This is a guest post from reader Rob Mayo. It first appeared here.
Too often, as designers and operators of public transport infrastructure and services, we ignore the roles that psychology and behavioural science play to make the PT environment human-centered and thereby attractive to people. We too often pay both sciences lip service and as a result, we regularly fail to adequately cope during a service disruption, be it small or large.
By failing to understand and appreciate the various aspects that make up the human condition, we keep on creating places that work against us – train stations and bus stops that look and feel like a prison or like an uninsulated shed during a storm, PT boarding and alighting points that have inadequate shelter, that do not cater for any degree of visual impairment, that provide no communication during service disruptions, that give no sense of where you are on the network and where you’re heading and are in summary, just downright unfriendly and uncomfortable places to be in.
Not so however in Japan. Here, all aspects of the public transport service user experience are taken seriously and improvements are made based on psychology and behavioural science. Simply put, in Japan the emphasis is on human-centered design thinking – research, solution ideation, rapid prototyping, solution iteration, reviewing, tweaking, deploying a solution, reviewing it and including large numbers of users in the review process, then tweaking the solution again and again after deployment. PT service user experience solutions in Japan are invariably a hybrid of the physical and the digital. No one in Japan ever thinks that all problems can be solved with an app…from the Japanese point of view, that’s never how the real world works.
As this article points out, preventing small or large disruptions is crucial to the efficient functioning of a mass transit network in Japan and its the simple solutions generated from such an approach that are the most effective – blue lighting to reduce anxiety and stress while waiting for a bus and a train, pleasant-to-the-ear yet noticeable melodies and sounds for train / bus departure and through-station train passing, sounds to indicate the position of stairs, escalators, lifts etc, wayfinding that makes navigation of any PT service easy and stress-free…and retail outlets both small and large in exactly the places people would love them to be.
Outside of Japan and North Asia, we need to stop thinking that PT network service disruption is an inevitable by-product of network development – something to be put up with. There is a lot we can learn from Japan about its ‘nudge theory’ approach to service disruption management, human-centered place-making design and place-affirming service provision.
Japan is pointing out to us, that equal in priority to facilitating and managing large numbers of people through a PT network daily, is providing the mechanisms to ‘traffic calm’ – to reduce human stress and anxiety as that ‘calming’ not only keeps PT service users safe, it contributes positively to their mental wellbeing….and incidentally, when you’re calm, you’re more in the mood to buy things / buy more things. Japan as we know, remains number one in the world for Transit-oriented Development and for non-farebox revenue generation….”Yes Sir / Madam, you can absolutely have fries with that.”
Apply a behavioural science and psychology approach to service disruption prevention and we will get reduction in both occurrence and disruption after-effects. Do that and we can then apply the same approach to place-affirming service offerings and the ongoing revenue streams that flow from there.
We as transport service designers and operators must constantly remind ourselves that with this human behavioural science approach to problem resolution and opportunity development, we go from good to great. Without it, we’re just managing the status quo.