On the occasion of the Cityway Innovation Meetings on the theme of transportation demand management, Interview with Diane Kolin, project manager for Triplinx in Toronto
Diane, how did you come to work in your client Triplinx’s offices in Toronto?
It was a major project and our client Metrolinx, the Greater Toronto transit authority, understandably had high expectations of us. One of their requests was that we worked on site so that we could do things faster. So, in 2014 I set off across the Atlantic with our software architect Jérémy to create the Triplinx project (a Regional Transit Integrated System) on site, assisted by our teams in France. For a whole year, we had a team at Cityway dedicated to the delivery of the project.
Why did they want to develop a SIM (Multimodal information System)?
It was part of preparations for the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games which were to be held in July and August 2015, for which Metrolinx had been appointed to create the official trip planner for the Toronto region. Working with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, we created our first fully responsive and accessible map centric solution.
Toronto is a fast-growing city, but there was a lack of information about transportation services. We created a big repository collecting the data of 12 mobility providers! Our software architect stayed in Toronto for 8 months to develop and upgrade it, with help from the teams based in France.
What do you think contributed the most to the success of this project?
There was a powerful political commitment, the Big Move. Metrolinx is a government organization which really wanted to get all the stakeholders in the region working together.
What are the main features of the Big Move?
There are key points: improve the regional public transit by extending the existing regional GO Transit services; improve the regional public transit by creating the RER, a new regional train; create the UP Express train, running from the main Union Station – Toronto city center – to the airport; create a regional trip planner – Triplinx; and improve the Presto farecard, extending its use to all the transit agencies in Greater Toronto. All of these have been achieved, except the new regional train which is currently under construction.
What difference does it make to your client that you work in their offices?
I am a full member of the team, with an e-mail address, a computer and a workstation at Metrolinx. It’s easier for them because I communicate directly with Cityway to manage the project, help the administrator (Triplinx is managed by an administrator trained at Metrolinx in the use of administration tools created by Cityway), perform and manage test cases with the client’s testing team, and report back any issues. I know the right people to contact at Cityway. Communication is faster. And if they ask us what we do for other clients, we can share technical case studies with them. I have the benefit of a six-hour time lag: the Cityway teams in France work at night for us, which is perfect! When the Mobility Account (compte mobilité) came out, I showed them videos and a short presentation and gave them the right contact details for more information. We also draw on support from the North America team.
How do you work with the teams in place?
To help the client, the contract allows me to replace the Triplinx administrator who enters the data and answers questions from various people. If he is sick, for example, or if he is too busy, he asks me to step in.
I work in a team with him. I have created some personalized reports for him which automatically supply statistics and let him see the most frequent trips or the most-used routes for each partner. He uses these for his monthly reports to the transit agencies present on Triplinx.
According to needs, I can go from a project manager role to that of a developer/tester or the temporary administrator of the solution.
We work closely with a consultant (IBI Group) whose role is to check that everything is being delivered according to contract. They attend our project meetings which happen once a week.
What have you contributed in addition to your technical expertise?
We brought our knowledge of how multimodal transportation works on the ground and we worked on the interconnection between transit providers, as this is something we often do at Cityway. We also helped them in communicating with one another. It can get difficult, because you have to be aligned on the steps to accomplish together: data format, attendance at workshops, deadlines to meet, all the important things to make sure the project gets done. But in 2014, everyone wanted to be ready in time for the Pan Am Games! And we had a great project director at Metrolinx who was really motivated, and she literally moved mountains! Today the project has evolved considerably thanks to contributions from other Metrolinx project directors.
What’s your assessment of this collaboration which is set to continue until 2020?
The teams at Metrolinx are very happy. We answer their questions quickly all the time. And the fact that I work in their office has created a relationship of trust between us. I’ve become good friends with some co-workers.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the same job as you in a client’s offices?
Don’t be afraid of change. It was a big change for me, because I went from France, which is a small country, to a vast territory, so you have to think differently. And encountering another way of looking at public transportation is also very instructive.
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