A few weeks ago, The Transit Ombudsman put the spotlight on Metro’s online trip planner. Readers identified many good issues and provided excellent suggestions on the trip planner and other topics. WMATA staff followed up with us promptly and is working to correct many of the issues.
The goal of the Transit Ombudsman is to identify issues that bother riders and then contact Metro to seek solutions. The focus is on issues that are good bets to produce successful results.
Suzanne Peck, WMATA’s Assistant General Manager for Information Technology, contacted me to pledge the IT team’s responsiveness. David and I met with Peck and her deputy, Vic Grimes. We feel that both were very responsive and we are hopeful of seeing results that will raise rider satisfaction.
Your comments generally centered around four main areas: Items that were unclear or confusing on the site, the need to make it easier to report problems, accuracy issues around the trip planner, and trouble with NextBus.
Today’s column focuses on the first of those. wmata.com has many helpful tools for riders, but in some cases the names of tools or instructions aren’t clear enough. Here are a few examples you identified:
It isn’t. Type in “U Street,” for instance, and the tool, based on Google Maps, suggests addresses around the world starting with one in South Africa. You’re supposed to type in a specific address and find the closest rail stations with their distances.
The IT team will change this to “Find station near address.” Does that help?
What I hear most is people don’t know what “Service nearby” is and they don’t use it. If you haven’t used it, is “Service nearby” clear?
As with Find a Station, you can type in a specific address or landmark. But here, the site lists both bus stops and train stations within one mile, plus the exact distances.
Have you ever used this? If you have, how useful has it been?
We asked the IT team to change “Service nearby” on the main page tools list to “Service near address.” They explained there isn’t enough space and that “Service nearby” is based on Google maps’ “Search nearby.” However, on Google maps, that feature shows up only after you’ve typed in a location and you see a map, making it clear what it’s for.
Positive instructions: Jane suggested that the trip planner prominently tell people what to enter in addition to what not to enter. The trip planner’s address boxes say, “Do not enter city, state or zip,” but that doesn’t say what to enter.
Farther down, on the trip planner’s longer form, it says, “Note: Enter address, intersection or landmark. Do not include city, state, zip code or any commas.” But this is not particularly visible, nor is it part of the shorter form on the home page.
IT staff agreed this has merit. They will give greater emphasis to the instructions for what to enter. What do you think of the wording that’s already there?
Which other tools on WMATA.com do you think need to be described more clearly?
IT staff at Metro are demonstrating responsiveness to the issues readers of The Transit Ombudsman are raising. And they requested that I ask you to be as specific as possible in your comments. They’re reading what you’re writing.
Upcoming posts will look at your comments on reporting problems, trip planner accuracy, and NextBus.