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TTC info at the touch of a cellphone

If the bus you are waiting for conks out before reaching your stop — how would you find out? This is useful information — especially if the following bus isn’t expected for half an hour.

If the bus you are waiting for conks out before reaching your stop — how would you find out? This is useful information — especially if the following bus isn’t expected for half an hour.

People like to know how long they’re going to wait for buses, streetcars or trains — even on frequent routes. Many transit agencies in Ontario already offer phone recordings for specific stops to find out when the next few vehicles are scheduled to arrive.

Now that buses can be tracked easily by satellite, the TTC is ready to revisit a stop-based information service, the last one being shut down at the end of 1999. The 2009 version, to launch later this year according to commission chair Adam Giambrone, involves a simple request via cellphone or similar device. An automatic reply provides the next “real time” arrivals.

Forecasting exactly when a bus, tram or train will show up is not easy, thanks to traffic or other factors. For several years Viva has had “next bus” signs at certain stops in York Region. I’d like to hear from riders about the accuracy of these monitors — tell me via transit@eddrass.com.

Giambrone says cellphone and wireless Internet service is to be extended to the entire TTC subway system in “two to three years,” allowing riders to learn surface vehicle status while underground.

For those without mobile phones, new TTC display screens at Spadina and Union subway stations now predict the arrival of streetcars. If you don’t trust the computerized predictions, a live map shows each car’s progress. Expect glitches but eventually these screens will aid riders at station bus and streetcar bays with simpler versions at the busiest street stops.

The GPS technology that shows where vehicles are should help TTC route supervisors decide which ones to hold back or “short turn” in order to minimize gaps.

As for the subway, riders are finally going to see more next train arrival displays like the ones now in Dundas station. Monitors for subway, bus and streetcar arrivals are expected in all 69 TTC stations by 2010.

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Special note to users of assisted or paratransit services crossing municipal boundaries. Please contact me about a new survey.

 
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