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WiFi coming to TTC buses and streetcars

Posted by Natalia Manzocco / June 20, 2014

ttc wifiWiFi on the TTC was just a pipe dream until last year, when it became a glorious, ad-supported reality at Yonge and St. George stations. Now, the transit authority has announced plans to make its fleet of buses and streetcars WiFi-capable in 2016. For its own internal use, that is. They can't promise it for riders.

The WiFi will be installed as part of a $95-million upgraded dispatch and vehicle location system replacing the '70s-era one in use today. What that means for riders is, likely, improved arrivals information and route servicing, but not a way to browse Facebook without munching all of your data.

That begs the question: If the infrastructure requires installation anyway, why not make it a priority to open it up to the public - especially when a project to do just that for the entire Toronto subway is already in progress? In April, the TTC board asked for a staff update on the possibility of bus and streetcar WiFi, but that info hasn't surfaced yet, and TTC chair Brad Ross has declined to speculate on when that might happen. In the meantime: Enjoy the same old morning commute. Ho hum.

Photo by Kat NLM in the blogTO Flickr pool.



MR / June 20, 2014 at 10:53 am
Awesome! I was just thinking (as I was walking for the millionth time from King/Spadina to the lake waiting for that Spadina loop to be finished after years of delays) that if there's one thing I really need, quality service and finished lines be damned - give me my free WiFi!

In other words, priorities. And history shows that a promise from the TTC is usually empty and can't be taken seriously.
The CJM / June 20, 2014 at 10:56 am
I'm not clear on how they're going to use WiFi to improve dispatch and location information. WiFi is a short range solution. Using some sort of cellular data to update the central server with GPS info from each bus, which is probably what they use now, makes sense. Unless they're using some sort of really old school radio system.

Do they mean that each bus will have an internal wifi signal so that various sensors and systems inside it can talk to each other? I'm curious to see a more in depth article that explains exactly what they're talking about.

Matt / June 20, 2014 at 10:59 am
Typical TTC half-assing it again. Just like the total debacle of streetcar rails that weren't wide enough for the streetcars they ended up buying. Nothing but incompetence over there. Just do it right the first time. At least wifi access would justify a fare increase to help pay for it.
Ed Nixon / June 20, 2014 at 11:03 am
Awesome! Now we can give up our whereabouts and other internet behaviour information to our local municipal authorities. This is an example of stuff that happens because it _can_ rather than because it _should_. Without any perceptible consultation or privacy undertakings by those in charge.
Todd Toronto / June 20, 2014 at 11:17 am

[reads article]

Oh. Never mind.
DirtyT / June 20, 2014 at 11:27 am
Who cares.. What are we talking about here? A few megabytes of free data?

It makes sense on the subway (it'd be nice to be able to let somebody know I'm running late because the subway is stuck).. But on a bus or streetcar?? Just use your damned data package.
Sal / June 20, 2014 at 11:43 am
How about we fix the U turning of these streetcars....I mean, this is the first city in the world, where I sit in a streetcar, pay full fare and then am asked to get off prior to reaching my destination (what I paid for) to wait for another car coming at some point..How is one expected to function with no specific commute times?
? / June 20, 2014 at 11:51 am
can I have the time I spent reading that ttc staff is able to use wifi on buses and streetcars but customers can't back?
Jacob replying to a comment from The CJM / June 20, 2014 at 11:54 am
Some slick salesman probably sold them on an "amazing" technology.
Pat / June 20, 2014 at 11:59 am
The money towards this should go into fixing our puny and neglected transit and infrastructure. Besides, isn't it that Toronto becoming notoriously known for being bad for dating and romance (see sites/blogs)? More technology (over-technology) will make it even worse. Good luck.
Crybabies, the lot of 'em / June 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm
A lot of people like to complain about a service that only costs $3 yet will take you from one end of the city to another.
Go live in a city without streetcards and subways and see how far you get on bus lines for that same $3 price and the amount of time spent doing so. Whether you have wifi access or not shouldn't be a complaining point.
jaaaaat / June 20, 2014 at 12:22 pm
waste! get wifi on the subeway maybe. but we all have data packages. this is entirely useless and
willeh replying to a comment from The CJM / June 20, 2014 at 12:26 pm
GPS is spotty in the city. GPS works far better in open areas. That said. WIFI is easy and cheap to install at stops. As the bus or streetcar comes within range of the stop it will connect to each stop and "check in". No matter if the vehicle is in traffic or not, it is likely to be within range of a wifi signal (at least downtown) If not in range the vehicle last checked in at say Queen and Dufferin but has not made it within range of the next stop on Dufferin and Alma. SO the computer at HQ sees that the vehicle is between Queen and Alme on Dufferin. Then the vehicle checks in and Alma and then etc.... I am sure the outlying routes probably will be on some sort of gps/wifi hybrid configuration.
DirtyT / June 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm
I'd be royally ticked off if my fares went up because somebody else wanted to save a few pennies on their data packages.
Ramen / June 20, 2014 at 12:38 pm
Does this mean buses on Dufferin will stop coming 4/5 at a time and then not again for 20 minutes?!? Probably not
Jon replying to a comment from Crybabies, the lot of 'em / June 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm
first of all if you live in a city without streetcars or subways wifi is the least of your problems. every city that DOES have a transit system, is 100000x better than Toronto and that's a fact. For $3 you should be able to not only "go from one end of the city to the other", but to all connecting points and intersections throughout the city. Toronto's transit is a joke.
The CJM replying to a comment from willeh / June 20, 2014 at 12:43 pm
Willeh, that's a good solution. And it opens up a lot more potential for a future where you can get free wifi at any bus stop!
bill replying to a comment from jaaaaat / June 20, 2014 at 12:53 pm
Your assumption is wrong
johnsonweinerbeater / June 20, 2014 at 01:18 pm
Great, people don't stare at their phones enough already, we need wifi on streetcars and buses.
iSkyscraper / June 20, 2014 at 01:29 pm
I wrote a post that was packed with links but the spam filter ate it.

Bottom line -- no transit system has wifi on all surface vehicles yet. A few have started to put it on some express buses (Miami, SF-area) but some have also tried it on buses and then cancelled it due to cost (Seattle, SF). At this point in time it certainly is something to think about for commuter rail stations (NJ Transit, GO) and the commuter trains themselves (Boston, awesome - 10,000 connections per day) we are a few years yet from the day when it will make fiscal and technological sense to put them on surface vehicles.

More details:
DirtyT replying to a comment from Jon / June 20, 2014 at 02:51 pm

You have not travelled enough. There are many cities with transit systems that are far worse than Toronto's.
Random Reader replying to a comment from Jon / June 20, 2014 at 03:51 pm
"every city that DOES have a transit system, is 100000x better than Toronto and that's a fact."
that's not a fact. actually that's opinion. or hearsay at best.
Joe Shmoe / June 20, 2014 at 06:42 pm

TTC - is the Bitter Way ...

Don / June 20, 2014 at 10:27 pm
Will we still be using WiFi in 2017?
B / June 20, 2014 at 11:35 pm
If I am still living in a city where I have to access public WiFi networks everywhere I go in 2017, then I will take it as a sign to move to a part of the world that isn't stuck in the year 2005.
James / June 21, 2014 at 09:05 am

SWEET! Drivers I'll be able to stream songza right onto the bus!

She bangs, she bangs
I'm wasted by the way she moves
No one ever lokked so fine
She reminds me
That a woman's got one thing on her mind
Fendy / June 22, 2014 at 01:25 am
$95-million and that's what they're spending all our taxpayers money on? I can't comprehend how this is even justifiable. What we SHOULD spend our money on is safety measures such as doors that separate passengers from the rails. Platform screen doors are widely used in Asia and Europe... with Toronto being the largest city in Canada by population I don't see how we are not taking these precautions.. talk about stone age.
HK replying to a comment from DirtyT / June 24, 2014 at 09:18 am
Toronto could do a lot of improvement, but there are some points that outshine other big cities with good networks (ie. NYC, Paris). Although the cities can connect you almost anywhere, but compared to TO's the physical conditions aren't as clean.
Spike replying to a comment from Crybabies, the lot of 'em / June 25, 2014 at 03:42 pm

Additionally, these people who complain-have any of them never heard of books or magazines? Or of using their media player to watch a movie, listen to music, or watch TV while they commute?
Spike replying to a comment from Jon / June 25, 2014 at 03:47 pm
Toronto`s transit is only a joke to whiners and moaners who don't know or want to know how to use it properly.
Katje / December 22, 2014 at 08:50 pm
Joke...Wi-Fi in public transportation is available in most if not all european countries. ..starting from metro to streetcars/tram ..buses..regular trains and god knows why Ttc or province doesn't provide connection while on board? They have money to install 6 cameras in one bus ..but no sponsor for wi-fi?? Joke
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