March 2018: TTC apps

Ian opened the meeting. Tonight’s topic is about aps related to the TTC, Toronto Transit Commission. Jason will be presenting.

Before talking about TTC, Jason wanted to let the group know that AIRA has launched unofficially in Canada. There will be an announcement upcoming, and a future GTT meeting will focus on it. It’s a visual assistant where the agents are trained and dedicated. It uses smart glasses with a camera, and your smart phone. The website is www.aira.io and it’s a subscription service. So far the pricing is in U.S. but they may launch Canadian pricing in the future. The official announcement should be next week.

Related to TTC, we’re going to cover new beacons at subway stations, transit aps, and the website, as well as the TTC texting service.

St. Clair subway station now has beacons. If you have BlindSquare turned on, you will get lots of information about the layout of the station as you move through it. There are 16 beacons arranged around the station. You don’t need the paid version of BlindSquare, you can use BlindSquare Event, which is the free version. The TTC hopes to roll this out to other stations eventually. At the moment, BlindSquare Event covers Bloor to Laurence, and Don Mills to Avenue Road. The purchase price is about $65. The beacons at St. Clair station is a pilot project. TTC approached CNIB, responding to feedback of passengers wanting more transit information. Bluetooth must be turned on in order for the beacons to work. There’s a setting in BlindSquare to turn Bluetooth beacons on and off. It’s on by default, but it’s worth checking if your not getting beacon information. You also may need to close BlindSquare and re-launch it. One user reported that beacons plus all the other information was overwhelming, and it can be helpful to change your settings to filter announcements.

A useful resource is to read subway station descriptions. If you want the layout of a subway station, the quickest way is to do a Google search for station description for the station you want. You’ll get a description of street exits and where they’re situated, how many levels the station has and what’s on each level, and roughly where on the platform stairs and elevators are located. You can also access these pages from the TTC website, but a Google search is the fastest way to get the information you want. One useful strategy is to pull this information off and put it into a document so you can download it onto a portable device, and keep it with you.

Jason then moved on to talk about the TTC trip planner. It used to be very good for helping to plan a rout, but it got taken over by Metrolinx, and they destroyed its accessibility. There’s a trip planner on the Triplinx ap which is somewhat useful. An advocacy representative from CNIB says that Metrolinx is working on it, but not quickly. She advised any concerned individuals to try and get on committees for Metrolinx to get our voices heard. There was a lot of frustration in the room over the issue. www.triplinx.ca has a feedback form, unlike the TTC website. Members encouraged each other to give feedback to them about the problem. TTC is obligated to use the regional Metrolinx platform, and it’s nearly impossible to retrofit the trip planner for accessibility. Members agreed that we as a group should take some sort of action. Ian offered to draft a letter, and Debbie G offered to find the right place to send it. Another member reported that, while it’s not a solution, you can call customer service and have them do a trip plan for you over the phone. Ian suggested to all members to take action on as many levels as possible using social media or direct contact with the TTC.

Jason moved on to speak about relevant aps. These give schedule information overall and in real time. Transit aps are generally free, but you need data or Y-Fi. An ap called Transit runs on iPhone and Android. Jason opened the ap to demonstrate. The main screen will show you routes nearby. Double tapping on a route/stop will give information for the same stop going the other way. The information is reading from GPS on the vehicles. It also tells you how long it would take to get an Uber from your location. It gives you times for the next 3 vehicles coming, the route name, and the stop. You can set routes as favourites so they’ll show up at the top. You can also activate something called, ride this route, which tells you the next few stops when you’re riding a vehicle. The accessibility is generally good. In some parts of the ap there’s a repeating message saying, “no places visible,” over and over. They know the bug, which is Voiceover related, and they’re working on fixing it for the next update. It’s available in multiple cities. The map data is updated as you move, so you’ll hear frequent clicks as you travel. If you’re on a street with many bus routes, it’s helpful to choose only the route you want, so that you’re not bombarded with information you don’t need, for example routes with multiple branches.

The next ap Jason discussed is called moovit, note the unusual spelling if you’re looking for it. Jason launched it to demonstrate. These aps generally don’t require much setup. They’ll ask for permission to access your location and permissions for notifications. The search function stores several of your previous searches. Debbie volunteered that the ap works best when you add frequent destinations to your favourites. That way you can populate your search field much more quickly. The walking directions get better when it’s in favourites too. Jason demonstrated running a trip plan. There are fields for start and end points, then you get options of routes, which give you how long the trip will take, and how accessible the transfer points are. You can activate a button that tracks you as you move through the trip, and warns you that your stop is approaching.

Jason tried an ap called NextBus, but found it not very accessible. It’s the TTC recommended ap, which feeds data to other aps, but it’s not as accessible as Moovit or Transit.

Jason then went on to describe the texting function for scheduling. Every stop has a 4 or 5 digit number associated with it. If you text the TTC at 898883, then put the stop number in the body of the text, it will send you the next 3 arrivals in real time. If you’re at a stop with multiple routes, enter the stop number, a space, then the route number. If you put the word, “help” in the body of the message, it will come back with assistance. Stop numbers are posted at each stop on a visual sign, and also available on the TTC website. You can also call customer service to get stop numbers. You can subscribe to TTC e-services, and receive email notifications when there are service disruptions on lines you care about. There’s also a Twitter feed put out by the TTC with alert information going out in real time. Some aps will allow you to request notifications about disruptions on routes of your choice.