Where Is My Diversion Notice?

I recently wrote about the large number of overlapping construction projects affecting the streetcar system this year. A major problem today, as in years past, is that the TTC’s website is very badly designed from the point of view of actually finding information. As I wrote that article, I kept discovering info by looking under various rocks, and in some cases from a City web page with related information.

A typical transit rider should not have to undertake such explorations just to find out what the present and planned network configuration will be.

This article describes the layout of the TTC’s site as it exists on Thursday, May 4, 2023. Things move from time to time, and you might not find a page where you thought you left it the previous day.

A fundamental problem with the site is that there are at least five different types of posts which convey service information in addition to the basic schedule and map pages for each route:

  • Service Alerts: These are posted by Transit Control and advise of current major issues affecting routes.
  • Service Changes: This page list service changes and diversions.
  • Subway Closures: These detail planned work requiring the shutdown of service on parts of the subway network.
  • Construction Notices: These detail work in progress at various sites, but these are separate from …
  • Projects & Plans: These describe major projects including construction.

Some but not all of these automatically link to the affected routes. The Construction Plans are only available to those who seek them out as I will describe later. It is not unusual to find conflicting information related to the same route or project.

There is an IT term “denormalization” which describes a situation where the same information is contained in multiple places risking synchronization problems during updates.

The TTC’s web site has many links between pages that are clearly intended to provide a “fast path” in hopping around the site rather than always drilling down from the top. However, these are not implemented consistently. Moreover, some pages with different information and purpose have the same or similar descriptions in links.

This article is not intended as a commentary on the site’s design beyond the general difficulty of finding information and the inconsistencies in where this is posted. I am sure others (you know who you are) could have a lot of fun talking about design in the comments.

In describing pages on the TTC’s site, I will focus on information and links related to service. There is a consistent sense that a lot of the cross-links between pages do not happen automatically, and that different groups are probably responsible for different sections. This might be tolerable, if inefficient, when system changes are few, but not when there is substantial overhaul of several routes.

This is not an exhaustive exploration of the site, but the degree to which information and links are scattered should be obvious.

Reorganizing a website is not something to be done overnight, but the TTC should have greater concern for the ease of getting information about its network. This is an essential part of “customer service”.

Main Page

(1) The very top of the main ttc.ca page is occupied, sometimes, by a yellow banner with alerts. For some time now, it has advised us that the escalators at St. Andrew are still out of service after a flood last winter, and the date for reactivation is now the end of June.

(2) Next comes the main banner with links to:

(2.1) Within the Service Advisories page, there are links to:

(2.2) The Service Changes page includes a search box, but results can be erratic. For example, entering “Dawes” brings up no hits, but “23” gives the Main Station diversion info as well as notices for three other unrelated routes (Avenue Road, Bellamy and Greenwood). “King” brings up many notices related to the marathon on May 7, but the items related to the King car are far down the list. “505” brings up only a notice for the 504/505 bus on May 7, but nothing about the route change to serve Kingston Road.

(3) Then comes Triplinx which is a whole separate topic, but which is constrained by the quality and timeliness of underlying data in the electronic schedules for routes. Notably, Triplinx does not “know” about most diversions, although the TTC hopes eventually to be providing real time routing information out of its Vision tracking system. (Note that Triplinx is not a TTC product.)

(4) The next section includes links to Service Changes and Alerts, including Accessibility Alerts. This partly duplicates other links.

(5) The Latest News section contains links to four articles. These change from time to time depending on what’s current. As of May 4, the four linked pages are:

Notable by their absence are links to the Broadview Avenue and Coxwell/Gerrard project pages and diversions that will come into effect on May 7. These projects are covered in summary in the general May 7 update.

As for the Main Station Service Changes page, there is actually a separate page in the Plans & Projects section of the site with considerably more information.

Generally speaking, items linked from the Latest News section are contained within the Updates page (see below).

(6) The next block contains information about Safety & Security. This links to a page with general information about non-emergency safety partly duplicating the safety page linked above.

(7) Connecting You to Toronto has four links:

  • Riding the TTC (A grab bag of information about the TTC)
  • Schedules & Maps (same as the earlier link to the same page)
  • Wheel-Trans
  • Service Advisories (the same as previous links)

(7.1) Within Riding the TTC is a link to an Updates page which links various articles. If you didn’t know this Updates page existed, you might never find it as it is so many layers down on the site. Moreover, not all news is linked here, and you might miss something if you relied on this page to flag it.

(8) Next come banners for Customer Service and links to download the SafeTTC app.

(9) The next group of links under the title Improving Transit for All takes us to:

  • Accessibility: This is a separate page from Wheel-Trans and deals more broadly with accessibility issues. It is also separate from the Accessibility alerts page listed above.
  • Customer Service Forms
  • The Board
  • FISCC: Fare Inspectors & Special Constables Office

Exactly how some of these deal with “improving transit for all” is hard to fathom.

(10) Finally we come to a footer with a variety of links including:

The About page contains a variety of links duplicating some we have seen already, but nothing about service other than a link to Projects & Plans.

The Transparency & Accountability page contains a smorgasbord of links, but none of these touches on current or imminent service change information.

The Projects & Plans page contains information about many projects, often in more detail than summary info posted elsewhere. It includes descriptions of the Broadview Station, Main Station and Coxwell/Gerrard projects and associated service changes. This page is independent from the Construction Notices page. The page has hotlinks to major sections, but you have to scroll the page to see what each section includes.

The News page contains media releases, and is completely separate from the Latest News section described above.

Routes & Schedules

Each route has its own schedule and map page. In turn, these pages link in Service Alerts and Advisories, as well as some other information. However, which items are displayed is erratic.

For example, 23 Dawes includes a special banner about Main Street Station, but 506 Carlton does not (nor does it mention the pending changes due to the Coxwell/Gerrard project). It is also rare to find links to advance notices of pending changes to routes, as opposed to after-the-fact updates. When these are in omnibus pages such as the general May 7 update, there might be no link at all.

Information from the construction pages is not linked at all.

As for the maps, they are not always current and never show active diversions. There should be a mechanism so that a user hitting a route’s page gets an autolink to any diversion information that is applicable including a current map. Not all diversion notices include maps.

Consolidated vs Individual Route Information

Generally speaking, the TTC site is organized around routes, and there are separate notices for each route even if a single event or a group of nearby events affects multiple routes.

For example, there are overlapping effects of the Queen/Yonge, Don Bridge, Broadview Avenue, Coxwell/Gerrard and Main Station projects but these are not described in a consolidated article with links out to the details. The route map of downtown and the east end will be very substantially and frequently altered over coming months, and riders should be able to see how the network is structured without searching through every possible route. This is particularly important for those who do not know which routes might be affected because they are unfamiliar with the district.

On a smaller scale, at least in time, there are many pages dealing with diversions for the May 7 marathon, but no overview of the event beyond a list of affected routes.

In some cases, such as the Main Station and STC bus loop projects, the TTC has produced consolidations of many route changes. This should continue.

16 thoughts on “Where Is My Diversion Notice?

  1. Well Steve, you do have to give them credit for being consistent. Their ‘information format’ aligns with their PA announcements on subways and buses, where more often than not it’s impossible to understand what it is they’re statoeithuerfhung-ing.

    In all due respect, as it is for Metrolinx, keeping the public in the loop is way down the list of priorities. Just who do passengers and paying clients think they are?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The TTC keeps “reinventing the wheel” with its website and wayfinding in general. Instead of looking around the world to see how they do things, and maybe “copying” (with an acknowledgement that they did so), the TTC (and the city & province) would rather spend millions, because “they know better”.

    There should be reflection of any changes on the websites (plural, for both the city and the TTC), on the stations, and on the vehicles, of changes. Both current and forecast for the future.

    Steve: The whole issue of maps and wayfinding in stations and on vehicles I chose to omit, but with so many diversions it is a serious problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As you note, the TTC website does have quite a lot of useful information but it is presented in an inconsistent and uncoordinated way. Apart from transit geeks who may actually ‘read’ the site (or try to!) Most users want info on THEIR ROUTE(S) and, as you note, getting full info on a route from the “route page’ is almost always a lost cause. The TTC itself is clearly organised by silos (who do not seem to communicate well); the website also seems to have ‘functional’ silos – if they need silos they should be ‘route silos’.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Even when the bus bays at Islington Station were closed and the bus started to drop off people on the street instead of going into the terminal, the TTC had zero notice about the changes that you now need proof of payment to enter Islington Station.

    Not only the websites but pretty much all the communications are horrible.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Question, does the TTC employ someone who’s full time job is to manage its web presence, i.e. social media, website, service advisories. If they do, why does this person still have a job? If they don’t…. what the hell is wrong with them this is 2023! I’m sure the answer is similar to that of how the TTC can employ so many supervisors and managers yet can never seem to manage or supervise any of its service.

    The dysfunction of this agency is getting increasingly irritating. It’s no wonder we have National Post articles calling for the privatization of the TTC. This is not a narrative we even want to entertain. But until the TTC cleans up its act, the public will become more enraged and that topic will inevitably rear its ugly head. And if we think the TTC is dysfunctional now. Good lord I’d hate to see what would happen if it was privatized. The TTC can’t even get basics right like its website. Yet there are hundreds of tools at its disposal to make that task easy and seamless. If they need an example of a well laid out transit site they need to look no further than GO.

    Steve: It is fairly clear from both the design and the way that info does, or does not, appear that there are different groups responsible for different parts of the site. The TTC has always been heavily siloed.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Back in 2003, I worked while in school at a Pizza Pizza call centre. They had three locations in Ontario: Hamilton, Toronto, and Ottawa (bilingual). I was in the Hamilton location. I recall while I worked there one day there was the great fanfare of the introduction of full online ordering; they had a soft launch as early as 2002, and people did very quickly take to using it, at least those who had viable internet access at that time.

    I recall that website well, both the front and back end, and I compare the navigation, and intuitive links and descriptions, and regular updates to new products, specials, and promotions that were pushed out monthly and I think of the the TTC website the same way, but that 2003 Pizza Pizza ordering website was so much more well designed and intuitive, and 20 years later the TTC still can’t match what they had then. It’s an embarrassment.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Is the ‘leadership’ at the TTC so incompetent that obscurant websites are deliberate track covering entities?


  8. Is the ‘leadership’ at the TTC so incompetent that obscurant websites are deliberate track covering entities?

    I like to think that the leadership is competent. Not at serving transit riders, they don’t care about that. But competent at their real job: covering up for a couple decades of apathy and antipathy towards transit by politicians, while still providing a ribbon to cut or a press release to tout when asked.

    They’re like middle managers at a sweat shop.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We don’t have to look very far and wide – even the previous version of the TTC website was easier to navigate and find information in than the current version.

    Every update they do seem to make things worse. The old Ride guides with the street grid were also a lot better than the current version. As an example route 7’s loop at Steeles is the same distance from the line of route 60 along Steeles as the loop of route 98. However, route 7 actually goes on Steeles while route 98 is a block away. This was very clear on the old maps.


  10. Ever since they redesigned the website 2 years ago, things have been a real pain to find. I think in trying to optimize the webpage for a better mobile experience, they simplified it to the point that you can’t find anything at all…….

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Rather than having the information presented efficiently, I have to scroll down 4-5 pages to find everything. Their “reactive” design doesn’t appear like it was properly tested for people on non-mobile devices.

    On this type of site, with a lot of different information, having a search field on the main page that can filter queries on the fly as you type would be really nice, with the ability to filter that query with checkboxes or dropdowns. They went for a barebones approach that was probably dirt cheap to implement and left it at that.

    Also, I get that you want to inform people about subway shutdowns, but christ… can we have a button to clear or ignore the orange message? The alert takes up HALF the screen on my phone’s browser with no way to dismiss or hide it, even on other pages where it’s no longer relevant!

    Steve: A further problem as I noted is that they are inconsistent in how pages are indexed, and so a search will not necessarily bring back all pages relevant to a route no matter which branch of the site they are in.


  12. And then there’s whatever signage is on the poles, and what local residents get in the mail.

    Living on Coxwell, we’ve had two mailings from the city now about the upcoming construction. Although there’s allusions to TTC diversions, there’s no timeframes or details. Why not take the opportunity to give those details – at least for the first period.

    As for the website – I have no idea why they didn’t make the information more accessible. And it doesn’t help that there’s still no search engine for it.

    Steve: When the new site went up, they were quite dismissive of the need for a search function saying that Google would do it. The problem is that many items are only available through dynamic menus and Google does not chase those chains unless the site is set up with explicit pointers to the directories. Some of this has been done, but it’s been inconsistent.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Any chance that the “re-design” was released before it was ready to meet Rick Leary’s promise to have it out by the end of a set quarter? Sort of like ATC had to be done and running by a set date, even though sections were still not ready and required further shutdowns for testing? (thinking of Osgoode and York Mills center tracks, among others)… Everyone is in the “lets make the boss look good on his commitments even if it doesn’t work properly, we got it out “on time” – sort of like the service runs “on time”…

    Steve: In the case of the website, yes, I heard that it was pushed out unready into the world. As for ATC, the problems at Osgoode arose after the system was operational because of design flaws (it was possible for an operator to think he had a clear signal when he did not) and an error in supervision. The failure only occurred because the train was switched into manual because of ATC reliability problems at that location. Remember that Osgoode was signed off and active a long time before the system was finished to Finch. If there is a segment that might have been subject to pressure to finish “now”, it would be north from Eglinton.


  14. I notice that none of the route and system maps on the TTC site have been updated to reflect the streetcar diversions, which now affects 5 of the 8 remaining active streetcar routes. I suspect some tourists may get lost on a streetcar. However, UMO/NextBus maps do show both streetcar diversions as well as bus replacements. For example, this url displays the 506 route, and one only needs to change the route number to get another route.

    GVB (equivalent of TTC) in Amsterdam draws route maps on a screen using OpenStreetMap, essentially drawing a line on a map that reflects diversions.

    Steve: The hard copy route maps are drawn by people and updated rarely. The maps shown on NextBus (as well as stop lists on various apps) come from GTFS format schedules the TTC exports with every change. The new ones were flipped into operation overnight before the start of service on May 7.


  15. It’s unfortunate to note that even TTC customer service doesn’t know where to find the route maps anymore.

    Here they try and show the 506 route by linking the current webpage for the route (which raises questions of why not update the map for months of construction).

    The apps all seem to work well already. Except Google Maps, which for some reason hasn’t uploaded the new data. Which is unfortunate given how many rely on it for navigation.


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