Did we find the TTC trip planner?

A little late-night sleuthing by Spacing editors has landed us the domain name of the TTC’s new web-based trip planner. As we revealed earlier this week, the TTC is set to launch the trip planner in the coming week.

We suspect that tripplanner.ttc.ca will be the launching pad for the application. From the looks of the site, it’s pretty obvious that the interface is not complete since there is no TTC logo or matching template from the TTC’s current web site (see images below).

I’ve used the planner tonight for about 30 minutes and had mostly good success: if I entered specific addresses the results came back quickly; if I entered an intersection as a starting point the application would take  upwards of 10 seconds to return a result.

I entered a few trips that are lengthy and that I travel on occasion (such as from south Parkdale to the northeastern edge of North York); the planner turned-up reliable results on which routes to take (they were almost always the same routes I’d take). The planner also provided accurate estimates of the time the trip would take.

I have a handful of screen-captures of the three phases of the planner just in case the TTC decides to block anyone from accessing it until it’s complete. It seems to incorporate Google Maps in the final phase when you click on “view details of this trip”.

ttc-triplanner1

ttc-triplanner2

ttc-triplanner3

ttc-triplanner4

38 comments

  1. I think you crashed the website. It’s taking a loooong time to load right now. Let’s call it the “spacing effect” 😉

  2. It still needs some work. It didn’t tell me which station I need to get off at to catch the bus it told me to take.

  3. “It seems to incorporate Google Maps in the final phase when you click on “view details of this trip”.”

    @joeclark is going to be mad…

    Basically this is myttc.ca with commercially written code, isn’t it?

  4. This is great for people not “in the know” who don’t know about MyTTC, but is there a reason someone who already uses MyTTC should use this?

  5. It does show things in HTML. I’m not sure he’ll be *that* upset. Though it does use an incredible amount of JavaScript. With 50

    The map is provided more as a visual aid than anything else. The odd part is that it told me to walk north at Downsview from bus to subway– It said that after arriving at DOWNSVIEW STATION AT BUS BAY 1 to get to YONGE-UNIVERSITY-SPADINA TOWARDS FINCH I would have to “Depart and head North from DOWNSVIEW LOOP, turn left on SHEPPARD AVE W.” Say what?

    Since the code mentions iTripPlanning, I googled it and discovered the following services use the same software:

    http://tripplanning.translink.bc.ca/hiwire?.a=iHelp&HelpTopic=iTripPlanning
    http://infoweb.suntran.com/hiwire?.a=iTripPlanning
    http://tripplanning.calgarytransit.com/hiwire?.a=iHelp&topic=iTripPlanning&.s=1ef9df
    http://www.busweb.hamilton.ca:8008/hiwire?.a=iHelp&topic=iTripPlanning&.s=ee1fb
    etc.

    It appears this might be Trapeze, or I’ve been mislead by a 404 screen I saw elsewhere: http://www.trapezegroup.com/about/technology.php

    Oh, no it is Trapeze after all — I see Trapeze-Srv/6.0 in the Server HTTP header on every response. The favicon.ico response is interesting — It’s in fact an XML file, a SOAP response. Can you say unpublished web service? (And I love Charles Web Proxy!)

  6. Whops, hit submit too fast. I meant to say with 50KB of jQuery and another 150 or so KB for the rest, per page, and with minimal browser caching.

    One positive:

    “The Google Transit Trip Planner is a simplified online service that allows the public to plan and create transit trips online. For customers with Trapeze FXâ„¢ and one of Trapeze’s Traveler Information products that are current or up-to-date with our annual maintenance program, a Google export tool is available for no additional license fee.

    “The Trapeze export tool for the Google Transit Trip Planner enables transit agencies to export their schedule data to the service and is compatible with Trapeze Version 461 or higher.”

    http://www.trapezegroup.com/solutions/pt_google.php

    Maybe it’s next?

  7. I could have sworn I posted two comments before this, but I can’t seem them right now, maybe because of moderation?

    Anyway, I figured out they’re using Trapeze, and even discovered a slight flaw in that I was able to access an admin panel showing that the system, as programmed, seems to support everything Trapeze offers, but that only the trip planner (Hiwire) is exposed to the net (and the admin service).

    Tip: http://www.nessus.org/plugins/index.php?view=single&id=42210

    It all looks to be good Java programming, and according to the filename, is running on Windows as TP6-9.2.x-TTC-20091218-39017-Dist. Oh and there’s a SOAP 404 for the favicon.ico and another error is generated by a missing GIF.

    The method names of the InfoWeb service (unpublished?) are interesting, including ItineraryLookup, NextBusLookup, HeadwaySheet, GetRoutes, GetClosestStop, and so on. There’s nothing here for the live or GPS stuff, so I doubt they’ll get this working with NextBus.

    Speaking of which, oh lookie, YRT is using the same service at http://tripplanner.yrt.ca/ and has the same admin flaw. I think I’ll email my YRT contact about it.

  8. When I was playing with it earlier this week, a major problem appeared to be that it doesn’t allow for the length of time involved in the walk at the beginning or end of the trip. With a default option of a 500m walk to or from transit, this can produce odd results akin to motorists who drive miles out of their way to “save” time by using an expressway.

    I also found some errors in the underlying map of stops, and it got confused at locations where there is more than one stop at the same place.

    We will see how it fares in the “production” version.

  9. Note that although the origin of your trip is well south of King Street, it takes you up to Queen where you wait for the Lansdowne bus to get to the Bloor subway.

    You would be faster to get on the King car.

  10. The suggested boarding point for the 47 is the stop on Macdonnell. In fact, you will pass the stop at Queen and Lansdowne while walking west on Queen, but the planner probably thinks it’s a southbound stop and doesn’t offer it.

    Finally, after the .7 km walk suggested as part of your trip, the planner wants you to use a service that runs every 15 minutes (Lansdowne) rather than one that runs every 9 (King). Your journey could be badly extended if you miss the walking connection.

  11. Mark, I don’t think it forces you to use a Google map – there are text results, which work in even basic text browsers like w3m. But I’m sure that Joe will find something to fume about.

    It does seem to get deeply confused at Kennedy Station; I live just south of Kennedy, and it expects me to take the 43 Kennedy north to the junction to Eglinton, then walk south. Everyone here uses Transway Crescent …

  12. MyTTC is a much cleaner experience. It takes three clicks on the TTC trip planner to get to the same info that MyTTC provides in just one click. And MyTTC provides possible alternative trip routes, not to mention potential encounters with wild geese.

  13. “Show points of interest near stops/stations”? I thought there were no stopovers?

  14. It looks to me that this is built on top of Google Maps as opposed to the far superior Montreal implementation that’s built into Google Maps. Since moving to Montreal in October, the Google Maps transit info has been invaluable in helping me learn the STM (Montreal’s TTC).

    http://www.google.com/intl/en/landing/transit/#mdy

    Maybe it’s terribly expensive to use this direct method. But it is FAR superior, primarily because I can access the Montreal transit trip planner right from Google Maps on my smartphone. I really do use this every single day. The Google Maps app is fast and the results are very reliable.

    STM wrote their own trip planner too. It was launched when I was living in Montreal this past spring. Now, less than a year later, it’s been all but abandoned in favour of Google Transit.

    I hope it’s the same in Toronto.

  15. @Josh All the TTC has to do is send a feed of this information to Google… The web app should be able to do this, if they decide to turn it on.

  16. @Josh Hind: Google Maps uses data published by official transit agencies in the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) format. In theory, the data entered here could be used both to provide NextBus information by cell phone txt as well as to produce a Google-compatible feed format. YRT has done both, e.g. http://yrt.ca/google but the TTC hasn’t — yet? 😉

  17. Seems to ignore Postal Code destinations, especially if I know the street name is duplicated.

  18. Last week I was trying to help a friend who wanted to go from Humber College (near Pearson) to the GO Lakeshore West train (she was heading out to Burlington). After staring at TTC’s and GO’s system maps without much luck, we phoned TTC and they said to take the subway to Union and get on the train there… However, we figured out that you can take the subway to Royal York, catch the 76 bus that runs straight south to Mimico. Except many of the westbound trains don’t actually stop there…

    Anyway, I would expect a transit planner for Toronto to include GO Trains

  19. I just tried to plan to my trip tomorrow to City Hall (100 Queen Street West) at 9:30am for the City Council Meeting, and it couldn’t find it, it found 100 Queensdale. HAHA to the HAHAHA.

    I think the only reason it is open is because they are testing things, and they will read comments like the ones on this post.

    Microsoft does it for every windows OS version, BETA products are released, why pay programmers to test things when millions of people will do the testing for free for microsoft.

  20. My favourite gaffe so far is this (and it is reproducible today):

    Try going from Queen and Simcoe to Queen and Yonge at 9:30 am on a weekday.

    It will tell you to walk down to Adelaide, take the Mt. Pleasant Express bus, and then walk back up to Queen. The only thing it is considering is the allegedly short running time on the bus, not the time needed to walk to and from it, nor the fact it is a premium fare service.

    Not ready for prime time.

  21. Memo to TTC trip planners:

    Your own staff have written a nice set of standards that talk about the relative weights of transit trip times. In vehicle times count the least. Walking times count high as do waiting times (ie long headways which you might miss if the service is off schedule), not to mention transfers.

    The trip planner only cares about in vehicle time, the lowest contributor to a rider’s overall impression of transit travel.

  22. Great comments Steve, Miroslav, all. Sorry I didn’t see your comment, Brian, the moderation on this blog is killer. 😉

  23. Steve Munro: some of the screen shots were taken during different trip searches. So it does look like it was planning poorly — but I was just trying not to reveal all my personal details.

  24. Louis,

    You know it can be a good thing not being able to find City Hall – oh the possibilities of jokes and coments 🙂

    Anyways…myttc.ca is awesome and they should of done it for the ttc. someone tweeted me that the ttc paid $400k ($400,000) for ttc.ca v2 (v1 was there for 10 years). I am sure they didn’t pay that much for ttc v1.0, but if you compare $$$ levels to today $$$ then I am sure it is nowhere near enough. There are a few branches that myttc.ca is not showing. But I overall love it as I use it everyday.

    I don’t trust the TTC to do a good job. I have found some stops that have TWO different schedules, one on ttc.ca and a different one on the actual bus stop pole (or is it a stick?). It is not a situation where they updated the online schedule and they are going to change the pole/stick schedule within the next few days, all the stops I seen with this “misunderstanding” have been like this for over 6 months.

  25. I think the new TTC online trip planner will be a really great–and time-saving–way to find exactly where you want to go in Toronto. I have relatives living in the Toronto area and I have plans to visit them this summer. I will use the trip planner to prepare in advance where I want to go and when I would expect to get there.

  26. I just figured out what London’s using at http://journeyplanner.tfl.gov.uk/ instead of what TTC (and most of Canada) uses: It’s called EFA by mdv – all the links are in the top paragraph of this post: http://blog.lsta.me/?p=159

    Can’t say it’s better, but honestly, it looks better, and is used nearly everywhere else in the world, so why not North America? Now I wonder what Asian transit systems use? (And why can’t TTC make their own or adopt homegrown solutions, honestly? Does everything they do require cash or it’s not worth it?)

  27. @ David:

    Thanks or noticing! We actually designed the trip form to have a maximum of four form *fields* to fill out.

    In an effort to reduce the amount of input we try to provide sensible defaults, with per-user historic data if available. Also, on browsers with support for html5’s geolocation api (ff >= 3.5 for now), we try to automatically guess your “from” location based on where you are and places you’ve searched in the past, falling back to nearby intersections.

    All that means is in about %75 of cases, the only thing you need to fill out is your destination.

    @ Mark:

    That’s not exactly true – MyTTC’s routing engine (Iroquois) uses a brand new multi-modal routing algorithm called k* that simply didn’t exist when Trapeze wrote HiWire. As far as we can tell, Iroquois is about a decade ahead of HW in terms of flexibility & performance. On the hardware we’re currently using we could support planning every single trip taken on the TTC in real time. Also: it scales linearly.

    HiWire, by comparison, often chokes in Mississauga, which is about an order of magnitude smaller (in terms of graph theory).

    @ Miroslav:

    That figure was for the TTC website *excluding* the trip planner.

    The trip planner’s additional cost is estimated to be in the $2,300,000 range (according to TTC docs). Hold on while I count the zeroes…. ok, yep. Oh, and that’s just the licensing fee; there are monthly hosting fees on top of that.

    I wish for that price they’d at least gotten something a little less “off-the-shelf from 1998” :-/


    Cheers,
    Kieran

    P.S. I don’t want all this to sound negative – Kevin and I *heart* the TTC! They do a whole lot exceptionally well, and we appreciate it every day 🙂

  28. I tried to plan a trip to Pearson Airport with little success. If I was in Paris, for example, The trip planner on RATP.fr would give me critical information on this important link… that’s an issue that the TTC trip planner will have to over come to be truely helpful to tourists…

  29. Kieran, great points. Could you link to any more info on k*, I think I found it in Google Scholar, but I’m not sure because Google’s a pain in the butt when it comes to searching for an asterisk. The only problem I have with all these systems, as you’ve pointed out before, is that the data can be the real problem.

    As I searched, I discovered recent articles trying to incorporate GPS to create more accurate plans, and suddenly it’s like the problem that seemed simple now becomes more complex. If you want to make it more useful on a mobile device (beyond what Google offers), you’d also want to take into account indecision about where to go, transit disruptions currently in effect, and perhaps other variables like movie showtimes or how nearby someone is to someone else. Which isn’t to say that a system would have to suggest routes, but it should be ready to modify them on the fly, and clearly illustrate what it’s doing.

    Of all this, though, I think incorporating GPS and doing live estimates is probably the toughest problem — partially because it also depends on traffic where you might not have any info within the system. I wonder too, as I haven’t played enough with either system, can it tell me if travel time is less if I leave a bit later? Or does it have an idea of how long I might have to wait (worst-case) at a stop, and if so, would another bus be more reliable? I suppose again it’s about how much data is entered in the system, down to walking conditions between stops if it comes to it. Which reminds me, perhaps I’d want to know which stops have shelters on rainy days … 😉

  30. And it occurs to me, what if a route planning system used feedback from actual travellers about the best routes to take, as a way to optimize or personalize the system? Such routes entered could include points of interest along the way, or tips for getting there faster, etc. After all, when we test out these systems, we already have an idea in our heads of the best routes to take at certain times of day, so what if it was easy enough to just add them when the system doesn’t suggest them?

  31. @Kieran – I didn’t mean to imply that you and TTC used the same engine, rather that the TTC system didn’t seem to produce a qualitatively different experience given the amount of money they lashed out for it.

  32. Why is this needed? Have people’s brains stopped working?

  33. Weird – the just-announced beta is different from the one briefly available on the 24th. The new one doesn’t work on Blackberry, and has limited functionality on an iPhone.

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