Metrolinx Wants to Hear From You

I received a note from Braz Menezes, a member of the Metrolinx Advisory Committee. Braz and I both sit on the community panels for the waterfront east transit EA studies.

As you know Metrolinx is putting quite a lot of emphasis on public consultation. Can you please ask your readers how easy it has been to access information and make comments to the website for Metrolinx. It would be good to iron out any technical glitches early in the process.

Sincere thanks,

I will start off by noting that the page asking for consultation contains a link only to the first of the Green Papers, even though drafts of these have appeared in the Board Agendas. However, if you go into the detailed consultation page, options for papers 2 and 3 also appear.

You can find Green Papers 4 and 5 in the February 2008 agenda.

Please put your comments about this site here so that everyone else can read what you think. I will moderate the comments only to the point of taking out flagrant insults to other writers (but not to the designers of the Metrolinx site itself), and tidying up your layout and spelling. Also, please don’t give Braz a hard time, he is just passing on the request to my fine readers.

I am particularly looking forward to Joe Clark’s contribution.

11 thoughts on “Metrolinx Wants to Hear From You

  1. Joe Clark’s contribution is that Metrolinx has a lot of gall doing anything other than paid user testing, including testing of users with disabilities. Asking us for freebies? Please. (Oh, but for the hell of it, here’s a freebie from me: Quit posting text-and-graphics documents as PDFs.)

    This has been a fiasco from Day Zero and it’s only getting worse. A government agency addicted to high-cost, uncustomizable, unmaintainable Microsoft products that cannot possibly meet the government’s own requirements has made one mistake after another. Even when fixing their mistakes they make more of them.

    I’m pretty sure Remarkk and RÄDIANT CÖRE will regard the issue more optimistically.


  2. Well, so far I’m very impressed with this setup. No, the interface isn’t the best, but it’s also the first time I’ve seen serious consultation handled this way. It’s yet to be seen whether the consultation will be used in an effective way, but as far as getting the input, the website is certainly an improvement over traditional meetings and forms, especially given the potential to be involved throughout the process, rather than needing to wait for a significant enough development for a public meeting.


  3. I have commented on two Green Papers so far but, I have only been able to read my first comment and other’s from the the Green Paper regarding transit nodes. Their was a second Green Paper regarding transit nodes or hubs and I read through the entire Green Paper to find out what Metrolinx thinks consitutes one of these ‘transit nodes’.

    I learned a lot about what goes into transit planning and thought I made a very good suggestion. Unfortunately, I have a hard time navigating around Metrolinx’s website and have never been able to find that paper or my own or anyone else’s comments on Transit Nodes.

    I enjoy learning about urban planning and am grateful to be part of these public consultations. I hope someone makes their website a little more user friendly. On another note I hope that the people in charge of the TTC website make their own site a little more user friendly. It might help increase ridership which I think both the TTC and Metrolinx want.

    I think that the TTC people should look at Montreal and see how the STM put their site together to help us transit users. I am new to Toronto, recently moved here from Vancouver, and I could have used a better Website to help me navigate around my new city VIA the TTC.


  4. I’m surprised that Joe would pass on a chance to rail against a site that uses so much Arial. Braz isn’t even a Metrolinx employee, right? My impression is that he wants our feedback to help him as an advisory member.

    This part of the site isn’t a Microsoft thing; other than a few additions by Metrolinx, it’s a off-the-shelf solution called “uengage” from Limehouse Software. The folks at Metrolinx may have assumed that a $40,000/year software package would have been properly usability tested, but that’s not the impression I get. I’d bet the average civic-minded commuter would give the site a few minutes before giving up out of either frustration or lack of interest.

    Detailed reaction — sorry if this is longer than what you had in mind:

    Intro video: this takes me at least twice as long to watch as it would to skim the text. The intro just has Rob’s talking head, so at least people on dial-up aren’t missing much, though watching him nod in the direction of the link to click is priceless. Oh, and the little video window has no volume control.

    “Consultation Home”: Completely uninviting. Am I supposed to already know what papers #1, 2, 3 are about? What if I already have an issue in mind or a specific area I care about — how do I drill down quickly?

    Video overviews: OK, here the video is potentially useful, but I still want to be able to see the slides separately. For me it’s a question of time: I don’t know whether to invest 23 minutes to watch the video until I know what Neil Irwin’s going to talk about. For others, it’s an accessibility issue. Oh, and here there’s a volume control but it doesn’t remember my setting.

    Green Paper #1: I guess I have to download the PDF and then map my comment onto one of the sections listed. The comments get pretty buried (I have to click on a section before I can see how many comments it has, and then I have to click again to reveal the comments).

    Submitting a comment: the question I’m answering appears a third of a screen below where I type my answer. Where’s Rob’s nodding head when I need it?

    Paragraphs: this is the most glaring flaw — the comment system makes everything into a single paragraph! (It looks like you can type more than one, but submitting destroys line breaks.) No wonder everyone else’s comments are big unreadable blobs of text.

    Green Paper #2: A bit better — I can read this doc in the browser (no PDF required), though I have to get through a maze of weird buttons to get there. At least the doc has paragraphs, but the overall layout isn’t appealing to read.

    Overall, they’ve got the whole thing backwards — the site is structured around their needs as the presenters of information rather than my needs as the recipient and commenter. Limehouse seems to push them in this direction but there might be a couple of things they can do to mitigate it:

    Add something dynamic to announce and highlight important parts; could be as simple as a blog with excerpts that link into the existing site. But it has to be in much smaller chunks than entire “green papers”: assume people will only spend 15 minutes at a time, though possibly several times a week.

    Move past abstract “green papers” as quickly as possible (or assume you’ll only get feedback on them when you do). No doubt the research is valuable, but people will only get engaged when it’s directly relevant to them. When you say you want to build a mobility hub across the street from them, then they’ll care what the ones in Spain look like.


  5. I don’t see the problem with citizens volunteering to give their time to give feedback on something. (Look at the time spent by the host here!)

    At least we’re able to post comments here – unlike the Transit City website.


  6. No, Matt, that’s a Sharepoint page (I just double-checked), like the rest of the site. Sharepoint very much was and is the problem and will remain such until it is thrown out and replaced.

    Dave R: Ordinarily I might agree with you, but the context here is the Failed Redesign that is In other words, it’s a bit late to be asking us how to rearrange the deck chairs.


  7. Joe, I agree uses SharePoint, but there’s actually a second Metrolinx site hosted at (You’re taken there when you follow the “Click here to participate link”, or Steve’s “detailed consultation page” link above.) That second site is where the consultation actually takes place. I see no signs of SharePoint on, but it’s no better than the front-end site.


  8. All I see is an uninviting, completely amateur website, ludicrously lame agency name, some inter transit agency bandaids, and business as usual with transit cronyism as their public advisory board.


  9. Matt, I’m trying not to do their work for them. Bit of a bad taste they left and all that.

    Anyway, outside survey-taking sites are a problem unto themselves. Why, this very Weblog received complaints from a blind user that a TTC survey wouldn’t work in a screen reader. I know you all think I’m being uncharitable. It’s just that my attitude these days (pace a recent Spacing comment) is “More rigour, please.”


  10. I dont know why everyone had such problems. I was able to read and access all documents and data with ease, and able to put my comments in without a problem. Things were easy to find and easy to respond to.


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