Social Commuting: What Happens When You're Invited to Meet Your Travel Mate?


SVA Products of Design student Jenna Witzleben reimagines the New Jersey Transit experience to foster social interaction among commuters. Encompassing new branding, a wearable ticketing system, and a phone application, this redesign takes users through a new and cheerful journey on their daily commute. Research shows that people are actually happier when they have interacted with strangers. But how do we break the initial conversation barriers?

At the heart of this project is the wearable ticketing system—an alternative to the existing punch card. One-way pass holders receive a sticker, and monthly pass holders receive a reusable lapel pin. Through wearing the sticker or lapel pin with your destination information, you provide a conversation-starter to your fellow passengers. It’s just that easy. By opting in to this alternative ticket form, users give permission to others for social interaction. 

 

 

The project centers on the introduction of a sticker ticket—an alternative to the existing punch card—that encourages communication between passengers via the conversation starter of a shared destination. 

“There is so much potential in commuting to stimulate conversations, collaborations, and friendships—not to mention increase general happiness, argues Witzleben. "Why spend it in solitude?” Having commuted out to New Jersey for several weeks herself, she got a glimpse of the tiring and lonely experience. Inspired by these wasted hours sitting on a train, she decided to propose a change.

The new brand expands the story of a social commute, and spreads positivity throughout the entire NJ Transit experience. Witzleben selected an unapologetically cheerful color palette that also distinguishes NJ Transit from the over-used blue-based transportation color palettes. The logo design nods to two tracks merging, as well as the J and T of New Jersey Transit. The new tagline, “Making Connections”, further promotes the goals of this rebranding effort.

 

If you need more conversation-starter suggestions, there’s an option for that too. The proposed app, “Connect”, allows you to view what interests you share with the passengers sitting around you. Now you can know when you’re sitting next to another avid theatre buff, or a fellow chocolate connoisseur. 

Witzleben views this as just the starting point for increasing daily social interaction. She sees potential not only in travel scenarios but also retail, dining, and entertainment. Witzleben adds, “The long-term goal is to get more people talking and understanding one another. I look forward to exploring these other applications throughout my graduate studies.”