Last week we told you about the TTC’s new trip planner, and what to expect from it when it launches as early as this upcoming week.
On Saturday afternoon, though, we discovered what seemed to be a near-finished version of the planner while snooping around on the TTC’s website, at http://tripplanner.ttc.ca. (Spacing, also snooping, coincidentally had the same good fortune.) We’ve since learned from a TTC source that the version of the trip planner that’s now live on the website is “more or less where it was going to be when it went public, in terms of trip planning,” though it “might need some further tweaking.” [ : The planner—available to anyone who knew the URL last night and this morning—is now password-protected.]
After kicking the planner’s tires for several hours on Saturday and Sunday, however, Torontoist is not confident that the planner is ready for the general public—especially those with accessibility needs or who are short on patience.
From the planner’s current front page, let’s try to go to Yonge-Dundas Square to get some prorogue protesting done, shall we?
We put “Dundas Square” in the “To” field, and got this:
While the TTC’s planner has a database of landmarks, and that database does check against multiple different spellings or versions of one landmark or location—here, we’d hope it would figure out that “Dundas Square” and “Yonge-Dundas Square” were related—no luck whatsoever.
When we changed the location we were looking for to “Toronto General Hospital,” we got taken to a confirmation page—step 1a, let’s call it—which asked us to confirm the destination.
If you spend any significant amount of time with the planner, you’ll get taken to this screen often, and sometimes without a clear reason. (And sometimes, as when we searched for “Dundas Square,” you won’t get taken here when you’ll wish you did.) If you input an intersection on Yonge of a street that Yonge divides into west and east sides, like “Queen and Yonge,” for instance, the system gets confused about whether you mean “QUEEN ST E @ YONGE ST, City of Toronto” or “QUEEN ST W @ YONGE ST, City of Toronto.”
Or, in a case like this, it’ll ask whether you want to go to “Toronto General Hospital,” or “Toronto General Cemetery.” Too soon, TTC.
We told the system we wanted to go to “TORONTO GENERAL HOSPITAL, ELIZABETH ST, CITY OF TORONTO”…
..and got taken to a “Suggested Trip” with an “Itinerary Summary.” (The webpage, called “View Itineraries,” suggests that more than one will be displayed in the near future.) This route is a pretty direct one, so not much of interest here. It seems to work.
If you go to “view the details of the trip”…
…you get taken here, a much more detailed plan, including a Google Map—though from the time we inputted our destination, this page took a total of four pages (initial page > confirmation page > itinerary summary > trip details) to arrive at.
The Google-based map, it’s worth adding, is super-responsive, and not necessarily in a good way. If you mouse-over (not click, mouse-over) a point on it, a pop-up will appear, noting what stage of the process you’ve moused-over, and the map will move to re-adjust around it. Scrolling the page up or down will scroll in or out of the map if you mouse over it accidentally, which can be frustrating, especially when we tried the planner on an older computer.
And all that’s when the planner works. Sometimes, it doesn’t, and the advice is downright whacky.
After inputting a desired arrival at an address on Bay Street south of Bloor, an address that the planner has recognized before, the planner all of sudden no longer could identify it. And then, after re-submitting that same address on the subsequent page, the planner suggested a trip to Yonge at Wilson—eight and a half kilometres away. What’s worse, the time of day we specified for the trip was very late at night; 4:16 a.m. is not a time of day you want to find yourself eight and a half kilometres away from the place you’re trying to go.
Hitting the “back” link at any stage of the planning process, as we did when we tried to make our way back from the bad directions to Yonge at Wilson, garners a pop-up message in Firefox or Safari, asking you if you’re sure you want to re-submit the form. (When that happens, who is ever sure they want to re-submit the form?)
Given an arrival location of 590 King Street West, the planner advised going one block too far, to King and Brant, rather than King and Portland. Another planned trip downtown from Runnymede Station gave instructions to “Transfer to BLOOR-DANFORTH TOWARDS KENNEDY,” and then “Depart and head West”—not east, west—”from RUNNYMEDE STATION LOOP.”
There are other issues, as well, especially with respect to accessibility. First-page options like the ability to choose a trip using only certain kinds of TTC transit modes don’t seem to take your preferences into account. (We tried planning the same trip to Toronto General Hospital above, but unchecked the “Subway/RT” checkbox on the very front page, and it gave us the exact same route, subway and all.) If you try to find only accessible routes, or buses with bike racks, Torontoist’s Kaori Furue found that “inevitably the system tells you they’re not available and to try again. So, it’s just trial and error, and you’ll never find what you need.”
And sometimes you just find your way here, a no-rider’s land.
We know that the TTC, as always, is going to want feedback from riders on the planner after it formally launches, which it’s expected will be very, very soon. (And for that reason, you should try the planner out, and tell us how you find it in the comments below; we’ll make sure the TTC pays attention to what you have to say.) But upon close inspection of the planner over the span of this weekend, we believe that this version is not ready for the public to give feedback on: it’s as much “trial” as “error,” and after several years, riders deserve better.
Additional testing by Kaori Furue and Miles Storey.