Visualization of delay uncertainty and its impact on train trip planning: A design study
Uncertainty about possible train delays has an impact on train trips, as the exact arrival time is unknown during trip planning. Delays can lead to missing a connecting train at the transfer station, or to coming too late to an appointment at the destination. Facing this uncertainty, the traveler may wish to use an earlier train or a different connection arriving well before the appointment. Currently, train trip planning is based on scheduled times of connections between two stations. Information about approximate delays is only available shortly before train departure. Although several visualization approaches can show temporal uncertainty, we are not aware of any visual design specifically supporting trip planning, which can show delay uncertainty and its impact on the connections. We propose and evaluate a visual design which extends train trip planning with delay uncertainty. It shows the scheduled train connections together with their expected train delays as well as their impacts on both the arrival time, and the potential of missing a transfer. The visualization also includes information about alternative connections in case of these critical transfers. In this way the user is able to judge which train connection is suitable for a trip. We conducted a user study with 76 participants to evaluate our design. We compared it to two alternative presentations that are prominent in Germany. The study showed that our design performs comparably well for tasks concerning train schedules. The additional uncertainty display as well as the visualization of alternative connections was appreciated and well understood. The participants were able to estimate when they would likely arrive at their destination despite possible train delays while they were unable to estimate this with existing presentations. The users would prefer to use the new design for their trip planning.