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TXT-TTC for Your Next Streetcar

Today, on Toronto’s third smoggy day in a row, Mayor David Miller and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone launched another initiative that the TTC hopes will make transit riding a little easier. The next phase of the TTC’s Next Vehicle Arrival System (NVAS), which came online today, gives riders the ability to find out via text message when their next streetcar is coming.

Building upon other efforts, such as April’s launch of the LED and LCD NVAS displays and 2008′s launch of next subway arrival times, the latest feature is just another stepping stone toward a system-wide roll-out of real-time vehicle information. By the time the NVAS system is rolled out to all bus routes, which Giambrone said today would be by the beginning of 2011, Toronto’s system will be the largest of its kind in North America.

Mayor David Miller and TTC Chair Adam Giambrone test out the TTC’s new SMS Next Vehicle system. Photo by Laurence Lui/Torontoist.

To use the SMS system for streetcars, send your stop number—found on a big sticker at every streetcar stop—to TXT-TTC (898-882), and within seconds, you’ll get the real-time arrival times of your next six streetcars. (Any delays are “Rogers’ fault,” joked Miller.) If you don’t know your stop’s number, or aren’t at the stop, stop numbers have been added to the TTC’s website on each streetcar route’s respective schedule pages. (Here, for example, is the 504 King car.) Standard text messaging rates apply, but that’s it: the TTC won’t be nickel-and-diming on top of that for you to find out when your next streetcar is.
The text messaging system gives riders access to vehicle arrival information without having to install screens at every stop—which is, for now, too expensive to do. However, the TTC still plans on installing 350 LED screens at its busiest stops by the end of the year. If you own an internet-enabled smartphone, specifically one with GPS and a WebKit based browser (iPhones, Android-based smartphones), your best bet is still the NextBus location-aware website, which will automatically determine your location and tell you the next vehicle times for the stops closest to you.
An additional interesting tidbit of information from Giambrone today? There “will be news about TTC and Google Maps in the coming weeks.” Hopefully that prediction will be as accurate as those from TXT-TTC.
More information on how to use the service is on the TTC’s website.


  • http://undefined Bartek

    Exciting news. I particularly enjoy the note that they will be adding the system to bus routes. That’ll be killer.

  • http://undefined Brent

    It would be nice if it could return the capacity of the streetcar. I might wait a minute for the next vehicle if the first one is 90% full. A sensor to count people entering and exiting the vehicle should do the trick.

  • http://undefined McKingford

    I agree that it would be *very* helpful if the TTC provided the 5 digit stop numbers online (so that one can find out the ETA *before* attending at a particular stop to get the stop number). However, while your link to the streetcar routes does provide a “stop number”, it isn’t (apparently) the 5 digit stop number one must text in. Is this going to be addressed?

  • http://undefined Green Sulfur

    Brent, let’s use common sense instead of sinking untold millions into a needless passenger counting technology. Since you’re provided with the timing of multiple streetcars, if you see a streetcar is only one minute behind another and the first streetcar is overflowing, 95% of the time the second vehicle will have much more space. Problem solved.

  • Laurence Lui

    McKingford – the codes work with just the four digits or with the leading ’0′. The TTC has over 15,000 stops – so five digits will be needed later when buses are added

  • accozzaglia

    Well put.
    Texting should be but one of a few ways to access real-time arrivals for streetcars and buses. Some real-time systems in use elsewhere allow a user to go online (i.e., with their hand-held), pick out the nearest major intersection from where they are, and the system will respond with the next dozen or so transit arrivals in minutes at that intersection — along with scheduled arrival times and notations on how many minutes early or late those might be.

  • dandmb50

    @dandmb50 – So this is great, I thought the TTC kept saying they have no money and then they spend millions on this. I punch in the code which costs me something for the text and I get back a message which may cost me, and it says the streetcar will come by in 5 minutes. So what do I do if it doesn’t come by in 5 minutes, I wait for the next one. Isn’t that what I would have done without all the texting?
    I just don’t get it, and this is an improvement?
    Why not take the millions and add more streetcars?
    I give up trying to understand.
    Daniel .. Toronto

  • http://undefined Swarley

    You must be the only person who doesn’t think this is a good thing. They’re spending over one BILLION dollars buying new streetcars. Now for the cost of maybe one streetcar, we can get a decent idea when the next one is coming. So maybe if the next one isn’t coming for a while, we can walk to the next street and take that route… or know that we have time to buy a coffee. Etc etc.

  • Greg Smith

    This is coming, too… apparently it’s just not ready for prime time yet.

  • rek

    Spoken like someone who has never waited for a westbound streetcar on Queen East: you’ll spend 20+ minutes wondering if one is coming, and then get more streetcars than you can use, bumper to bumper.

  • http://undefined Jason

    Great to see this on the streetcar system, but once again (like the signs at Spadina Station) the TTC isn’t showing a very important piece of information – where the vehicle terminates. If I’m waiting for a Long Branch car, I’d have no idea whether the next 501 W is due in 2, 5, 10 or 15 minutes.

  • http://undefined smacvert

    I tried this on Saturday night for the eastbound King 504 streetcar. Sent the text at 9:35pm and we still haven’t received a message in return. (This is now Monday morning.) I love this idea, I just wish it worked the first time I tried it….

  • Laurence Lui

    Agreed. I spoke with Brad Ross about this, and his logic (which somewhat makes sense) is, at least for the 501 streetcar, a rider will have to wait at Humber Loop anyway, so they can either catch the first car and wait at the loop, or wait for the next one (which would be a Humber car).
    I believe the only way NextBus would be able to discern between branches is if each branch was uniquely numbered, which would be a huge undertaking. But this issue is going to be huge when the buses come online to the system – I’ll be curious (and will try to find out) how the system will tell apart all the branches of buses like the 32.