Internet access is increasingly a utility rather than a luxury, with around 90% of Canadians connected to wireless networks and nearly all Canadians under the age of 45 using the internet every day.

People expect to be connected everywhere they go. This includes 4.2 million public transport commuters. With Toronto residents taking an average of 50 minutes to get to work, it’s vital that public transport systems provide digital connectivity, so commuters can get online when they need to.

But connectivity is not only a consumer need. Transit operators can leverage these connected networks to provide better operational management, real-time route information, improved safety and vehicle control, electronic timetabling and electronic payment systems.

That’s why, as Toronto Mayor John Tory explains, the Toronto Transit Commission engaged BAI to assist with “modernizing both the services the City offers and the way they are delivered to Toronto residents”. Deploying wireless communications infrastructure throughout the subway system is benefitting city and citizens alike.

Underground connectivity

Over 100,000 Toronto commuters connect to our public Wi-Fi network everyday, allowing passengers to read the news, watch videos, jump on their social networks and even start working as they travel. Access to connectivity is also driving enhanced safety standards for transit operators and commuters alike.

Commuters can now enjoy connectivity in combination with a variety of mobile apps, such as Transit Now Toronto, RocketMan and Safe TTC to streamline their journey via a direct line to transit operators. These apps provide routing services, schedule alerts, subway maps and more to help commuters select the most efficient route to their destination, even when sudden service changes or delays occur. The SafeTTC app focuses on safety and it allows passengers to report incidents (accompanied by photos) and even contact the authorities in the event that they witness suspicious or criminal activity while traversing the subway.

Stay safe

But the benefits aren’t limited to apps: connected networks are safer networks. Being able to share real-time information about services improves safety and amenity by making it easier to manage traffic flows, predict when rolling stock and other facilities need maintenance, and alert passengers to delays or interruptions.

Further, risk factors like inclement weather, passengers trespassing onto tracks or into restricted areas, and notifications that a station is becoming overcrowded can be communicated immediately (and with video information) to the relevant authorities, who can then take prompt action.

And if there’s a safety incident, high-speed communications can help save lives. Say a commuter has a heart attack: Emergency responders can be contacted immediately, along with the location information required to pinpoint the passenger in distress. If needed, video can be used to give the responders more information about the patient’s condition.

That’s more than just a ‘smart city’ or an ‘intelligent network’. That’s a connected public transport system that’s making genuine improvements to people’s lives – and perhaps even, on occasion, saving them.