TTC website and related services claim to provide riders with information about streetcar and bus routes so that riders have up-to-date information. This is critical not just for schedule changes, but many diversions and special services related to construction, street festivals, civic events, to name a few.
Alas, the actual structure and behaviour of the TTC’s website works against easy navigation. Information is scattered in different parts of the site. Some of it is out of date. Some of it is incorrect and contradictory. Some notices that should be there just don’t exist at all.
The current site is the product of a redesign that is now about a year old. There has been some tweaking along the way, but the site still leaves a lot to be desired. This article is an exploration of the TTC website structure as it relates to current service information and planned changes.
Updated September 13, 2022 at 12:50pm: Sundry typos and grammatical fixes.
The Short Read
The TTC Website has evolved since the current version went live. It was far from perfect then, and has since grown additional problems even as those from version one were fixed.
This article looks mainly at service information, probably the most common reason someone would go to the TTC site. There is a big problem that this information is scattered through many places and is rarely complete on one page. Attempts have been made to cross-link some pages, and more of the frequently used pages have gained banner links on the main page.
However, the whole thing has a feeling of being built and maintained by multiple people who do not talk to each other, and who do not explore the various places information might hide to ensure that “their” part of the site is consistent and complete.
This compounds problems that arise when the announced version of services do not match what is actually operating. You might or might not track down information about your route, or even worse be given wrong info. A related problem is that trip prediction and planning apps do not necessarily use the live configuration of routes and can mislead riders about how they might travel and where vehicles actually are.
The TTC really needs to do a thorough review of how it publishes service information and ensure that “one stop shopping” is available for information about routes, or where appropriate, areas of the city that are affected by multiple changes.
Main Page (Desktop Version)
Note: There are additional issues with the TTC site as it appears on various devices, but there is a limit to how much work I am going to do chasing these. One common problem is that some pages are quite long on a desktop, and they are even longer on a phone.
The main page is fairly long and one must scroll through it to find various links. In the snapshots here, I have reduced the font size from the default so that I could carve the entire page into only six of them. The default font is fairly large. These images were created from the TTC site at 7:50 am on Sunday, September 11, 2022.
The yellow band at the top of the page is normally larger than it appears here, but is in small type because I reduced the font size. It contains key, current alerts including hot links to the general Service Alerts page.
An important point is that the TTC has different classifications including “alerts”, “advisories” and “notices”. This creates an immediate problem that someone unfamiliar with a route might not know that it is subject to one or more long-running construction projects, may have had a recent change in service and/or structure, and could be subject to an alert due to a temporary situation. Indeed, unless they explore the website, they might never find the links to each collection.
Main Navigation Bar
The main navigation bar (in red) appears on all pages. It includes links to:
- The trip planner
- The Routes and Schedules page
- The Fares page
- Service Advisories
- More …
- Riding the TTC
Body of the Main Page
There is an obvious conundrum early in this page: it claims that there is “normal service” on all four subway lines even though Line 1 is closed with shuttle buses from Sheppard to St. Clair as per the yellow band of alerts. There are no active “alerts” for surface routes, but finding service on many streetcar routes can be challenging with many diversions in place.
“Travelling on the TTC” contains a link to Helpful tips which turns out to be entirely concerned with fare payments.
There is a link to the Film Festival diversions page, but no indication on the main page which routes this would affect.
The “Latest news” band includes a link to the September service adjustments page about which more later. These are not the only service adjustments in effect, but the link to those is further down the page.
“Connecting you to Toronto” includes a link to Riding the TTC which is itself a menu of various options, including service info, a FAQ, and a link to Service Advisories. I will deal with each of these in detail later.
The Customer Service link has its own banner, and, yes, there is service information buried in there too.
“Improving Transit for All” includes a grab-bag of links, but oddly enough nothing about major projects. They are hidden elsewhere in a link from the footer band.
“my TTC e-services” contains a Sign me up link that actually goes to the general page for maintaining your profile for various alerts that can be delivered as and when they are issued.
The footer (yes, we are finally at the bottom of the page) includes various links. This appears at the bottom of all pages just as the yellow alerts band appears at the top.
Some of these items duplicate material in the main page. This is a leftover of an earlier time when they did not have their own band on the page itself (e.g. News, Customer Service). For example, Access to Board agendas and reports was originally buried under “Transparency” but it is now also in the “Improving Transit” band.
- “About the TTC” includes various links including:
- The FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. One might reasonably expect that “frequent” questions might be answered somewhere a bit more prominent than a page linked from the footer band. It is also linked from “Riding the TTC”.
- The Projects page contains a grab bag including planning studies, station accessibility plans. This does not affect service per se but does explain construction projects at various locations. In turn this has a link to:
- “Transparency & Accountability”
- This contains links to various plans and reports, and also includes the link to the Transit Planning page where reports and stats about the TTC are located.
- “Projects & Plans”
- This points to the same page that is linked from “About the TTC” above.
- Public Meetings
- These meetings are public consultation sessions, as opposed to meetings of the Board and various committees.
- This points to the same page that is linked from the main navigation bar.
- Doing Business with the TTC
- Among other things, this page links to Filming on TTC Property which includes the blanket exemption for non commercial photography (also explicitly included in the TTC Bylaw at section 3.17). This should be printed in very large, easy to read type for every officious TTC employee who has ever hassled a photographer.
- This points to the same page that is linked from the main navigation bar.
- TTC Shop
- Also linked with its own banner on the main page.
- Customer Service
- Also linked with its own banner on the main page.
- By-law No. 1
- The official do’s and dont’s of the transit system.
Hunting For Service Info
If you have just landed on the main page and don’t want to explore too extensively, probably because you are in a hurry and wondering where the TTC has sent your streetcar today, you will probably look under Routes and Schedules, or Active Alerts, or Service Advisories, or maybe even Latest News which has an item about schedule changes.
Routes and Schedules
Within this page, one can enter a route name or number and get a menu of many items (mainly stop identifiers). Fortunately, the route(s) matching the query come at the top of the list. Selecting 504 gives us the King car (among other things), and the top of its page is shown below. The Service Advisories band is not open by default, but I have expanded it here.
Three advisories are listed:
- One for TIFF
- A temporary route change dated September 4
- This is a cut-and-paste job from the King/Sumach trackwork notice and really deals with the diversion around work at King and Shaw.
- The route for the replacement bus it describes includes the “stage 2” diversion for the King-Queen-Queensway-Roncesvalles (KQQR) project, but not “stage 3” that is about to kick in on September 13 (over a week later than expected).
- Just to confuse things, the map in this notice correctly shows that there is no service on Sumach/Cherry, but shows streetcars running via King rather than via Parliament and Queen.
- A second temporary route change dated August 30
- This updates the King/Sumach diversion notice for a project that will run at least two weeks longer than expected.
Because the route change notices do not include their location in their titles, a reader has to open them to find out what is going on and where. One must also hope that any map in the notice is accurate.
So far, so good, but there are other places one might look for service information.
Depending on when one looks, there may or may not be alerts within this pop-up. They do not always match the alerts seen at the route level on the schedule pages.
The Service Advisories page contains links to other pages that might have information of interest. Three of these are mode specific with subway, streetcar and bus service getting their own sub-menus. Note that there are also pages for construction notices, service changes and service alerts.
If we go into Streetcar Service, we get a menu of many notices of which several are no longer active. Yes, they can be filtered, but a reader should not have to do this. If the TTC wants to keep old notices online, there should be a toggle between “past” and “current” available with “current” as the default.
If we select “504” to filter the list, we get no information about King/Shaw nor the KQQR project.
The Construction Notices page includes an old item about the KQQR project, but this points readers to the Service Changes page for specifics on diversions.
The Service Change page includes the original notice for King/Sumach which claims that there is a replacement bus service for Sumach/Cherry (it was discontinued on September 4), a link to the King/Shaw notice mentioned above, and a link to the September 4 service adjustments page which is mistakenly dated July 31 thanks to cut-and-paste editing from the previous version. That page, if I scroll down far enough, contains information about the then-planned changes on the route, some of which are out of date due to changes in effective dates.
The Latest News band on the main page includes a link to the September 4 service changes which, as already noted, is not current on all counts, and is now “old news”.
Overall the problem is quite clear: information is posted in a variety of locations and is not all maintained. There is a sense that different pages are the responsibility of different groups and nobody deals with them all as a package for consistency and currency.
There is a further issue that hard copy notices posted on stops or at stations are only as current as the date they were printed, and this can lead to problems when events do not occur as scheduled. For example, the delayed start of KQQR Phase 3 on September 13 (probably) rather than September 4 left many notices about stops being out of service on the earlier date while buses continued to operate on their usual route. When this happens, it is essential that online info be up-to-date and explain why the expected diversion has not yet been implemented. (Similar problems apply to the about-to-begin reconstruction of College Street.)
There are several problems with this page.
I will say at the outset I sympathize with the folks who have to build this every month. The source material is the same service change memo from which I build my own articles as each new set of schedules comes into play. When there are a lot of changes, it can be challenging, and some of the items in the memo are modified by the time operations actually begin.
First, the page begins with “Effective July 31”, but this is left over from the last change and was not updated. (The page is recycled rather than setting up a new one for each schedule change.) This could be confusing for someone who thinks changes have come into effect at the earlier date. I have made this sort of goof myself, but the page has not been changed since it was posted. The body of the article has the correct date.
Entries for many routes in this post are formatted as if they are hotlinks to route-specific articles. Some of them work, and some don’t. For example:
- On the left below, the format implies an external link for the 38 and 938 Highland Creek routes. These are dead links. The other links jump to later sections of the same page describing changes for each route, and these work.
- On the right below, there is an external link symbol for three entries, but no actual link to a detailed article. Many other null external links appear throughout the article.
Some of the information is not correct:
- In the description of the 501L Queen loop at Dufferin, the direction is described as counterclockwise (north via Gladstone), but the actual implementation was clockwise (north via Dufferin) so that a convenient transfer point could be established at Queen and Gladstone. This was one of those last-minute changes I mentioned above. It is picked up on another service alert, but this one was never changed.
- The effective date for the 504 King diversion changes at KQQR was changed to September 13, but this is not reflected here because the original TTC plan was to take effect September 4 as shown on all of the diversion signage along the route.
Other Pages With Service Info (or not)
This page includes a link to Service Details which only has a calendar of schedule changes and a list of hours of service. There is no actual information about service.
There is also a link to the Daily Customer Service Report which is supposed to give an overview of service on the previous business day. It has not been updated since August 22 (the snapshot was taken at 5:30 pm on September 12). (The content of this report is of dubious value given the level of averaging across routes and time-of-day, but that is a matter for another article.)
This page contains links to several articles, but almost none of them deal with service.
- The first link is to the Helpful Advice page described earlier which is all about fare payment and Presto.
- There is an article about real-time load reporting from the automatic passenger counters on buses. This is available via the Rocketman app.
- There is a link to the Service Information FAQ which is also linked from the page footer.
- There is a link to an Updates page which in turn links to several articles including some, but by no means all, service notices. It is not a comprehensive index to “news” from the TTC. It includes a link to a notice about Queens Quay Station which has expired.
The popup in the lower right of all pages includes current alerts with link to the full menu including:
- All service alerts: this is the same info as on the popup, but with additional entries if they won’t all fit.
- Accessibility alerts: this list has only one entry as of 5:50 pm on September 12, and there are many more elevator and escalator alerts on the main page.
- General alerts: As I write this, no alerts are active.
This is a Metrolinx service. It is not integrated into TTC service and route adjustments in real time. For example, it does not know about Tiff and other short term diversions, and is driven by published schedules (GTFS) that might not reflect actual operations. For example, Triplinx still thinks that the 504/506 bus to the Distillery District is running when in fact it has been discontinued. It also offers trips that include the Union-Pearson express as part of a local journey in Toronto even though this is an extra fare service.