Getting to know the station ecosystem

Since our approach to giving the machines personality is strongly context based, we tried to map out the motivations and movements of travellers within the station as detailed as possible. We observed both the approaching and line up behavior of travellers to define how we could integrate the machines in a more organic way and shape the movement flow within the station environment for greater comfort and efficiency.

We observed different behavioral patterns, from which we derived specific placement guidelines, to avoid problems such as line hoping, getting into each others space, not finding free machines and feel uncomfortable approaching the machines:

  1. The machines need to be clearly visible from each other or need a visual indication where to find other free machines.
  2. The angle of the machines should create a natural line, which allows to be in line for multiple machines at the same time, without the feeling of missing out on faster machines.
  3. Insecure travellers need space around the machines to watch and observe others interact with the machines in order to become more familiar with them (we call this space parking areas).

Creating context

We understand the station environment as an organism where ticket machines are independent actors as opposed to passive tools. Turning the machines into subjects instead of objects allows us to create moments of context which are more delightful and less frustrating.

We create these moments through different means. For one thing we give the machines sensors to stay connected and aware of their environment. We use those sensors to create an idle behaviour, reacting to external factors such as time of day, weather or busyness of the station. Through that behaviour the machines communicate an intrinsic activity, they communicate that they have a "life" outside of the ticket purchasing process.

Before you continue reading this, make sure you have read the text about the different machines.

We connect all machines both in the back end system as well as visibly through a dynamic signage system, which directs passengers to available machines or machines that better fit the needs of the passenger. This way we express that it is a group effort of all machines to guide the passenger on the most suitable path from the entrance of the station to the boarding of the train. During our research, we have identified that different type of passengers have different needs not only when purchasing the tickets but also when approaching and leaving the machines. That is why we have structured the layout of the machines in a way that offers different areas and different paths of efficiency and support through the station.

We divide the station into "parking areas", where people can stop directly after entering the station in order to orientate themselves, in "information spots", where people stop to find out about their next train or to watch other people use the machines to learn, and two types of "action areas" where people approach machines and buy tickets - the lines that lead up to the Harriets and the pathways, that lead from entry points straight to the Ingrids along the tracks.

All machines are connected though a visual system, which guides travellers from occupied machines to empty ones. The system consists of two parts. The first part is lines on the ground connecting all machines and indicating the desired movement flow. These lines are also used to guide visually impaired travellers to ticket machines through the station. The other part is a light indication we call a "balloon", which signals occupied and empty machines from further away. Both parts are directly connected to the machine, so that by looking at the machine in front of her, the traveler can learn that both at the other end of the line as well a underneath another ballon she can find another machine to use. These systems make sense at spread out stations such as Malmö C or Lund.


Interpreting station plans

We picked three different types of stations to examine and re-plan, based on the flow of movement of travellers and the positioning principles we specified. 

Malmö C

The Malmö C case is unique in that the station is more of a hangout than most other stations. People need to enter, park, pause, digest and receive information. We have looked at how we can introduce parking areas where travellers can stop and do this without being in the way.

Most passengers pass through a central point where the ticket machines are placed. The machines are grouped so that one line forms to two machines, thus minimizing queue-hopping and occupied space. They are placed so that the lines won’t get in the way of entry and exit points.

In the middle of the group of Harriets there is an information spot, where travellers can pause and observe without being in the way. This spot provides a calmer area. It's positioned in a way so that people entering the station without a sense of where to go end up naturally in its center. There they find information and can decide which machine to use.

Frequent travellers can bypass the central point and pass by the faster Ingrid machine on their way to the platform. The Ingrids are placed so that the path to them does not interfere with any lines forming up, and also in a clear line of sight from the Harriets and Gretas. 

 

Lund C

Lund C is special and very different from Malmö C. It has no central location, but four different entry points. Here we see the north eastern one. Note how there’s an Ingrid machine placed on the path to the platforms up the stairs. The larger machines are placed in pairs clearly visible from each other, thus avoiding one pair being very busy and the other one empty.

We worked with pair of machines angled so that one line will form to both of them, but placed them in the middle of the open area, to provide a clear passage for travellers exiting the elevator. Not only will that free up space and avoid frustration, it also gives room for infrequent travellers who as we observed often stop and watch before purchasing a ticket.

 

Hjärup Station

Most of the stations in Skåne are small and similar to the one in Hjärup. We want to put focus on having the information points and fast Ingrid machines on the path to the platform, and the larger machine on the platform as is the case today. 

Here we place Harriet in the middle of the platform as it already is today. We add Ingrids to all entry points though, combined with an information sign which displays train times and disturbances. This makes sense since travellers who already are on the platform do not need to hurry in order to reach a train. Approaching the station however, it is interesting for a passenger to know how many minutes she has left before needing to be on the platform. The Ingrid at this position will help avoiding lines on the platform itself and greet every frequent traveler, irrespectively from where they are approaching the station.