Pocket Rocket

TTC arrival app sees into the future

The TTC iPhone app market is getting pretty saturated, especially considering that, at a basic level, the information on offer can be had for free via Nextbus. Nevertheless, given their cheap price — the ones I've tried all cost less than a token — I'm still happy to fork over a couple bucks to see if the latest offering has some feature that'll make life a little easier. Lately, I've also been on the lookout for apps that'll work best when the TTC finally gets GPS technology fully implemented on its buses (which is apparently due sometime this year).

The latest entrant into the fray is Pocket Rocket, which is wonderfully easy-to-use and offers a couple of features that aren't available on Rocket Radar and Next Streetcar, the last two apps of this kind that we've reviewed. Every TTC streetcar arrival app that I'm familiar with is focused solely on providing the user with information about when vehicles are destined to arrive at a given stop, but Pocket Rocket goes a step further by tracking arrival times at subsequent intersections along the route.

Say, for instance, that I board a 501 streetcar heading eastbound at Jameson Avenue. As the picture above illustrates, this app will give me a pretty good indication of when I'm likely to arrive at Osgoode Subway Station (20 minutes). This isn't infallible, of course — a delay could easily undermine the initial prediction — but having a general sense of how long my trip is going to take is quite valuable information, especially when covering unfamiliar territory.

Pocket Rocket's straightforward interface also does an excellent job of tracking alternative route possibilities, something that I suspect will become particularly valuable when bus arrival times are added to the app. When combined with the Goolge map feature, it's a cinch to determine whether or not its worth catching a different car (i.e. making the trek up to King from Queen or vice versa) or staying put. Rocket Radar and Next Streetcar also offer such info, but I find Pocket Rocket displays it in the most intuitive manner.

That's not to say there aren't a few drawbacks. I really don't like the fact that "I must be within a kilometer [sic] of a stop on the Toronto streetcar network" to receive arrival times or that I can't override the location-based plotting to select a stop outside of my immediate vicinity. But as is the case with all of these types of apps, to keep the interface as convenient as possible, certain features are offered at the expense of others. As such, this app will appeal most to those who think they'll benefit from the subsequent stop predictions and the seamlessly integrated alternate route suggestions.

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