Photograph/ Carissa Ainslie
Photograph/ Carissa Ainslie

Riding the Rocket with over a million other Torontonians each day can be daunting for both newcomers and those used to car transport. For folks who many not have the money or patience to drive in downtown Toronto, however, the TTC is an effective—although occasionally irritating—mode of transportation.

How big is the TTC?


The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is the largest public transit system in Canada, and the third largest in North America behind New York and Mexico City. Founded in 1921, the TTC originally managed streetcars and later incorporated buses. The first subway in Canadian history was built in the early 1950s underneath Yonge Street, serviced with bright red train cars known as “red rockets.” These subways inspired the TTC’s motto: Ride The Rocket.


Today, there are 69 subway stations which connect to over 150 different bus routes and 11 streetcar lines, a rare find among North American transit systems. There are two main and two peripheral subway lines on the TTC:


1. Yellow: The Yonge-University-Spadina line is the main north-south route that serves Downtown Toronto underneath University Avenue and Yonge Street.

2. Green: The Bloor-Danforth line crosses Toronto to Scarborough in the east, and to Etobicoke in the west.

3. Blue: The Scarborough LRT (light rail transit) line connects riders to the northeastern part of the GTA.

4. Purple: The Sheppard line is an east-west route in the northern end of the city.


In total, about 2.76 million people ride the TTC’s various routes daily, more than Toronto’s population.

How much does it cost?


The TTC costs $3 a trip, and it takes you anywhere in the city so long as you do not leave their routes. If you are going downtown remember to a grab transfer from the station you start in; you will have to leave the subway to reach most connecting surface routes.


The TTC sells day passes for $10.75—these offer unlimited travel daily for up to two adults and four minors 19 and under; individual weekly passes are sold for $38.50. If you are using the TTC to commute to school, a monthly metropass is certainly a smart purchase—just make an educated guess of how many times you use it each month, since metropasses cost the equivalent of about 35-40 rides.


Although an adult metropass sells for about $125 monthly, U of T students can save about $20 each month by getting a post-secondary student metropass. These are available either at TTC collector booths, or at kiosks located in select stations — including College, Bloor-Yonge, Dundas, Queen, Bay, St. George, and Ossington — where you can pay with debit. They do require a photo ID to prove your enrolment (although TTC employees rarely ask for it) which you can get at Sherbourne station for $5.   


When does the TTC close?


Most TTC routes are in service from approximately 6am-2am everyday. More specifically, on the Yonge line the last northbound train is at 1:54am and southbound is 1:35am; on the Bloor-Danforth the last eastbound train is at 1:54am and the last westbound is at 1:52am.


Near U of T, there are night buses that run north-south along Yonge and Bathurst in the downtown core, and east-west along Bloor. The Yonge St night bus is affectionately nicknamed the “Vomit Comet” because (aside from the obvious reason) of the frequency of drunken fights that break out after late-night clubbing. Keep in mind the buses may be anywhere from 10-30 minutes apart. The 506 streetcar along College St and the 501 on Queen St both run for 24 hours.


How can I tell when the bus/streetcar is coming?


All TTC subway stations and some surface stops have digital signs that tell you when the next vehicle is expected. The TTC also runs a service where one texts the specific stop number (displayed on the stop post) to 898882 and automatically receives arrival times. If you don’t want to text numbers every time you are at the stop, you can get free apps such as Rocket Man for your smartphone that determine your closest stop and give you a countdown clock.


Which routes should I avoid?

While they can be crowded at rush hour, the subways are typically the fastest way to get in and out of downtown. Avoid surface routes during rush hour (between 7am-9am and 5pm-8pm) since streetcars and buses are at the mercy of the traffic around them. Streetcars are great for getting to local neighbourhoods such as Cabbagetown, the Distillery District, and the waterfront.


What are some new things I can expect from the TTC?

The TTC is constructing a large-scale light rail line along Eglinton Avenue known as the Eglinton Crosstown. They are also expanding the existing Yonge-University-Spadina line north beyond Toronto limits to York University and Vaughan by 2015.


New subway cars are slowly rolling onto the tracks—they are the only ones in North America where one can walk the entire length of the train. Similarly, the TTC’s streetcar system is getting a much needed upgrade to light-rail cars; they are expected to start coming into service in 2014.

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