Challenge

The Future Transport Zone (FTZ) is an ambitious programme launched by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) to trial innovative green transport solutions. The programme aims to reduce our dependence on carbon-heavy transport like cars, increase accessibility for public transport and improve the lives of residents in the area.

Recognising that providing easy and accessible services that connect people and businesses to opportunities was essential. To help with this, we supported the programme in building its user-centred design, research and agile capabilities and the development of a customer vision.

Approach

Together we defined a purpose for our work of making transport more human-centred and sustainable to improve outcomes for people and place. To achieve this, we delivered a mixture of outputs and capability building across three core areas:

  • vision & outcomes: basics of design thinking, defining a customer vision and outcomes for the programme

  • user research: building an understanding of the role of user research and trialling this within the programme

  • ways of working: examining how design mature projects operate and the activities the FTZ programme can do to build greater design maturity

Vision and outcomes

We spent time supporting the FTZ team to think about what good transport should look and feel like in the climate era. This provided the starting point for evaluating how effective their services are currently in meeting the needs of people in the West of England.

Together we defined a vision that focused on a service that connects people and businesses to opportunities while giving them the information they need to make informed and sustainable choices.

User research

After sharing our expertise and knowledge on user-centred design through classroom-based learning and developing skills by running practical exercises, we began speaking to citizens.

To understand how, where and why people travel around their local area, we spoke directly to local residents. We prioritised low-income job seekers as they would be the most affected by the programme and identifying opportunities would allow FTZ to see where they could deliver the most impact.

We interviewed people fitting this profile that regularly use public transport across the West of England, inviting the FTZ team to observe and take notes as a way of building their research capabilities. Residents explained they would either like to get their driver's license or were thinking about getting a car to open up more job opportunities. Other insights revealed the lack of availability of public transport in certain areas and poor integration between different modes of transport, leading to people having to take more time to plan and navigate their routes.

Ways of working

Traditional forms of management in transport planning focus on optimising for efficiency and managing risk, at the expense of citizens’ changing needs. FTZ were passionate about innovating to deliver better outcomes for people, however, this required us to work in new ways.

We used our design maturity framework to understand the capabilities still required to become more human-centred at FTZ.

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Through workshops and interviews with the team, we carried out a design maturity assessment. During these sessions we explored challenges from which we outlined five ways we might:

  • build user understanding into our design and decision making

  • better evaluate the FTZ programme by connecting outcomes to local and national challenges

  • improve learning and collaboration across workstreams

  • include stakeholders and increase the visibility of our work

  • manage the programme to allow for flexibility, iteration and learning

To work towards their goal of making sure people and businesses have easy and sustainable access to the opportunities and services they need to work and grow, we provided FTZ with suggested next steps.

Impact

These next steps will contribute to a longer-term plan that allows the WECA Future Transport Zone to develop an approach to agile, human-centred delivery that works with wider transport.

The Future Transport Zone provides a unique opportunity to test innovative ways of working that make transport more sustainable while connecting local people to opportunities across their area. Learnings from this programme will be applied to similar transport transformation initiatives across the UK as we work towards promoting greener and more sustainable transport in the climate era.

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