My wishlist for the new TTC website

After TTC chairman Adam Giambrone said he would be interesting in hearing input on the TTC site redesign, local blogs Torontoist, the Spacing Wire and BlogTO all took up the cause. Not only will the best ideas sent their way be passed on to the TTC chairman, but the blogs in question have vowed to track the TTC’s responses. Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. An accessible website with proper use of HTML with CSS. The current site design relies heavily on Javascript and images for navigation, and doesn’t use HTML properly. I can’t imagine how frustrating the site is to someone who is sight-impaired. The links on the front page to accessible pages aren’t even accessible!

  2. A proper bus schedule page. Aside from being lodged in a frame, thereby denying the ability to be bookmarked, the bus schedule page needs a complete rework. First, it only lists major stops, not every one, forcing the user to interpolate stop times. Most importantly, the stop times are pre-formatted in plaintext, not in a table or in a list styled with CSS, as would be preferable. A high school kid wouldn’t even churn out something this bad.

  3. Everything should be bookmarkable. Although the TTC site has pages for surface routes, they cannot be bookmarked. Thankfully, Chris Johnson addressed that problem, but the TTC needs to go much further than that. Every surface stop should have its own bookmarkable link, not just major ones like those currently listed.

  4. Search. It’s 2007 and I still have to scroll through hundreds of surface routes to get to one I’m interested in. If I don’t know the route numbers by heart, I’m screwed and have to check the map first. All that information should be searchable. Enter a route, get its page. Enter a stop, get its link. Enter a street, get a page with a list of routes and a list of stops on that street. Enter an address or intersection, get a list of stops nearby. It should go without saying that searches should be bookmarkable.

  5. Pages for stations. When building my map, I was astonished to find out that each subway station doesn’t have its own page, listing the connecting routes and features of that station. Montreal’s transit system has a page for each station, and it’s light years ahead of the TTC. Just look at this page for Beaubien Metro Station.

  6. A trip planner, ideally with Google Transit integration. Mississauga Transit has trip routing, but it’s limited to pre-selected landmarks, is almost unusable (I can’t get the non-standard pulldowns to work) and doesn’t allow bookmarking of the route. A TTC trip planner should route between two addresses or landmarks, and the resulting route should be easily bookmarked for later.

  7. Decouple the TTC and City of Toronto pages. Going to redirects me to Why is this? Why do many TTC pages have the same look as the City of Toronto pages? Pages for the city and pages for the TTC should be unrelated.

  8. A query API for third-party apps. Before I created my transit map, I wanted to build a webpage or a Dashboard app which would quickly list how many minutes before a bus would appear at stops near my favourite locations. Unfortunately, this would have meant wading through the crap that is the pre-formatted TTC bus schedule page and would have necessitated my own surface route database, so I gave up on the idea. It would be wonderful if the TTC could offer an API to its data so that third-party developers could represent the data in new and interesting ways.

That’s all for now. Notice that the trip planner is further down on my list than accessibility-related features. This is because the current site is completely inaccessible, and adding a trip planner would do nothing to help that. Also, a proper trip planner would require an accessible site to work properly. Joe Clark has more ruminations on this subject, be sure to read them.

I’d like to think that my map had a small part in this hunt for ideas. Maybe it was a small catalyst that came on the scene at just the right time, where anger over the TTC website became apparent in the public eye at the time the TTC was considering a redesign. Maybe my map had nothing at all to do with it. One thing is for sure, though, and that’s that it’s high time the TTC website was born anew. Let’s hope they don’t screw it up.

  1. Mike Drach

    January 6, 2007 at 10:26 am

    All great ideas, but one thing:

    “Every surface stop should have its own bookmarkable link, not just major ones like those currently listed.”

    The only problem with that is, the buses don’t run on time as it is. I’ve never once had the Sherbourne bus, for instance, coincide with the schedule printed online or for that matter, on the bus stops. The TTC will always suck in that respect.

  2. Reading Toronto responds to my criticism of their spreadsheet - crazed monkey

    January 25, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    [...] In retrospect, I’m sorry I missed the post which announced the upcoming matrix. Had I seen it, I might have offered suggestions then and not after the fact. Also, my critique wasn’t meant personally and certainly not as a jab at what the four weblogs are contributing. Indeed, I offered my own suggestions for improvements to the TTC website a few weeks ago. I realise that my post may have come across as gruff, but understand that the fields of software development and usability are ones about which I care deeply, and so I am often perturbed when others aren’t as careful as I would like them to be. [...]

  3. My day at the Toronto Transit Camp - crazed monkey

    February 5, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    [...] I attended a session on opening up the TTC data, which centred around creating an API for third-party developers. That was one of my pie-in-the sky suggestions for a new TTC website, so I thought it would be interesting. It was, but much of the discussion involved creating a trip-planner based on data available on the website. Offshoots of that grand scheme, such as creating an interface for determining the time until a bus appears at a specific stop (an idea I’ve thought of but haven’t touched), were discussed as well. [...]

  4. Sean

    February 11, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Hi Ian, great site! Just wanted to comment on something…

    “A trip planner, ideally with Google Transit integration. Mississauga Transit has trip routing, but it’s limited to pre-selected landmarks, is almost unusable (I can’t get the non-standard pulldowns to work) ”

    I live on a typical suburban court street in Mississauga and have used my exact street address just fine on the MT route planner site. Just use the “Address” tab instead of the landmark tab. It even included the walk time from my house to local bus stop. I haven’t used two exact addresses yet though, just from my house to a landmark. Also, I remember when the MT planner site first opened, the pull-down menus were very slow and practically unusable. A few months later it was sped up and feels very usable to me.

  5. Jeeves Moss

    January 9, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    How about this, stop complaining, and if you live in T.O. and have the skills, I’ve got the time and servers. If you’re god @ programming and want to give the TTC (personally I hate them)a run for their $$$, drop me a line.

    And why stop @ the TTC? I’m sure if I can get some bright people, there are others that can be taken on.


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