notifications.
[+] A public transit app that not only provide the best route with real-time arrivals, the app allowed users to personalize their app experience. Users could add specific routes to their “favorite.”

[+/-] Also this app’s service alert was through CTA twitter feed, which was interesting, but did not provide an actionable outcome.
[-] The app did not have a filtering option for transit if users had a traveling preference.


We utilized the CTA 2016 Annual Ridership Report, to further familiarize ourselves with the project brief. We investigated the following changes that had a potential impact on the ridership figure. 
Low gas prices and ridesharing contributed to decline in ridership.

Low gas price encouraged some riders to opt for driving personal vehicles and using rideshare services. This increased competition in the public transit space.
There were more rail service impacts in 2016 than in 2015.

Service impacts consisted of track work, signal problems, and station closures. Temporary closures were seen on some Green, Blue, and Pink stations.
Heavy road construction affected the system-wide transportation service.  

Downtown constructions contributed to the bus delay—this forced commuters to use alternative traveling options.


Rail ridership figures stayed pretty stagnant, but there was a decrease in rides per rider—meaning riders are riding the CTA less frequently.

Our initial research presented us an opportunity to challenge the brief a little further. Our brief posed the problem that delays and interruptions contributed to the decrease in CTA ridership. We validated the decrease in total ridership with the CTA 2016 Annual Ridership Report. However, the data showed that delays and interruptions had a small contribution to rail ridership with 0.7% decrease YOY.

We utilized the RTA Strategic Plan Progress Report to understand the decrease in rail ridership further. Regardless of the decrease in overall ridership, the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) saw an upward trend in rail ridership. But we uncovered an interesting data point—since 2012, there was a downward trend of transit trips per resident. If rail ridership was pretty stagnant, why are riders riding the CTA less frequently over the years?
As we looked closer at the 3.5% decrease in the CTA 2016 Annual Ridership Report, bus ridership attributed most of the ridership decrease with a 5.5% decrease year to year (YOY)  while data suggested rail delay had a slight 1.2% decrease which was not impactful.
The RTA Strategic Plan Progress Report revealed that the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) saw an upward trend in rail ridership. However, transits trips per resident has been trending downward since 2012.



We conducted guerilla-style user interviews to identify the goals, needs, motivations, and frustrations of CTA riders. These participants were voluntary-based and recruited based on networks found through social affiliations. To make sure we get a well-rounded perspective of commuters, we interviewed a diverse group of users and subject matter experts. From our affinity mapping, we uncovered a few insights from our user interviews:
No clear communication among CTA personnel
According to our SME, CTA employees had four communication methods to notifying delays or interruptions, but no set standard. This helped us understanding the application space. If CTA personnel didn’t have a notification method i place, why would the public?
"The communication isn’t always smooth."
—"Uncle Bob"
(CTA Customer Service)
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Users address commuting issues on the spot
CTA riders didn’t check for delays before their commute. They addressed this issue when they encountered it, but their method for dealing with it varied from user to user.
“You just deal with it when you get there.”
(Engineer, 30)
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Ridesharing service provided convenience and comfort
Users acknowledged that ridersharing services was costly than public transit when used frequently. They opted for rideshare when they looked to save time or a public transit wasn’t nearby their destination.
“I takes a Uber in the early morning because it gets me to work faster; plus it's comfortable.”
(Guest Service Agent, 63)
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insight revisit = PROJECT PIVOT

Safety was an important factor in riders’ commuting experience.

After revisiting our affinity mapping and domain research, we saw our synthesis pointing away from riders’ interruptions. Delays, slowdowns, and cancellations had negative impacts to riders’ commuting experience, but data showed that these interruptions had small contributions to CTA ridership.

As we connected the dots, my team saw safety as one of the contributing factors for the decrease in rides per rider. Safety is a priority for city commuters and influence how riders move around the city. Based on our insights from research, the following points supported why safety was an important pain point for our users:
No transit safety app in the mobile marketplace.
The digital space for transit apps appeared crowded and too similar. The majority of the apps in the space addressed delays and slowdowns on the CTA. However, there were no transit apps that addressed safety to alleviate a rider’s CTA experience.
Users saw no benefit in stopping unruly behavior, fearing their safety would be jeopardized
Many users shared their commuting experience as either: individuals feeling their safety was at risk or as a witness seeing another rider’s safety at risk. Users wanted to address disruptive behaviors but felt powerless due to the lack of personal incentive to take action.
Users' expectations of their riding experience changes depending on the time of day.
We learned that some users opted to use a ridesharing service at night or changed their behavior to not commute at certain times. The fact that riders felt the need to position themselves to avoid the CTA was still an unspoken concern. We wanted to dig deeper into this.


We articulated that safety was a common concern from users—this was a big pivot for our team and pointed us to our problem statement:

CTA riders need to feel more in control of their safety during their commute, so they could utilize the CTA regardless of the time or environment.

With our more focused problem, we outlined four design principles to ensure our design solutions aligned. Our design principles set the tone for ideation phase. We used them to guide our work and gauge every design decision during our concept ideation and iterations. Ultimately, these principles communicated the key characteristics of our product.
Human Connection
Interaction with the app should be conversational, building trust through dialogue. The experience should reassure users that they were making a positive impact by reporting incidents.
Sensitive Approach
Disruption in the CTA should not be taken lightly. The language should be sensitive and courteous to the events taken place and commuters involved.
Actionable Participation
The app should provide an actionable plan for a user when encountering a commuting disruption.
Discrete Confidence
The app should allow users to feel confident in sharing their safety concerns. Reports were anonymous through a private channel to keep our users safe.



Based on our set of interviews, Jackie and Sam highlighted the two subgroups of rail riders. The two personas have distinct needs and approach to safety. We utilized Jackie and Sam to understand who we were designing for:

Pragmatic workday commuter

Age: 31 / Location: Logan Square
Occupation: Content Manager / Status: Married
As a pragmatic workday commuter, Jackie often left work late in the evening. She needed to feel safe enough to take public transit instead of opting for an expensive ride share.

Ambitious College Commuter

Age: 20 / Location: Lincoln Park
Occupation: Student / Status: Single
Sam enjoyed the accessibility and convenience of the CTA, but hated observing disruptive behavior on the train. As an ambitious college commuter, Sam needed accessible resources to empower him in making a positive difference to his surroundings.


As we moved towards the ideation phase, journey mapping helped us better understand our users like Jackie and Sam. As we walked through their commuting experiences, we fleshed out the thoughts and emotions of our users when encountered with a risky situation during their commute. Although the journey map helped us pinpoint the highs and lows of their journey, it also defined opportunities where our team can better design for our users like Jackie and Sam.

The walkthrough uncovered these opportunities:
  • Provide a better way for riders to receive support and accountability for their commute.
  • Empower user to send safety reports to keep the CTA safe.
  • Utilize the follow-up notification to express gratitude for user’s report submission.
  • Communicate the benefit of keeping the CTA safe for the riding community.



Our ideation session consisted of a combination of brainwriting and mind-mapping. We built off on the initial ideas through brainwriting and placed the potential concepts onto sticky notes on the whiteboard. The picture above displayed how messy our mind-mapping looked on the whiteboard. We wrote pros and cons of each sticky note ideas on the whiteboard to ensure our concept met the needs of our users. As we grouped the sticky notes, we pinpointed areas of focus to get us ready for several rounds of 6-8-5 sketches.


We took the opportunity to go wide with our concepts and explored different approaches to addressing safety for users during their commute. We tested these concepts with six participants to ensure the concepts fit into their commuting experience. The general feedback was positive from users. Users felt empowered with these concepts but wondered if other users would be motivated to use the app.
(Teammate concept)
Submit a report
Users submitted a safety report of a disturbance during their commute. 
(Teammate concept)
Request a safe ride
A ticketing system where users can request a ride on a CTA cart with a safety marshall onboard. 
(My concept)
Send a ETA
Users notified a friend to track their real-time commute and their ETA.


Our initial testing validated that the problem we defined was more relevant than ever—report concept was a crucial feature to have on our app. My team felt that there was room to reiterate and diverge. We further explored different report methods and three supplemental concepts.

However, we knew that users wouldn’t download our app only for the safety report function. Moving towards a cohesive product was challenging as we converged to one solution. We didn't want the features to feel forced together. The features needed to integrated one another. The following questions challenged us to converge our ideas:

How do we motivate users to report?

Based on research and testing, users were intrinsically motivated to report disruptive behavior when their safety isn’t jeopardized.

However, reporting needed to provide an expected outcome that benefited the users.

What is the expected outcome after reporting?

The submitted safety reports created alternate routes for other commuters so that they can avoid undesirable situations.


To further iterate and test the feasibility of our concept, we jumped into mid-fidelity prototypes. We tested our prototypes on five CTA commuters who fitted closely to our personas. Participants were voluntary and recruited based on networks found through social affiliations. Each team member focused on a reporting method and a supplemental feature:
Reporting Methods
(Teammate concept)
#1: One-page form
This method allowed users to fill out the safety report on one scrolling screen to increase efficiency.
(My concept)
#2: Multi-page form
This method breaks the safety report form into digestible sections.
(Teammate concept)
#3: Chatbot
This method created the most human connection between user and the app
Supplemental Features
(Teammate concept)
#4: Navigation
The navigation feature gave users upcoming departure times like other transit apps.
(My concept)
#5: ETA Buddy
This concept provided users additional tool to take safety precaution and increase awareness among users.
(Teammate concept)
#6: Community Board
This concept allowed users to take part in a CTA rider community to increase user engagement.
From testing we learned: 
  • Conversational Tone // The voice and tone of the app should match who it was being designed for. Based on testing users liked the "human connection" in concept #3 and felt that concept #2 was more inutitve. For reporting, the order of questions needed to flow in a logical, natural way to reflect our users' mental models of recalling an episodic event.
  • Lacked clarity // Every screen should provide a clear purpose of what the task is at hand. As we converge to a solution, we needed to make sure to clearly communicate the upfront value of the app features.


Chi Line helps riders avoid undesirable situations during their commute by creating alternative routes with other riders’ submitted safety reports.

Keep the CTA safe for everyone.

Safety report
The app allowed users to report safety incidents that would notify other users.
CTA route
The app sent upcoming departure times of nearby lines and alternative routes based on notified safety reports.
Send ETA
The app allowed users to send ETA of their real-time commute.
The app provided a public forum where users could follow specific CTA topics.



The final solution was created on Axure and was well received by our participants. However, more iterations were necessary.

These future considerations would improve the app experience for our users. With further testing and design reiterations, it would only help us get closer to our solution and validate that our solution solved our users’ needs. Although we presented a final solution to our cohort, our solution needed refinements. I don’t believe we solved our problem on our first try of concept testing, but we were headed in the right direction. I would propose my team to continue exploring these following areas:
Explore community forum further.
Majority of users responded positively to the community forum. They enjoyed the idea of being part of a CTA riding community, receiving up-to-date news about the CTA rail.

We added this feature later in the ideation process. The idea wasn’t completely fleshed out due to the lack of time. I would explore additional customization features. I envision the feature surfacing the most relevant posts to a user based on their route—this would allow for a better-personalized experience.
Further testing of "Sending ETA" feature.
We received mixed feedback on the sending ETA feature. Some users saw the benefit of the feature—it would eliminate users sending constant updates through text.

There was room for improvements and iteration on this concept. I would further test the value of this feature with users—how likely would they use this feature if it existed?
Alerts and notification integration outside the app
I acknowledged that our users would less likely use this app on a daily basis, but the app needed to fit in their lifestyle intuitively.

Push notifications and widgets could notify users of any events on the CTA outside the app. This could provide convenience for the user, and further exploration could be beneficial.
Displaying upfront value through onboarding.
Onboarding would explain what the app does and how the app benefits the user’s life.

I saw the onboarding as a chance to communicate the functionality of the safety report. The goal was not only to get the user set up but also convert users to “expert” user to make them comfortable with the app


Reflecting back on this project, I was glad that our team pivoted our focus on safety as a digital solution to improving CTA ridership. The objective of creating safer environment in a public space has focused mainly to accident preventions and crime-rate reduction. Personal safety urges the user to evaluate how comfortable or safe the user feels in any given situation. Personal safety is foremost a personal responsibility whether or not people make it a mindful priority. The issue of perceived risks is a barrier to many people’s use and enjoyment of the public space. By addressing personal safety, we presented a final solution that delivered an interesting user perspective and solved a much more relevant problem in an urban setting. 

As my first major UX design project, this project taught me to advocate for my users from the beginning to end. If we didn’t revisit and trust our research, we wouldn’t have found the “ah-ha” moment and delivered the design solution we delivered in the first place. The journey to our final outcome was not easy. Throughout this project my team experienced road bumps and turns. We were able to successfully embrace these challenges by being flexible with the design process. My objective as a designer is not only to create meaningful products, but also reiterate and refine my design thinking and process. This project helped me improve my design thinking by pushing my creativity in reacting to challenge very quickly. Please see how my design process has developed in my other case studies: Harbor Plan and Project Decibel.