GO Transit has launched a new website interface and an online trip planner. The changes create a much more friendly interface and include a variety of new features which will make the site more useful to both regular commuters and occasional users. Interestingly, the GO logo now prominently includes the phrase “A Division of Metrolinx.”
Perhaps the most exciting feature of the new site is the Google Maps trip planner positioned in the bottom right corner of the new homepage. GO is clearly very excited about this new feature and has been quick to promote it as a significant improvement in their customer service experience. The planner certainly is a nice new feature and definitely seems like a welcome alternative to selecting from schedules based on their sometimes-confusing route names. Now, visitors to the region no longer need to make the mental connection between a trip to Brampton and a route called the Georgetown Line.
GO’s place among the first transit agencies in the area to release its schedule information to Google (only YRT and the Hamilton Street Railway have also added the service) has, however, created some oddities in the results the service provides. Because GO is the only data Google has for Toronto, trips that would make much more sense on the TTC are instead routed along suburban GO routes. Some quick experimenting showed us two examples of ridiculous directions now available. A search for a route from between our office on Spadina Avenue to the intersection of Yonge and Sheppard, for instance, suggested a two hour sojourn via Milton. Another search between Spacing and UTSC suggested a route through Richmond Hill. This information would certainly be confusing for out-of-towners.
The TTC has said it will provide its schedule information to Google. The sooner they do this, the sooner that Google transit can be an effective tool for people in the GTA.
Suggested route from Downtown to Yonge and Sheppard: Train to Milton then 401 bus
Downtown to U of T Scarborough suggested route: Richmond Hill Bus from Union to Pickering 407 bus
Apart from the trip planner, the website contains several other interesting new features. A live version of the Union Station departure board can be accessed, allowing people to check departure information before they get to the station. Links to improvement projects such as the Union revitalization have been made clearer and online versions of schedules and maps have been added without the need to download PDFs.
Another interesting feature is the new section called “Leave your car at home.” This page provides information about GO’s bicycle accommodations and a clear statement about when bikes are allowed on GO trains. A link to the website Bikes and Transit provides information about routes to and from stations while further links to connecting transit agencies offers tips on reduced fares for connecting journeys, something which is often not well advertised.
All in all, GO’s new website is a much improved customer experience and seems to better take into account the complexity of the integrated role the agency can play beyond its traditional territory of rush-hour commuters. Increasing and clarifying information about how to connect with local transit systems and with cycling routes will help make GO a more practical way to travel throughout the GTA and reflects the agency’s increasingly pivotal role in regional transportation.