New TTC Website

TTC to Unveil New Website Today!

UPDATE: The new web site is online now! Here you go.

A year an a half ago Robert Ouellette of Reading Toronto publically stated something Torontonians knew for many years: the TTC website is an unspeakably ugly, utterly useless and ultimately user-unfriendly monstrosity that should have been put out of its misery umpty years ago.

And so, he offered the TTC a challenge of redesigning their website with the help of Toronto bloggers and their communities. They (and we) all jumped at the opportunity. blogTO, Torontoist, Spacing and other T.O. blogs, message boards and chat rooms logged dozens of comments suggesting improvements to the TTC website: implement a trip planner, make navigation more intuitive, and PLEASE no more scrolling announcements!

TTC Chair Adam Giambrone accepted the challenge, and today the TTC let the media take a sneak peek at their new site. Read on to find out about the new design and features soon to come!

The new website definitely looks much slicker than the old version (I typed this sentence before I actually saw the demo - there is just no way anybody could have come up with a worse design, after all). While not mind-bogglingly beautiful, the design is at least clean and, unlike the previous design, won't induce epilepsy. Usability is tougher to judge from a short PowerPoint demonstration, but it is clear that a lot of work has been done to make the information easier to find.

The site has been brought up to modern Web standards: it is claimed to be print-friendly, includes RSS feed for service alerts, and strives to be fully accessible. Each subway station and bus route now has its own page and, thankfully, the awful drop-down boxes are now gone, as are the ridiculous maps in PDF format. You can search the whole site, as well as vehicle routes, either by number or by route name. The TTC estimates that site won't be fully functional until mid- to late July, but the beta version of the site is going online today. There will be an opportunity for site users to fill out surveys and comment on what they like and dislike, before the site design is finallized.

And what about all the cool features like the Trip Planner or live service updates? Well, they are coming! But you'll have to wait a bit. Adam Giambrone estimates that the first of those will be the eCommerce feature, to be implemented later this summer. By the fall you can expect to receive notifications of service delays on subway lines and surface routes you subscribed to (by e-mail or text messages). Also by fall a really cool "next vehicle arrival" feature is supposedly coming. You'll be able to see TTC vehicles on the map in real time (they're all GPS-equipped), and an estimated time of next vehicle arrival will be given. This system will eventually be implemented not only on the website, but on subway platforms and later at bus stops. Finally, by early 2009 a much-awaited Trip Planner is supposed to be completed! Input your starting point and your destination - receive directions on how to get there via the TTC. Oh yeah, baby!

And the price tag? Well, all the new programs and services desribed above supposedly cost on the order of $6-7 million, of which the web page design itself was approximately $400K - this was the TTC's advertisement budget for the year. I say - smart move. TTC's advertisement campaigns are invariably a subject of ridicule anyway; a modern and useful website is something they need far more than more posters of people wearing pig masks.

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