Department of Public Utilities
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) is a regulatory body of the state of Massachusetts that has a broad range of responsibilities around ensuring the public's safety. One of the agencies within the DPU is the Transportation Oversight Division, which regulates for-hire transportation companies that have regular routes and carry at least nine passengers. As a mobile app-based, dynamic transit provider, Bridj uses 14 passengers vehicles and is authorized by the DPU to operate service. In addition to authorizing Bridj as a company, the DPU ensures that Bridj provides a safe transit option for the public in two ways:
1. All vehicles must pass a DPU inspection, which ensures emergency exits and other safety precautions are met.
2. All Bridj drivers must pass a DPU background check and road test, which ensures only drivers with a clean driving record and proper driving training get behind the wheel.
Like many other startups in the transit industry, Bridj is rapidly growing and the rate of this growth is dependent on the ability to get drivers in vehicles on the road as fast as possible. For Bridj, the DPU road test process represents a regulatory hurdle and external dependency that gives it a competitive disadvantage given that other companies, such as Uber or Lyft do not face equivalent regulation at present. For the DPU, working with Bridj is new territory and meeting their demands for speedy certification strains the DPU's already overwhelmed staff that are used to following a certain process for decades.
1. User Research
After conducting user interviews with all key stakeholders in the process, I decided to focus on examining the front to end process of getting drivers DPU certified because this emerged as the greatest source of frustration for both the DPU and Bridj. These interviews were key to understanding how and with whom each stakeholder interacts with and how that unique position contributes to pain points in the overall system.
2. Multi-User Flow
Based on the user research, I created a process map that involves every user involved.
Three themes emerged from the user interviews and multi-user flow for the process of getting Bridj drivers DPU Certified:
1) Excessive exchanges in communication opens up system failure points. There are four users involved in the front to end process and the flow map shows that there are at least five communication points that are required for the process to move forward.
2) The steps in the flow are straightforward, but unnecessary dependencies elicit negative emotional responses. Each critical stage of the process as represented by the gray diamonds on the flow map are straightforward in terms of requirements. Yet the user interviews revealed that user involved associated negative emotions to the process ranging from raging frustration to annoyance.
3) Drivers are denied the opportunity to be in control of the process. Drivers start out the process, but only show up again at the very last stages of the process. Getting a DPU Certificate is the first step toward becoming a Bridj driver, yet the current process renders them a passive participant without much autonomy and insight into the process.
I envisioned what could be possible with the tools of a desktop and/or mobile app and created a future flow that: 1) removes unnecessary communication points, 2) decreases the dependency points in the process and 3) places drivers in control of the process.
Making this proposed future flow a reality first requires buy-in from the Department of Public Utilities. In thinking about how to present this solution, I came up with a visual representation to show what the shift to a desktop and/or mobile app system would mean. The current system shows four colors and multiple steps, while the future process would eliminate the DPU Admin (orange) from the process and reduce the number of steps for the DPU inspector.