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Tech

TTC GPS Streetcar Tracking Beta? Now Live!

Posted by Jerrold Litwinenko / March 16, 2009

ttc gpsThe TTC, GPS, and mobile devices appear to finally be united! Using the satellite-based services of a company called NextBus, the TTC now has what appears to be (LIVE!) mobile-friendly, GPS-enabled tracking on our streetcar routes.

It's really easy to use. You simply visit the NextBus TTC web page, choose your route, then direction, then your starting point, and voila! You have predicted arrival times for the next streetcar(s). This is small-step-giant-leap stuff for Toronto transit.

ttc nextbus

NextBus was awarded the multi-million dollar contract way back in September of 2006. The long wait aside, I'm super excited to see things finally starting to become functional, and can't wait to see this in fully developed form (and on buses).

Tonight, a Tweet by larrylarry at 9:48pm was the first I'd heard of the news of this Beta (or is it still in Alpha?). No related TTC news releases have been issued to my knowledge (we usually get them... although @braddttc IS on vacation), so this may or may not have been a "leak". On the NextBus site, Toronto has not yet been added to the list of transit system choices within Ontario (although Guelph and Thunder Bay do appear). The service is also not yet accessible via the TTC's official website (only a static streetcar schedule is posted there).

I was just about to crash for the night when I got the news, so I haven't been able to give the service a real test run yet, but I'm pretty sure we'll see a slew of early user reviews pour in on the web tomorrow. It may be that just a small number of vehicles are being tracked. Hopefully it's left live from now on, so we can try it out.

If you have had a chance to play around with this, feel free to drop your early reviews/comments/suggestions in this post. We'll gladly collect feedback and later send it off to the TTC and/or Nextbus. In the meantime, here's an explanation of how NextBus works.

UPDATE
: Tuesday, March 17th, 3pm: Spacing is now reporting that the TTC has yanked all but two routes (the 510 and the 509) from the prototype. Le grand boo. I guess this makes sense though. Given that this is far from the finished product, there's not much point in the public having access to a system that isn't nearly ready for reliable use.

Discussion

36 Comments

Alex / March 17, 2009 at 12:57 am
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hoora!!!! Finally!!!
Jerrold / March 17, 2009 at 01:04 am
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via Twitter:

<a href="http://twitter.com/datwright/statuses/1340643932";>datwright</a> says: <i>There they are! Right on time! "Arriving" seems to mean about 30 seconds away from the stop. Works great! #TTC #GPS #nextbus @blogto</i>
Krupo / March 17, 2009 at 01:21 am
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I was very excited to see this - and I know it's just in beta so they're working out the kinks but it was still a bit of a let down to see this:

"Next vehicle in:
No current prediction"

<sigh>

Well maybe it means service really *is* down. :p
Dan D / March 17, 2009 at 01:21 am
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They must still be trying to figure out what those giant shiny servers are in their server room to run this service. They may just be poking them with sticks by now.

In all seriousness, I'm really glad to see the TTC moving forward leveraging technology to better serve their customer base.
Krupo / March 17, 2009 at 01:24 am
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Tried another stop.

"Next vehicle in:
30
minutes

Valid as of 1:22 AM Tuesday, March 17"

Ouch.
Jerrold / March 17, 2009 at 01:37 am
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I'm guessing that the system is only monitoring some streetcars, and the rest will be added before the system really goes "live". What we're seeing here may be way too early to judge, likely has bugs, etc.

Hopefully <a href="http://twitter.com/adam_giambrone";>@adam_giambrone</a> and/or <a href="http://twitter.com/bradttc";>@bradttc</a> can tell us more, soon!
Krupo / March 17, 2009 at 01:39 am
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Agreed - definitely in beta. Will be interesting to see how well it pings on streetcars that will be short-turning (versus the surprise ones no one would expect it to predict).
DavidToronto / March 17, 2009 at 04:16 am
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NextBus feature doesn't want to work on streetcar lines. Maybe it's down now (4:15) and getting
readied for the day when the 300-series all-night routes end.
Jerrold / March 17, 2009 at 07:43 am
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via Twitter:

<a href="http://twitter.com/Adam_Giambrone/statuses/1341601297";>Adam_Giambrone</a> says:
<i>BlogTO unveiled the online vehicle arrival system and although just a prototype, it will be interesting To hear people's opinions on it.</i>
Nick W / March 17, 2009 at 07:44 am
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The timing on the 505 this morning was flawless: I drove alongside it, checking the time at every stop. :)

Fun. I have it favourited on my phone.
Corina / March 17, 2009 at 07:52 am
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Brilliant!! Let's see how it holds up in rush hour traffic...
Alan R / March 17, 2009 at 08:01 am
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You may want to check out some demos of TTC NextBus applications at this course Web page https://mathlab.utsc.utoronto.ca/courses/cscd08w09/rosselet/prj/teams.html (click on Demo links).
learningHDTV / March 17, 2009 at 09:02 am
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Wow, this is a very cool service! Thanks for the info.
Peter N / March 17, 2009 at 09:33 am
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This is pretty cool. Good on the TTC for seeing this through. The next step is opening up the api for some google map integration.
apetimberlake / March 17, 2009 at 09:57 am
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Agency: Toronto Transit Commision
Route: 508 - Lake Shore
Direction: Eastbound
Stop: Lake Shore Blvd W At Royal York

Next vehicles in:
No prediction for selected route

Valid as of 9:56 AM Tuesday, March 17





HELPFUL!
W. K. Lis / March 17, 2009 at 10:03 am
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Don't like the name "NEXTbus". Have it changed to some more appropriate name for Toronto, like "NEXTttc".
Laurence / March 17, 2009 at 10:28 am
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W.K. Lis - NextBus is the name of the company

apetimberlake - I don't think there is 508 service outside of rush hour
apetimberlake / March 17, 2009 at 11:00 am
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oops.
I thought i typed in 501 :(

COOL!
Ian / March 17, 2009 at 11:05 am
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Nice to see this and long over due. Lets hope it gets out of beta soon. Tried it this morning while on the 501 and no matter which stop I picked in front of me, it kept saying it was anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes for the next streetcar. When it's -20 out I want it accurate to withing 2 minutes. :)
skube / March 17, 2009 at 11:19 am
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This is about time! They should really work together with the guys from the Red Rocket app for the iPhone. They alreay have a great interface down.
Bob / March 17, 2009 at 02:28 pm
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I've just moved from San Francisco - NextBus works great there. If you really want to see how NextBus will work in Toronto, check out www.nextmuni.com for San Francisco predictions - or Guelph - http://www.nextbus.com/predictor/prediction.shtml?a=guelph&;r=01&d=01_inbound&s=woodwool_s&ts=woodceme_s
AB / March 17, 2009 at 02:47 pm
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GASP, where did all the streetcar lines go???? ARGGGHHH!!!!
Martin replying to a comment from AB / March 17, 2009 at 03:24 pm
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Life of a beta test I guess. It was cool while it lasted.

I too would like to see Google map & Red Rocket integration, but hey I'm happy they are actually trying to implement something useful.
Martin replying to a comment from Martin / March 17, 2009 at 03:29 pm
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My mistake, I found the Google map on the Guelph page
sharelle / March 17, 2009 at 03:48 pm
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I'm only seeing two lines:

509 - Harbourfront
510 - Spadina

Any idea why/how I can see the complete list?

Thanks!
keith replying to a comment from sharelle / March 17, 2009 at 03:54 pm
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From Adam Giambrone on twitter: #ttc 509 and 510 streetcar tracking info is accurate, others will come down for tweaking.
D Chan / March 17, 2009 at 05:38 pm
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the data is still available. they have just disabled it on the frontend.
W Yung / March 17, 2009 at 09:16 pm
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This ia great and much needed service! Which should have been implemented years ago. Now if only they could be like Viva and improve upon their systems. Have an electronic board at each stop, or even better a color touch LCD that shows a map of where the 1st, 2nd, 3rd next busses are coming and where they currently are and the arrival times that would be world class!
Paul / March 17, 2009 at 10:29 pm
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WEAK! Now its only for the 509 and 510 routes.
Krupo / March 17, 2009 at 11:09 pm
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I'm sure it'll be back soon - though that was my reaction too when they took it down.

Good thing the summery weather is here though - it gives them all summer to patch things up before winter comes (and when we really start to care again about how long it takes for a ride to arrive).

@W Yung - I'm sure that's the long-term plan, but that's hella expensive, while everyone has cell phones, and some have data plans which give them their own personal LCDs... :p
W. K. Lis / March 18, 2009 at 09:19 am
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Would the cost of one's cell phone to use the NEXTbus website be more than a fare increase? If it were free, I could make use of it on my cell phone. Otherwise, I would stick to my desktop computer's internet.
Martin / October 19, 2009 at 03:56 pm
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So it's now fall 2009 and the NextBus system is still in beta, anyone have any idea as to how long this beta test will last? Or if the TTC has any plans/timeline as to implementing this technology?
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mad man / May 18, 2013 at 12:53 pm
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dis shit take forever

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