It’s been nearly 20 years. You’d think I could get up in front of people without being out of breath. Respiration gets back to normal in a couple of minutes, but, when “deputing” before the TTC, five minutes are all you’ve got.

Today at the TTC, while everyone was obsessed with the Queen streetcar, I put in my five minutes broadly supporting the entire TTC Internet venture – the new Web site, the trip planner, E-commerce, the whole shebang. I said all the things I’ve said before: The trip planner is quadruple the cost of the full Web site (already over budget) and threatens to take it over. Trapeze Software has no known capacity to create semantic, valid, accessible output. (If you check, they have a site with valid HTML and tables for layout.) The TTC has pretty much admitted it doesn’t know what a good Web site is or does, plus they’re saddled with Windows and IE6. (And their idea of a computer upgrade is moving to Windows XP and IE6.)

I also pointed out that a lot of transit fans are computer programmers, and we need APIs for TTC’s own data. But that wasn’t mentioned in either RFP, nor has it been discussed since.

I got it all out without serious dysfluency, but I sounded breathy, which I hate. Then, to my surprise, there were “questions of staff.” John Cannon, apparently the head of I.T. at the TTC, confirmed explicitly that the Web redesign and the trip planner are “projects proceeding on their own individual paths toward completion.” (Yes, that’s what worries me.) His priority is getting the whole thing up and running, with an “opportunity for fine-tuning and adjustments after.” He said that twice. APIs? He didn’t use the term, but it’s an addition they could make “if people want that.”

Nice. I introduced myself to him later, told him I supported the online ventures, and said that, at least in the short term, let them install Firefox! He rolled his eyes, so I flipped my card down on his desk, clapped him on the shoulder, and wished him Merry Christmas.

Commissioner Anthony Perruzza did some quick math on the existing site and decided that four million out of the TTC’s 470 million annual riders even bothered checking schedules online. (Because they’re shite!) He’s not sure most of the people using the system “have the ability” to use the Internet – an early contender for most condescending remark of the year. Can’t they just use printed maps – “without having to carry a laptop around or some kind of gizmo”? (All Toronto city councillors are issued Crackberries.) Can’t they just ask the bus driver for directions?

Then he mused about how technology changes so quickly that “the cost of these technologies begins to spiral out of control.” He considers himself pretty computer-literate, but he can’t remember the last time he went online to plan a trip.

(If I don’t know how to get to my destination, how do I know what map to look at? If I’m supposed to ask my bus driver, how do I decide what bus to get on in the first place?)

Gary Webster explained this was merely an additional feature demanded by riders. The motion to approve the trip-planner funding passed.

Now, what about the general Web redesign? It’s being treated like a state secret.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.01.23 16:59. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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