If the city of Pittsburgh plans to continue to acquire & retain young residents, then the transportation system must reflect the exciting, asset-light, urban lifestyle that millennials seek. A superior bus riding experience would present a major competitive advantage over other cities that are magnets for these valuable residents.


Trends Surrounding Transportation & Millennials —

We started our research efforts by generating a list of social, economic and technological trends in the spaces of transportation and millennials. These trends shaped our assumptions as to what some common pain points may be for millennial bus riders in Pittsburgh. Contextual interview questions were carefully crafted specifically to text these assumptions.


Contextual Interviews —

We conducted interviews with twelve millennials during and after their bus rides. The aim was to gain insights into the millennial generation, their pain points/enjoyment from the bus, and their overall satisfaction of the Pittsburgh bus experience.


Interview Takeaways —

Statements recorded during the interviews were transferred onto post-its and color-coded in an attempt to find patterns. Each millennial interviewee was assigned a color based on the phase of the bus experience they had the most dissatisfaction with: pre-ride, during the ride, or post-ride.


Persona Generation —

We soon realized that there are two main millennial users of the bus: active users and passive users. Personas were generated based on these two users using data and quotes from the interviews.


Final Personas —

Active Alex rides the bus to save money and uses her time during her ride to get work done and keep up to date with the news. Passive Pat experiences the bus in a completely different way: he uses the bus a time to relax and appreciates that "you don't have to think."

Personas are an extremely useful User Research tool because they allow you to put yourself in your users’ shoes at times when it may not be economical to engage an outside test user. When personas are referenced or used at every step of the design process is when the most valuable product & service solutions can be developed.


Co-Design Activity —

A co-design activity was designed to investigate physical & external coping strategies to violations of personal space and many key insights were developed during this session.

Participants were given a number of external coping tool cards (earphones, seat dividers, phone) and were also given the opportunity to identify & create their own cards. They were then presented with a scenario which may violate their personal space on the bus, and asked to physically alter their assigned figurine and choose any external coping tools. Afterwards, they affixed emotions to a scale as an indicator of how they normally feel in this situation


We were able to make a number of recommendations to Pittsburgh for creating a more enjoyable bus experience more likely to retain millennial residents. Most interviewees mentioned the unreliability of the bus schedule as a source of dissatisfaction, and through our Personal Space Co-Design Study, we found that social discomfort could be alleviated if there was a clear organizational system for standing riders.

The Port Authority bus service as a product to paying users has been shown through our research to be serviceable; however, if Pittsburgh is committed to improving the experience and increasing ridership among the millennial generation, there are strategic ways it could be improved. The following are the suggestions for an improved Millennial bus-riding experience:

MUST | Transparency in bus scheduling and a cohesive integration with route maps. Users with no knowledge of the Port Authority system should be able to use the bus without confusion.

SHOULD | To increase comfort for riders, it would be helpful to have a pattern of standing places printed on the floor of the bus to give riders a place to stand that will help alleviate any social discomfort.

COULD | Designated spots could be placed strategically in a way that would promote standing riders to uniformly spread throughout the bus. This would prevent standing riders from congregating in certain areas.