The TTC and Google

As we posted back on December 8th, 2005, the TTC is hoping to get our system into the Google Transit feature. From the Star:

Google has asked the TTC for station, stop, schedule and route data to create a trip planner so commuters could input origin and destination points to get the shortest or fastest routes. Google is running a pilot project with Portland (Ore.) Transit. The TTC had looked into doing its own for about $2 million. There are no cost estimates or time frame for the Google deal….

TTC chair Howard Moscoe is not so sure he wants to wait, saying it’s too good an idea. “It looks to me like the costs are minimal,” he said. “I think we should bring it about rather than wait for the staff to develop all of their systems, because it can happen very quickly.”

This is an exciting development, but Spacing wishes that the TTC would get its own act together and overhaul its more-than-awful web site TTC.ca. Like its bus stop timetables, TTC.ca is very hard to navigate or understand. To properly describe it, I will use professional graphic design language: it looks like a dog’s breakfast. People like me who use the TTC often (as well as the TTC.ca site) are not turned off by such small matters, but the fringe transit rider, who is trying to figure out how to get from Rexdale in the west to Guildwood in the east, may be easily discouraged by this lack of usability (and dare we say professionalism).

Its too bad the TTC is located in a city that doesn’t have any good web designers. Oh wait….

11 comments

  1. Personally, I’m a bit surprised at the cost quoted in Metro today: $2million. How can it possibly cost that much to submit data we (should) already have?

    On another note, rather than hand Google the information explicitly, I’d rather see the TTC publish the data in a standardised format (XML maybe?) on its website for use by various groups including Google. Compettition on this sort of thing certainly can’t hurt and it could lead to all manor of 3rd-party applications using the format.

  2. If by “good Web designers” you mean those who know something about accessibility and standards compliance, indeed there aren’t many. (Subscribers to the Webstandards.TO mailing list: 42, about five of whom are out of town.) If you add registered graphic designer to the qualifications, the number is zero.

    It is one of Toronto’s many weaknesses. Brighton, England has more “good Web designers” than Toronto does.

  3. I haven’t seen any evidence whatsoever — and their web site is evidence of this — that anyone at the TTC has even the slightest inkling of what good design is. Everything about the TTC’s signage, marketing, and rider material is incompetent and amateur.

  4. I have to disagree with Mr. Clark here: I think if we had to churn out valid CSS, we could. The problem is, I am not necessarily sold on the value of “core design principles”, especially when it leads to the kind of homogeneity seen in, say, Blogger sites.

    However, I am also confused by why the cost ($2 million) would be so great.

  5. The TTC staff report is pretty interesting (http://www.ttc.ca/postings/gso-comrpt/documents/report/f2727/_conv.htm ) Turns out that Google’s Trip Planner for Portland gives consistantly worse advice than Portland Transit’s own web site. You get what you pay for. I suspect that trip planning software would be used very little by transit riders in a one fair zone system like the TTC. What’s more interesting is the French translation error (http://www.ttc.ca/postings/gso-comrpt/documents/report/f2722/_conv.htm).

  6. The $2 million figure was for establishing its own trip-planning service. This would presumably include a pre-existing software package, staff, physical space and tech infrastructure to manage it.

    In Montreal there has been an online trip-planning function on the STM’s website since the late 90s. It’s not gorgeous, but it works. It was developed (IIRC) with engineering or compsci students at U de M.

  7. Confidential to Kevin Bracken: “Valid CSS” and homogeneity of Blogger sites are not being discussed. Any revamped TTC site would be designed and built from scratch and not, say, from one of Bowman’s or Zeldman’s old templates for Blogger.

    Just so you’ll know.

  8. Back in June, a TTC official mentioned a pending TTC web site redesign to the Toronto Star. It was supposed to happen by the end of 2005. (Oddly, I’ve never seen mention of it anywhere else, and no change yet at ttc.ca.) A few details near the bottom of this article:

  9. I agree with Daniel’s suggestion (first comment) about having the TTC publish it’s data in a standardised format, and let Google, plus anyone else who’s interested, use this data to provide TTC information.

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