Public Transportation

How might we improve the commuting experience for people on public transportation? 

Living in Los Angeles, I find it impossible to ignore the need for improved transportation. As an avid traveller I have used public transportation, especially trains, in cities all over the world. I appreciate trains as more than just a point A to point B transaction. They can serve as a unique way to connect with a city and observe its people. I come into this challenge hoping to inspire others to do the same.

For this project, I implement design thinking methodology to dig into the challenge. I document discoveries as I go through steps of ideation, prototyping, and iteration. Along the way I create questions based on the lenses of desirability, feasibility, and viability to be considered for further exploration.

Working through this project had me thinking a lot about about the transformation of physical space. This was a rewarding process as it combines several of my favorite things: artists such as Andrea Zittel, Andy Goldsworthy, and Jenny Holzer. Tiny homes, permaculture principles, #vanlife, and minimalism.

I am drawn to the idea of blending changes to physical environment and implementation of new technology to improve an experience. This is something I hope to have more opportunities to explore in the future.

Solo project 

Pen and paper, post-it notes, camera, audio recorder, laptop, cardboard, tinfoil, tape, Omnigraffle, Photoshop





I chose two ideation methods:

  • Brainstorming with family and peers as I enjoy the in person aspect of collaboration to generate ideas. For this method I was mindful of the seven rules: defer judgement, encourage wild ideas, build on the ideas of others, stay focused on the topic, one conversation at a time, be visual, and go for quantity.
  • E-Storming (online collaboration) as a secondary method involving learning circle peers from IDEO U

The ideation methods yielded 34 ideas. Below are the favorite threads to consider following:

  • Meditation/sleeping/yoga/business pods (from solitude to collaboration)
  • Improved food experience (quality and convenient food, redesigned vending machine experience?)
  • “Waze-like” community based app to report conditions, schedule updates, etc. of public transportation. Other riders can avoid or plan accordingly, avatars created by the riders log time/miles to earn points, “three modes of transport in one day – train, bus, bike rental = hattrick!”, trophies, awards, etc. Transportation authorities can gather and view inputs to resolve issues and plan accordingly.
  • Wild idea: Jetpacks!




FlexPod offers space in specialized train cars for commuters and other users of public transportation. A customizable train experience can help make use of the minutes and hours people spend traveling on public transportation trains. The audience is current and potential users of public transportation trains. Using the FlexPod mobile app, travelers reserve one of six types of space. Upon the train arrival, the traveler uses the app to open the door of the designated FlexPod. Before your trip is complete, a customizable in app alarm alerts you when your stop is approaching. All FlexPods provide high speed wireless internet, ceiling mounted speakers, and sound proof walls.

From my prototype I want to learn if this idea adds value to users public transportation train experience. I also want to uncover potential roadblocks and areas for opportunity.


The types of FlexPod include:

PrivatePod - A FlexPod designed for privacy and productivity. Includes one chair, desk, bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and wall mounted monitor. Physical footprint = 1/4 of a FlexPod


SleepPod – A FlexPod designed for the traveler in need of a power nap. Includes cushoined bed, disposable pillow, white noise (played through FlexPod app). Physical footprint = 1/4 of a FlexPod


SharedPod – A FlexPod designed for people to collaborate or individuals needing to get a little work done before or after the office. Includes three chairs and a shared desk. Physical footprint = 1/2 of a FlexPod

CoffeePod – A FlexPod designed for one on one meetings. Includes two chairs, wall mounted monitor, and small table. Physical footprint = 1/4 of a FlexPod


ConferencePod – A FlexPod created for for meetings or larger groups. Includes seating for six, two wall mounted monitors, and a conference table. Physical footprint = 1 FlexPod


ExercisePod- A FlexPod designed for a quick workout or lounging. Includes a beanbag chair, yoga mat, and wall mounted monitor. Monitor includes programming from yoga to guided meditation. Physical footprint = 1/4 of a FlexPod



Below are prototypes showing a few of the many FlexPod configurations that are possible.


SharedPod and two PrivatePods




SharedPod, CoffeePod, and SleepPod

Two PrivatePods, SleepPod, and ExercisePod

Parting shot, behind the scenes




  • How might we encourage people to become users of FlexPods?
  • How might we create a delightful end to end travel experience?
  • What might the method of reserving a FlexPod look like?



  • How might we save costs when building, maintaining, and cleaning the pods
  • How might we determine the design and materials of the FlexPods?
  • How might we handle increase and/or decrease in FlexPod demand?



  • How might we secure the initial funding to launch the idea?
  • How might we determine how much to charge to use FlexPod?
  • How might we determine any additional services to add?


I found it interesting that my question ranking maintained a flow of desirability, feasibility, and viability. That is, the first three were related to desirability, the next three feasibility, and the last three viability. Loosely related sidebar: I believe this is because I am of the mindset to consider the user needs and desires first (is there a want?), then think about how it might become possible (HMW make this happen?) and lastly does it make business sense (is there a financial model?). I’m not saying any of these is more important than the other, but rather for better or worse this is how my mind is wired. For example, if I lead with a question around viability, it may not allow the mental freedom to think big when it comes to desirability. I realize in some ways this feels like a system of checks and balances. Anywho, back to the project.


  1. HMW create a delightful end to end travel experience? This gets at the considerations around what will create value for the users and leads into the next question which is why they are placed together.
  2. HMW encourage people to become users of FlexPods? See above.
  3. What might the method of reserving a FlexPod look like? This is an important component of the FlexPod that does not have to do with the pods themselves. It needs to be simple and efficient.
  4. HMW determine the design and materials of the FlexPods? Using question #1 for guidance and pairing up with the next question.
  5. HMW save costs when building, maintaining, and cleaning the pods? See above.
  6. HMW handle increase and/or decrease in FlexPod demand? How to handle shortage and excess of FlexPods to make sure people who want them have them and that money is not wasted with empty pods.
  7. HMW determine how much to charge to use FlexPod? Now that we know more about the design, materials, maintenance, etc. what price point makes sense.
  8. HMW secure the initial funding to launch the idea? Where will the startup money come from? Government/taxes, private funding, advertising, etc.
  9. HMW determine any additional services to add? How will data be collected around this and who will determine if it will happen and who will fund?