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We are designing a smartphone/tablet application meant to locate and track the currently running trains and/or buses of the MBTA.  It will be title “Is The T Close?”  Simple and straightforward enough to show the user for what they will be using the app.

The MBTA is very unpredictable and unreliable.  It covers a great distance of the Greater Boston Area and provides easy access to the rest of the Greater Boston Area to residents of the area.  Residents of the Greater Boston Area use the T to get to and from places such as work, school, or just simply going out.  Typically, people going to work or school are on a tight schedule.  On top of that, most New England residents in general simply want to get where they are going and get there in a timely manner.  Considering the MBTA’s unpredictable and sporadic nature, it would go over quite well for these residents who want to rush around on the MBTA.

In the case of an application meant to estimate relative arrival times and locations of trains or buses running on the T, the pool from which stakeholders can come from is incredibly broad and possibly even vague.  Any person who would or could ever ride a train or bus is a potential primary stakeholder, or user.  This pool of stakeholder could include demographics from tourists who are familiar with the T, tourists who have never used the T, permanent residents who live in Boston or the Greater Boston Area, people who commute to and from work in Boston or the Greater Boston Area, students at one of the many colleges or universities of the Greater Boston Area, or potential students at any of these colleges or universities.  But even these demographics can be split up even more.  Not all college students think alike.  Not all tourists have the same amount of experience with the public transportation.  Not every person working in the city work in the same field, have the same experience working in the city, or have the same experience with their respective fields.

Beyond just normal users, there are a handful of other secondary stakeholders in this situation.  From the perspective of those who will be giving input into the system, the T itself could be considered a stakeholder.  Most of the information of the application would be grabbed directly from any databases or information the T, as a company, makes available to the public or us as a private company.  Any map data, approximate times, approximate distances, train-to-train or bus-to-bus information, or approximate locations of the trains/buses would be given right from the T as a very important, though “secondary,” stakeholder.  Beyond just the T, Google would be another prominent secondary stakeholder.  Google offers great birds-eye-view maps and maps in general.  Not only does the T use this information from Google, but we ourselves would use this information to present information to the users on our application.

Potential users and their hypothetical personalities are labeled as a “persona.”  A persona is a hypothetical user that the designers create in order for them to design toward.  Personas of users who could potentially use “Is The T Close?” could be along the following:

Persona 1: Jack White is a third-year Northeastern student living off-campus.  Although he worked part-time during high school and now during college, he is making a very minimal amount of money.  He is probably living with help from his parents and/or his savings.  Since he is living a decent distance from campus, and especially considering how cold it can get in the winter/autumn months, Jack uses public transportation often.  To help estimate locations and times the train will take, Jack uses “Is The T Close?” to make an educated guess as to where the train is while he is on his way to class.

Persona 2: Alex Turner is an accountant working in the financial district in downtown Boston.  While he usually drives to work, his car is currently in the shop due to mechanical problems.  Being one who typically drives, Alex is not used to how the MBTA is laid out.  Since Alex is so dedicated to his job, he wants to get there are soon as close to his regular time as possible.  He uses “Is The T Close?” to figure out routes, times, and locations to take on his way into downtown Boston.

Persona 3: Albert Hammond is a college-bound high school student.  Being somebody who loves urban life, he visits major cities on the East Coast to visit potential colleges/universities.  Albert goes to Boston to visit some of the many colleges and universities in the area.  Since he is not used to how the (confusing) city of Boston is laid out, he downloads “Is The T Close?” so he can help find his way around the city and between all the colleges and universities he wants to visit in the area.

Persona 4: Peter Doherty is a recent grad of Boston University working in the IT field.  He finds great housing in Quincy works off the Green line.  Since Pete tries to be privy to current technology, he tries to be as up to date as possible when it comes to smartphones and the relevant applications.  Pete downloads “Is The T Close?” so he can track where trains are during his commute one his way from the Red line to the Green line and back.

The users have numerous tasks they will have to and want to accomplish when using “Is The T Close?”  A task any user may want to accomplish can be any of the following:

1) A user, upon opening the application, will be presented with a “main screen” of sorts, prompting them to select from two drop-down menus: one for the specific line and another for the specific stations.  Selecting a specific line will filter out respective stations from other lines.  Each station will have some sort of indication as to what line it is on (e.g., appropriately colored words or a block of color for the appropriate line near the station name).  This can take the user to one of two possible options:

a) Selecting only a train line will take the user to a bird’s-eye-view map of that line.  It shows the user each stop, current locations of the trains, and any forks in the line.

b) Selecting a station (whether or not a line has been selected to filter out stations) will take the user to a more detailed close-up of that station.  This is where Google maps comes more into play.  It will display a the route the train is taking around a specific radius of the station.  It will display any crossover between lines that station may have (e.g. a green and orange line at Haymarket).

2) Much of the time, more than the train is necessary for a user to get where they are going.  The train only reaches a certain radius.  Users need to go far out of the immediate Boston area a lot of the time.  The user may need to get to or from an area further than the train reaches, such as Watertown or Waltham.  When a user is on a page displaying a line map, a user will want to see any existing bus connections.  Touching any of the station names will display any close-by bus connections to that station.

3) Beyond just bus connections, a lot of the time a user’s trip will take them across multiple train lines.  Displayed on the line maps next to each station will be a symbol to represent any other train connections.  For example, next to Downtown Crossing station on a Red line will two squares, a silver one and green one, that allow the user select that respectively colored line and go to that line-colored map.  Hitting that green square will take the user to a Green line map.

4) Users don’t necessarily always want to see an overarching view of the train line.  For practical purposes, the user could be at a specific station and want more detailed information for that station.  If the user is currently at Downtown Crossing, for example, they may want to see close-up information of Downtown Crossing.  Selecting Downtown Crossing from the main screen or from a line map will take the user to a detailed map of Downtown Crossing.  It will show data pulled from Google maps (for the map around the station) and tracking information of all incoming/outgoing trains to/from Downtown Crossing (i.e., it will show all close-by trains on the Green, Silver, and Red lines and where they cross each other).

5) If a user is on the detailed map of a station, they could very possibly want to go back to the over-arching line map.  Maybe there are no trains are not anywhere near that station and the user wants to see where the trains are actually currently located in other parts of that line.  Or maybe the user wants to see where they are going, how long it will take to get to where they are going, or how far away (distance) their destination is from their current location.  On any detailed station map is a link or links to the lines the station is located on.  Selecting these links will take the user to that line map.

6) The user may not always want to have to select where they are every time they open the application.  There is some way to turn on GPS tracking (if possible based on the phone or tablet the user is using).  If turned on, simply opening the application will send the user directly to where they are located.  This could be either the line the user is on or the station the user is at, based on settings the user may want to change.  For example, if the user is close to a stop on the Green line, tracking based on line, it would open up a map of the entire Green line, displaying tracking information for the line.  Or it could simple show the nearest stop to the user, showing how close incoming/outgoing trains are to that station.

 

1) Jack White overslept for his 8am class.  He is running late.  Since it is the end of January, it is below freezing this early in the morning.  Not only is there no time to walk to class, it is just too cold and uncomfortable to do so anyway.  He pulls out his iPhone and checks his “Is The T Close?” app, selecting his closest station (Longwood) to see where the train is relative to him.

2) Jack is approaching graduation and currently searching for a job.  There a bunch of jobs opening in Watertown, far away from the NEU area in Watertown.  He needs access to a bus.  Looking up the stop location for Harvard Square, he sees there is a connection to the 66 bus at Harvard Square, which can take him right to Watertown.

3) Another of the jobs Jack is interviewing for is in Cambridge, off the Red line.  Since he lives on the Green line, he has to find a place to transfer from Green to Red.  Looking at the Green line map, he sees a Red line connection at Park Street and clicks it, opening a map of the Red line to him.

4) Alex Turner is unsure of where he is, exactly, in the subway.  He opens his “Is The T Close?” app, which locates him at Park Street, using GPS to find his location.  But since the settings send him right to a train line, it takes him to a map of the Green line.  Alex wants detailed information for the station he is at.  Knowing he is at Park Street, he simply hits the words “Park Street,” taking him to a detailed map of that stop.

5) Now Alex wants to see a map of the Red line, since there are no trains close by to the Park Street stop.  He simply looks at the detailed information map of Park Street, sees the links to the Green and Red line maps, and hits the “Red line” link.  This takes him to an overarching map of the entire Red line, displaying relative locations of the trains.

6) Albert Hammond is very unfamiliar with the area.  He knows he has to get to somewhere on the Green line, but isn’t sure exactly where he is on the Green line.  He opens his “Is The T Close?” app, which uses a GPS to find exactly where he is in the city of Boston and show him the closest station on the Green line.

 

In this case, both Mark and Matt acted as business analysts.  It was a joint effort in eliciting tasks and user personalities that apply to the “Is The T Close?” application.  Since it was a joint effort, a “manager” wasn’t exactly involved in the situation.  Mark acted as the web designer/engineer in order to get all the elicited information up on this website and design the website around the new information posted to the site.

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The problem we decided to look at is how does someone know if there is a T around a certain stop or where it is on a certain line? This is a constant issue because in order to know where the next train/bus is someone needs to go into the actual station to see the time card signs, call customer service, or look online. This can sometimes be a hassle as the schedules can be incorrect due to traffic. The target users for this application would be any inner city commuters who use the various lines and buses on the T.
The solution to this problem that we have in mind is one that allows the user to either select a line/route or a station. The lines would show only one line/route with the stops and where the trains/buses are on that entire route.The station selection would allow the user to see any connected lines or routes to the selected station and if there are buses or trains coming soon. The trains and buses would all be labeled to show what direction they are going and the lines would be colored in order to help differentiate between the various lines. Overall the maps given to the user would just be Google maps with the corresponding line(s) overlaid with the trains and buses being tracked. This would address the problem by allowing people to see where the trains are before even getting to the station. This could allow people time to grab something that they want before going to the station and overall allow people to better time their trip by being able to see where the trains and buses are in real time(or close enough to it). We are considering have the application refresh itself every 30 seconds by default but allowing the user to change this or refresh it by themselves. We are also considering putting in a trip planner but this would just be added functionality to the overall design rather than what we were planning on.

The members of this team are Mark Delvecchio and Matt Mercier. The roles played were that Mark and Matt both were designers. Matt created the site and Mark made further changes to the site before both submitted final approval. Both Mark and Matt were also Business Analysts and decided upon the requirements that we wanted to implement and possible extra requirements that would be interesting to include. Matt took on the role of Web Designer by taking the various ideas that were thought of and posting the final write up on the site.