New Station Kiosk Software

Old Dec 8, 17, 12:38 pm
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New Station Kiosk Software

Rethinking the Station Kiosk
Improving Amtrak Passenger Experience and saving money.
Example of the redesigned software: interactive design

Amtrak is making major infrastructure and passenger experience investments. New tracks and trains, refreshed upholstery, and improvements to online services are bringing America’s Railways to new heights. At the helm of this transformation is Richard Anderson, the organization’s new CEO. Anderson has donated his time, as well as the experience he gained as CEO of Delta Air Lines to improving Amtrak service. Due to Anderson’s airline industry background, one may expect changes at Amtrak to mirror those that have occurred in passenger aviation.

One change that has been prevalent throughout the airline industry is the introduction of self-service kiosks: these machines enable customers to accomplish tasks themselves, often without the need to wait in line. Airlines (and their customers, as a result) benefit from the reduced costs made possible by automation. By improving the interface and experience of Amtrak’s self-service kiosks the organization could reduce the need for station staff, thus improving service while reducing costs.

The user interfaces of self-service kiosks can be challenging to design, as the interface must be easy to use for a wide range of people. Additional challenges apply in airports and train stations as inefficiency and confusion caused by the interface can lead to missed flights and trains, thus reflecting negatively on the transportation provider. Amtrak’s current Quik-Trak machines allow customers to book tickets, as well as print tickets they pre-purchased online. The kiosks work with the Amtrak Arrow Reservation System to access passenger reservations and to execute new bookings.

After developing storyboards it became clear that, for most passengers, checking train information on station monitors is often the first step of the Amtrak experience. As a result of this finding I propose placing the machines immediately after the station entrance, and underneath the departure board. When Alaska Airlines created the patented “Airport of the Future” the company found that clustering check-in kiosks at key decision points could improve passenger throughout and reduce reliance on staff.

Additionally, kiosks should be placed far enough from one another that customers could walk past them towards their train when they are done with their transaction; this spacing eliminates awkward backtracking, enabling the customer to easily walk further into the station.

While developing user personas, it became clear that Amtrak travelers can be distilled into two general types: people rushing to get a train and those with no particular train in mind. It is important that the user interface of the kiosks consider these personas. Information should be clearly highlighted for those who are rushing to catch a train while also providing a number of alternatives for customers who are more flexible regarding travel times.

The current iteration of software on Amtrak’s Quik-Trak machines immediately prompts customers to insert their credit card, before making any decisions. This could be disconcerting, especially to passengers who are not in a hurry, as taking a card usually indicates payment processing. The resting screen of the kiosk should clearly outline features while inviting the user to make a selection. A “next-train” function would allow users to purchase tickets for the next trains to depart from the station, thus saving valuable time for travelers rushing to catch a train. More granular purchase decisions could be made by customers with a little more time. Finally, customers using the kiosk to pick up tickets for existing reservations are guided by bold, actionable options on the home screen, thus ensuring they know where to print their tickets — even in a hurry.

Once the user has completed using the kiosk, the machine itself can be used as a valuable wayfinding tool. Providing assistance to the user regarding the next stage of their journey can reduce stress and confusion.

By rethinking the station kiosk, Amtrak can improve customer satisfaction while saving money. Streamlining the number of tasks that can be completed on the kiosk will expedite customer interactions, while freeing station staff to focus on more important tasks. Overall, these changes will improve the experience everyone has with America’s Railroad. I’ve included an interactive design for kiosk software if you’d like to explore.

Last edited by QXflyer; Dec 8, 17 at 1:14 pm
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Old Dec 8, 17, 4:24 pm
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Good idea, though I think you might be overthinking a few things.

I do agree with removing the need to insert a CC as the first step.

But I rarely, if ever need to interact with either a human or the kiosk. I buy my ticket on (or the app) and then show the barcode in the app (or in my email) to the conductor. There really isn't much more to traveling Amtrak than that.

I agree that the process to look up information and buy tickets on the kiosk needs to be streamlined, and it would also be nice if the kiosk could display ETAs and things like that, but beyond that--and especially when you get outside of major, confusing terminals like NYP, WAS, CHI, and LAX--I'm not really sure what the kiosks can and should do to help people with wayfinding and "the next stage of their journey." Most commonly, the next stage of their journey involves sitting and waiting for their train to be called. Other things that the airline kiosks do (print out checked baggage labels, etc.), change tickets, deal with upgrades, etc. could be added, but those are all pretty minor features in the grand scheme of things (and things that Amtrak likely won't be able to do at a kiosk until they spend a significant amount of money upgrading their website and app and back-end to support stuff like that.

Don't get me wrong; I love big dreams for Amtrak, but to be honest and realistic, I don't think there's a huge need for massive changes to the functionality, and given how expensive and complicated it would be to upgrade all the infrastructure to support it, I don't know that it's realistic to expect it will ever be done in the current climate. Some refreshes to the interface to make it easier for people to find and book trains, definitely yes, but the larger vision is too ambitious to be seriously considered, IMHO. Amtrak travel is simply too simple and undemanding to need a hundred million dollars' worth of investment to fix.

However, if Congress magically agreed with you and threw an extra billion or two at Amtrak and someone at Amtrak could spearhead a significant upgrade to the entire IT platform and station experience and everything (not to mention expanding train service across the fruited plain), I'd be the happiest camper around.
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Old Dec 9, 17, 4:33 pm
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I've never found LA Union Station to be complicated to navigate. Then again, I've never done a long-distance Amtrak trip (only Pacific Surfliner to/from San Diego).

Anyway, I'm not sure "swipe" is the right word to use for the payment screen since they use those gas pump/ATM style card readers where you insert and remove quickly. "Insert and remove card quickly" maybe?
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Old Dec 12, 17, 9:14 am
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Please no. Please tell me that this is something you've taken it upon yourself to design, without request from Amtrak. You never really said if this is official or not, where it came from, etc.

It looks way too much like the resigned website and app, which both are horrible as far as functionality compared to the previous version and have numerous bugs.

Anyway, if this is a real thing... Please don't use military time, so few people use that in the States. Also, it will confuse people if the train number is not identified in the screen. Lastly, there is no way to book 10 ride or monthly passes, nor employee pass travel.
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Old Dec 13, 17, 6:07 pm
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Additional functionality I want to see is the ability to use upgrade coupons on the kiosks. And to be able to change trains.
I'm not so bothered by entering my credit card. I think that's an option for airlines, too.

Putting kiosks by entrances just seems like a way to clog the entrances.
With a limited number of kiosks, putting more info on them so that passengers are encouraged to spend more time on them will just frustrate alot of repeat riders (and in the NEC, I would believe that way more than 50% of riders are commuters)
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Old Dec 14, 17, 2:26 pm
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This seems very Northeast Corridor-centric. Smaller stations in other parts of the country often don't have departure boards, nor are they going to have "people with no particular train in mind" or any options for those "flexible regarding travel times."
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