2007 01 22
The Toronto Blogs’ Open Letter To The TTC Chair

When Reading Toronto, Blogto, Spacing, and Torontoist asked readers for ideas on how to improve the TTC's website, we did not anticipate the massive response. Thank you for your input. We have collected all your ideas and are sending them to Adam Giambrone, the TTC's new Chairman. Here is our open letter to Mr. Giambrone.

Attn: Mr. Adam Giambrone

Chairman, Toronto Transit Commission

Dear Mr. Giambrone,

The city's four major Blog sites dealing with city issues - Blogto.com, Readingtoronto.com, Spacing.ca, and Torontoist.com - asked for their readers' ideas on how to improve the TTC's rider information website.

Thousands read about our call for suggestions. Hundreds responded. The city's major media outlets also covered our challenge.

Attached to the formal version of this letter are two documents. One includes the complete list of suggestions made by our readers. The other integrates those suggestions in an easy to use spreadsheet (RT-TTCmatrix220107.xls). That document lists the recommendations by reader popularity and refers to the blog and comment number where reader suggestions can be found.

For example, the most popular suggestion for the site is to improve the User Interface & Information Architecture. Forty-five readers made that suggestion. The second most popular recommendation is to add a "Point-to-Point" trip planner. Twenty-seven readers asked for that. In addition, many readers offered examples of transit websites they thought worked. Those are also listed in their own category.

The blog Editors have three key recommendations:

  1. Our readers - who are frequent users of the TTC - believe that their ideas, if implemented, can significantly improve the TTC website.

  2. The budget for the website redesign should reflect its importance in terms of the numbers of people who refer to it (millions every month) and the potential for increasing TTC ridership. The site should be considered an essential operating budget line item rather than a marketing "frill." As many transit systems know, a good website adds to the bottom line.

  3. While we applaud the TTC for issuing a RFP for a new site, the user input our challenge generated and the media firestorm that followed it suggest the RFP be reissued to reflect the now better understood needs of TTC users.

Yours truly,

Robert Ouellette, Readingtoronto.com

Tim Shore, Blogto.com

Matt Blackett, Spacing.ca

David Topping & Marc Lostracco, Torontoist.com
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 01/22
2007 01 17
Update: The TTC Website Challenge Next Steps
Last night the Toronto blogs involved with our TTC Website Challenge to Chair Adam Giambrone met to discuss what we will do next. Here is our plan:

  1. Assemble all reader comments and suggestions in one binder.

  2. Organize the comments into a matrix that shows the reader popularity of any given suggestion.

  3. Write a letter from all four blog groups that summarizes our readers' recommendations on how to make the ttc.ca site effective and usable.

The binder and our letter will be delivered to Mr. Giambrone on Monday, January 22nd. We will publish the letter across all our blogs -- BlogTO, ReadingToronto, Spacing, and Torontoist. Then we will followup with the TTC as it begins its website redesign.
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 01/17
2007 01 15
Bloggers Show A Better Way
Getting free advice on improving service is certainly in the TTC's best interest.

Can Internet bloggers make the TTC more efficient while improving the quality of Toronto's streets? City councillor and new Toronto Transit Commission chairman Adam Giambrone thinks so.

This week, Giambrone opened the musty halls of Toronto's largest public institution to the fresh air of citizen input. The city's cloistered bureaucracies may never be the same. How did it happen?

Urban activists in Toronto's Ward 18 joined together last year to create a plan for development in their community. They argued that the city's planning department and the Ontario Municipal Board did not understand the unique needs of the ward.

The group Active 18 used the Internet to promote and organize its cause. They got noticed. Much of their success is credited to that increasingly influential digital medium. Giambrone, as councillor of Ward 18, saw first-hand that the group had a grasp of the community's needs equal to or better than the city's own staff.

A new, post-Jane Jacobs era in community influence at City Hall was born. Information, after all, is power.

So what does this have to do with bloggers?

Jump forward to New Year's Day. This columnist's blog, http://www.readingtoronto.com, issued a challenge to the new chairman. TTC patrons were fed up with the poorly designed, ineffective TTC Web site. Would he listen to and act on their suggestions on how to make the site more effective? To Giambrone's credit, he said yes.

The response was immediate. Major Toronto blogs spacing.ca, torontoist.com and blogto.com issued a call to their readers: "Tell us how you would improve the TTC's site?" Within hours, bloggers both vented their frustrations with the existing site and brainstormed ways to make it better.

"As a transit user who recently moved to Toronto from London

(UK)," a blogger named Lavinia wrote, "I find the TTC Web site to be an appalling disgrace." Her comment captured the general mood of other TTC.ca users.

"I have to say I was totally shocked by how poor this site is for a major North American urban centre's transportation Web site," Dave joined in. However, their criticism was quickly followed by suggestions on how to make the Web site right. Their voices made a mark.

Tens of thousands of transit users have read or heard about the challenge. To date, about 200 people have offered suggestions online. Many have contacted City Hall directly. Most are positive.

Giambrone says it is in the city's best interest to take these ideas and use them to improve the Web site. After all, it would cost the city thousands of dollars in TTC user focus groups to get a fraction of this input.

How will a more effective TTC Web site change the city's public realm for the better? Giambrone says, "There are no new roads proposed for the next 30 years in Toronto ? Every subway line keeps about 18 highway lanes out of our city."

He argues that increasing TTC ridership (...read more...)
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 01/15
2007 01 06
The TTC Website Challenge: The Press Gets On Board

When we launched the TTC web challenge on January 1st we had no idea that so many people shared our opinion of the TTC's site. Not only did Toronto's top bloggers relish the idea of contributing to the betterment of the TTC, it turns out the traditional media loves the idea too. In the past two days the National Post, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, and CBC Radio have interviewed us or done stories on the bloggers' challenge to TTC Chair, Adam Giambrone. Thanks to all the readers who added their ideas to various blog sites. Your collective input will make a difference.

The next step for us is to assemble all the suggestions and put them in a form that the TTC can actually use. That will happen in the next week or so. Giambrone has accepted our challenge and will use the suggestions to inform the design of the next-generation TTC information web site. In fact, the new TTC Chair has assigned someone in his office to act as liaison between the bloggers and city hall. This isn't Mel Lastman's city bureaucracy any more!
[email this story] Posted by R Ouellette on 01/06
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