NextBus Data Feed Change Breaks Apps & Bookmarks

On April 6, NextBus introduced a new data feed structure.  The major change in this version is that the stop nomenclature used internally by the application has been revised to match the stop numbers used for the TTC’s vehicle arrival text message system.  Other updates include some schedule related information in the data feed (run, crew and trip numbers) that will probably be of more use to an internal app that “knows” about the schedules.

This change has side-effects both for users of the NextBus site, and for 3rd-party applications based on the data feed.

Any NextBus user who has bookmarked a stop for easy retrieval will find that the bookmark does not work.  The reason is that the bookmark includes the old stop identification, and this does not exist any more.  You will need to recreate the bookmark.

Users of Whereismystreetcar will find that it is working, sort of, while the author adapts his code to the new data feeds.  There is a similar problem with old bookmarks on this app, and any you have created must be redone.

I don’t know about other apps based on the NextBus feed, but if users could let me know what’s working and what’s not, I can maintain status info here.

15 thoughts on “NextBus Data Feed Change Breaks Apps & Bookmarks

  1. Where’s my Bus seems to still be working. It doesn’t rely on stops though, only provides a map with locations of the streetcars. It should support the busses as soon as nextbus includes them in the data.

    There should be a new release with estimated arrivals, and some other cool features in the next few weeks.


  2. I’m the developer of Next TTC for iPhone. My app, along with all other apps in the store broke as a result of this change. The old feed is still available (until April 27), but the old feed requires new URL variables when making requests, and the new data feed uses the old variables. I’m not sure why this hasn’t been thought through better.

    A notice appears on the OpenData page for the data feed, but I cannot have been up for a long time. I visited the page less than a week ago, and nothing was posted. Besides, less than a week is no where near enough time for most app developers to update their app and make it through the App Store approval process.

    I submitted an update immediately, so still crossing my fingers for a speedy App Store review – and I have requested information from Brad Ross as to whether they’re going to suddenly change the data back again.

    By the way hosting anything locally doesn’t solve much, since the request URLs still differ, so while your data might be good, it’s impossible to request any predictions data.


  3. Darwin O’Connor’s TransSee appears to have adapted.

    Steve: Darwin is using the call to the old format of data using the parameter “a=ttc-manual”. Info about this is on the City’s Open Data page describing the TTC feed.

    Westbound predictions break out Humber and Long Branch. This was always possible to do mentally because the run numbers were given, but now it’s done by the site. Whether this is simply on the run numbers or on additional information, I don’t know.

    Steve: There is additional data available that identifies the scheduled destination.

    Amusingly, NextBus has renamed Victoria Street: both Whereismystreetcar and TransSee now list the stop between Yonge and Church as “Victoria Park Avenue”.

    Steve: The stop list (but only for westbound trips) has an error in it. The eastbound list says “Victoria”.


  4. The feed structure hasn’t change. They have just changed the stopId from almost understandable names like “queebay_e” to numbers. I guess they didn’t want to come up with names for all the stops on the system. I don’t think feeds for other systems are affected.

    Steve: Yup, and those numbers match up with what is used for the SMS-based arrival info. This would make it very easy to code URLs off of the TTC’s schedule pages directly to the arrival info for a stop, something that was not possible (without a lot of work) before.

    There are some new features that appear to be available, like official support for destinations on 501 Queen and 510 Spadina and the tripTag which maps to the trip data in the GTFS data. These features where available for other systems already.

    The work around doesn’t help much. They could have continued to support the old names when handling predictions during the change over.

    My website, TransSee automatically supports changes to the feed data for almost all its features. The rest should be working before the comment is approved. However, bookmarks will need to be updated. There are clever ways I could support the old bookmarks.

    Here is a list of website that support the feeds that I came up with awhile ago.


  5. It’s worth noting the new webpages only display the next two vehicles arriving instead of the next 3 that were previously shown. If I were a cynical person, I would say this is a deliberate ploy to reduce the opportunity for us to see how off-schedule some of these routes get.

    Steve: I am looking at NextBus right now, and it is displaying the next three cars. The info (up to 5 vehicles) is in the underlying data that the prediction API call returns. Also, NextBus now displays the (scheduled) destination of the vehicle, and the Queen route shows the Long Branch and Humber cars, for example. The data structure contains all of the scheduled short turns.


  6. The old feed will be available until April 27 and the data for buses is supposed to available sometime in April. The 27th could be the day the whole of Toronto experiences the bliss of knowing when you bus is going to arrive.

    Steve: We shall see. One problem with the “old” data feed is that it requires different URLs to call it. Anyone with bookmarks will call out the new feed but the old stop identifiers.


  7. Steve: I am looking at NextBus right now, and it is displaying the next three cars.

    Maybe the difference is the full website vs. the mobile one.

    Steve: It looks like they are messing around again. The browser and mobile versions of Nextbus says there is no prediction. Whereismystreetcar is not working again.

    I love well-coordinated IT rollouts!


  8. I see NextBus displays two destinations for WB 506 Carlton cars – Bathurst and High Park. But the displayed info is odd. For example, I would expect the ‘Bathurst’ selection to indicate all cars WB at University (cars turning at Bathurst AND terminating at High Park) and the ‘High Park’ selection to show only those cars scheduled to proceed to HP Loop. It appears as if the HP cars aren’t included in the Bathurst display. It shouldn’t be necessary to consult two displays to find the next car(s) serving a stop. Also, arrival times are behind by several minutes. Perhaps these are teething problems?

    A few other questions . . .

    Should the Bathurst display show cars scheduled to turn at Bathurst, HP cars short-turing at Bathurst or both? (scheduled service vs acutal?)

    Most Carlton cars short turn WB at Lansdowne and EB at Coxwell, so why display Bathurst?


    Steve: Now that NextBus is up again and I have been able to check how it works. There is something wrong with their software because a request for any stop from Bathurst west brings a “no prediction” response.

    As for times, yes, I noticed yesterday that (while the system was up), it was reporting locations that were almost 5 minutes out of date.


  9. Rocket Man iPhone App for streetcar schedules and locations is still working. The recent TTC feed update has caused minor UI related issue like text doesn’t fit nicely, but streetcar schedules and GPS locations on the map are working.


  10. Author of Pocket Rocket here.

    We got screwed by this too, and the negative reviews are flowing in. This is especially disappointing because the TTC staff who deal with Nextbus know many app developers personally. They have ignored my offer to set up an informal users’ group.

    We will be revising our app so that we can push data updates out without delays due to app review processes.

    Steve: You may be better off dealing directly with the folks at Nextbus who are very approachable on the subject of a users’ group.


  11. I’ve been having all kinds of problems with Nextbus for the past week or so. At least now I know there’s a reason.

    Last Sunday was waiting for the northbound Spadina @ Bremner, Nextbus showed 19.min so I walked up to the short turn at King to maximize my chances, when I got there Nextbus showed 22.min but could see it coming about 4.min away.

    Thursday it was showing no prediction for Dundas @ Parliament or for either of the possible end of line choices for Gerrard @ Parliament.


  12. Stephen said: “We got screwed by this too, and the negative reviews are flowing in. This is especially disappointing because the TTC staff who deal with Nextbus know many app developers personally. They have ignored my offer to set up an informal users’ group. ”

    Clearly the ‘corporate culture” at the TTC (“we know best and what others have done/seen elsewhere is of no interest”) is not restricted to the civil and mechanical engineers who run the organisation! It will be interesting to see how the new Customer Service Manager copes with this – I am not very optimistic.


  13. Is there any reason why TTC staff don’t have access to the Nextbus system. I called them and asked for the number and they said they didn’t know what they were or how to access it.

    Steve: NextBus is owned by a company that provides the service to the TTC, although a lot of the recent changes are clearly in preparation for both the pending expansion to the bus network, and to provide more detailed info. The predictions that come from the SMS-based request system are generated from NextBus predictions, and the same data is publicly visible and used by several 3rd-party apps.

    I am not surprised in the least that most TTC staff are unaware of how all this works given the lack of internal communication in that organization.


  14. It’s fair for TTC to avoid the appearance of favouring certain firms in the private sector, but there is a lot of latent opportunity for small and large businesses to help promote transit — and the TTC has not been able to coherently respond.

    Everything from handy apps to building physical connections to transit stops can be improved if we can find an appropriate — i.e. fair and transparent — process for the private sector (including me) to provide transit related services and products in coordination with government transit agencies.

    BTW, until someone else steps up, I’m trying to keep track of TTC-related apps here (Facebook page).


  15. NextBus now has the bus routes but it is STILL not noted anywhere on the main TTC page – surely where most people would expect to find it! (Ideally the TTC would not only link to NextBus but also to other similar services such as “Where is my streetcar”.)


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