112019 - 062020

Research study: Information design in public transportation

92 minutes is the average time people in the Paris area spend on public transport. Traffic congestion only adds to the many problems faced by commuters— resulting in overcrowded platforms, full trains, and accumulated delays due to the time it takes these large amounts of people to get on and off the trains. As transportation infrastructure is pushed to its limit, demand for an alternative means of transport has emerged and pressure to optimize the existing system continues to grow.

How schematic maps influence travelling behaviour? 

The schematic map is a simplified and geometric representation of a city that helps travelers quickly understand the urban network infrastructure and navigate through it. However, my first assumption implies that transit maps are not effective planning tools anymore. 

The city’s public transportation system is now mixed with other information such as regional trains, bus lines, night bus services, airports, touristic venues… The result ends in a dense mesh of information, which makes it difficult to read.

Assumption 1 - Travellers only use a limited number of stations in the entire network.

During one month, I reported every single path I took with the sequence of departure stations, transfer stations and arrival stations (D-A pairs). 

To no one’s surprise, the most common D-A pair was from my home (Château Rouge) to work (Pont de Sèvres), which can be seen by the size of the two biggest ellipses in the diagram above. But interesting enough, my most used pairs required at least one transfer station and an intersection with another metro line. Therefore, some of my most used stations are stations where I actually never stopped. This means that the more a station is connected with other lines, the probability for me to go there more frequently is higher.

I wanted to better understand how these stations are connected with each other among the overall network infrastructure and which lead me to my second assumption.

Assumption 2 - Traffic is not equally distributed among all the stations in the transit system.

In the diagram below you can see the different stations I used according to my travelling report. The top left stations are my most 20 visited stations whereas the other ones in the circle represent the stations I have to go through to reach the final destination. By matching my most visited stations with the other ones on the lines they belong to, a network of connections emerged.

Following the theory of bounded rationality of Herbert A. Simon (also explored in John Xu’s study case on the impact of the metro map in Washington DC), people make decisions within the limits of the information available to them. This means they make decisions that they think will satisfy their needs without making sure they have considered every single possible option. These decision-makers are seen as “satisficers and therefore make decisions seeking for personal perceived satisfaction for themselves rather than finding the optimal solution.

When commuters make their route decisions, they choose a path that seems satisfying to them (probably the route that will minimize travel time and cost) without necessarily thinking of what is the most optimal one at that specific time, leading them to ignore important factors that might negatively impact their travel experience.

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