HCDE User Research Deliverable
I picked my observation location to be the inside of a Link light rail cart. One of the reasons I picked this location is that the Link is a common transportation vehicle that many people in Seattle use to commute. It attracts all kinds of passengers — students, workers and travelers. The Link is relatively fast, safe, and punctual compared to other types of transportation. I want to observe the practices of passengers taking the link and see if there is any possible challenges and/or improvements in the design of the light rail that could make it more user-friendly. I took my field notes by writing down detailed observations about the passengers on my yellow notebook.
2. Three Practices:
The first practice is people’s behavior. It was common for passengers to have headphones or earphones on. Usually the people who have headphones on are traveling alone. It was rare for them to look at their smartphones. Instead, they usually stared at one spot in the cart. (OC: there was no wifi or cellular reception in the link during some parts of the trip. They may realized this and therefore chose to not use their phones). I assumed one of the passengers was listening to music because he had little body movements such as nodding the head, but he could be listening to other things too. Some passengers were using their phones. One girl kept looking up to check the next stop. One person was reading something on the phone and another person was typing on the phone throughout the trip. Both of these guys were sitting in their seats and they were traveling alone. Many people sat with one leg over the other leg. People who took the link together had conversations with each other.
The second practice is how passengers choose their places in the cart. Passengers usually picked the seats far away from other people if possible or the seats close to the door. For the two person chairs, most people sat on the seat close to the window so other people could sit on the seat by the isle. There was a group of six girls and they sat in the connective part of the carts. The seats in that section were facing each other and so they were able to talk to each other face to face. I observed that single male passengers tended to stand up instead of sitting down. One guy stood by the door and stared at the window. The male passengers also tended to stand by the door, even if they had bags that looked heavy. When the announcer spoke about arriving at the next stop (when the Link had not stopped yet), people usually stood up and waited by the door.
The third practice is how people use the amenities that the link provides. In my observation, two passengers that entered the link pulled down the senior citizens/persons with disabilities seats (4 person seats) by the door and sat on it. I also observed that many people who took the Link had suitcases. There was one man and a woman who each had a small suitcase, and sat on the two-person seats right by the door. The seats by the door had spaces under just for putting suitcases. When they were about to leave, they pulled out their suitcases from under the chairs. In addition, there were two male passengers I saw at different times chose to stand in the area for putting bikes/suitcases. Even when empty seats were present, they chose to stand in that area. My guessed that it was more convenient for them to stand and they could get out faster since the storage area was right by the door.
3. Interesting Practice (100–150)
I believe one practice that is worth further investigation is people standing in the bike/suitcase storage area. This area is not meant for people to stand in, but many people take advantage of the space when there are no bikes or suitcases, which is very interesting. I believe because that space is somewhat enclosed (has three sides to it), therefore passengers may feel safer or have more privacy standing in that area. The design challenge would be: how might we design spaces inside transportation vehicles to make passengers feel more comfortable, convenient, and safe when commuting? A possible future research direction would be investigating how people feel about spaces, and how they interact with the available space. People have preferences on where to sit and stand, and we could research about people’s preferences to better design the interior and make better use of the available spaces to meet people’s needs.