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Live GPS tracking of TTC streetcars rolling out on more routes

Posted by Jerrold Litwinenko / March 8, 2010

ttc gpsGPS tracking of TTC streetcars is now available for additional routes. Next vehicle arrival times for routes 504 King, 505 Dundas, 506 Carlton, 511 Bathurst, and 512 St. Clair (beta) are all now available and accessible via the web and mobile phone.

ttc nextbusIn March of last year, a GPS tracking on number of routes was leaked for a short time, and then revoked from public access pending further development. Until now, only the 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront routes were online.

ttc gps streetcars torontoDoes this make you happy as a pig in shit, or what? Soon to be gone are the times of hopelessly waiting curbside at streetcar stops with no idea when the next TTC streetcar would be arriving. This will come in particularly handy when it's -25oC in Toronto and shelter can be sought at home or in a nearby coffee shop or store.

Lead photo by sjgardiner, member of the blogTO Flickr pool.



Rob / March 8, 2010 at 04:35 pm
This is huge! I might actually consider living on Queen East again if this is rolled out further.
Tom Cochrane / March 8, 2010 at 04:37 pm
Awesome! Can't wait for this to roll out for the 501.
michelle / March 8, 2010 at 04:49 pm
god, finally. even waterloo already has this system in place and dedicated phoneline to it.
Kwil / March 8, 2010 at 04:53 pm
Finally. Thank heavens.
Chris / March 8, 2010 at 05:00 pm
HUGE. Now I can see how hopelessly clustered my 511 streetcar really is.

myron / March 8, 2010 at 05:00 pm
Note that this beta test includes the current bus detour, as Roncesvalles is all dug up, even though it returns no data for said bus detour...
George Bell / March 8, 2010 at 05:07 pm
Also check out my site: you can see historical route information...
gary / March 8, 2010 at 05:11 pm
the notifications look good and are effective, it's too bad the graphics on the map are so hideous... i hope the TTC actually integrates this into actual stops as the vast majority of torontonians aren't going to be accessing this website on their mobile phone... i mean, i will, but let's face it, theres millions of TTC riders out there who won't be.
Martin / March 8, 2010 at 05:12 pm
Finally! I'm happy to see this being rolled out, and wouldn't this make the Text Messaging for Next Vehicle Arrival system ( redundant?

I think it is a waste of resources to spend money on similar systems.
Ryan L. / March 8, 2010 at 05:20 pm
Greg M / March 8, 2010 at 06:29 pm
I'm monitoring it now out my window . . . .and there it goes the 506 past my stop - right on time!

(Welcome to 2001, TTC! How does it feel to implement something that so many other cities / towns have taken for granted? (Hell, I was in villages in Germany in early 2000s that had this on their bus stops)

Umm - 506 "Calton" ? . . .

Beta, i know.

Lack of support in the map plugins for Firefox is an unfortunate omission for this sort of program
Michael / March 8, 2010 at 06:43 pm
We'll never see the 501 shown on this thing, because then the TTC would have to admit just how poor they've allowed service to become on Queen and especially out in Long Branch.
Bonk / March 8, 2010 at 06:58 pm
@Ryan L: The links for both computer and mobile browsers were supplied under the title photo.
morga / March 8, 2010 at 06:58 pm
Love it!
Ryan / March 8, 2010 at 07:05 pm
This is great, but they're going to need to put up display signs at stops for this to really reach maximum effectiveness.
Kieran / March 8, 2010 at 07:44 pm

Waterloo buses also stop running at around 5pm on Sundays. Doesn't matter if they have GPS if the buses never come.
Michael Glenn / March 8, 2010 at 08:09 pm
Fantastic news! It's interesting to see the more travelled routes come online first as I think routes with less service could stand to increase ridership through this tool but it will come eventually. Pleasing the greatest number of existing riders is probably better from a PR standpoint.
Michael Glenn replying to a comment from Ryan / March 8, 2010 at 08:12 pm
I disagree. I think it's far more valuable to know when to leave your home, office, restaurant or bar to keep from standing out in the cold. I think the ROI on putting electronic signage within bus stops is much lower. They may do it at some point but I'm sure it's much more costly than we think.
W. K. Lis / March 8, 2010 at 09:42 pm
I wish the TTC supervisors could get an iPad that connects to their intranet (not necessarily internet) to show the same, if not better, information. Maybe eventually, the drivers would get their own display of their route on their intranet connection.
mike / March 8, 2010 at 10:13 pm
It cost them 10 million dollars just to put that website up?

As a professional programmer I can tell you it doesn't cost 10 million dollars to make a website like that. That's insane. What could they possibly have spent 10 million on?

100 GPS transmitters at, say $300 = $30,000.

One slow ass computer for the server = $2,000.

One semi competent programmer putting it all together, say 1 year at $60,000.

One semi competent technician installing the GPS units, say one year at $60,000.

And say, an art school drop out to design one of the ugliest web sites I've ever seen: $40,000

That's $200,000 and change. What did they spend the other $9.8 million on? Even if you triple the labour costs you're still left with 9.2 million.

Even if you quadruple the cost of the equipment you a still have > 9 million left.

This is insane.
mike / March 8, 2010 at 10:18 pm
For reference, I think the guys made their site in their spare time, for free. And it's basically the same thing.

All they would need is access to the GPS feed, and I'm sure they could do exactly what the TTC paid 10 million dollars. I bet they could do it in a weekend.

Honestly sounds like a complete rip off, and worse I bet nobody gives a shit, everyone's just happy to finally have 10 year old technology.
Mike / March 8, 2010 at 11:09 pm
shaun / March 8, 2010 at 11:37 pm
they have an iphone version of the site too, which picks up your GPS location automatically!

for once I must say, very nicely done.
Torontonian / March 9, 2010 at 01:17 am
It's nearly 1:20 am Tuesday morning and the only streetcars
on 506 are all eastbound.
At least people with internet connections wouldn't have to
stand out until a westbound car came by. For some that could be greater than 1/2 hour!.
IHMM / March 9, 2010 at 08:28 am
Waterloo already has this? Unbelievable. This sums up the TTC! Adam Giambroni....what a complete and total freakin' idiot stick. I guess he's too busy banging women in his office to think of or implement these basic new technologies. By the way, how does one have sex in their office and still keep their job? Only in the city of Toronto! Anyone in the private sector would be fired....I guess this is where George Castanza (i.e. Seinfeld) should have worked!
geg / March 9, 2010 at 09:05 am
Speaking of MyTTC:
Ratpick / March 9, 2010 at 09:06 am
This is a great step. So why, exactly, are we still paying Supervisors to stand on street corners, with clipboards, pencils and pocketwatches?
dngm replying to a comment from mike / March 9, 2010 at 09:23 am
Mike, are you a professional user tester? Rigorous user testing is some of the most labour- and money-intensive work in any project done well. Without it you end up with a piece of shit product that only the "professional programmer" knows how to use.

I'm not saying it's worth $10 mil, but this is a project that needs to services millions of transit riders well; let's hope to God it's expensive because they're doing design and user testing.
Steve replying to a comment from shaun / March 9, 2010 at 09:40 am
@shaun wheres the iphone version of the site?
Eric S. Smith replying to a comment from Martin / March 9, 2010 at 09:53 am
I don't think that this makes an SMS-based system less valuable, because an SMS-based system could be used by anyone with a $100/year Virgin phone.
JLankford / March 9, 2010 at 10:12 am
The TTC's reluctance to have the tracking on the 501, the busiest, and most delayed route is obviously out of fear. If people see that there is a 20 minute gap between streetcars, then three street cars in a row arriving at the same time, they'll no longer be able to put their heads in the sand.

That said, I'd love for the 501 to be included, delays, or not. Knowing when I leave my office, if I'll be able to catch a streetcar in the next five minutes is huge. If it's going to be a half hour wait, I might as well walk down to the King car, or grab a bite to eat.
Nick / March 9, 2010 at 11:17 am
Is there an API? I'd love to see the data opened up for (1) better third-party interfaces by folks like myttc and (2) third-party data analysis like George Bell is doing
BJ / March 9, 2010 at 11:33 am
This stuff is great!

Almost all of the big cities I've been to don't have it...? What's with the whining?
Kieran Huggins replying to a comment from mike / March 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm
Funny you mention that... Kevin wrote a script to pull in the GPS data last night after dinner. We'll likely release something after accessible trip planning is done.

Incidentally, Kevin has actually designed and built GPS vehicle tracking units (in a former life) ;-)
cathy / March 9, 2010 at 12:49 pm
This service should be enabled for every route!
Where I live the bus service is never predictable.
Steve Munro / March 9, 2010 at 02:38 pm
The bus fleet is not yet completely equipped with GPS units, and that's why the bus routes are not yet part of the system.

There is a much more primitive vehicle tracking system on the non-GPS routes, but its output is not reliable enough to use for these types of applications.
michelle replying to a comment from Kieran / March 9, 2010 at 02:51 pm
what does it matter if they stop running at 5pm? and btw, they don't stop at 5pm if you've ever been to waterloo.

the point is, they have a accurate functioning system already in place years ago.
Perry / March 9, 2010 at 04:40 pm
The 504 was just removed again... what a tease!
Matthew / March 9, 2010 at 05:40 pm
Everything's gone! I didn't even get to try it out. :(
Greg m / March 9, 2010 at 06:48 pm
......aaaaand it's gone.
Oh well. Tomorrow morning it's back to wondering if there's a 506 car up at main street station while I freeze my ass at norwood.

Hopefully it'll be back up before November!
Dan / March 9, 2010 at 11:58 pm
Serious! Why would they take off the other routes? Just slap a huge Beta on the site! I used it twice on my Curve today! Was walking up John st from Front and glanced up the street and could hear a streetcar. Instead of running, I opened the site and saw two more a couple blocks back so I just kept my leisurely pace.
I think the only reason they took the other routes down, was to avoid people pointing out even more that there was a 20 min gap.
If I was them, I would be using this data to patch up the gaps before bringing it live again
Lisa / March 10, 2010 at 03:44 pm
Am I the only one who remembers that this service used to be available pre Y2K? They used to have phone numbers posted to TTC signs so you could call and find out when the next bus/streetcar was expected at your stop. Then the service got interrupted during the Y2K hooplah and never returned. Until now anyways. It only took them 10 years! lol....
Denis / March 11, 2010 at 12:23 pm
I remembered reading about Nextbus on BlogTO last year when it was posted initially. And was fortunate enough to have bookmarked the site and continued to use the 509/510 service.

It's great to hear that its up now for other street car lines, however, it's still showing as only 509/510 for me. Even when I click the link in this article.

Has it been taken down again?
Richard S / March 11, 2010 at 04:49 pm
Denis: they took it back down again.
S / March 13, 2010 at 09:35 am
I don't trust the TTC anymore.
I don't trust the sleeping staff.
I don't trust Giambony either.
Watch out world, I got a car.
paul / April 15, 2010 at 04:06 am
what a joke
took them one year to test 2 streetcar routes and they are still in beta testing
with the speed they move it will be 50 more years before we see all ttc routes on the next bus
medical coder / November 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm
Do you people have a facebook fan page? I looked for one on twitter but could not discover one, I would really like to become a fan!
Rohan kelvin Small replying to a comment from michelle / January 17, 2012 at 02:01 pm
20 trent Avenue Toronto, Ontario M4C 5r9
K / November 1, 2015 at 12:13 pm
Private companies would run the show better. PRIVATIZE THE TTC.
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