The Dutch Government started a programme to make better use of the existing road infrastructure. Just adding more asphalt is not the best solution to solve accessibility problems, as it costs a lot of money and other resources; making better use of existing roads is just as important. One of the goals of the programme ‘Beter Benutten‘ (‘Optimising Use’) was to find measures to encourage car drivers to avoid driving during rush hours, in order to reduce congestion at the busiest points. STBY was asked to support regional project teams in their investigation of what measures could be taken to encourage car drivers to drive at quieter times, not to drive at all, or to take another means of transport.
An innovation approach involving end users
The transport sector is starting to embrace the relatively new approach of service design to explore the behaviour and needs of car drivers, with the aim to identify new solutions beyond increasing the road infrastructure. These solutions can entail intelligent transport advice systems, via apps for example, but also discounted e-bikes for personnel. The Government encourages this method of finding new solutions based on the behaviour of the travelers, but in practice the traffic engineers and other project members involved find it quite hard to do this by themselves. STBY was asked to help out in the various regions by engaging with these teams and supporting them in overcoming barriers. It became clear that they had little experience and knowledge of how to understand the needs, behaviours and motivations of drivers, and they also had no experience with innovation processes. Whenever a problem is encountered they tend to jump to solutions, which obstructs finding innovative new solutions. They mostly use an analytical approach to finding solutions, instead of a design approach which is often more suited for exploring such complex issues. STBY helped the Government and regional teams to learn more about the service design approach to innovation.
User Experience Lab with car drivers to uncover needs and motivations
In one of the regions, Stedendriehoek, we organised a ‘User Experience Lab’ with car drivers, to gain insight into their routines and motivations for driving in rush hours, and the reasons why they don’t use other means of transport. The participants mapped and shared their regular trips by car and then discussed potential opportunities for other means of transport. This helped to understand why their current behaviour is so persistent. They are often not able to organise the alternative options (such as car pooling, or facilitating pre- and post-train connections) by themselves. This asks for new services and infrastructure.
An Opportunity Workshop with a wide range of stakeholders
We shared the insights from the drivers in a follow-up workshop with stakeholders from various large institutions in the regions. Together they thought about new ideas for services that can change the behaviour of car drivers. We used some tools from the DIY Toolkit to look for common goals and values, and established that various stakeholders would benefit from a joint approach. It was interesting to notice that different stakeholders have similar problems with congestion and it would make sense for them to work together to reduce it. For example, it costs the hospital a lot of money when doctors can’t use their time effectively, and if patients come too late because of congestion. The hospital suggested to consider supporting a new service for cyclists, while companies in the hospital’s neighbourhood were willing to encourage their employees to start later, go by bike, or work from home through the use digital conferencing platforms.
Service design as a new and bonding approach
Service design was a new approach for the transport engineers and project leaders from the regions involved in this programme. This project was their first exposure to it, and they took the opportunity to learn from the process and the outcomes. The ultimate solution to the complex problem of road congestion is quite likely not a stand-alone measure, but will rather entail a group of measures that need to improve the overall customer journey of travel. Different stakeholders together can find better solutions than one stakeholder on their own. To further build the momentum for sustainable change in this sector, it is important to continue to collect and share good practices of design research and service design.