The TTC’s new trip planner is finally online, and feedback is mixed. It probably doesn’t help that the TTC’s own planner has a predecessor that’s been standing in for a year and a half now to serve the function it didn’t: MyTTC.ca. Launched in July 2008, MyTTC is the work of Kieran Huggins and Kevin Branigan, two developers who—completely independently—rebuilt and reorganized the TTC’s service data, built and rebuilt their own trip planner on top of it, then shared the data they compiled to developers who wanted it for other purposes. (Their work has helped make projects like the terrific iPhone application Red Rocket possible.)
Now that there are two TTC trip planners to choose from, which one should you use? Torontoist decided to compare the accuracy of the TTC’s own planner and MyTTC’s: a small handful of Torontoist staffers charted out trips they know well, at times of day they often take them—well-worn trips at well-worn times—and took a careful look at the results each planner gave to see which planner’s advice was best. Turns out that the TTC trip planner we’d all been waiting for was already here.
Trip #1ROUTE: From Fern and Roncesvalles avenues to Vaughan and Rushton roads, on Friday, February 5 at 7 p.m.
NOTES: The TTC’s trip planner seems to be strongly biased against subways, asking me to take a streetcar just to get to the College car, then ride the College car all the way across downtown from Roncesvalles to University, while MyTTC tells me (and this is what I’ve been doing) to take the streetcar straight up Roncesvalles to Dundas West and then get both east and north on the subway. Cannot overstate how much the multiple routes option makes MyTTC better, too. Plus, the interface is WAY nicer and easier to deal with. In short, I have no reason to use the TTC’s trip planner, and several to stick with MyTTC.
Trip #2ROUTE: From Avenue Road and Eglinton Avenue West to 22 Enterprise Road, on Friday, February 5 at 7:10 a.m.
NOTES: The TTC’s trip planner tells me that it “could not find any stops with service at the requested time close to the destination (ending point) of [my] trip,” which is a load of crap considering that I travel this route every day and know of several buses in service at the exact time I requested.
MyTTC.ca gives three different options, organized by commute time. Option 1 is almost identical to my daily commute, although it fails to suggest the express bus that would shave about four minutes off of travel time.
Trip #3ROUTE: From 11 Wales Avenue to the Toronto Botanical Gardens at Lawrence Avenue and Leslie Street, on Sunday, February 7 at 12 p.m.
NOTES: Of the two planners, MyTTC comes closer to the route I actually take, though neither suggested route is identical to my habitual one. Both planners suggest using Dundas Station (MyTTC also suggests St. Patrick), whereas I would usually just bike to Yonge-Bloor. That’s no big deal, though, because it’s not like either site has an “I have a bike and am not afraid to use it” option.
The weird thing, though, is that of the two planners, only MyTTC shows the bus route I take: the 54A Lawrence East. The official planner recommends the 51 Leslie to Steeles, which apparently also goes past the Toronto Botanical Gardens. But the odd thing is that I’ve never noticed that route at Eglinton Station. The 54A platform, on the other hand, is right in front of the door to the bus terminal. I’m not a TTC expert, so I don’t know what the deal with the disparity is. All I know is that 54A is easier to find at Eglinton Station than 51, and it’s slightly odd that MyTTC seems to know this, while the official planner doesn’t.
Trip #4ROUTE: From Annette and Laws streets to Bay and St. Joseph streets, on Thursday, February 4 at 6 p.m.
NOTES: In the first two of its three recommended routes, MyTTC suggests taking the 26 Dupont bus, which—for any distance—is usually not a bus whose schedule you can count on. (It also suggests, in its first option, coupling the 26 Dupont bus ride with another transfer to another bus ride at Dundas West and Keele, which lands me at Keele Station, which isn’t ideal, either.) Its third recommended route, which requires a bit of a walk west and a trip to Runnymede Station, is an okay alternate route, but it’s not the best one.
The TTC’s planner does an okay job, suggesting a bit of a walk to take the 30 Lambton, then riding that to High Park Station, and then taking the 97B Yonge Bus south (though, really, you’re better off walking from Bay Station, or Yonge Station, or even just going down one subway stop to Wellesley and walking from there).
Neither planner, though, suggests what’s almost always the fastest, most reliable, direct way to get downtown quickly from the area at almost any time of day: the 40 Junction bus, which goes directly to Dundas West. Ride it to Bay Station, and walk for five minutes, and that’s that.
Trip #5ROUTE: From 101 Coe Hill Drive to 590 King Street West, on Thursday, February 4 at 7:15 a.m.
ADVANTAGE: MyTTC, barely.
NOTES: MyTTC has a slight edge. MyTTC gave me the option (Option 3) of taking the 508 streetcar, which doesn’t come often but is the only option where I don’t need to transfer at all. However, MyTTC also told me to travel on the 501 Queen car to Denison (Option 1), but there isn’t a stop at Denison; the stop is at Augusta.
The TTC Trip Planner told me to transfer to the Bathurst streetcar and take it one block from Queen to King. That’s ridiculous. It’s much faster to walk.
Neither planner told me to transfer from the Queen car to the King car at Roncesvalles, which is what I and everyone else does and it is the best option.
Trip #6ROUTE: From Saybrook and Islington avenues to High Park Station, on Wednesday, February 3 at 7 p.m.
ADVANTAGE: The TTC’s own planner.
NOTES: I usually don’t take the Islington bus to Islington Station, but I notice that MyTTC.ca almost always suggests walking as opposed to the bus, even though the bus is faster….the TTC’s planner definitely has the better results.
Trip #7ROUTE: From Bathurst and Harbord streets to Union Station, on Thursday, February 4 at 8 a.m.
NOTES: TTC.ca gives one option: the Wellesley bus to Wellesley Station and southbound to Union. Right. Because that bus comes on time and because there is never ever traffic around Queen’s Park. I’ve never used this route because I am not dumb. Thanks, TTC. No.
MyTTC.ca gives three options, the first two being the most logical and consistently reliable: walk to Bathurst Station, which really is key, as no streetcar or bus will get you through a large block faster than you can walk it. Going eastbound to Yonge is the first option given, but that’s pointless as the station is claustrophobically herded and crowded, and also, of course, that takes you through extra stops when you could have transferred at St. George first (which is their second option). Third option is workable but is essentially interchangeable with any “southbound on Bathurst to this eastbound streetcar then to the southbound University line” route. Also, it never runs on time. MyTTC.ca’s second option is consistently the most reliable.
ConclusionsFirst, the necessary cautions: while we’ve tried to make our results and conclusions as accurate as we could—we provided input that was as identical across planners as possible (same start times, same locations to leave from and arrive at)—these were not scientific tests, especially with such a small sample size and without doing what we’re sure would be very exciting field testing. There’s also an argument to be made that the routes that people think work best are not necessarily the ones that actually do. Different strokes, and that.
What’s more, as is clear from our testing, MyTTC has an automatic advantage for any route planned city-wide, because it returns multiple possible routes. We’re told the TTC’s own planner will do so soon, but it doesn’t yet.
That said, from our testing, at least, MyTTC’s accuracy seems to trump the TTC’s own: of seven trips, we had five wins for MyTTC.ca, one win for the TTC’s own trip planner, and one draw. We know the TTC’s own planner is in beta, so we have to cut it some slack, but we also know that the MyTTC.ca developers are working away at updating their planner, too, and the one big advantage that the TTC would seem to have—real-time data from their vehicles providing up-to-the-second accurate times—is not yet in the cards. In a lot of ways, it seems like the TTC has a lot of catching up to do.
Collected by David Topping. Route testing and notes by Hamutal Dotan, Kaori Furue, Steve Kupferman, Stephen Michalowicz, Brenda Petroff, David Topping, and Nicole Villeneuve.