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Public Transportation App

Case Study: Imagining The Boring Company Public Transit Exists in Los Angeles


The Boring Company is an infrastructure and tunnel construction company founded by Elon Musk in late 2016. Musk has cited frustration with Los Angeles traffic and limitations with the current 2D transportation network as inspiration for the tunneling project. The aim is to dig tunnels efficiently to facilitate an underground transportation network. We did this project in order to imagine what the public transit app would look and feel like if The Boring Company's underground public transit tunnel comes into being.

Steps we took to achieve this design.

The Problem

Los Angeles drivers spent an average of 128 hours stuck in traffic in 2018, which made it only the 5th most congested city in the United States. In 2012, Uber made tapping a button to get across the city feel magical. Today, public transit access with buses and trains still has a disconnected and congested customer experience.

The Design Challenge

How can The Boring Company imagine a mobile experience to complement a total transformation of the public transportation experience?

Our Solution

Our team researched and designed a public transportation mobile application that allows users to catch a ride on The Boring Company’s Loop system quickly and easily as they commute to work. We called this system, “Loop."


  • Competitive & Comparative Analysis

  • Heuristic Evaluation of Competing Apps

  • User Interviews

  • User Surveys

  • Secondary Research about public transportation

C&C Loop.png
Competitive & Comparative Analysis

We analyzed the homeless help portals in New York City and San Francisco with the one in Los Angeles. The two main points we discovered from this was the ability to take/upload a photo - this feature could be helpful for homeless advocates trying to find the person in need, or it could be a breach in privacy and disrespectful. We also wanted to dive further and understand why it was required that the submitter of the form provide so much personal information, such as job title and phone number.

User Interviews

We spoke with 5 users who currently use the portal. From speaking with them, we learned that the flow is not currently intuitive, requests should be detailed but not so detailed that users will exit the site, and lack of closure after submitting the request often leaves people wondering what happened and if the request actually helped somebody.


Potential User 1

"Public transit needs to be fixed before I'll use it, it currently sucks."


Potential User 2

"I don't use public transit outside of my normal commute because I'm too afraid."


Potential User 3

"It's annoying to pay $1.00 for the TAP card, and if you lose it you have to buy it again."

Features Implemented Based on this Research: 

  • A safety button is always available during the ride to call for emergency, report an issue, or contact customer service.

  • This public transit system will start out being 100% mobile - users will buy their tickets & schedule their ride all on their phone. 

  • This Loop system goes from Point A to Point B, averaging 4 minutes per ride with no stops in-between, so the ride is fast & efficient.


30 responses uncovered that users want a clean, modern transit system. 


Primary Findings: 

  • More than half of users would be interested in public transit if faster & cheaper.

  • Many users find public transit dirty.

  • 63% want ticket on their phone.

Secondary Research

Since public transit is so huge, secondary research helped guide our process. This data, conducted by LA Metro Research, covers a total of 18,000 riders. The findings from this supported our direction of focusing on creating a mobile application, making commuters our target audience, and emphasizing safety.

User Persona: Meet Tina Transit

Based on our research, we created our user persona, who is a representative of the average rider of the Loop Transportation System. She embodies the goals and frustrations of our users - she just wants to get to work on time and have a good experience doing so.

Tina's Journey Map Using the LA Metro

We created a map to describe Tina's journey on her commute from Silverlake to Downtown Los Angeles using the LA Metro. From this, we found Tina's biggest pain points include difficulty with the existing app, crowds, and running late due to app and TAP card functionality.


Phase 2

Define the problem.

​After working with the research, we were able to take a step back and define the problems users face as they go along this journey. We used some key tools to help us define this.

  • User Personas

  • User Journey Map

  • Prioritize Features

Re-defining the problem statement: Our theoretical user Tina, needs efficient, cost-effective, and safe

public transportation.

How might we create a mobile experience for Tina Transit to utilize everyday on a brand new autonomous transit system?

Phase 3

Time to start Designing.

Methods include a Design Studio; hand sketching frames and flows of the app; low, medium, and high fidelity prototypes; a mood board, and a style guide. The design studio was imperative and the multiple iterations we made based on user research created a better quality product.

Design Studio: A Team Effort

To get the flow, I went through each step I thought a user would go through from beginning to end of using the Loop app. We then discussed it and made further adjustments. This really helped us imagine the user flow and the flow of the screens.

We then performed a design studio, then voted on the parts of the screen we thought were strongest. We combined these parts to form a cohesive low-fidelity wireframe. The design studio was so helpful for us - we realized we had similar thought processes on how the app would function and look. It also enabled us as a group to all contribute our own design ideas.

Low-Fi Prototype

We created a paper prototype, usability tested it with users, then synthesized the results with an affinity map to determine the changes that need to happen to improve the app. (3).gif

Since we had agreed upon how all of the screens would look during the design studio, our designer combined all of our sketches into one cohesive low-fidelity wireframe that was used for testing.

Usability Testing

Testing with 8 participants provided valuable insights. 


  • Users are unsure of cost of ride

  • Times need to more clear

  • Users wanted more detailed directions

  • Users want to fit ride to their needs

We synthesized the results with an affinity map.

This helped us unpack the feedback from users to discover our main findings. 

Primary findings:

  • The app needs to adapt to users needs 

  • Needs more clarity​

We adjusted the app in the next round of prototypes to account for these user-centered changes.

Mid-Fi Prototype

Usability Testing (5 users) and Synthesis

We created this prototype by focusing on feedback gained from previous testing. This mid-fi prototype was tested with 5 users, then we synthesized our results with an Affinity Map.

Primary Findings:

  • Users want options, such as changing payment method when confirming ride.

  • App still needs clearer directions, ​more consistency throughout, & more clarity for when to leave to catch Loop ride.

Since this method of transportation is such a new concept, we made our mid-fi prototype more detailed by having images and text.

Mood & Style Guide

The colors we chose for The Loop app are neutral black & white with pops of Tesla Blue in various shades. The images represent modernity in public transportation & convey the feeling of a futuristic world.

p3_Mood Board copy 2_small_edited.jpg
p3_Style Guide_small.jpg

High Fidelity Prototype

For this final iteration, we went to the streets and tested with users walking by. Users had very positive feedback overall and considered the form to be fast, easy, and intuitive to use. One aspect that users really appreciated was not having so many text boxes that they have to write in - rather, there are dropdown lists and buttons users can select multiples of, and if they still don't see the option they are looking for, they can type it into the "Other" field. 


Results & Takeaways

This project was interesting, as the whole concept was theoretical. It was a project filled with creative problem solving and research to back our assumptions up. While we are not members of Elon Musk's team, it was exciting to hypothesize and use our imagination to dream up a version of Los Angeles with this type of public transit system available. We learned a lot about public transportation - both from people who rely on it, to people who avoid it at all costs.

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