Screen shot 2009-10-10 at 2.53.57 PMThink the Sound Transit website could use some improvement? Well, so does the agency. They’ve hired a contractor to pitch a new web strategy and could use our input. Consider this an open thread to suggest any improvements to the ST website — we’ll forward on the best thoughts to the agency.

48 Replies to “Ideas for the Sound Transit Website”

  1. Clickable system-wide map for exploring routes/schedules! I envision something where when you hover over stations or routes, the associated routes light up brighter, with maybe some basic information about them in a floating text box or something.

      1. ST can never be as cool as TriMet.

        Although, interesting that TriMet is now using ST’s light rail symbol for their streetcar stops.

      2. What cool about TriMet’s map is that it’s powered by open source map technology. I’m wary of having to depend on Google (or anyone else) for map data which is wrong in many places.

        We already have a Regional Transit Map in booklet form. We have the GIS data. Just put an interactive version of it online.

    1. Yes, a system-wide map with clickable routes, and for all transit systems in the area, not just ST, not just Link, not just Metro.

      Riders should better understand transit as a system, not just a spaghetti-bowl of individual routes — especially for Link and the bus routes that serve each station.

  2. When I search for route options, I don’t necessarily just want to find out how to get from Point A to Point B at a *single* point in time, so sometimes getting itinerary options with specific times to catch each bus isn’t useful. Sometimes I’m looking to find out which routes run most frequently between those points and best options / most common routes. For instance, if I try to use the same itinerary at a different time, it would be useful to know that some bus runs late into the night or another runs less frequently at different hours of the day, so when displaying itinerary possibilities it would be nice to see this information up front.

    Also, mobile version please!!

    1. I REALLY want a mobile version of ST (or any other transit site). An app would work quite nicely as well if it includes integrated GPS.

  3. Give the money to http://onebusaway.org/ instead? ;)

    I’ve got a lot of thoughts on what transit websites should or should not do (as you might imagine) and maybe I’ll try to write some of them up. But…

    The thing that bothers me is that Sound Transit and King County Metro are both undertaking major efforts to revamp their respective websites, when they should really be working together to create one really solid website that integrates data for both their agencies as well as everyone else in the ORCA collective.

    When a single rider can take combinations of King County Metro, Sound Transit, Pierce Transit, Community Transit, Washington Ferries, and Island Transit on any given day, maintaining separate websites for each agencies and asking the rider to integrate that information on their own is asking too much.

    The existing regional trip planner may be showing its age, but it gets bonus points for integrating a number of agencies in the region. Don’t let that idea die! I’d rather the agencies pool their money and develop one good website that integrates all their scheduling and real-time data instead of each of them reinventing the wheel.

    Granted, if ORCA is any example, this might be asking a lot.

    In the meantime, publish your schedule data and give the money to http://onebusaway.org/ instead? Imagine what we could do with a budget!

    1. A good idea in theory, but what, aside from a Trip Planner, is best integrated? You have separate fare policies, planning initiatives, public outreach programs, governing boards, etc. I think a truly integrated website is going to end up breaking down into separate sections for each agency anyway.

      But yeah, handing the money to you would actually get a better result.

      1. I think fare policies needs integration as well. This is pretty challenging technically, but truly supporting the ORCA card means a website that can tell you how much a multi-agency trip is going to cost you.

        As for the other areas you highlighted, I would argue that details about planning initiatives, governing boards, etc are best hidden from the regular transit user in whatever ends up being the web-based transit tool they use on a daily basis. These areas definitely have a place on the web and should be accessible to motivated citizens (like STB readers), but for the most part I don’t believe they are an area where the agencies should be focus a lot of time on innovative design (they should instead just focus on keeping the pages they have up-to-date).

        As for public outreach programs, I need to give that some more thought. My initial reaction is that most people are probably not finding information about transit agency public outreach because they found it on the agency’s website, but most likely through other channels. I don’t know if that’s because the website is bad or because information like this is better handled by community groups already managing outreach efforts for specific segments of our community.

      2. This is pretty challenging technically, but truly supporting the ORCA card means a website that can tell you how much a multi-agency trip is going to cost you.

        I view fare prediction as a trip planning function, and I believe the current trip planner does it (I won’t vouch for its accuracy).

        I guess the starting question actually is, what are you trying to do with the website? When I think of Metro, the big deficiency is the lack of wonky reports.

        But if you’re just looking for a sexier trip planner, then probably you want something like Google Transit with a more integrated database.

      3. Google Transit is great but only includes Metro. Anybody know when they might incorporate Sound Transit as well?

      4. I’m pretty sure the blame can be given to Google on this one. A while ago I saw a ST technician post a message on the GTransit site asking how agencies can publish their info, and Google said the project is still on limited roll-out.

        Technically, I think ST has everything done they need to get onto GTransit. Google is just taking transit agencies one at a time.

      5. I was talking to Intercity Transit, in Olympia, about getting their data onto Google Transit. They say Google’s in the middle of revamping the back end and won’t be adding any more systems until they’re finished.

    2. Yeah, it would be nice to have their schedule data published. Perhaps ST could be the regional source of transit info similar to what MTA has done in LA. See their developer website. They have an API with access to the schedule data for what I believe are all transit agencies in LA County.

  4. The Fares & Passes section has always been kind of muddied. They need to clearly distinguish what kinds of tickets and passes you can buy at the TVM and the best options for tourists and visitors. For example, Tickets and TVMs > TVM Fare Options > Roundtrip, it says Day Pass, but doesn’t make clear where the Day Pass is accepted and under which conditions.

    The front page also needs a big: “Visting? Learn how to get around with Sound Transit!”

    1. “Visiting? Learn how to get around with Sound Transit?” No — riders and potential riders should be told about Transit as a whole, not just one agency’s services.

      Visitors may want to ride Link but get to a destination that requires a transfer to a Metro bus. They need to learn about Transit, not just Sound Transit.

  5. I think the site could benefit from a reduction of text and darker colors. Sound Transit needs to look at hit statistics; the busiest links are likely schedule information and the trip planning utility. The busiest sectors of the website need to be prominent on the home page and be allocated the most page space.

    I think the BART website: http://bart.gov/ is a good model for clarity.

    1. Sam. If you are going to be so bold as to say that you have, you to need to explain. Otherwise your comment is just trolling.

  6. I didn’t see anyone say, quick and easy access to information about disruptions and delays. Hello snow storm!

    I would say look to TfL to see of the best practice is. http://www.tfl.gov.uk/\

    Prioritize information access on an every day basis on the main homepage and other information should be linked to from that page. Look what people use on and prioritize that.

  7. I would like so see the drop-down menus for schedules to not necessarily go away, but it would be great to be able to type in the route number you’re looking for, and have sort of an intelligent fill-in-the-search bar thing like Google (like after you’ve entered two digits you would see all the 59x routes, for instance), or you could enter a destination in there, too. And to not have such separation of the Link, Sounder and bus services on the site. I think most of us just want to get where we’re going.

    1. (I just got back from visiting San Fran and WOW 511 makes it so easy, breaking down everything step-by-step)

  8. My vision for a new ST website;

    Tri-met style design. Simple, easy to navigate. (Upper Half)
    Translink.ca style design. Informative, simple to read, easy on the eyes. (lower portion)
    Tri-met Interactive Map – Easy, invaluable when trying to find something.

    Integration of Orcacard.com AND One-Bus-Away into the website.

    Start a blog – like Translink’s “The Buzzer” which is very popular among commuters. Keeping commuters in the loop will go leaps and bounds then not. Jhenifer has done leaps and bounds for interacting between the public and Translink.

    Integration of buses and trains into a simplified format.

    STAY AWAY from Flash… Period.

    A mobile page that makes looks at schedules easier. It is nearly impossible to read it on a Blackberry or Windows Mobile device. Take a page from Tri-Met and let developers come up with a apps for this task if need be.

    This is all I can think of.

    I guess I should add though that because there are so many agencies, it makes it difficult for a true integrated network but still, the disconnect is absurd.

    1. To put us to further shame:

      The Buzzer blog is the web companion to the Buzzer newsletter, the free publication found on all Metro Vancouver transit vehicles since 1916.

      They were way ahead of us with regular communication to customers.

      The Bay Area’s 511 site is an example of an integrated information site for multiple agencies.

      1. Well, to be fair, Seattle streetcars did have a newsletter in 1916, but for some reason, it didn’t continue on. The very first Buzzer issue even mentions the Seattle newsletter by name: “The Electrogram”!

        Anyway, I’m pretty sure the Buzzer is the only streetcar bulletin that has kept on going to this day. Also, thanks for the kind comments about the blog :D

  9. I like Berlin’s transit site; http://www.bvg.de/index.php/en/index.html

    Everything the transit user needs is accessible from the start page. The layout is simple with large text and lots of pictures and graphics. Even though there are a multitude of transit agencies in Berlin the services are all unified in the presentation to the user, no need to worry about who runs your bus or train. I like the interface for the trip planner, it allows you to enter stops, intersection, coordinates, or select directly from a clickable map of the city. They also have a trip planner for mobile devices and a Windows version you can download and run offline.

    I also like their stop timetable generator. Zurich also has a similar website. You can enter any stop in the network and it will generate a customized PDF timetable for your stop listing departure times for all routes serving that stop as well as travel times to and from that stop to major destinations on the routes. Here is an example of the output;

    http://www.fahrinfo-berlin.de/Fahrinfo/bin/tb/query.bin/Knaackstr_berlinBerlin_alexander.pdf?pathinfo=/en&dwn=nt/ntw4iukk2isqh444_1_1.pdf

  10. It seems to me like a “reinventing the wheel” exercise.
    With all the transit agencies now on line, with some honorable mentions above, it would be worthwhile to look at say the top 30 or so properties nationwide.
    A good web site, is one that generates new customers, or for transit, new riders. Who’s new website did the best job of getting more people out of their cars, and onto public transit?
    That would be the real test, then just coordinate with who ever designed their website, and replace the data sets.

  11. Go Seasquawks Go! (somewhere else, unemployment lines, American football oblivion, the historical anals of nonsensical pasttimes, etc)…

  12. Wow, I was about to suggest something else but they changed it already. I used to notice that the urls didn’t really relate to the content of the page, like th567.xml or some nonsense name. Now they end in things like “I-90-Two-Way-Transit-and-HOV-Operations.xml”

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