Sound Transit App

Ride the wave


Our team redesigned the Sound Transit application over the course of 10 weeks for the Fall 2022 quarter at the University of Washington's Human-Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) program. Our project focuses on how we can address existing frustrations regular users (e.g. commuters or frequent travelers) might have with the Sound Transit application in order to improve their day-to-day experience.

My Role

Target Users


Designer & Researcher
10 Weeks

Problem Statement

How might we improve the experience of taking the light rail as a commuter in Seattle?

In Seattle, the light rail is a core service that helps people get to where they’re going. However, one problem is that we feel there are gaps in its overall user experience that prevents the service from satisfying the breadth of its user needs.

Research Methods

In order to fully understand commuters pain points, I started with research.

💬 Interviews

Learning about the process of how users use the Sound Transit application and website.

📋 Surveys

Collecting user feedback to understand their behavior and action.

📍Empathy Maps

Examining the underlying reasons of commuters pain points.

Research Insights

The research helped to identify the gaps that exist in the overall user experience of the Sound Transit app.

1. Lack of clarity in scheduling/traffic alerts

Alerts need to be communicated more effectively through a user's personal device.

2. Poorly addressed user safety concerns

Commuters should be able to feel safe while traveling to and from a location.

3. Seamless Task Execution

The application should help users easily complete their task(s).

Target User

The target users are frequent Seattle light rail commuters, with a primary focus on schedule updates and incident communication.

Initial ideation

The initial ideation phases started with sketching out possible ideas.

Thought process

Enhancing the Experience

I believe that safety, efficiency, and clarity are some of the most important things that contribute to a positive and reliable public transit experience for our users.

Initial Prototype

After narrowing our initial sketches to three categories, we’ve decided to focus on an app design that explores scheduling, alerts, maps, safety, and payment/ticketing for frequent light rail commuters.

These designs meet the predetermined goals of Safety, efficiency and Clarity.

Scheduling & Alerts

Efficiency and Personalization

Customization is crucial; frequent commuters may want alerts for specific routes and times to avoid unnecessary notifications.

Security & Safety

Reporting Incidents and Requesting Assistance

Allowing users to easily request assistance when feeling unsafe. The design emphasizes simplicity, making it feasible for a new or redesigned application, with a challenge of ensuring swift response from officers or transit employees to users in need.

Technical Constraints

After designing the low/mid fidelity prototypes, we were given technical constraints that we had to take into consideration when we started working on our final design.

Problem Statement

An engineer at Sound Transit informs you that while trains are outfitted with GPS tracking, it can commonly be buggy and not show train arrival information reliably. In the design, we will need to figure out a way to display schedule information with some trains showing up-to-date location data and others not showing anything.

Option 1

Base times on a variety of GPS data, either using last-available train locations or real-time user data.

Option 2

With maps, we need to make it clear that a driver's location on the map isn’t real-time.


Final Selection

Use the GPS position from people’s phones as a stand-in for the train’s GPS (opt-in to allow app to use location services).


Automatically switching over to using aggregated GPS signals from rider’s smartphones allows us to maintain all the features and capabilities of our app in a seamless way.

Final Outcome

The refined design after considering the technical constraints given.


Optimizing Commuter App for Schedules & Alerts

Our scheduling screens are dedicated to the development of a user-friendly application designed to effectively communicate schedules tailored to the needs of commuters.


Reporting Incidents and Requesting Assistance

Focuses on how safety can be accessed through the Sound Transit application when an individual needs to report an incident.


Enhancing Route Clarity

These screens are designed to enhance route clarity for users by incorporating a map feature. This addition helps users better understand and navigate their chosen routes.

Areas of Opportunities

What might I have done differently?

01. Conduct more research by having commuters share their experiences of using the light rail.

02. Seeking collaboration with the Seattle light rail to test the schedule and real-time train map.


Working on this project was a fun and educational experience. Brainstorming ideas together and refining them highlighted the importance of diverse perspectives. We ended up choosing an idea that utilized GPS signals from riders' smartphones to improve train position accuracy. This process taught me the significance of combining technology with user-centered design. However, I understand that we could have conducted more in-depth user research and collaborated more closely with the Seattle light rail system. Reflecting on this journey, I'm excited about the potential positive impact on light rail commuters' daily lives and am eager to apply these lessons to future projects.

© Hamedia Jemal 2023