Sound Transit Web Site Review from ian lurie on Vimeo.

Ian Lurie’s comments on the Sound Transit website are basically sound, constructive ones.  I’d quibble that his search critique ignores that a search for “Seattle Bus Schedule” should turn up Metro before Sound Transit.

However, I think a grade of F- is a little harsh.  Trip Planner and schedules are on the front page.  The content available on the site (in terms of reports and data) is light years ahead of Metro.  That doesn’t matter to most visitors, but it’s important to openness and transparency.  I’m not a fan of letter grades for this kind of thing but that deserves at least a D.

I don’t know much about the graphic design of websites but there are three things that would be prominently featured on my ideal agency front page, below the jump.

  • Getting started/New Riders – text and video, in multiple languages, on how to use the service.  Ask them where they’re going, a couple of questions to determine their fare classification, and then serve them a custom video (built out of some standard building blocks) showing them exactly what to do and what fares to pay.  I’ll let the user interface people figure out the best way to do that.*
  • Trip Planner/Schedules/Maps – Lets me quickly access information to create my own trips, assuming I know what I’m doing.
  • Personalized Accounts – I should be able to register for an account with the site where I can indicate what routes I care about and at what times.  I should also be able to indicate a preference for RSS, email, robocall (?), or SMS alerts, which will tell me about service disruptions on those routes, and buses that are late over a certain number of minutes (via onebusaway).  When I go to the website with my cookie stored it should give me a summary of alerts and next bus/train information for those routes.

* Here’s one workflow for this:

1. Pick a language.

2. Input start and end points, via either a map or the text interface

3. Are you under 18, 18-64, or 65+?

4. Produces a graphic/text trip representation much like Google Maps.

5. Prominently display two options: (a) Watch a video on how to ride the bus/train – showing fare payment (customized for either boarding or off-boarding), asking for transfers, etc.  This should be customized for the inter-agency policies as necessary.  (b) If applicable, learn about a cheaper way to take this trip by using ORCA.  Do NOT mention ORCA otherwise — too much choice makes it confusing.

28 Replies to “Transit Websites”

  1. How does ORCA make a trip cheaper? I believe it costs the same as buying a bus pass normally or bus tickets or using cash. Or am I missing something?

      1. Sound Transit was at Metro’s East Base last week. Two ST people along with our Eastside planner. East base runs most of Metro’s ST operated routes. We all know at the end of the year transfers will not be accepted on Link, and Link tickets no good for bus service. Well, sounds like ST is very serious about no longer giving out transfers on ST buses either. Sounds like a great idea to me, as a driver. I hate people using tranfers past expiration, and when I call them on it, they get pissed because not all drivers do it. I’m not anal, not if its clearly expired 2 or more hours past, you going to pay again. Plus its go hard to check them all when people flash them so fast. And I hate those with an archive of old transfer it their wallets. You will avoid paying twice by getting an ORCA card. Cash payers will pay every time they board. Now some people complain that the 1:30 for ORCA transfer is ripping people off…..I’ve been getting that alot on the bus. Well too bad…..Policy is as follows. Metro-cut transfers to 1:30-1:59 past your ending terminal time (Non-downtown, or out-bound trips). Inbound downtown or through-routed trips, cut transfers to 1:30-1:59 for your Pine,Pike, or Union timepoints. So if timepoint is 3:10, add 1hr,30mins…you get 4:40, then round up to the hour or half past the hour on the transfer……you cut it for 5:00. People are just used to getting longer transfers than what policy states and now ORCA won’t, but thats just the way it is. ST policy is for transfers to be cut only 1hr-1:29. Even less the Metro. Also….the point of a transfer is for a “Transfer” to another bus. Not to keep using it for round-trip rides, unless you go back within an hour an a half. If we get rid of transfers, ST, Metro CT, Pierce, whoever brings in more money. Mabye not a lot, but every little bit counts.

        So I don’t know if it will be for sure, but its sounds likely in Jan 2010. Hopefully Metro & the other agencies in Puget Sound follow ST’s lead on getting rid of transfers. YOU DON’T LIKE IT….GET AN ORCA, saves me a lot of headaches as a bus driver. I know some drivers hate the idea of ORCA, but I don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s great and I have hardly any issues with it.

        P.S. If you keep getting the “Please Try Again” message, it’s probably because your tagging it incorrectly. Don’t wave it a bunch of times, or go from one side to the other. Just tap it ONCE, right in the middle where it says ORCA, and it should fix you’re issue. Thanks!

    1. OCRA can make a trip cheaper if you make use of the trolley busses since their orca scanners out OOS 75% of the time (that makes it a free ride)

      1. Still? The 49 had a lot of outages back in May and June, but it almost always works for me now. Sometimes I get the “Try again” but it takes it the second time.

    2. When transferring, ORCA remembers you paid a $2.00 peak fare on Metro when changing to Sound Transit. Using a paper transfer, which you won’t be able to do after January 1, you only receive a one-zone credit, or $1.50 towards the regular fare. One trip – you’ve saved 50 cents.

  2. Another comment on that “sticker” that takes up the center third of the front page: it changes with each page load, which led to some annoyance and confusion when I last used the site. Consistency and clarity are what I expect from transit websites, and with that variable center column ST completely messes up on both counts. I’d say move and enlarge the Schedules & Maps section to take up that center space, and move the splashly sticker down to the left-hand corner.

  3. I love orca because it makes it so I dont have to worry about carrying exact change anymore, or worry about inter-agency transfers.

    If you buy a bus pass on orca, you always have that denomination of Fare available to you. Let’s say it was $1.75

    No matter how many times you use that pass, you will always have $1.75, Just like a Puget Pass.

    Orca also adds the functionality of the E-purse, so that if you randomly decide to ride an ST Express bus down to Tacoma you only have to pay the $1.25 difference. All of this happens automagically when you swipe our Orca card.

    Orca does not necessarily save money up front, but it does on the back end of not having to worry about having change or losing your transfer.

  4. I disagree with Ian on one of his big gripes:

    Having rider alerts, news, project updates, and meetings/events on the main page is actually an asset, not some waste of space (especially when he goes on about “don’t tell me that you had focus group and riders tell you yadda yadda yadda…”). Sound Transit’s website, especially during Link construction on MLK and Beacon Hill, is where people went to get updated information on their projects. In the same breathe, meetings and events are important for Joe Bellevue who wants to know where the next East Link open house is, etc. ST, as its mission statement that Ian doesn’t want to see states, isn’t just in-charge of moving people, they build infrastructure.

    I think that the big rotating ad in the middle of the homepage should be broken down into three colorful feature items. Right now it’s Central Link now open, learn more and get involved in East Link, and ride Sounder to the Seahawks (a well rounded group). Ian is so concerned about the site increasing ridership, and yet bashes the Seahawks ad because “they suck and we shouldn’t have built them a stadium”; Joe Seahawk fan with an SUV from Auburn that would never use transit probably found out about Sounder because of “front page real estate” like that. I’m just sayin’…

    1. Ian didn’t say to remove the rider alerts, just relocate them. As for the news, project updates and meetings/events I agree that they are important but they don’t need to take up that much screen real estate. Just put a button for each of those items but don’t include any their content until someone clicks on one of those buttons.

      1. No, he specifically said “nobody’s coming to your website to read the news.”

        I think the title of his video should be “How Sound Transit should design their website to best suit Ian Lurie”. This guy is highly opinionated and self-centered. His constant use of the word “should” shows that 1) He believes that his way is the only way and 2) He has no sources to back up his claims.

        I give this guy a F- on his video. Actually, take of the – so I can put an “AIL” at the end.

      2. He comes off very self-centered.

        I don’t think that he even has the credentials to be criticizing like this either, look at his own webpage. It is not that logically organized or visually appealing. Based off that alone I would not be interested in his services or opinion.

        I like his idea of the google map, but that interface is clunky at best for this use.

  5. I’m still annoyed that Tacoma Link is still called Tacoma Link. It’s a streetcar!! Save the “Link” brand for the high-capacity, grade separated lines.

    1. Since a group working to extend it is called Tacoma Streetcar, maybe they’ll change the name when an extension is added.

  6. Folks- Don’t forget a big part of ST’s audience isn’t just transit riders, but also contractors, consultants, small businesses, and job seekers. ST has always been mostly a construction outfit up to this point. Its operations are growing, and need to become a bigger driver of web content for sure. But the construction stuff just got a huge boost from ST2. With 15 years of construction spread across three counties, that will be the case for awhile.

  7. I laughed when he said that no one reads the sidebar with meetings, project updates, and news, because we do.

    1. That is a really nice page. It gets a little messy toward the the middle. They should but a button on the left side under service alerts for get email/rss/text updates and a button under that for projects.

      Most people that are going to sound transit’s website are trying to get from point A to B and as such most of the websites should be dedicated to that not that link light rail is now in service (I think everyone knows that it is open) or up coming meetings.

      On another note does anyone know why Metro’s website is going to be down for a couple of hours tomorrow?

  8. I think that ST homepage should be dedicated for the day to day use of the system. Additional information like ST2, documentation, contractor information etc. should be located on something like a 2nd homepage. More of a information access page. Yes ST has multiple audiences but daily riders should be the main focus.

  9. Thanks for reviewing my video!

    One point: I don’t think Sound Transit should be #1 for ‘Seattle bus schedule’ – I think they COULD be. I feel more that it’s silly that they’re stuck way down at #8.

    Thanks everyone else for the lively discussion. This is how, I hope, Sound Transit can improve.

  10. Although it’s not technically a transit agency, I really admire the simple design and clear transit directions for Singapore on

    The trip planner there is lightyears ahead of ours, and beats Google Maps hands down for usability.

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