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.