iShuttle – Transforming the Campus Transportation Experience

by Wendy Yu


As college students, the interface of a shuttle app is both familiar and relevant to us. The emotions, however, are often overwhelmingly negative – confusion, frustration, etc. Therefore, we embarked on a journey to redesign the shuttle tracker into one that was clear, engaging, and could transform the entire experience of using a shuttle into a positive one.

Problem Statement & Pain Points

To begin, we identified several major pain points that users experienced with the current [3] Harvard shuttle trackers. For clarity, we can divide these points into several categories: 1) a mismatch between expected shuttle arrival or performance and reality, 2) the inability to find directions given unfamiliarity with the shuttle system, 3) the existence of an outdated, unappealing interface that was both difficult to navigate and which tended to bury features, and 4) a miscellaneous category of various features that we felt the shuttle tracker lacked. 

With regards to the first problem category, we realized that the largest frustration students encountered was that the shuttles were frequently off-schedule and, more importantly, that the trackers did not effectively communicate the details of delays/early arrivals accurately, effectively rendering the tracking app useless. It was therefore extremely important for us to maintain an accurate two way communication system between students and our app via a feedback form.

In terms of the second category, we realized that many students only used the shuttle occasionally, and were therefore unfamiliar with routes and stops. In these scenarios, the current trackers make it difficult to determine which of the routes and stops should be used in a given itinerary. Given a student that might only know the starting and ending destinations of his/her journey, we needed our app to be able to easily help them explore the possibilities and determine which route and stops to use. 

The third category is generally concerned with more superficial aspects of the apps; however, the current trackers have such cluttered and unintuitive interfaces that it severely impedes the use of the actual functions. Features are often hidden in long lists, users often need to click through too many screens to reach their goal, routes blend together, and it can be difficult if not impossible to determine the direction of the shuttle along the route. 

Finally, we also realized that the current tracking apps were missing several important features. The existing apps are not accessible for color-impaired users, which on average is experienced by 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women. Additionally, certain resources such as campus evening vans are not found in these apps, despite their essential role in maintaining campus safety. 


After sorting through the problems, it became clear that the shuttle needed to be designed with two different types of users in mind. The first group includes students who use shuttles regularly. These students generally know where they need to go, where they are leaving from, and which shuttle line to take. For this group, then, it is most important to have an app that tracks accurately with an interface that is clear and quick to navigate.

The second group of users is composed of students who use the shuttle infrequently. They are unfamiliar with the shuttle lines, stops, and schedules, and therefore need the app to inform them how to navigate from point A to point B with as little input from them as possible. 

Our redesigned user experience journey map.

Process & Resolution

With these two users in mind, we began brainstorming aspects of the app that we needed to redesign in order to re-engage our audience.

Students can begin with an overview of either all or favorited routes. Afterwards,
a specific selection of routes can be chosen for additional details.

To start, we reinvisioned the presentation of routes on the interface. As trackers are largely visual apps, we decided to design the map in grayscale to allow the colored routes to be more easily distinguishable. On the home screen, users can choose to view either all routes simultaneously or only their favorited routes, which accelerates the tracking process for regular shuttle users. Students can further filter routes by selecting one or more routes in the bottom panel. Upon selection, the live shuttles and the stops are shown. Users can then click on a stop to show corresponding details about arrival time. Because it can be frustrating for students to have to continuously check back on shuttle status, we also added a notification button for each stop which, if selected, can notify the student when the shuttle is near (students can edit the time frame for notifications in preferences). 

As mentioned earlier, the second major group of users is often unfamiliar with the shuttle routes, and therefore needs to be able to discover the correct route and stops easily using the app. To reach this goal, we designed two methods for the user. The first involves the search bar, through which a user can search for a route or stop, in which case the correct match will appear, or they can search for a specific address, in which case a pin will be dropped and nearby stops and routes will be shown. The other method involves finding the physical location of the destination on the map, and then double tapping to manually drop a pin. Similarly to above, the nearby routes and stops will be shown, and the user can then determine which options best fit his/her itinerary. 

Another major feature we designed was the inclusion of a personal shuttle schedule. Users can import events that require the use of a shuttle from their personal calendars, in which case a shuttle event will automatically be generated with the best fit shuttle based on time, destination, and starting point. Otherwise, a user can also choose to manually enter a shuttle into their schedule. Once entered, users can choose to receive notifications for these shuttles near arrival time. 

Instant feedback allows for data that can be used to improve the shuttle system.

Our team also determined that it was necessary for students to be able to communicate with the shuttle managers to create a foundation of feedback that could be used to improve the overall system. In the current system, the shuttles are meant to run based on a set schedule, trackers tell the students when the shuttles should be coming, and the students are either satisfied or [more often] unsatisfied without the ability to voice their frustrations. Therefore, we’ve designed several levels of feedback. The first is inherently built into the scheduling system – by having students schedule in their shuttles, shuttle operators can aggregate this data to better understand when they might need to provide more shuttles or more frequent shuttles. The second layer involves quick, direct feedback from students – in scenarios where the app determines the student has taken a shuttle, the app asks users whether or not the shuttle arrived on time using a thumbs up/down interface, which provides feedback for the quality of shuttle arrivals relative to expected times. Beyond that, we’ve also given students the opportunity to provide more detailed comments or concerns using a written feedback form. 

Finally, our team also included a number of miscellaneous features that we felt could substantially improve the app. The first change made here was to add an accessibility filter for color-impaired users. Textured lines and colors with wider variance are shown in the scenario that the filter is turned on to prevent confusion between close or overlapping lines. The other feature we added was the ability to easily schedule an evening van after a certain time in the evening. Campus evening vans are an important aspect of maintaining both actual and perceived safety, and we therefore felt that it was necessary to make this service much more easily accessible than it is in its current situation, where students must navigate to a separate website, find the number associated with evening vans, and call and schedule in real time for a van. Instead, our feature allows students to request a van directly through the app immediately and in advance to minimize evening waiting time. 

Conclusion & Reflection

Through careful consideration of our users and their needs, we redesigned the existing shuttle tracker into an experience that is both easy and pleasurable to use. iShuttle engages users through its clean, efficient, and accurate interface and provides a number of additional features that transform the tracker into a tool fit for frequent, recurring use.

iShuttle optimizes for the sensations described in Don Norman’s Emotional Design. Ideo-pleasure stimulates users through the enhancement of their senses of self through the product. iShuttle allows the user to schedule their eventual bus ride in accordance with their own calendar. The user enters the time they would like to arrive at their destination by or leave from their origin stop by and iShuttle offers them routes optimized for their needs. The user then selects a route that fits their schedule and embarks. Throughout the journey the tracker is then mindful of the user’s schedule which allows the user to see themself in the product.

The shuttle tracker app also facilitates socio-pleasure in that it enables users to coordinate travel schedules. Once a user has found a route they would like to take, they are able to share that route with a fellow traveler. The second user, having received the route from the original user, then is able to start the same journey on their own device. This ensures that both users are receiving notifications about when the shuttle is approaching the origin stop, when there might be delays, and when their destination stop is upcoming. By coordinating schedules and alert systems, iShuttle relieves social stresses and facilitates a shared experience.

iShuttle is further meant to facilitate physio-pleasure and the behavioral facets of Don Norman’s emotional design. The application features an emoji-based quick feedback form wherein the user indicates whether their shuttle came on time or not. The emoji-based buttons are meant to be engaging for the user, and the selection is designed to gamify the experience. Furthermore, immediately after making their quick selection, the user is thanked with a message explaining that their feedback helps other riders. This reinforcement is both meant to appeal to the user behavioral, and to provide an ideo-pleasure in this message of validation.

Having carefully considered our users and the concepts that design for sustained engagement, we believe that our redesigned shuttle app has the potential to reverse the frustration associated with boarding a shuttle into a swift, painless, and even enjoyable experience. 

The complete iShuttle prototype.

Additional Resources

Full Interactive Prototype:

Journey Map:

Product Photos/Videos:


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Donagh Mahon February 19, 2020 - 5:28 pm

Yes. Yes. Yes. This NEEDS to be done. It has been such an obvious issue at Harvard for so long and has clearly been addressed multiple times, as evidenced by the litany of shuttle apps available, that I can’t believe someone hasn’t designed a good solution yet! If I was to suggest one additional functionality I would say that it would be great if upon opening the app rather than seeing a map of all the roads and buildings in the area or a simply list of shuttle names we say an uber simplified, almost cartoonish map of Harvard’s campus separated into coloured regions, each region being serviced by a stop. Assuming the user allowed their location data to be used by the app. The user would then just click on the region they want to go to and the next screen would tell them the wait time and the name of the shuttle to get on; maybe some directions to the stop if they weren’t near it.

Malila Freeman February 19, 2020 - 10:44 pm

I mentioned this briefly in class earlier, but I think something that would make this idea even more practical than it already is (and trust me, I would use this in a heartbeat) would be to add an option to link the shuttle app to your google calendar. This way, the shuttle app could know when the student might be looking for a shuttle and could send a notification ahead of time so that the student could prepare accordingly. This would also solve the problem of notifications by finding a good balance between sending too many and not knowing the appropriate time to send them. I think something like shuttle tracking is a very mundane task that people often dread having to deal with, so adding as many components to the app to make it operate independently would be the best way to attract users and sustain their interest. Other than that, you guys rocked this!

Nynika Jhaveri February 20, 2020 - 12:27 am

Both the conception of the app, and its execution are extremely clear, navigable and effective. While the interface and functionality is great, I was wondering how the app would go about collecting this data in a way that doesn’t involve the expensive upgrading of technology of or coordination amongst buses? Maybe it could work like the Waze app, where the drivers (here it would be the users riding the bus) can easily input information – for example – click a simple button saying the bus just stopped at Lamont Library – the bus is running late etc?

Margaret Sun February 20, 2020 - 4:14 am

Sending Quad love for this amazing revamp—I was actively thinking about it throughout the day. Apparently you can leave feedback through the Transloc Rider app (also a problem most people don’t know about this feature)—there’s a little icon that allows you to input email and feedback. Usually an email conversation follows that leads to resolution (based on fellow Quad friends’ experiences), so I would definitely pitch this idea if you have time. Sending feedback to might also work, especially since this app would centralize several functions under CommuterChoice’s domain.
I wonder if there can also be a communication system shuttle drivers can be on. There is a GPS tracker on each shuttle near the driver’s seat (a small screen next to the driver), and perhaps integrating hardware (maybe there’s an icon drivers can click quickly to indicate capacity or delays that sends an alert to the app users) might also improve the shuttle experience. It would also be great if the app had a way to show shuttle drivers appreciation for all their hard work (they have so many long shifts overnight and sick music tastes)!

Natalie Yang February 20, 2020 - 4:26 am

LOVED this design for a new shuttle app. I think all of these features get at the heart of what students/users are seeking. Something I struggle with is knowing where exactly the shuttle stops are. It would be really useful if a feature where a time estimate is given about how long it’ll take you to get from point A to point B (in google maps fashion). Another fun add on feature could be integrating Find My Friends with the shuttle app. Some see Find My Friends as kind of stalkery, but it could make the experience more personable if you see your friends head shots floating around on your map within your vicinity.

Anthony DeNitto February 20, 2020 - 4:36 am

As I said in class, I would most definitely use this app. As an infrequent shuttle-user, I find it very treacherous to use the shuttle to get somewhere. I don’t know which busses go where, I don’t know their current location, don’t know if it’s even gonna come. This app seems to understand both types of users, which is important because there are many people who consistently rely on the shuttle for daily transportation. The fact that there are like 5 apps shows how many people have tried to solve the problem of taking it.

Adam Gordon February 20, 2020 - 4:44 am

If there is one place I will never find myself, it’s the Quad. The inconvenient shuttle system makes trips to and from the Quad an undesirable journey. For start, I never know which bus line goes where. Which application do I need to check to find out right now? I couldn’t tell you, but we were probably forced to download it during freshmen orientation 2 years ago. With iShuttle, I might actually decide to go see my friends in the Quad. And now they would be more willing to come to Dunster for a late-night movie marathon because they are 100% certain that they will be able to find an accurate bus schedule faster than they can spell Pforzheimer House. iShuttle is long overdue.

TJ Song February 20, 2020 - 4:53 am

WHY IS THIS NOT REAL YET. I think that this product is an elegant solution to problems that face students real time today. I have a personal attraction to this product because it seems practical to create and would directly affect a population I’m a part of. This blog post itself, with the well made journey map and screen captures of the prototype, is very pleasing to read.

Annabelle Paterson February 20, 2020 - 7:00 pm

I would use the shuttle a lot more if a good app existed! It really needs to be done. I would be careful making it too complicated (i.e. the calendar component). All I need to know is when the shuttle is coming/where it currently is. I like the feedback part as a big issue is the shuttle is really unreliable.

Nourhan Shaaban February 23, 2020 - 8:31 pm

I love all of these changes and hope they can be incorporated. If you were to take this further, I’d love it if the shuttle app kept on collecting feedback and asking users about their expereince – maybe rating the ride, the way uber does it. That way they can keep improving and singal to students that they care.

Emily Koch February 25, 2020 - 6:46 pm

This app is a great start in the right direction, being useful and making life easy for students, especially those that live in the quad. As a past quadling, a large part of my frustration with my experience there was due to how terrible the shuttle app is. For example, what made it most frustrating was when the app said a shuttle would be arriving but no shuttle would actually come. I am not sure what location services this new revamp would use, but potentially a direct tracker in a shuttle might be helpful for the accuracy of the app. Something like find my friends or find my iphone.

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