Tech-savvy TTC riders provide alternate trip planner

When two self-described computer geeks noticed problems with a transit trip planner, they took matters into their own hands.

Kevin Branigan, 26, met Keiran Huggins in 2007 at Transit Camp, a forum for tech-savvy riders to share their ideas to improve the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).

“The TTC website at the time was … in pretty bad shape,” Branigan said. “So, we decided to take a crack at it. We didn’t know how big the project was going to be.”

Together they created, a website that rivals the TTC’s Trip Planner. They used open data from the TTC, but soon realized the figures were incomplete.

“They had massive amount of typos,” Branigan said. “They didn’t include the minor stops … stops were out of order … and we had to go through and manually fix it.”

The site took two years for Branigan and Huggins to create. They supplemented the TTC’s data by going out to all the subway stations and many bus stops. The site is not affiliated with the TTC and receives no funding or advertising revenues. It is virtually a full-time job and the creators receive little in return.

“It’s been a lot of data collection. And to be honest we live to do it,” Branigan said. “We’re geeks, right. We’re interested in core problems and solving them. It’s just a fun thing we do.”

According to Branigan, the site receives 1,000 unique visitors each day. The trip planner calculates three possible routes based on the starting point and destination. The program provides detailed directions, for both walking and riding, and includes estimated travel time.

Metro’s transit columnist, Ed Drass has a different view on the rival trip planning websites.

“When you have good service online, often you don’t have to worry about a schedule,” Drass said.

As for the future of, Branigan and Huggins are developing a trip planning application for smart phones. As well, GPS technology could enhance the site to use real-time data of where buses and streetcars are located on a route.

“I still love the TTC … and I love the system that we have,” Branigan said. “And there’s massive, massive potential for improvement … technology is the best approach, because it’s cheap and there’s tons of people interested in working through these problems, it’s just cutting through the bureaucracy.”