how can we connect people to transit lines in order to make commuting to work more efficient?

is an electric vehicle rental system with charging stations located near popular transit stops and within communities.  With the accessible pricing model, users only pay for the time of their trip (instead of a flat rate or subscription).  The small, two-passenger vehicles give commuters control over their travel times, skipping long transfer waits and lengthy transit routes.

Skip was sponsored by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' challenge to Design for America teams: how can we support shared mobility to develop more sustainable cities and increase economic opportunity?  Given our proximity to Chicago, our Northwestern team chose to focus on improving transportation for urban commuters.

Read about this year's project and Design for America's continuing partnership with FCA.  Full article here.

As team lead, I was the main contact for FCA and DFA National through bi-weekly calls.  Internally, I planned our overall project timeline and facilitated team meetings several times a week.  In additon to my leadership role, I conducted user research, prototyped and tested final concepts, and created all project visuals (presentations, sketches, and renderings).

research methods

Jacky Grimshaw

Center for Neighborhood Technology

expert interviews

with community partners

user intercept interviews

at L stations

transportation in chicago

tran•sit de•sert

n. an area that has high demand for transit but lacks access to high-quality transit; more than a half-mile from a rail transit stop and a quarter-mile from high-quality bus service

CTA rides per day in Chicago

Living in Cook County transit deserts

Jobs in Cook County transit deserts

lack of transportation limits economic opportunity

While the existing public transportation systems are quick and convenient for parts of the city, lack of transportation and resulting socio-economic limitations disproportionately affect low-income and transit desert communities.  As illustrated in the map above, low-income neighborhoods are generally located far from major job centers in Cook County.  In these areas, commuting on public transportation might take upwards of a couple hours, but faster options like driving or ride-sharing are not affordable.  With Skip, we hope to supplement existing infrastructure to streamline the journey of commuters and directly service transit desert communities.


My commute is really long because I have to take the Metra into the city, then all the way north.  It's frustrating because the actual distance isn't that far, there just isn't a direct transit route.



I walk and take two separate buses before getting on to the train on my way to work.  Each time I have to wait at least 5-10 minutes to transfer.


user pain points

  • Limited transportation options in transit deserts
          (first/last mile problem)
  • Lengthy transfers
  • Circuitous routes to travel between "spokes"
  • Buses and trains are often late
  • Faster, commuter trains run infrequently
  • Owning and parking a car is expensive

skip: affordable, personal transportation

the vehicle

We tested the user experience of traveling via scooter, bus, walking and driving along the same route and found that moving at the speed of traffic in a personal vehicle was the fastest.  While a scooter is a good solution in terms of speed, cost, and energy efficiency, it is too cold to ride in Chicago winter.

Kristen and me on the bus

Our final design is a covered, electric vehicle that protects the user in extreme weather.  Since commuters usually travel alone, the vehicle is small for both privacy and efficiency.  Skip only has room for one additional passenger or bag behind the driver.