One Chicago

MAR 2020

A smart city based mobility solution for Chicago commuters that reduces their need to depend on multiple apps to perform commute related tasks. The app also introduces a new unified payment solution for transiting in Chicago.

MS-HCI Capstone project

User-interview design & survey design, user-interviews, wireframing & prototyping, lo-fi, mid-fi, hi-fi designing, usability testing

Figma, Adobe XD

15 weeks

Collaborated with a team of 4

A few years ago, Chicago announced a data-driven strategy to establish itself as a smart city. Since then, the city has been creating a smarter infrastructure for both government and the city's residents. Recently, Chicago also ranked 8th in World Smartest City rankings. At the core of Chicago's smart city overhaul plan to create smarter solutions for a better quality of life is to use highly available data gathered from Internet Of Things (IoT) sensors installed across the city.

For my capstone project, my team and I envisioned what daily commute would be like in a smart city setting. We worked on a solution that both addresses the current pain points of Chicago Commuters and serves as a single source for all their commuting needs. Our idea, One Chicago addresses the mobility aspect of smart city solutions. We envision how this can shape the future of commute in Chicago.


How might we envision a unified mobile app to help Chicago commuters perform regular commute related tasks with ease?

In our research, the participants said that they could not rely on commute schedules and ETA's provided by the navigation apps as they were not very accurate. Rush-hour travel was a huge concern. Safety during commute was another concern for a majority of participants. Many participants expressed that current apps do not understand their commute-mode preferences and limit or prioritize route suggestions accordingly.

They expected navigation apps to be smarter. There was a clear opportunity to improve commuters' experience.


An AI-based smart city app designed to help reduce commuters’ dependency on multiple apps for commute related tasks.

We studied existing smart city solutions and combined our findings with insights from user research to develop features like Personalized commute recommendations, Unified & contact-less payments, Dynamic-pricing based commuting model, Commute safety information & reporting, Eco-friendly last-mile commute options, and Integrated city parking information & parking reservation


The only commute app Chicago commuters will ever need.


An Intelligent App

We envisioned an app that is a one-stop solution for all things related to commuting in Chicago. With a home screen that acts like a friend, suggesting efficient ways to commute, the app is AI backed, with data sources directly from the Chicago Smart City Project.

Introducing, One Pass

The purpose of One Pass is to alleviate one of the main pain-points of Chicago's commuters– payments. One Pass integrates all commute related payments digitally through the phone.

Simply by scanning a QR code or by tapping the phone at designated points, commuters can complete transactions, purchase tickets, gain access to regional & city transits, bike rentals, e-scooter rentals, pay tolls, and even pay for city parking without exiting the app.

Realtime Safety Information at fingertips

The app uses the power of smart city data to deliver quick and reliable safety information. Commuters are notified in real-time about incidents. The app even allows to report a safety issue.

The app also introduces neighborhood safety index that is calculated on a 0-100 scale. Commuters can view the safety score of their destination and decide on the mode of transport.

Destination Parking Reservations Built-in

Commuters can access parking options right in the app when if they choose to drive. The app shortlists and displays parking options within half a mile radius from the destination, even including electric vehicle charging stations.

Before beginning their commute, commuters can reserve a parking spot real quick and drive to the destination with a peace of mind and the confidence of finding parking.


In the following sections, I will explain the steps I took throughout my process to arrive at the final design solution. I will also explain my rationale behind the design decisions.

Research & Strategy

Secondary Research

We conducted a survey on Qualtrics to aid our preliminary research. The survey received 17 responses. The survey questions intended to capture the modes of commute users utilized, the level of satisfaction they experienced, and the factors that influenced their satisfaction.

  • Over 90% of the respondents used a hybrid mode of commute, meaning they used a combination of modes including public transit, driving, walking, or bikes
  • Only 40% of the respondents said that they were satisfied with their commute
  • People traveling from the suburbs preferred using public transport
  • Some of the concerns mentioned included safety, inaccurate public transport schedules, and parking issues

Findings from one-on-one interviews with 7 participants & the survey with 30 responses

The dependency on multiple apps:

All the 7 users wished they didn't have to rely on multiple apps for commuting. They wanted to use a single application to find directions & parking, check weather updates, access city's public transport information & schedules, and pay for public transport. Users who were traveling from nearby Chicago suburbs hoped they could use just one app for ticketing, view transit information, and view schedules of both Metra (Regional Transport Authority) and CTA (Chicago Transit Authority).

Lack of an intelligent mobile app:

All the 7 users said they wanted the app to be supportive and not restrictive. They wanted the app to give options and suggest routes, how to save time & money, give them weather updates, and more.

No accurate Public Transport Schedules & Traffic Information:

More than half of the users reported unstable public transport schedules and crowdedness during the morning & evening rush hours. They wished for a way to mitigate rush hour travel and wanted access to uninterrupted, realtime, and accurate public transport & traffic Information.


More than half of the users reported safety as a major concern. In our surveys, 77.8% of the respondents said they were not ok traveling by themselves to all places in Chicago. Users wanted continuous access to safety information and also wanted access for them to report incidents to the city authorities in real time.

City Parking Information:

4 users who preferred driving said that one of the main reasons they did not drive was because of how difficult finding parking was in Chicago. Users wanted access to realtime parking Information and the ability to book a parking spot before their arrival.


Based on the one-on-one interviews and survey results, we arrived at the following persona. A teammate and I collaborated in designing the artifact:

User Journey

Based on the user persona we had arrived at, I sketched the following user journey of Randall and identified opportunities.


After gaining a sound understanding of the users, we started ideating possible solutions. Based on the problem statement, we arrived at the following high-level goals:

  1. Combine the process of commute planning and associated payments
  2. Construct an intelligent interface that is engaging and promotes smart city innovation
  3. Craft an experience that integrates all transit modes and gives users a single access point to all the transit information they need

Based on the user journeys and set goals, we came up with core tasks that helped us with the design direction for the project.

Core Tasks

  • Onboarding
Randall just downloaded a new smart city based mobility app that can assist him with all his commute needs. He wants to signup, onboard and customize the app up for his use
  • Trip Planning
Randall is about to begin his daily commute. He would like to use the app to plan his commute
  • Smart City Based Commute
Randall has used this app for a month now, the app has learned his habits and is suggesting him routes. Randall would like to use the app to commute to work using public transport
  • Pay for Commute
Randall is using public transport to get to work and wants to use the app to pay for his commute
  • Parking
Randall will be driving to work soon and would like to find parking. He wants to use the app reserve a parking spot

Task flows

Once the core tasks were identified and finalized, I sketched out the app flow to trace Randall's journey through the app.


We started our design process by individually pencil sketching the user journeys based on the tasks we shortlisted. Later, we combined all our sketches into digital wireframes and created low fidelity prototypes in Figma.

One of my teammate and I worked together to also prototype a voice task using Adobe XD.

We iterated through wireframe concepts after getting feedback from test users. We tested our prototypes at each design phase to improve our designs and improve the navigation and discoverability of content.

Onboarding Iteration Example

The biggest design change that was made through our design Iterations was the onboarding of users onto the app. We moved our onboarding design from a 8 step sign-in process to users gaining direct access to the app features without signing in. The final idea implemented was an AI home screen and progressively disclosing task-based information to gather user data by customization over a period of time.

Above: onboarding before user testing
Above: final onboarding flow

Important User Flows Conveyed Via Mid-fi Screen Designs

6 essential flows of the main experience are shown below.

Hi-fi Designs Example of the One Pass System

Then, we started fleshing out the hi-fi designs of all the screens. The dashboard of a key feature is shown below.

Dynamic Transit Pricing

One Chicago tackles rush hour by utilizing real-time smart city data directly collected at source and introducing the concept of dynamic pricing. Transit costs vary based on demand.

Randall has access to a dashboard that showcases real-time pricing. The app also generates personalized insights to help Randall pick the best times to leave for work, thus helping him save time and money.

Prototyping & Iterative Testing

I used Figma to build prototypes of the experience. We tested the prototypes with the users.


Overall, we took a task & goals-based approach for our user testing phases. We conducted a total of 4 rounds of user testing– 2 rounds of low-fi, 1 round of mid-fi, and 1 round of hi-fi testing.

We tested our prototypes at each design phase to improve our designs and improve the navigation and discoverability of content. How we used iterative design to design the intelligent home screen that uses progressive disclosure to understand the usage habits of commuters is shown below. 

We recorded a SUS score after each session. The SUS score from low-fi to mid-fi increased from 73.9 (B-Good) to 82.5 (A-Excellent).

Above: Iterations of the Intelligent Homescreen Design

I was a part of a 4 member team for the 11-week capstone quarter. Me and one of my teammate collaborated further after the quarter ended to design and test the hi-fi screens and prototypes.

  • We solved the problems and achieved our project goals by understanding the functioning of smart cities solutions. We combined this with the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help the commuters make intelligent decisions. 5 participants in the final round of user testing even said that they favored the One Pass idea– our unified payment solution
  • My biggest take away from this project was learning how to design for AI and implementing progressive disclosure
  • This capstone project gave me a sense of how following a user-centered design process can result in a functional and usable product. By basing our design on actual user preferences and by testing and improving it iteratively helped us in envisioning a usable future product

What Next?

A more diverse set of users for the research phase would have given us better results. Most of the users we spoke to were commuters who used multi-mode transport. Conducting user research with users who use a single-mode of transportation (such as driving or public transport) can help us in uncovering more pain points related to single-mode commute. We interviewed 2 people with disabilities. Interviewing more of them can help us gain an understanding of building the app to address accessibility issues when commuting. 

Designing micro-interactions to support the app's AI part of the solution could be the immediate next step to make the app more intuitive and user-friendly.