user centered design – sort of – in NYC subways

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Mr. Malave was one of dozens of curious riders who attended an ‘open house’ sponsored yesterday afternoon by New York City Transit to show off and receive feedback on a five-car test train, a prototype of the R160, the newest generation of subway cars.

Riders yesterday, told to focus on the FIND panel, were asked questions like, ‘Do you feel reassured that the train is going to your station?’ and ‘How easy or hard is it to read the words and letters on the sign?’

But riders seemed to be paying less attention to the sign than the rest of the car. Some of them said they did not regularly take the Nos. 2, 4, 5 and 6 lines (which use R142 cars, similar in design to the R143) or the L line and so were not familiar with the latest design.

Asked to compare the new car with the F train that she normally rides, Mar?a Romero, 72, a retired nurse’s aide from Gravesend, Brooklyn, said, ‘This is three times more advanced!’ Jared M. Skolnick, 34, an Internet marketer from the Upper West Side, said he admired the bright fluorescent lights, since he often took photographs in the subway.

James V. Sears, the agency’s senior director of marketing research, said the results of the surveys – along with comments from focus groups convened in 2003 – could be incorporated into the final design of the FIND panel.

Right. Because in order to understand the reassurance of a design feature, you simply ask people if they find a certain feature to be reassuring? Sigh!


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