This 5-part series is about how I would correct/fix various design issues within the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). This is not about how I would change bus routes, or how one mode is better or worse than another mode (i.e., LRT vs. Subway). This is about how I believe the TTC (and other transit authorities) can improve the experience of engaging and interacting with it’s ridership (actual and potential). Here is part five.
I believe there are a number of areas that the TTC (or, as stated, other transit authorities) could fix towards having a better rider experience and superior consumer engagement. In the first four posts there were ideas on signage and wayfinding, of expanding the colour-code system and of totally utilizing myriad digital delivery methods.
The big digital
A major bone of contention is the TTC website. I find their online presence to be lacking, and reek of government (I know, it is, but it doesn’t have to be).
The fact that there is no bold, clear way to find anything. Everything is equal in terms of importance. Really? Chances are that if the TTC did an audit on their website they’d find that people are going online to find out possibly three main things.
How to get somewhere – basically a trip planner. They do have that on the website, it’s actually on the home page twice. But it is something you really have to look for, it should be front and centre. And to repeat one of the points from an earlier post – the TTC should have this as a widget that can be used on any Toronto-based company’s website. Thus allowing businesses to quickly inform the public how one can get there via public transit. And it also shows support for the Transit Commission. A subset to this would be going to maps and schedules. Right now these are split – when there really should be a connection. Since a trip planner will be using both maps and schedules.
How much will it cost me (or my group, or family) – as already mentioned, not everyone that travels the system knows the ins and outs. People that normally drive for their job need to go downtown with the family on a weekend for one of the Toronto Parades (as long as fat guy with a beard and leather is involved, it’s a big parade in Toronto). People need to know what’s it going to cost. Period. To that extent, why not have the going fare rates for at least a single ride for each of the age groups. Why should someone have to click further than the home page to get that information?
Is anything going to delay my trip – this is an important one. Presently there is an area for Service Alerts. Although it doesn’t seem all that alertee (what, it’s a blog, I can make up my own words!). I would like to see this become something as (or maybe more) prominent as the Trip Planner and Fares indications. And I think the TTC should have a listing of all service alerts – not just ones that are TTC related. If I have to get out to Gerrard and Coxwell from College and Montrose (it could happen) it would be nice to know if there is any construction that might impact my ride on the, you guessed it, 506 Carlton Car.
If the TTC wanted to generate some revenue here – they could even ad a section for events that can be travelled to via the TTC. Hmmmmmmm. Interesting!
Anything else that one might be looking for on the: Careers, TTC by-laws, etc. can still be there, just not as boldly displayed. These are the kinds of information that people will look for. The main areas indicated are the ones that people want quick access to.
Beyond the main website, I find the mobile site lacking for pretty much the same reasons. Although, they do bring Service alerts front and centre. The rest of the mobile site is pretty lame. They have the links (and mainly the ones I talk about) but they should be bigger, better design buttons.
And if we’re talking about mobile, why has the TTC not come out with their very own App? There are a few apps about the TTC, but none (as I can tell) are from the TTC.
This is the last thing that I would like to discuss. Firstly the name – are they transfers or Proof of Payment (POP). Depending on where you are, or what you are doing they can be either. My feeling is that they should be called POP. Because that is what they are. And it should be expected that all passengers be required to have a POP (not unlike the GO transit system in and around the GTA). It can be used to transfer from one vehicle to another – but its main purpose is to show that you paid to be on the system.
Second to the name, I think that the TTC should adopt an approach to the POP system similar to that of OC Transpo (Ottawa, Canada). Their thing is that the POP has a time limit, you have a certain amount of time to use that POP to do whatever – including get back to where you started if time permits. What that means is that you could do a round trip on one fare. Sure, it’s not as much income from a few trips. But I believe that more people would use the TTC for such outings if they knew the cost was half of what it might normally be.
Overall the TTC does some things well. I also believe that they have a good leader in Andy Byford. And they will always have ongoing political and fiscal issues. But I truly think that by working on some of the ground-level interactions and experiences that people will start to use and like the TTC more.
What’s your take on improving the transit experience?