Help improve the TTC’s website

On New Year’s Day, Robert Ouellete, the editor of Reading Toronto, posted a challenge to TTC Chair Adam Giambrone: let the bloggers of Toronto give the TTC suggestions on how to improve their horrible web site. Giambrone has accepted the challenge and it is now up to people like us to come up with great ideas.

There are already a number of cool ideas floating around like Ian Stevens’ Google/TTC map and Sean Lerner’s Rider Efficiency Guide.

This is a joint effort between Spacing, Reading Toronto, Blog TO and Torontoist, and anyone else who wants to take part.
Post your ideas in our comments section and we’ll submit them to the TTC. Check out the TTC’s web site so you have a starting point.

79 comments

  1. Trip planner. Steven’s map is good, but it needs to be turned into a trip planner to be really effective. Type in your home address and your destination and the quickest way on bus, subway or streetcar (or combo) should be suggested.

    I believe there are a number of these out there: Montreal, Portland or Seattle…

  2. How’s this for a suggestion:

    Instead of relying on people who comment on blogs to tell it how its site sucks — as if its undesign and utter usability aren’t immediately obvious to anyone who has ever visited it — the TTC should hire a someone to head up a Design department.

    This person will be in charge of formulating standards for TTC advertising, route/schedule information posters, website design, and station/vehicle signage. The person will oversee graphic/accessibility/architectural design related to all advertising, media, signage, station and vehicle renovation/construction. He or she will have the power to institute design standards and make sure that the TTC presents a consistent brand image everywhere and that all communication from the TTC is attractive, easy to use, accessible, and consistent.

    If that doesn’t happen, this will just be a one-off, and like all one-offs will end up decaying into another sloppy mess. The TTC needs design everywhere, not just on its web site.

  3. They should get rid of the drop down menus, have co-ordinating colours, make the route maps easier to find and get rid of the information posters on the homepage

  4. As much as I’d like to give a harsh lash-out about the TTC website, I think a calm response will be better received by those concerned.

    First, I must agree that the banners (including the distracting ticker at the top) and dropdown menus have to go. A homepage similar to the pages on the rest of the toronto.ca site would be nice, EG:

    http://www.toronto.ca/ttc/metropass_steps.htm

    While still not pretty, it is at least better-organized.

    Second, as much as I’d like to see a journey planner, that’s only one step. It has to have a tidy interface, for one; I did a sample query on the Transport for London webpage, and, clean as it is, it could still use some work.

    Also, a TTC journey planner is just one step: to be truly effective, it must involve not just the TTC, but all the transport agencies in the GTA: GO, Mississauga Transit, YRT, maybe even VIA Rail. A TTC journey planner is only helpful for those who are already in Toronto, and many commuters come from outside the GTA. Options for quickest journey and journeys requiring the fewest transfers would also be helpful. (Since this requires the participation of other agencies, it will probably take a bit longer.)

    Next, the journey planner shouldn’t automatically show the map of the journey, but should show that as a separate page. Showing the map will slow down page loading time (painful for dial-up users) and will clutter it a bit. Linking to a printer-friendly page would also be welcome.

    Finally, for the tourist, an option to look up routes to attractions like museums or theatres (with a url provided for the attraction’s web page) would save a lot of time, while a similar set-up for shoppers or sports fans would save time for them, and possibly encourage them to Ride the Rocket to their destinations. For those who commute, a postal code/address lookup for the route closest to their home or destination would eliminate unnecessary travel time. Any number of locations could be added to the site, including government buildings or places of worship.

    As well as a journey planner, simple printable maps should be available to broswers, maybe with operation schedules/wheelchair accessible stops/other related information provided. A Google Maps-like page would be a good starting point, showing a general overview of the network with each station or route linked to by clicking on the route.

    Information like closures, schedule changes, or route disruptions should be available on the site, as an RSS feed, as an e-mail subscription, or as an SMS subscription that can be signed up for from a page on the TTC website.

    For those interested in the progress of TTC upgrades, an information page about route construction or expansion or equipment replacement should be available, with news updates available in the ways described in the above paragraph. Also handy would be info on subway station upgrade proposals/progress, possibly with forms for commuter input on the redesigns.

    Finally, mention of the less thought-about transit services shouldn’t be amiss, such as the Toronto Island Ferries, PATH, or even bicycle paths for the environmentally conscious. The website is dedicated to Toronto Transit after all, not just buses or streetcars.

  5. Trip planner please. Vancouver’s Translink already has one that on their website that’s very helpful. Also, most Translink stations display a phone number which you can call en-route and speak with an attendant regarding Transit schedules, like how long until the next bus, and route information.
    http://tripplanning.translink.bc.ca/hiwire?.a=iTripPlanning&.s={$SID}

  6. I’ll add my voice to the many…

    – trip planners

    – easily printable route maps and schedules

    – a blog-like page that lists closures, diversions, accidents, etc. etc. – very useful would be a RSS feed on this page so it can be easily viewable without going to the TTC site, or easily looked up via cellphone or blackberry.

    – an online system for buying metropasses, weekly passes, etc.

    – David’s idea about integration with the Ferries, PATH and bikepaths is great, and I’d add that some co-ordination with GO Transit and othe transit systems may be useful too, since there’s a push to somewhat unify them through the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority.

  7. Chicago Transit Authority is testing out a bustracker on it’s website on it’s #20 Madison.

    You can go online, and see where your bus is (nearly) exactly. And it’s updated every 60 seconds.

    Wouldn’t that work well with the fact(?)that TTC plans on gettin those bus shelters that tell you how close the bus is or how long it is form coming (like viva).

  8. one way to improve the TTC website would be to allow online trip booking for wheel-trans users. it is absolutely horrible to book a trip via telephone. a typical trip booking consists of waking up a 7:00am the day before, picking up the phone and dialing the wheel-trans booking line over and over again and hoping to get through before all the rides are gone for the next day. one morning i counted 600 phone calls before i got someone on the line which took over an hour. there does exist an automated telephone service in which you navigate through a maze of touch tone menus but if your destination isn’t on your pre-registered location
    list, this service is useless.

    offering online trip booking would be a great resource to us differently abled folk. it would cut down on the flood of phone calls at the call center and free up the lines for those that could only have access by telephone. there is already an online trip conformation service where you can check your ride times (great service BTW), it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to implement an online trip booking service.

    being disabled and not having the ability to get around freely is hard enough. hearing a busy signal when all you want to do is go somewhere makes it soo much worse.

    the internet is the mother of all accessibility. makr the best of it for us wheel-trans users.

  9. When I was in London this summer, I found the “Journey Planner” website totally invaluable (http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk). It worked like a charm and even though it wasn’t 100% accurate on times and not gorgeous to look at, one at least got an idea of what to expect with their transit trip.

    The current TTC site is so deeply ugly, inefficient and disorganized that any change would be a positive one. I think all the suggestions so far are all great and should be workable.

  10. Thickslab’s comments at http://spacingtoronto.ca/?p=1425#comment-17864 pretty much summed up my thoughts exactly.

    I would also like to add to his comments that the company they hire doesn’t build everything in Flash. Flash is out, well written (ie, standards compliant) XHTML, CSS, and AJAX are in. Let’s hope they do their research when they choose a company to do the work.

    That site has got to go. Fast.

  11. A trip planner would be great, but in the interim, please, please, please publish timetables like almost all other systems do, showing not only arrival times at major stops but travel times between stops, so that when you’re making a trip on a different route you can get an idea of how long it’s supposed to take. The lack of timetables is a major deficiency of the TTC website, and one that should be easily remedied using information that they should have readily available internally. And it doesn’t require major budget allocations for new software, or outside consultants, or beta testing periods… just reconfigure information they already have on hand so it’s actually usable by the public.

    If (when!) the TTC gets around to redesigning its website, the web designers need to visit lots of other systems’ sites, not only to see how other systems present information, but to experience a transit website through the eyes of a visitor. Pretend you’re flying to the city for the day and need to go different places via transit. What works, what doesn’t work, and how does ttc.ca compare? When you’re intimately familiar with both the website and the transit system, it’s easy to overlook design flaws that would flummox first-time riders/surfers.

  12. Another thing with timetables… they need to be easily printable! There are at least 3 or 4 routes that, if available, I’d carry folded timetables in my jacket for easy reference if I’m traveling slightly less familiar routes or at less familiar times (e.g. when I’m in line at the grocery store, I’ll know whether it’s worth it to wait for the bus home or if I should just hoof it). I’ve made up my own in Excel for the route I use most often (which fortunately is short and not too complicated), but I shouldn’t have to do that – it should be easily printable as a PDF. (GO has those neat wallet-sized schedules for each station, showing departure and arrival times for that station and at Union… it would be nice to have something wallet-sized for TTC although I don’t know how it would fit.)

  13. Hello all, I hope that the Adam will be reading this himself. I’m Nick Boragina and I ran in the last election on a pro-transit platform. here are my ideas on what to do with the TTC website

    first, schedules – list them alphabetically. we dont all remember our route numbers.

    while the subway timing grid is nice (how long it takes to get from station A to station B) it’d be nicer if you had it as a program where you type in your starting point and destination, as well as time period (morning, midday, afternoon, evening, late evening) and it will tell you how long it should take.

    the front page is WAY to cluttered.

    get rid of those ugly drop down menus

    the chimes in the background should be softer.

    the sad thing is that the website is actually one of the better parts of the TTC. there are many other things that need to be fixed first. one good example is St.Clair West Station. there are ample signs telling you to board busses on the street, but the arrows are confusing. why not a simple map showing you how the heck to get to the bus, not many people know about the southern entrance.

    signage is another issue. the TTC has a unique font it uses in all subway stations, why not use it on all signs? use the same arrows, and same template for each sign. signs are a huge problem for the TTC, they are all different, looks like no one cares if they look the same or not. they should all look the same, same font, same graphics, same arrows, same colours. there needs to be serious work on this.

    maps are a similar issue. various subway stations have various older maps. the maps themselvs look like ride guides, why not have someone change the maps at the subway stations.

    and for GODS SAKE, will you PLEASE send someone around at regular intervals to clean the washrooms!! I know people from India who tell me that thier entire opinion of Canada changed the minute they took a step into a TTC washroom. every single (male at least) washroom on the line reeks of urine, and most are full of grafitti and/or sexual drawings. the floors are wet and there’s TP everywhere. its horrible!

    the stations need to be better maintained as well. there are so many with missing or off coloured celing peices that I cant remember them all. some stations just look dirty, the far end of the platform at college station for example, especially at night. the yellow line is not even yellow anymore, its kind of a spekled yellowish brown due to all the gunk on it. there is always garabage on the tracks too, and I’m not talking about in the tunnel where no one can see it except the men who are cleaning it up, but in the stations where everyone can see it while the men walk by it to get to another section of the dark tunnel.

    one of the most telling signs is the mirrors on the new Orion VII’s. the mirror over the rear door, if you ever look at the back its covered with dust, and usually someone has written something on it with thier finger. the fact that no one take the time to wipe it down once a day with a damp cloth is a symptom of a larger problem.

    there’s no reason the TTC cannot be the pride of the world once more, it just takes some work now get to it! next time I might actually get elected, and if I think there’s enough work to be done changing the TTC I just might be out after your job ;)

  14. ^Good suggestions — but what does it matter if College station is seen at night or during the day — it’s always the same underground…

  15. Lots of good ideas already, so I’ll give a few that I haven’t seen yet:

    1. Mobile trip planner. I don’t need to know how to get there from my house or my office, I need to know how to get there from Argyle and Dovercourt, or Yonge and Finch.

    2. Shopping Cart. Sell me Spacing buttons, t-shirts, metropass discount plans, tickets/tokens online.

    3. Customized updates. Let me register and tell you where I live/work, and you tell me when my bus/streetcar/subway is being changed/discontinued/whatever. Send them to my phone, my e-mail — wherever I want.

    4. Online customer service help. Quick e-mail response w/in one business day. Online chat help? No, I don’t want to go to Davisville Station between 9:30 and 4:30.

    5. (superficial) Beautiful images. Toronto’s photobloggers have logged thousands of gorgeous images of our transit system. Get/buy/beg for permission to use them in the development of the site — show some pride!

  16. -We talked about this somewhere here a few weeks ago> Open up a lot of the raw data (sched’s, GPS data) to let people build open source applications with it — people will dream up all kinds of neat things.

    -Let me go online and register so i’ll get a text when a streetcar or bus is 5 minutes away (or however minutes away) from the stop of my choice.

  17. Involve the local design and art community. We have so many talented artists and designers in Toronto; RM mentioned photobloggers.

    Use the TTC font! It’s very beautiful, modern yet evocative of a period gone by, and the TTC should be proud of it.

  18. Great idea about opening the data. This is PUBLIC data. We all own it. Why not open it up and let the mass of TTC enthusiasts and part/full time web developers do what they want with it?

    Just put a terms of use in the API that no advertising can be displayed, and that a disclaimer be put up saying that this data does not officially represent the TTC. I still think you’d find a lot of useful web apps come out for it.

  19. I’d add my vote for open data/API, so that motivated folks can put together interesting applications using the TTC data.

  20. Let aim for a standards compliant, usable, and accessible web site, after that, its all golden.

  21. my one addition would be that finding metropass purchasing and pricing info is next to impossible and must be a prominent instant link. you’re led through a maze of different pages and links that you have to click on before you can even download the form for purchasing the annual pass package. It took me over 10 minutes to find it and then when i went back another day, i still couldn’t remember how i’d gotten to that form. That’s completely ridiculous!

  22. I would find it helpful to use my cell to get some of the information already mentioned. For instance, if i’m leaving a restaurant and want to decide whether to take a cab or wait for a bus or streetcar i should be able to enter my intersection and find out when the next bus is coming, and ideally get this information for my whole route home by specifying the destination address. That way i know if i can wait for TTC or bite the bullet and pay for a cab. So my suggestion is either a WAP or SMS version of the route planner that could be used away from a full computer, such from a cell or blackberry.

  23. I while ago I created the TTC schedule for Palm. It include a couple of things mentioned here. It is a version of the TTC schedules that can be download into your Palm or Pocket PC PDA, sorted by route number, name and subway station as well as the ride guide map. It also has the platform maps from the TTC Subway Rider Efficiency Guide. It also can be read online which links directly to the TTC website so it is up to date.

    The home page to download it is here:

    http://doconnor.reamined.on.ca/ttcpalm/

    The page to view it online is here:

    http://doconnor.reamined.on.ca/ttcpalm/ttc.html

    I support the idea that the TTC should make its raw schedules available. The TTC schedule for Palm is just a small example of what can be done with the limited information published now. With more data, far more interresting things can be done.

    The TTC also needs a next bus system. Even if only available on the Internet and through SMS messages, it would make a huge difference for many people (will the TTC even be able to handle the increased ridership it will bring). The expensive process of electronic signed at each stop can come later. If the TTC doesn’t think it can do it, it should make the raw CIS feed available so others can try.

    The web site needs to work with cell phone and PDA browsers so people can use it anywhere.

    The TTC should work with Toronto Hydro One Zone to make the TTC website available free even after they start changing fees.

  24. The TTC website “route planner” suggested by many should also have information on connecting 905 area transit systems and GO transit for those living near the political “borders”. Maybe forcing the TTC and adjacent transit authorities to coordinate the website information will make them wake up and realize they need to coordinate services in the real world as well.

  25. Some of these may have already been mentioned, but the squeaky wheel…..

    1) Very simple design, uncluttered. Easy to navigate, very few clicks.

    2) Should work on all relatively modern browsers and operating systems. This includes text-based browsers (elinks, lynx, etc.) and mobile devices like phones and Blackberries.

    3) Info about each stop: Schedule for all routes that stop there (printable!), links to maps for all routes that service the stop, etc.

    4) Trip Planner

    5) Maps: Should be easily navigable/zoomable (e.g. Google), and definitely *printable*.

    6) RSS feeds for general news items, and information about individual routes, stations, stops, etc. Also email alerts for high-priority service changes etc.

    Stuff to avoid (PLEASE! I BEG YOU!):

    * Flash and all that other crap.
    * Reliance on weird javascript junk, “plugins” of any kind, strange browser extensions..etc…
    * Excessive ads or useless information
    * Pop-up windows. Goddamit I hate those. If I wanted to open something in a new window or tab, I would do it myself.

  26. Design 3D maps of each station available on the website with additional information about each station (ranging from open/close times, to last train, as well as connecting routes and local attractions). The maps/drawings would show key things in the stations, such as where the DWA’s are, the entrances/exits, collector booths, washrooms, pay phones, etc. Additional information could even be included about current construction at the station, as well as its history (this is where things like the tile patterns or artwork can be incorperated). Ottawa’s OC Transpo has something similar to this for there terminals, which greatly helps to find your way within a station, as well as the surrounding area.

    The TTC website should be more than a place to just get route information, it should also be somewhere people can go to learn about the system in detail.

  27. When it comes to searching for routes and route information (schedules, etc), this could be approached from many angles:

    – Have a method where you are presented with the TTC’s map, scaled to fit on a standard computer screen, and you can click on a district or area of the map, which would subsequently bring up that area. At which point, you can scroll-over route lines and numbers (which highlight when moused-over) and allow you to then click and bring up information on that route. Subway Station information can also be provided this way, and by clicking the station dot, will bring up information on that subway station (plan, first/last trains, etc). Beside or below the district map, and entire list of all route names and numbers can be provided for simplicity.

    – When simply accessing route information, along with the schematic route map, provide a city-wide map that hilights where in the city the route operates (to scale). Also, provide a link where you can click that map and have the full-size system map pop-up, cropped around the route being searched.

    – Have a search command where by entering an address, street intersection, point of interest, or station name, a list of all routes within easy access (5-10 min walk or direct connection) pop up, allowing you to quickly access the information that you are looking for, so that you don’t need to scroll a huge list to find it.

    – get rid of the “the only way to see route schedules is to scroll down a list of all the routes in the system” method on the website. If you’re going to keep it, at least have other methods that are easier!

    – on infoposts, have a set of times at the top or bottom that list the estimated time to key points along the route. This is almost impossible to calculate unless you have schedules infront of you for all timepoints along the route that you can follow. It also helps when estimating how long it will take you to get to a specific point, and if you can make a required transfer there or not.

    – Produce printable schedules available at kiosks around the city (Union Station, St. George Station, Davisville/TTC Headquarters, etc.) and also be available in PDF to be downloaded and printed from the website. Montreal has an entire display of ALL the route schedules at Berri-UQAM Station. Why can’t the TTC have something similar available at Bloor-Yonge Station?

  28. To follow up on Darwin’s comment on “next bus” technology: absolutelyl, but naturally it goes without saying that it would need to be a real-time application showing where the next bus actually is — not what time the next bus is *supposed* to arrive.

  29. I’m all for re-instituting the TTC Font systemwide on almost all (if not all) signage. It is readable, aesthetically pleasing, and undeniably unique to Toronto.

    As opposed to the signage in, for example, Sheppard-Yonge Station. The TTC should not be trying to imitate the New York Subway in its signage.

  30. Yet another minor but important thing with timetables: make it easy to get the timetable for the route you’re looking at in the opposite direction, i.e. if you’re looking at the westbound schedule, have a link for the eastbound. (The STM site has that, or used to.) I quite often want to know the schedule in both directions, and it’s really irritating to have to scroll through the drop-down menu twice.

  31. The main thing is to have colours that are balanced. Have 3 main colors or so that give an overall theme to the site. For an example, look at http://www.yrt.ca . It’s pretty modern, easy to read and find what you’re looking for, and it’s easy on the eyes. And when there’s a service delay, it’s posted in a bold red font.

    All the other features can be implemented at any time, but without a good website design/layout, all these features will go to waste.

  32. I posted a note about this type of stuff on my blog the night before the call went out – good timing I guess! :)

    Here are my ideas – very similar to most people’s … my big thing though is the branding of the TTC … more of that on my site at exploreto.wordpress.com

    – RSS feeds: easier way and more convenient to find out about service disruption / construction projects

    – Google maps or equivalent: Ian Stevens at crazedmonkey.com has put together an amazing transit map of Toronto. How is it that one guy can put something like this together on his laptop, but a massive organization like the TTC can’t? And let’s add a trip planner while we’re at it, shall we? How nice would that be?

    – Consistency. Basically, the TTC website is a facade. The bulk of the information is held on the City of Toronto’s website. I can understand this as it’s a City service, but personally, I think the TTC should have it’s own site independent of the City of Toronto’s website. It can still be hosted on the City’s server, but let’s give the TTC some respect and give it a little home online? The Montréal Metro has it’s own website…

  33. Because of the applets and finicky javascript, the TTC homepage is slow to load even with a dsl connection.

    An American visitor would scoff at the lack of a trip planner, no fare media of any kind available for purchase online, and schedules that are impossible to find or to print. Of course an American would also scoff at the TTC’s clinging to tickets, tokens and paper transfers. To say nothing of the fleet of rustbucket GM Newlooks, the likes of which haven’t been seen in U.S. cities since the Carter administration.

    Blow up this dog’s breakfast and start from scratch. I’ve seen pages on Geocities and Angelfire, that haven’t been updated since sometime in the last century, yet still look better than the TTC website.

  34. There are so many areas for improvements, and many have been made here. But for me, the most important thing is to make the site simple and usable.

    My hunch is most people go to the site to find out how and when to get from one place to the other on transit. (Please don’t assume riders will be at a computer — make it mobile-friendly.) And, if they could, many would come to order their fares online.

    Of course, any improvements would be done using the Web’s best practices (e.g., being standard-compliant, accessible) and would include a good Web service or two so its fans can continue to improve the TTC’s online offerings.

  35. I continue to believe freeing the data, i.e. delaminating the data part from the front-end part, is the single most important thing they can do. That, for the simple reason that any third party could subsequently design any Web site that met any of the above criteria — and the TTC would neither need to know nor care.

    In other words, if you’re a budget-conscious TTC, this makes a lot of sense. You’re suddenly in a position to pass the buck (not that it should). Or, at least, to leverage all of that nervous energy out there that has brought this thread to 36 entries.

    Bonus: to all those who want to see an integrated trip planner with cross-GTA data, this is how you do it. Let the TTC adopt common standards to publish: location data for bus and streetcar and subway stops; route data; and everything else possible. Other agencies, like GO, YRT, whatever, would be free to adopt the same standards. Third-party developers could then integrate at will.

    Implementation plan: figure out what published standards to use — see Google’s data formats discussion as a starting point. Then, back at the TTC, separate the back-end (data publishing) and front-end (Web design) teams. Wherever the front-end team needs data, do not hand it to them — set up an organisational framework for publishing it, according to the selected standard, such that they need not ask for that data again. Then, when done, provide clear documentation on public data feeds. Let Toronto developers work their magic.

    Big danger: this is not about publishing to Google Transit standard. Google Transit is a proprietary effort. This is about publishing to a publicly-available, open standard that Google Transit knows how to speak, and that anyone else can speak, too. The difference is crucial, and will basically make or break whatever efforts are made in this area.

    This just can’t be about a prettier or easier-to-use Web site, because those are (1) not sustainable, and (2) not really the point in modern Web design. This is about assembling an information infrastructure, and it’s high time the TTC got started.

  36. well…

    so far everyone has given some great suggestions. the only thing i want to add is the need for less-complicated map. i realize the ttc has loads of bus and street car routes. being from the countryside though, whenever i try to navigate the ttc i find it confusing sometimes. why not colour-code the street car routes instead of just numbered routes? so, instead of route 501, it could be route “A” with the route highlighted in light blue. 502, route “B”, light orange… and so on.

    check out this map from goteborg, sweden.

  37. Hi Spacing readers. What an amazing response to the challenge of designing a better TTC site. Matt and Spacing contributors, thanks for getting behind this idea.

    Robert Ouellette
    Editor
    Readingtoronto.com

  38. Several others have had issues with the TTC website for some time, notably ex-University of Toronto Professor Elaine Tom’s students, Natasha Flora and Anthony Hempell, who proposed a complete redesign in 2003 for a Faculty of Information Studies project, see http://kmdi.utoronto.ca/graduate/students/documents/toms2.pdf. Councillor Giambrone, hopefully you will take these suggestions to heart!

  39. The TTC needs to organize its site primarily around route information, and secondarily around fare information. These two things must account for nearly all their visitors, and should have a design prominence that reflects that. The other things in their site, like committee minutes and their capital budget, should be available, but not with the same prominence as their route schedules. Obviously.

    I guess the hierarchy that they need to impose on their site should be based on a distinction between user information (fares, schedules and maybe planned disruptions) and institutional information (pretty much everything else). At the moment their site is a grab-bag of topics, without any sense of their relative importance to the average user.

    The TTC Special Constable logo on their site (a waste of prime real estate) turns out to link to recruiting information for TTC security (not general information on TTC safety, which I expected), although this is duplicated elsewhere under TTC Information/Employment.

    It would be useful to give every route, in either direction, its own RSS feed. Unplanned disruptions, like subway delays, also need their own RSS feed.

  40. 1. Lose the frames. They’re old, tacky and make it hard to find a link to a specific page.

    2. Change the timetables to 24-hour time and actually put the full time (no .## business).

    3. Lose the drop-down menus and marquee. The marquee is something a 12-year-old would put on their first website and the drop-down menus hide everything.

    4. Banners just add excess loading time for dial-up users. Change them to text links (and no, don’t abuse the background colour option) and page loading should be reasonable.

  41. all these ideas are great. i would add one other feature. let me enter a destination or point of interest (name of place, not street address), say Home Depot or AGO, and create a program that will locate the nearest stop(s), and tell me the fast way to get there.

    often, there are places i need to go, but because i don’t know the address or what stop is nearby, i end up driving. this might give people another reason to convert to public transit.

  42. one more thing:

    offer the site in various languages. being a multicultural city, we should really set an example!

  43. ok, scratch my last comment. i just realized the TTC already offer multi-language info. it’s just buried at the bottom of the page ;-)

  44. Amazing! The amount of feedback this issue has raised in just one day.

    Pulling together a few points mentioned by others with issues of my own:

    1. The TTC needs to have ONE site. Right now there are at least three:

    — one is the subject of this discussion
    — one is a subset of the City’s site
    — one contains agendas and reports for Commission meetings.

    If the City can get by with one site and a common look and feel, the TTC should try to do the same.

    2. Navigation from the main page should not depend on a cluster of logos from whatever they are promoting this week. Organize things into topics such as “Service”, “Construction”, “Fares”, “Studies”, etc and give them headlines plus a link to a detailed page.

    3. Put all of the information about projects in the same place in the same format. Some projects are on the TTC’s site, some are on the City’s site, and some are on the TWRC site. For some reason, the Spadina Subway and the Waterfront West LRT rate a link from the TTC main page, but the St. Clair project is linked from the Construction page and is on the City’s site, and the Waterfront East stuff is on the TWRC’s site.

    If it has to be external (eg TWRC) at least provide a link to it from a common location on the TTC site.

    4. Update the info on the Construction and other similar pages FREQUENTLY. There is nothing quite so annoying as looking up a project that has not been updated for months on end. (Sort of akin to the problem with station signage)

    5. Replace the Agendas and Reports page with one modelled on the City’s own pages (which are themself apparently undergoing some format changes for 2007). It is extremely annoying that I can read all sorts of City reports in detail in PDFs including all of the attachments when I cannot do the same for the TTC, one of the largest agencies in Toronto.

    Organize the reports by meeting date and topic and index them so that people can actually find something without knowing in advance where it is buried.

    There are many, many other good comments from others and I won’t waste space and you time duplicating them here.

    Steve

  45. Yes… PDFs of commission reports. The commission reports strip out all images, maps, charts, attachments etc. Finally last month I asked if they could e-mail me a PDF version so I could actually see the attachments and plans. No — they don’t exist, and instead they snail-mailed me hard copies. Now, maybe I want a hard copy — but maybe I just want to see the plans described in the report but don’t need to keep it for posterity.

    It’s a little thing, affecting a minute proportion of the website users, but it seems to fit in with all the other complaints about the website — outdated, inefficient, and only partially useful.

  46. Though its not usability or functionality related, one thing that might be of interest to users would be a community aspect. Public transit has an enormous part of our lives, and we should have something to reflect that. The news that the TTC will be rerouting trains through the old Lower Bay station is a huge opportunity to bring in TTC-philes and tourists alike (I can hear a stuff fare box, can you?). Then have people post their photos from the trainride.

    More info about the reroute: http://jtsang.blogspot.com/2006/12/ttc-service-revisions-allow-for-lower.html

  47. There are a lot of great ideas here. With so many strong ideas, the danger is that the initial redesign will aim too high and fail to excel at anything. The biggest challenge for Giambrone & company is deciding what to focus on and sticking to that focus with rigorous intensity.

    Building a large-scale, quality website is a lot harder than most people realize (trust me, I’ve worked on a team that did it), and that job is even harder within the inflexible bureaucracy of a public corporation. More than any advanced technology or specific design idea, what the TTC needs is to build a team with the skillset to make smart design decisions and the power to say “no” to the various interests within the TTC who believe their little shop deserves to dictate the design of the site. Decisions should be based on what is most useful to TTC users, not on newness or flashiness or internal TTC structure.

    So for its first step, I think the TTC should focus on the following 3 steps:

    1. Hire an internal TTC team that understands how to build and maintain usable websites. Building and empowering this type of team is the only way to ensure a consistently strong website. It’s really an HR challenge.

    2. Build a simpler site that puts the existing information in a much improved structure (called an “information architecture” in web lingo).

    3. Make a prioritized list of the next steps, so that TTC users can see that after the basics are down, there’s a clear path to implementing their more advanced suggestions.

  48. Simone,

    Wouldn’t it be amazing… if the redesigned TTC website had a blog capability… a chat function… RSS, push e-mail or IM capability for service disruptions or changes… and why not a public commnity area as you suggest for pics or stories of your favourite (or worst) TTC experience, drivers… vehicles… stops…etc.

    Slap… a nice dream… sigh! :P

    Bob

  49. We recently moved to Toronto from Paris (France not Ontario) and part of getting to know my way around the city involved a visit to the TTC website. I have to say I was totally shocked by how poor this site is for a major North American urban center’s transportation website.

    I had become very used to using the Paris public transport website and was expecting something along those lines to be in place here. See http://www.ratp.info/informer/anglais/index.php for an excellent example of how a mass transportation website can be handled. It is multi-lingual, involves subway, bus, urban and regional train services and presents multiple ways of viewing whatever route, fare, mode, update information a user may be looking for. Point to point itineraries are available in a few clicks and an interactive map provides detail on all types of transportation across a vast area.

    The number of stops and transportation types and the complexity of the Paris landscape (maze of streets etc) make this a considerably more involved project than building a similar service for the GTA would be. It would be fantastic if the powers that be at the TTC could look to sites like this as inspiration for how useful the TTC can be.

    Regards,
    Dave

  50. It’s great to see so much civic pride in the TTC- two cheers for all TO lovers who have contributed.

    I won’t repeat what has been said, but how about this:

    Use those updates from the screen in the subway on the new site, and vice versa. Let data flow from the web to the screens and back again.

    Create a feedback method for photoblogers on the site to post on the screens too… use it all! What’s that word, dare I say it… convergence?

  51. Bob, do other transit websites have a Fans Forum section or something like that?
    It might be interesting to – not immediately, but eventually – have a TTC-hosted message board or community page where the streetcar riders, subway nuts, and others can come to together to talk TTC.

  52. One other idea — each TTC station has those great maps on the wall that show the station exits and the streets and attractions around the station. Put those on the website in PDF form for every station.

    AND FOR CRYING OUT LOUD TREAT THE STREETCARS AS RAIL AND NOT BUSES! Show some respect to the ancient but still largest-outside-Melbourne-in-an-English-speaking-country streetcar fleet. US cities would kill for them, and they certainly wouldn’t treat them as invisible on maps.

  53. Keep:
    1. The three-tone welcome
    2. The TTC icons & slogans

    Add:
    A quick-to-upload and easy to navigate map on the front page. you should be able to hover over your stop with the pointer, and click to get an accurate ETA of the next bus in each direction. That should be followed by a “where are you going?” bar, that would understand streets, intersections and major destinations, and provide you with instructions on how to get there and how long it will take.

    For the chronically late, it would also be helpful to create a “when do I have to leave?” service. You would begin with your destination and the time you would need to get there. You would then input your departure point, and it would tell you when you have to arrive at your bus stop so as not to be late.

  54. Gabriel,

    I’m not sure if other transit websites have a community area as Simone wishes and I’m proposing… but I think in this sudden, long overdue era of “glasnost” for railfans with Chair Adam Giambrone being of a new generation and very tech saavy and receptive… why not ask for the moon?

    There are so many great suggestions being offered by riders, with such passion… it’s almost that they accept the reality of congested service… but are mad as hell and won’t take a crappy website any longer! The TTC has to devote more thought & resources to its now embarrassing budget basement website.

    Time for the TTC to loosen up, have a little fun online… relate to its customers—15-24 is heaviest transit riding (and tech-savvy) demographic!!! Wouldn’t it be great to see Sean’s Subway Efficiency Guide and Matt’s mini-subway buttons on the TTC site… M&P be damned! Why not?

  55. For all those who are asking for a TTC, and maybe even a GTA trip planner based on Google maps.

    This is a trip planner that let’s you plan routes using GO buses/trains and TTC Subway with TTC Buses coming soon.

    http://www.tomapster.com

    You enter start and end addresses and it finds a route for you. It provides walking directions to get to and from stations.

    There are a number of cool features such as Click and Go, you just click two points and the system figures out the route between them.

    The website also allows displaying overview of all subway lines and GO trains and buses.

    contact: dimitri.gnidash@gmail.com

  56. I love the idea of a blog and a community forum — it’d be an easy, cheap way for the TTC to interact with their riders, and to answer to questions and comments in a public, open (and hopefully efficient) manner. It beats having a dozen people ask the same question or give the same comment over and over.

    Marta’s suggestion is great, but as she mentions, TTC buries their multi-language info at the bottom of the page. Remember to make a portal page offering options for different languages *right away*, as opposed to forcing people to find them. I can see a page in that beautiful, rich TTC red with pale grey accents, with buttons for every major language spoken in Toronto. It’d be an impressive sight.

  57. There are many different websites from metro’s arou3nd the world that TTC can get for some inspiration. I would recommend looking at hong kong,tokyo & seoul’s metro website!

  58. I think that the streetcar line number 502 should run as a regular running line as opposed to a limited running line. (restricted between the times of 5 am -7 pm) This could relieve congestion on the very busy 501 Queen streetcar line on a more regular basis and keep a lot of the cars from short turning at Kingston Road and Queen, and letting them complete their run to Neville Park instead. It would also make better use of the streetcar tracks along Kingston Road between Queen Street and the Bingham Loop, replacing the 22A Coxwell Bus Route that currently runs along that portion of the route on evenings and weekends, cutting the 22A back to only 22 and letting it run down to the beach regularly, sharing the loop with the 92 Woodbine route. Between Church and York Streets going westbound, it could use the existing tracks along Richmond Street relieving heavy traffic road congestion downtown along Queen Street, serving one of the heavily populated downtown areas which are rapidly growing above and beyond capacity and making good use of existing streetcar tracks that are hardly ever used but are still very active and handy a lot of times. The 502 could then be extended west of the McCaul loop, which the line currently terminates at, and have it go all the way to the CNE Dufferin Gates. This could relieve a lot of congestion on the routes that currently serve the CNE on both a yearly round basis and special events as well. It would also relieve congestion from feeding subway lines to those routes like the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University-Spadina. Finally it would make use of existing streetcar tracks in another part of the city that are also hardly ever used but are still very active and handy at a lot of times.

  59. Most of what I was going to say has already been mentioned, so I won’t repeat it. As an extension of being able to access schedules based on a specific location, it would be nice to have a system map that when you click on a point, you get a schedule for all the routes at that point. It would also be useful to be able to click on two points on a map and get directions from the first point to the second point.

    Also, I don’t think this has been mentioned, but having “FS” on the schedules doesn’t really mean anything. It doesn’t tell anyone when to arrive at the stop. It would be good to have scheduled time for these frequent routes, and if that is not possible, we should at least be able to know how frequent the route is supposded to be.

  60. Kenji,

    Check out Nicholas Provart’s Jan 6th comment above… he prepared a graphic layout for “Infopost” schedules that would do away with the mystifying “FS” shorthand of the current layout and its repeatitive, counter-intuitive AM PM AM PM… horizontal column headings that thoroughly confuse the readers (including me!)

    NIck suggests a graphic layout that I really like: hours in a vertical column, and stops within each hour in its horizontal row. It is simple, intuitive, graphically pleasing to the eye and would fit the Infoposts current long vertical page layout and boxes. It would also work well for Web and Faxback schedules too.

    It’s halfway down at: http://home.snafu.de/provart/TTC/index.html

  61. Thanks Bob! I’d love to see such a layout used on the infoposts and as you point out, it would work well on a website, too. The direct URL to the graphic is http://home.snafu.de/provart/TTC/index.html#stem-leaf. I must really again credit Edward Tufte, a guru of information display, for drawing my attention to this way of displaying timetable information (pg. 46-47 of his 1990 book, Envisioning Information, should be required reading for anyone in the TTC schedule-making department).

    I agree with your comment on FS, Kenji. I find it is also somehow insulting to passengers: don’t worry your little heads, a bus will be along in a bit.

  62. Inspired by these posts, a small crew of BarCamp Toronto mavens gathered at the Radiant Core offices to bring together this feedback and our own thoughts on a Better Way for the TTC website. It’s very comprehensive. Check it out here.

  63. Perhaps this is best as an indie, rather than official, tool… but I think a wiki of stores/attractions inside and near subway stations would be great. E.g., which stations have a proximate Shopper’s Drug Mart underground (or above-ground), or, which restaurants are in the underground food court at College?

    If there isn’t such a thing, I wouldn’t mind getting such a wiki kickstarted.

  64. i agree and support this person’s opinion and observations…

    “Comment by thickslab — January 3, 2007 @ 8:15 pm”

    the ttc needs a direction :) pun intended…
    and this ‘re-design’ branding notion should not be taken lightly – if we’re really trying to come up with a solution it is more than a ‘one-off’ as thickslab mentions.

    pleeeease people, if we’re going to do this, lets do right the first time.

    have a gr8 day!

  65. also, please don’t let this venture be mearly a ‘logo redesign’…

    like many corporations out there who add ‘3d-looks’ to their already fabulously well designed brands, and call it a new logo…

    keep what’s been around, for the duration, and celebrate it!

  66. regarding jennifers comment
    i totally disagree with you
    superficial branding is important
    and i don’t get your “pun intended”

  67. The ttc.ca website is still shocking. Did anything eventuate from this discussion??

    If Mississauga can do it, why haven’t we?
    They have a wonderful transit site; a simple list of links on the left, innovative use of FAQs below and a usuable and highly useful trip planner:
    http://www.mississauga.ca/portal/residents/clicknride

  68. I don’t understand why TTC did not improve thier website.The proposal to redesign the website since January 2007 were delay to next year?
    Do you think TTC really take this into account?

  69. The TTC web site is very confusing. I am blind and use speech software. It used to be that you could read the media releases or whatever really easily. Now it’s hard because lots of reports are in PDF and PDF doesn’t work with speech software. There should be a choice. Although it may not look nice to some people, a text only web site is the way to go and I like the idea of being able to subscribe to different things and get emails and the idea of an online forum.

  70. TTC-Wheel Trans- runs because of TAX PAYER MONEY.
    Lately I went to Subway Stations.. Greenwood & Danforth to buy tokens.. The fat cashier guy sitting & selling was sooo rude and lazy…
    The best advise I can give will be not to bring new immigrants to this country….If you re white… italien, scotish, british… than you re garautened a job 4 life..

    Their F******* dispataches are so rude and act like army in a battle field…

    I think they take us for granted and they do what ever they wish … If you walk off the job in Europe countries like Germany, France, Italy… They will bring the ARMY to drive busess.. streetcars and stuff… .

  71. TTC is the best service ,but i have a complain about people smoking at ttc bus stop.On finch subway station at the 36 bus stop ,which is in the corner people are smoking .In the afternoon at 1.30 when i come back from my college .The line for 36 bus is in the corner ,and one or two people are smoking ,even there is a sign of no smoking
    shruti

  72. Could you please look into the issue to provide 24-hour night service to Warden Avenue – south of Sheppard # 68 route.
    I frequently have to travel this route between the hours of 2-4am as I work on night shifts. Even after taking other buses to the nearest point I have to walk at least 10 minutes at this time of the night. And, frequently I see other people walking trying to get home. I think if there should be a 24-hour service on this route it would greatly benefit many commuters.

    Thanks for your consideration.

    Kareene

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