At yesterday’s Toronto Transit Camp I was fortunate enough to speak with TTC chairman Adam Giambrone. I doubt that Giambrone was able to get a bite to eat, there were so many people wanting to speak with him. We spoke mostly about the new TTC website, whose design will apparently be supervised by the TTC’s IT department. That’s a mistake as far as I’m concerned, as I feel that the role of ensuring the winning company does its job properly should be contracted out. Frankly, I had no idea the TTC even had an IT department with that kind of experience, although they are expanding so maybe that will change if it’s not currently the case. I hope that some of those in charge of the TTC’s IT were at the camp, but I have yet to hear of any attending.
The TTC chairman confirmed my forecast of 8 months for a new website, giving an estimate of 6 to 8 months. That figure does not include the transit planner, which will be phased in for 2008. The planner has been budgeted for, although Giambrone said that the TTC has not yet decided whether it will be created in-house or will be out-sourced. He did state, however, that they were not looking to Google Transit due to fears that their service might require integration costs and ongoing fees in the near future. I hate to say this, but it seems like a wise move to forgo Google Transit for now. There have been complaints that Google Transit for Portland, whose system was included in Google Transit’s launch, provides sub-optimal trips which cost riders more than the ones provided by TriMet’s own planner.
I recently discovered that the TTC considered a trip planner in 2004 but shelved it due to integration issues and budgetary constraints. When I asked what was different now, Adam Giambrone cited increased outside pressure and an acknowledgement by TTC management that a planner was necessary. Before it can be created, however, its IT department must amalgamate transit data into one database, confirming my suspicion that it currently exists across a number of systems.
Speaking of Portland’s TriMet system, Bibiana McHugh, TriMet’s GIS Manager, is a huge fan of using open source for public transit. McHugh
has proposed that TriMet and other public agencies in the Portland metropolitan region ‘organize [their] data and make it universally accessible and useful.’ This relates to both what I’ve talked about with open-sourcing the TTC website, and with the Transit Camp’s open TTC session. I hope that the TTC is paying attention and taking notes.