Situation: According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), bus ridership was down 3.1% nationally in 2016 when compared to 2015 data. In comparison to the national average, SEPTA is experiencing the same decline in ridership on its bus and trolley routes as identified by the APTA. In 2016, SEPTA experience a “decline in ridership by nearly 5 million rides (Buses – 3.1 million fewer riders; Trolley’s – 1.38 million fewer riders), or about two percent less than 2015.” There have been many assumptions about why the decrease in ridership has occurred, but to date, no data exist which creditably identify causes.
Recently, SEPTA introduced its Key Pass Card which is used by customers to access SEPTA trains, buses, and trolleys. Research identifies that some of SEPTA’s Key Pass customers are encountering negative user experiences when trying to process online refills or payments via its website and at kiosks stations. To date, SEPTA is currently working with its contracted website developer to address the concerns about the negative feedback received from consumers. This problem or deficiency provides our team with the opportunity to explore alternatives which could provide a more satisfactory user experience for consumers and increase ridership via SEPTA.
Evidence: According to an article by Billy Penn:
“The SEPTA Key website (septakey.org) and its’ KIOSK’s has gotten plenty of negative feedback. It appears to be straight out of the last decade, and its lack of responsive design means it’s difficult to use on mobile. There was some speculation that the website was temporary, and another would be coming to replace it.”
Additional facts bearing on the situation/issue about the KIOSK and website:
“The rollout hasn’t been trouble-free. Kiosks dispensing the cards aren’t easy to navigate. The website where Key holders register their cards is frustrating. SEPTA has acknowledged it got the website wrong.
SEPTA agreed early input might have been too kind and is now working with Conduent, the recent Xerox spin-off now handling the Key project, to reprogram the more than 300 kiosks in the city. Each kiosk has screens specific to its location, said O’Brien, so some changes must be done machine by machine. Workers must also test each machine to ensure it was correctly updated.
The website needs different technology, a different programming language, and different software to make its interface easier to use. SEPTA’s original contract for Key was inked in 2011, and tech has changed since then. Additional demands include making the site adjust to mobile devices’ different screen sizes.
Introducing Key to suburban transportation will be an undertaking. According to SEPTA documents, Key cards should be usable on Regional Rail by September. Burnfield fudged that, saying it would be active by the end of 2017 at the latest. Kiosks are now being installed in the University City station, and 90 card readers are in suburban train stops. Eventually, the five Center City stations will have 97 kiosks and Key stations, and vehicles throughout the ‘burbs will have 727 card readers. Key cards won’t be sold in the stations outside Center City due to the expense of installing kiosks at every stop.”
Issue: Initial loading and refill payments of the SEPTA Key Pass via SEPTA’s hard to navigate website and at kiosk stations can be a tedious undertaking for consumers and leave them with a negative user experience.
Note: Members of our team personally use the SEPTA Key Pass and have experienced the negative user experience on the website and at kiosk.
Brand Revitalization Efforts: “SEPTA is currently in the early stages of undertaking a comprehensive redesign of SEPTA, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, creating a new brand, signage, digital and print collateral to greatly improve navigation throughout the city and suburbs of Philadelphia for tourists and locals alike. In addition to color, iconography brings an extra bit of contextual information to travelers, especially those not familiar with the full SEPTA system. The icons associated with each method of travel help visitors and commuters distinguish between subway, heavy and light rail, trolley, and bus stations.”
Opportunities: To develop a mobile application which provides a synergistic complement to SEPTA’s brand revitalization efforts. We believe there is an opportunity to couple the development of the mobile app with the existing revitalization efforts which can be communicated to SEPTA’s consumers as a holistic campaign which provides advancements to its infrastructure, digital presence, fleet, and consumer engagement. The proposed technology implements new capabilities for SEPTA consumers and integrates existing mobile app features currently provided by SEPTA. The proposed technology innovations incorporate the following:
Current SEPTA App Technologies: The current app technologies will be integrated into the newly proposed mobile application. The two mobile apps SEPTA have are the Scheduler and Transit Police apps. Both apps are singular dimensioned in nature. The SEPTA Key Mobile App expressly creates a multi-purpose app which embeds SEPTA’s current applications into a consolidated consortium of enterprise functions within the app.
- The SEPTA Scheduler App: Provides the consumers with the ability to monitor the status of SEPTA trains, buses, trolleys, and to check schedules.
- See Something, Say Something App: Allows consumers to report incidents to law enforcement
New Application Modules (Phase 1):
- Auto-Loading – Develop a mobile app module which provides the ability for auto-loading versus going through the tedious website loading and payment process
- Front Face Scanning – Swipe iPhone or Android in front of barcode scanner instead of Key Pass for access
- Notifications – Provides alert notifications of low balance, police activities, environmental issues, games, etc.
- Gamifying Rides – Through the mobile app notification system, SEPTA could deliver fun interactive games or experiences which promote riders to participate (Example: Pokémon Go Style). It would allow SEPTA to channelize activities toward certain underutilized routes. Location services would be required in order to exploit this effort.
New Application Modules (Phase 2):
- Rewards – A rewards capable mobile app when coupled with advertisements have the potential in providing opportunities for SEPTA to fill some of the vacant seats
- Advertising – Advertising via the mobile app could provide SEPTA with the ability to partner with firms or brands to solicit their products and services. The advertising proceeds have the potential of providing value to SEPTA’s bottom line. Location services would be required in order to exploit this effort.
For our group’s capstone project, we will focus on developing a mobile application which supports SEPTA’s revitalization efforts. The objectives of our team are focused on providing alternative solutions outside of the existing website reloading and Kiosk issues. As SEPTA works with its contracted web developer and kiosk contractor to address issues with the customer experience, our team will move forward in designing a mobile application which centrally focuses on providing a satisfying user experience for its consumers as a complement to brand revitalization efforts.
End Goal: To improved the customer’s journey by providing a mobile application prototype which enhances the consumer’s ability to access SEPTA’s transportation modes and creates a positive and satisfying user experience.
Our efforts will clearly focus on providing SEPTA with the ability to engage its consumers in a manner which increases ridership, provides consumers with a better user experience, and attracts consumers to utilizing SEPTA as a primary means of transportation in Southeastern Pennsylvania. All of the efforts to increase ridership identified above are sub-categories which are focused on recapturing the nearly five million lost riders in 2016.
Possible Contributions to the Decline in Ridership:
- Stable Economy
- Gasoline prices are low
- Rideshare Companies (Uber/Lyft)
- Unsatisfied Customers: –Long waiting times –Bad Weather/Non Existent Shelter –Lack of East/West Services (>15 minutes) –Crowding/Overfilled
This project will focus on:
- Digital Strategy
- Mobile Application Prototype