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The EASY System for using CapMetro in the Eastern Crescent to get to health-related services

On 9/9, I posted the Tripper app providing an EASY environment for the CapMetro rider. This proposal adapts that idea to this challenge.

Photo of Bill Kleinebecker
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As a new user of CapMetro services, in the last 6 months, I have taken at the bus about 5 days a week to a wide range of destinations. In the course of those rides, I have become aware of the lack of sensitivity CapMetro has to the rider experience, especially in the area of planning and riding a day's worth of trips when arriving on time is crucial and/or there is a disruption in the standard route.

While CapMetro is very economical, the above two considerations lead the rider (we call a Tripee) to pick much more expensive transportation modes. The demand for timely, well-priced service is especially important in the Eastern Crescent because being on time is crucial for optimizing the utilization of scarce assets.

The need for a way to connect Eastern Crescent residents in their daily travel (to a doctor, healthy food, a therapist, a day-care center, etc.) There are many stories about being dropped off at the wrong stop, missing appointments, and unproductive trips which lead to people severely cutting back or giving up their use of the bus system.

The solution lies in creating a close tie between the traveler and the Cap Metro computers that store and transfer trip information from schedules and real-time system status events. in a way that is:

1. User-friendly, hiding the sophistication of the underlying technology and technical jargon,

2. Converses with the tripee through an always-connected conversation and can

3. Answer tripee questions involving potential trip changes.

This solution would use a technology known as chatbots which has been used for years. Lately, this technology has been enhanced so that a coder of chatbots does not need to have expensive traditional programming skills, can quickly learn the system, and can improve/edit/fix the system quickly.

The system is called "EASY" which means Economical, Accurate, and Simple for You.

This solution also calls for a close, interactive relationship between the tripee and the coder to benefit all tripees quickly from what is learned from recent trips. Selected tripees would be needed in the design process to recommend improvements in the conversation flow, identify the information they need and ensure the importance of a new function is understood.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

This option would be made available to citizens in the Eastern Crescent who need CapMetro services. The qualification will be determined from the address of the citizen's residence, which is the anchor point of all trips and the first thing asked when the citizen registers using the Tripper application. Once the citizen registers, the application can be used by them for any trip on CapMetro. The goal is to have a simple system. It is expected that most users will not be familiar with a chatbot form for input to and output from their phone. Another class of user for the EASY System is a provider of health-related services whose client list is always changing. Another user type would be a blind person who is in the user sets described above and would find the voice helpful in navigating the bus system. As EASY emerges from pilot status, it is expected to become the primary mode for all CapMetro riders because of ease-of-use. EASY would attract and retain new ridership.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Initial Design - you are still exploring the idea and have not tested it with users

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

This approach has not been tested with users, nor has it been piloted. The approach to Design Thinking has been practiced by Strategic Pathways for almost 20 years.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

The team has not been determined.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Funding Request

  • $50,000

Rough budget (500 characters)

- Team Coordinator (10 wks. @ at $15/hour) $6K - Assistant (Filter and Relay tripee/ChatBot conversation) (1 mos.) $10K - Flip phone and one month of service for 40 tripees (1 mos.) $10K - Adaptation of current CapMetro app (2 mos.) (contribution from Microsoft) - Chatbot coder (2 mos.) $10K - Honoraria for 16 participants at design sprint $ and design spring expense $4K Contingency (20%) $10K *** Total $50K

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

In the first 30 days of the pilot, two geographic areas within the Eastern Crescent will be identified to provide full coverage of health-related services that have multiple providers in each service type. A half-day Design Sprint in each area will be conducted in the third week to determine the Minimally Valuable Product for the pilot. Each design team will have a mix of 2 CapMetro people, 2 who are CapMetro riders, and 6 people from the area who are not CapMetro riders. A skeleton operational pilot system will be built in the first 15 days to demo at the design sprint. Thereafter, the pilot system will be built first from the sprint results and later by the pilot participants. Also, the recruitment of Tripees will be conducted then. In the second 30 days, the pilot will be conducted. Feedback will come from the chatbot, Tripees' spontaneous comments, and from key event times caught by Tripper. The info will be used to resolve problems and for the final report.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

Comments about the system will be collected during the pilot and circulated to the appropriate decision-makers and planners to position Tripper to be the app of choice for all CapMetro riders. Comments would cover suggested improvements (requirements) from the pilot tripees and other observers. They will be collected, formatted for group understanding, and be the basis of a kickoff design sprint that would build a roadmap for EASY with development costs, system investments, and expected payoff in market/revenue terms. In this case, it's not the Plan that is important but the planning exercise. After the pilot, EASY should be continued with moderate tripee growth in the two pilot areas for goodwill and market priming reasons. As part of the above plan, data about the use of EASY will be gathered. Success should be measured on how many continue to use EASY. Target goals should be 95% of tripees would continue to use EASY and, through word of mouth, use would grow 5% per week.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

The expectation is that extension and maintenance of the EASY system would be absorbed in the CapMetro budget and justified by increased ridership within the rest of Austin both for existing patrons finding new, easy to access locations served by CapMetro and by new users such as the small business person envision in the idea I submitted on September 9th.

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