A better BIXI web site

There’s much to like about the BIXI bike-sharing system in Montréal: it’s affordable ($78 for a year of biking), accessible and fun to use. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that it’s made cycling more of a main stream activity here in Montreal, which benefits everyone (even drivers indirectly gain from less congested streets).

With the arrival of the first BIXI stations in NDG, I decided to subscribe to it this year even though I have a bike of my own. So far, it looks like I’m going to easily use it enough to justify the cost. I still use my regular bike for my commute from NDG to the Plateau, but on the edges there’s a ton of cases where it just makes sense to use something that I don’t have to worry about locking up and returning home. Sometimes I only want to go one way (for weather or whatever other reason). Other times I want to take public transit for one leg of my trip (or day), but need/want to take a quick jaunt elsewhere once I’m downtown.

I do have to say though, their new web site drives me crazy. I’ve thought prety deeply about the domain of creating user-friendly transit-focused web sites, so I think I can speak with some authority here.

Leaving aside it’s value as a promotional tool for the service itself (not my area of expertise), the experience of trying to find a nearby station is complicated by a slow, multi-layered UI that requires repeated clicking and searching to find the nearest station that has bikes available. Why bother with this step when we can just display this information outright on the map? iPhone applications like Bixou have been doing this for years. It’s time we brought the same experience to the desktop.

Thus, I present nixi.ca: a clean, useable interface to BIXI’s bike share system that presents the information you care about as effectively as possible, without all the clutter. I’ve already found it useful, and I hope you do too. Think you can do better? Fork the source on github and submit your changes back to me! Minus some glue code to fetch station info server side, it’s entirely a client-side application written in HTML/JavaScript.

Note that the site uses a bunch of modern HTML5 features, so currently requires a modern browser like Firefox, Chrome, or Safari to display properly. I may or may not fix this. Other notable omissions include support for other cities with the BIXI system (Toronto, Ottawa, …) and French localization. Patches welcome!

14 thoughts on “A better BIXI web site”

  1. Cool! I’ll share with friends that have their annual pass.

    One suggestion I have is to enhance the bubble of the stations to allow entering a destination address and compute a safe route using Ride The City (http://www.ridethecity.com/?region=montreal). I found this site is better than Google Maps, at least for cycling.

  2. @Robin: Yup, I did see that site. It’s very cool, though I think has a slightly different focus than nixi. My aim is to build a site which is maximally useful for solving a single user story: are there any bikes/free racks near a particular location?

    @Nicolas: I’m planning on adding a trip planner mode (in fact if you look at the source, you’ll see that there’s already some code/html for it). Ride the City looks like cool technology, but I’m not sure if it’s possible to use its route planner in a third party site. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll probably wind up using Google Map’s bicycle planner for a first pass.

    @Alison: Thanks! :)

  3. @Julia: I especially like the autocomplete on your site, I think I might have to borrow that idea. :P

  4. Wow, I’m really impressed.
    Very functionnal, I love it :)

    I see one omission, uninstalled/disabled stations that Bixi insists on displaying (with 3 empty docks) are shown as ACTIVE on your webpage (e.g. Wolfe/René Levesques)

    Suggestions:

    % of free docks within 500m of destination

  5. @Bixien: Good catch on the uninstalled bit! I just fixed that.

    Re: Free docks and destination. I have a cunning plan for doing a trip planner, which hopefully I’ll be able to implement at some point this summer. It should do what you suggest + more.

  6. A bit sad actually that an user had to do this instead of Bixi’s webdesigners, but oh well :P Thanks!

  7. I like you map. Much faster to load than Bixi’s home page, But not what I’m looking for yet.

    I stumbled upon your page looking for code snippet to parse the XML and get, in a table format, only my “favorite” stations.

    Dynamic Google maps are nice, but on the corner street on my BlackBerry, it takes ages to load, pan and zoom.

    (I’ll have a look at your code, but I’m no programmer…)

  8. @Simon: Yeah, nixi isn’t really designed for mobile browsers. I’ve been thinking about doing a special version for that use-case, but honestly there’s less incentive because there’s so many good mobile apps already (SpotCycle, Bixou, …)

  9. Users know the best what they need, so I think it’s perfect. Maybe it could be even better if you could filter stations by the number of docks/bicycles or create your own filter with your favorite spots.

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