Streamlining public transportation into an all-in-one mobile app

Designed a tap feature for a public transportation ticketing app, which if implemented, would save Pronto $3 million dollars in missed farebox revenue.
UX Designer
Jan 2023 - Mar 2023
Danel Sullivan
Sophie Zhu
User Research
Visual Design
Design Systems
Fig Jam
Google Suite

Project overview

What we delivered.

As a class project, my team and I redesigned Pronto, a public transit app. We introduced a tap feature akin to Apple Pay for ticket purchase and bus entry, alongside a new refund system and improved card management.

Additionally, we revamped the Trip Planner for enhanced accessibility and user experience, integrating route mapping, walk time estimates, and total trip duration.


How Pronto Works

In early 2023, San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System introduced Pronto, a new digital ticketing app aimed at simplifying public transit. Pronto was supposed to be a complete re-haul of the old Compass card system released in 2009.

Instead of simplifying public transit however, Pronto mystified it further. Users now find it inconvenient due to difficulties in purchasing, and validating their tickets.

My team was passionate about improving the commuting experience for transit riders using Pronto, by streamlining the ways users:

  • manage their funds,
  • navigate their trips,
  • and process their tickets.
“It took me 191 clicks to sign up and load money into the Pronto App. It took 13 clicks to sign up and pay for Uber,” - Connor Proctor

Original Pronto Screens

problem statement

Transit riders, mostly composed of students and working professionals, need to quickly buy tickets and accurately navigate public transportation to get to where they need to go.


1. How might we make it easier for commuters to purchase tickets using their mobile devices?

We created a new tap feature similar to Apple pay where users are able to purchase tickets and use their passes to get on the bus instead of scanning.

2. How might we streamline commuter needs into a singular app?

We created a new refund feature and streamlined how users managed their card. Furthermore, we redesigned the existing Trip Planner to be more accessible and user friendly.

3. How might we ease the process of commuting for commuters who use Pronto?

We integrated similar features to create a simpler UI in addition to adding other features such as route mapping, walk time estimates, and total time for the trip planner.


“The QR code scanner doesn’t work. I was held up on at the trolley station for 5 whole minutes. I was scared I would miss it” - Sharon

User Interviews and Secondary Research

To get direct insights on the problems that transit riders were facing, our team conducted 13 in-person interviews with commuters using public transportation. We also conducted secondary research by scouring several popular transportation subreddits such as r/sandiego, r/UCSD, r/pronto, and r/transit.

Key Findings

In one post, 32 Commenters expressed general complaints with the speed it took to board the bus

In another post, 15 users complained about the QR code scanner not working on Pronto

Additionally, 8 people specifically commented that public transportation is frequently too slow .

Along with this, 6 users expressed problems with purchasing passes, pre-loading money onto their card, and editing passes.

USEr interviews

4 Key Insights

Before we conducted user interviews, we believed the biggest issue with Pronto was the QR Code being hard to scan. However, after our interviews, we also realized users found Pronto’s UI hard to navigate.

2 out of 10 participants

Mentioned issues with using the QR Code

We integrated similar features to create a simpler UI in addition to adding other features such as route mapping, walk time estimates, and total time for the trip planner.

4 out of 10 participants

Discovered issues with Pronto’s Route-Finding System

"Issues with trip finder. Because there's so much information on there, confused on what I was trying to find." - Participant 5

5 out of 10 participants

Found Pronto’s UI confusing and hard to navigate

"Senior citizens have trouble understanding Pronto, need it to be more accessible." - Participant 1

"Make it more user friendly. Make the interface more clear, like oh yeah this is where you need to be [to wait for the bus]...I stopped using Pronto because I felt like their UI was a bit too much" - Participant 5

8 out of 10 participants

Needed to use multiple apps to have a complete transit experience

"The Pronto app doesn't help you with the routes, the trip planner always crashes. So that's why I use Apple Maps." - Participant 2

"I use the maps app to figure out the routes, and use another app [Onebusaway] for when the buses and trolleys come ... [Pronto] is hard to navigate which is why I use another app." - Participant 5

USER personas

"I'm looking for a transit app that offers functional map navigation and a method to pay for my ticket"

competitive analysis

Users are lacking a source that streamlines the features they find necessary for a successful public transit experience.

In conducting a competitive analysis, we found that OneBusAway, Transit, Google Maps, and Apple Maps only contained features for map navigation, schedule tracking, and sometimes a trip planner, which each excelled in its own aspect. While Pronto contained similar features for map navigation, schedule tracking, and trip planning, those features were not fully functional.


Sketching a new way of paying

Our team reimagined a new way of processing tickets by adding a new tap feature that would mimic contactless payment methods like Apple pay. Below are sketches of the new Tap option and the process for refunding ticket transactions.

LOw-fidelity prototypes

Improving on 3 main features

Card Processing:

Our first prototype highlighted vital card information and allowed users to manage and see all of their cards --whereas in the original app, that information was buried and hard to find.

Card Management:

A new tab was added for users to refund their balance. We also added icons for easier navigation and organized the tabs through the Card Funds and Card Options tabs.

Trip Planning & Route Finder:

Our design for the new Trips & Planner combines many elements of the old UI with the addition of a plan later and favorite trip option.

ITERATION: A | B Testing

While using our prototype, all participants wanted the tap feature on the real app.

Pay Scan/Tap

  • help button added to explain how to use the scanning or tapping feature
  • flexibility to allow users to choose whether they want to scan or tap

Card Management:

  • We designed 2 alternative screens for the refund function, which aligns better with PRONTO’s current refunding policies.
  • Users were more receptive of a refund request form.

Trip Planner

  • 3 additional features added: a quick favorites bar, a walking time estimation ui, and a route preview feature integrating the previous route details feature that Pronto had.
  • Quick favorites bar added for common commute locations.

Route Finder

  • Added walking time estimator and total trip time feature to help users better plan their trip times
  • Route preview feature added to help users with trip and stop visualization to their destination


Design for people, not processes.

As always, natural to the process of design, there are things that can be improved. This was my very first UX design project ever and I am immensely proud of the work of the work that I managed to get done. A huge shoutout to my team members Danel and Sophie. This project would not have been possible without their hard work. Thank you. I am also grateful for the support and resources that my mentors provided me for this journey. A big thank you to Professor Guo, Neharika, Adam, Meghan, and Lily for their dedication.

My takeaways

  1. Design isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s an iterative process that must take into account the needs of the user, the wants of the client, and the skills of the designer. Melding those needs altogether takes skill, practice, and empathy. A good designer makes it look easy. You will go through hundreds of designs before you’ll find one that works.
  2. Base your design decisions on the user research that you’ve gathered, not your own biases. Good design takes real user needs and research into account to make a product that is intentional. You’re not designing for just you or the idea of what your user would like. You’re designing for them, all the people that will be using your product. Otherwise, ChatGPT, Midjourney, and all of the other AI tools would have already taken our jobs. They cannot design with user needs in mind. Only you can.
  3. Design stories. People will remember the stories that you tell. They won’t remember the small details or the processes behind them but they will remember the stories.

With more time

  1. Make more time for user research. If given enough time, I’d like more time to conduct further in depth interviews with our users. I feel like we could have structured the interviews in a way that was easier for the users to understand while also giving his more detailed feedback on the issues that they’re facing. I would have loved to try other research methods as well!
  2. Redesign the onboarding process. Another common complaint that users had about the Pronto app was the onboarding process. While we optimized the process for loading money for users, we didn't get the chance to redesign the sign up process.
  3. Refine our prototype further. We received plenty of additional feedback from our mentors to improve small things about the design. Given our time constraints however, we weren’t able to implement them. I hope to iterate upon them further in the future.

Let's connect!

That’s it! You’ve made it to the end. If you’d like to present any work inquiries or just want to say hello, feel free to email me at I’m always down for a zoom boba chat where we talk about our dreams, our favorite books, and, of course, our plans to take over the world.🧋✨