How to Read a TTC Transfer
Ever stare at your bus or streetcar transfer while rocketing across town and wish you could decode it?
Well, maybe you should bring a book with you next time if you're that desperate for something to do, but here's what I've been able to figure out.
The design is really pretty simple, and it has to be for drivers to be able to tell at a glance whether to wave you by or stop you for a "Just a minute! Alright, buddy, there's three things wrong with this transfer..." lecture.
The tear-off transfers differ from the subway station machine-printed transfers, which start off as heat-sensitive paper (hence the lighter trick, where you quickly heat the back without burning it to blacken the front) which have the time and station information burned into them when you request one.
In the case of the bus/streetcar transfers, the driver has no way to change what is actually printed on the transfers when you ask for one, and so these portions of the transfer aren't involved in coding the time.
They're very straightforward, and from top to bottom are the route number, date, day number, transfer number, route details and a second printing of the date.
The template colour, of course, varies randomly from day to day but is consistent across the system on each day.
The only details of the transfer that can be modified on the fly are the various tears made into the paper, and so it's these that make up the coded "clock" specifying direction and time of travel.
The first detail is the "NIGHT" strip along the top of the transfer which specifies whether the transfer is from the daytime (if removed) or nighttime (if left attached).
The next part to look at is the very bottom of the transfer, which is shortened so that the last digit displayed in the left-hand column of numbers (the coloured ink, not the black) matches the hour digit for the time of issue.
That specifies the hour, and so the next place to read is which of the two right-hand notches indicates a number in the right-hand column. This is the minutes portion of the time of issue.
The second notch, which can be either above or below the minutes notch, indicates "U" or "D" for "up" or "down." Up refers to either north or west, while down represents south or east, and this notch is used to specify which direction the vehicle was heading along the printed route.
So, with the example given here, since the "NIGHT" strip is missing, the transfer is torn at 11 and notched at 00 and D, this transfer was issued by a southbound (York U -> Downsview) bus at 11:00 a.m.
I don't take St Clair enough to know, but I believe the 512's two-hour-expiry transfer system test is still running? Either way, you can click through to see a diagram on how to read those transfers - quite similar to the standard, the most important difference being that normal transfers specify the time of issue, while those specify the expiry time.
Fiending for more transfer info? Always wishing you could really make the most of your little paper friends? You might want to memorize the list of walking transfer stops (PDF) - perhaps something to do in transit now that you've conquered the transfer codes.
The walking transfer stops are non-intersecting stops which are on routes close enough to one another that riders are permitted to walk from one to the other and still board with a transfer.
This list is available online, but for the most part riders are just expected to do things properly without it, and the information is probably only well-known by employees.
And lastly, speaking of things for employees... if you're so into transit that you need to feel like you drive the trains yourself, you might want to check out Coupler, the TTC employee newsletter, with issues online dating from April 1998 to the current month.
Now all I wanna know is... what's "299 Bloor, 299 Bloor, 299 Bloor" mean? They're always being asked to "call control" over the PA and no one will explain the code to me.