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Nick

Trip Planner usability needs fixing

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The Trip Planner+ has usability issues. It often works fine. When it fails with finding an address, sometimes the fault lies with Microsoft Bing, which has problems of its own. But the Trip Planner fails at various times when the fault is in the Trip Planner software. I tell the MTA about specific addresses and a frequent reply is that I can type an address using another format. Once, the MTA said I could adjust a menu to allow me to walk farther (otherwise the Trip Planner would deny that there's any way to get to the destination at all), but kiosks in subway stations don't offer that menu, and the menu doesn't allow walking, Citi bicycling, or taxiing more than one mile.

It's nice to offer a trick just for me, but other people need that, too. If a format is preferred, it should be visible. I've been trying to persuade the MTA to improve the usability for the sake of people who use it once, don't get the answer they're looking for, and give up. While the Trip Planner might generate statistics on use, many failures would look to the system like successes.

Since several transit agencies offer something called a Trip Planner, I thought one vendor was behind it, but now that seems partly doubtful. Maybe one is, but the vendor I found seems not to promote it and it seems transit agencies sometimes take over maintenance and redesign. So it seems the MTA may be programming the Trip Planner's innards in-house.

Usability comes up often in computer software design and the MTA is a transportation agency, not a computer firm, but the MTA would doubtless like more people to find the directions they want. Maybe someone who knows about computer design (especially user experience) would like to weigh in with the MTA (on user experience, a good source is https://www.nngroup.com/articles/definition-user-experience/).

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If you need something more advanced, use Google maps...

Trip Planner is mostly good for seeing how long the (MTA) part of your trip is going to take. I wouldn't judge walking times with it.

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I depend on the Trip Planner, because my phone's browser is too lousy for use. It's likely many people use the kiosks.

 

I don't use it for walking. But if you're going from the Bronx to a Brooklyn address and the address is more than two miles from the nearest subway station, the Trip Planner denies that there's any way at all to get from the Bronx to your Brooklyn address. It assumes you won't walk more than two miles and so it basically acts as if  you should stay home or take a taxi the whole way from the Bronx to Brooklyn. And that's if the walking distance menu is set to the maximum. It might be set shorter. And the menu is not displayed in subway On the Go kiosks.

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I've found Google maps to be better than trip planner at finding routes that mix MTA modalities,  such as LIRR and local buses

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The real mistake was even attempting to make Trip Planner. Somehow the MTA is great at inventing square wheels.

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12 minutes ago, bobtehpanda said:

The real mistake was even attempting to make Trip Planner. Somehow the MTA is great at inventing square wheels.

It works for seeing how long your trip will take, and incorporates planned service changes as well.

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12 hours ago, bobtehpanda said:

The real mistake was even attempting to make Trip Planner. Somehow the MTA is great at inventing square wheels.

HEY I HAVE A GREAT PROPOSAL ;) ELIMINATE TRIP PLANNER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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@bobtehpanda and @LGA_Link_N_train: Trip Planner works for many trips, but it works more often if you know the limitations and workarounds. Its basic concept is very good.

@QM1to6Ave: If you have access to Google Maps, fine. I don't in the subway unless I open my laptop and get a connection with transitwirelesswifi.com and not all stations support that.

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12 hours ago, Nick said:

@bobtehpanda and @LGA_Link_N_train: Trip Planner works for many trips, but it works more often if you know the limitations and workarounds. Its basic concept is very good.

@QM1to6Ave: If you have access to Google Maps, fine. I don't in the subway unless I open my laptop and get a connection with transitwirelesswifi.com and not all stations support that.

You don’t have a smartphone? Or a phone that can receive Google maps text messages?

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15 hours ago, Nick said:

@LGA_Link_N_train: Trip Planner works for many trips, but it works more often if you know the limitations and workarounds. Its basic concept is very good.

But google maps is already good at that. and for weekends, if someone is not aware of the changes, it's on them

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@LGA_Link_N_train: Systems should be designed for the way people will often use them, not the other way around, when possible. For example, early in space travel, NASA figured out that an astronaut's panic button should be different from all other buttons even if its internal design is like most other buttons and even though astronauts are highly trained, practice a lot, are motivated, and are screened, unlike MTA passengers. So, the panic button might be red, big, isolated from other buttons, and responsive to a different hand motion. In general, for the general public, try not to need a manual, because even high-tech geeks tend not to read one until they're mired in a major foul-up. Design the system to be intuitive and, in general, more people will use it, use it more often, and report more satisfaction and people will be more satisfied with the MTA, and more usage will support more service and/or lower fares.

@Deucey: The subway system still has a few coin phones for people who have no cells and international visitors may have phones that don't work here (I'm not allowed to use my cell outside the U.S.). I have a basic phone. I just tried the phone's browser. I got to a blank page titled Google Maps. In 4 minutes and 45 seconds from when I turned the browser on, there was not yet any field for typing anything. The page was still blank. My previous phone had a browser so bad I wouldn't use it even in an emergency. The phone does what I need it to do (mainly calls, texts, voicemail, and tell the time) and was $10 when new, and without a discount. I have no idea how to have Google text me travel info; I can find out but most people won't know, so that wouldn't help them, and any system should serve them without demanding too many Olympic leaps.

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@Deucey: Nearly a quarter of Americans do not have smartphones, as of nearly a year and a half ago (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/01/12/evolution-of-technology/ (URL accessed tonight). My guess is that the percentage who don't have is higher among people who ride subways. My experience is that my basic cell does not work in all stations and I would expect that to be true of smartphones as well. It's good that the MTA provides Trip Planners in stations; I've made some suggestions via MTA.info but overall they need better design and better software maintenance. I wish I knew how to encourage that.

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