trolley coach

Toronto Transit Commission

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) is a public transport authority that operates buses, streetcars, subways, and rapid transit lines in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The TTC operates 149 surface transit routes, of which 148 routes make 243 connections with a subway or rapid transit station during weekday rush hours. In 2007, the TTC carried 1.5 million passengers per day, and there were 459,769,000 passenger trips in total. The TTC employed 11,235 personnel in 2007.

The TTC operates the third most heavily-used urban mass transit system in North America (after the New York City Transit Authority and the Mexico City Metro). As of 2006, there are three subway lines and one elevated rapid transit line (see Toronto subway and RT) with a total of 69 stations, as well as 149 connecting "surface" routes (buses and streetcars). The average daily ridership exceeds 2.46 million passengers: 1,197,000 through bus, 328,700 by streetcar, 35,300 by intermediate rail, and 901,400 by subway. The TTC also provides door-to-door services for persons with physical disabilities known as Wheel-Trans. An approximate 4,500 trips are made through this service daily. Colloquially, the subway cars were known as "red rockets" (nickname originally given to Gloucester subway cars painted bright red - now retired); hence the use of "Ride the Rocket" in advertising material for the TTC (which uses the phrase to advertise the entire system), and the use of the word "Rocket" in the names of some express buses. The entire system is also promoted as "The Better Way".


Privately operated transit services in Toronto began in 1850. In later years, a few routes were operated by the city, but it was 1921 when the city took over all routes and formed the Toronto Transportation Commission to operate them. During this period service was mainly provided by streetcars. In 1954, the TTC adopted its present name, opened its first subway line, and greatly expanded its service area to cover the newly formed municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (which eventually became the enlarged city of Toronto). The system has evolved to feature a wide network of bus routes with the subway lines as the backbone. On February 17, 2008, the TTC made many service improvements, finally reversing more than a decade of service reductions and only minor improvements.


Historically, the TTC recovered its operating costs from the fare box. This was especially true during the Great Depression and World War II, when it accumulated the considerable wealth which allowed it to expand widely after the war. It was not until the late 1950s that the newly formed Metro government was forced to provide operational subsidies, required primarily due to the TTC being required to provide bus service to the low-density suburbs in Metro Toronto.

Until the mid-1990s, the TTC received operational subsides from both the municipal level of government, and the provincial level. When the Harris Conservatives in Ontario ended those subsidies, the TTC was forced to cut-back service, with a significant curtailment put into effect on February 18, 1996 and an increased financial burden was placed on the Municipal government. Since then, the TTC has consistently been in financial difficulties. Service cuts were averted in 2007 though when Toronto City Council voted to introduce new taxes to help pay for city services, including the TTC. As a result, the TTC became the largest transit operator in Anglo-America not to receive provincial/state funding (the largest transit operator in the United States not to have this type of funding is the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)).

Past transit operators



Transit modes

The TTC currently operates an extensive network of subways, streetcars, light rail vehicles, paratransit buses and standard transit buses in Toronto:

Subway/RT system

The Toronto subway/RT system consists of the Yonge-University-Spadina Line, a U-shaped line started in 1954 and last extended in 1996; the Bloor-Danforth Line, an east-west line started in 1966 and last extended in 1980; the Scarborough RT, a partly elevated light rail line built in 1985 which continues from the Bloor-Danforth Line's eastern terminus; and the Sheppard Line, opened in 2002. The three subway lines use the same technology, while the Scarborough RT has many differences.

All subway lines provide service seven days a week from approximately 6:00 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. (the following day) except for Sundays in which the opening is delayed until approximately 9:00 a.m. During the overnight periods the subway and its stations are closed in order for maintenance at track level and in the stations themselves. Service is provided throughout this period of time by buses operating above ground. These special overnight routes are issued numbers in the 300 series and referred to as Blue Night routes, indicated by a typical TTC bus stop sign with a blue band added.

Plans were made for a streetcar subway along Queen Street, which were upgraded to a full subway in 1964, from the Humber loop to Greenwood, curving north to connect to the Bloor-Danforth Subway. All that ever materialized of this line was an incomplete east-west station structure under Queen station at Yonge, which remains in existence today. The Queen Subway plan was cancelled in 1974 in favour of new lines in North York.

In the mid-1990s, work began on an Eglinton West subway line, but the project was cancelled before significant progress was made. Construction of this line is no longer a priority for the TTC, but this line was recently re-visited in the proposed expansion as part underground LRT running in the central part of the line (between Keele St. and Laird Rd.) with the remainder a surface LRT route which would span almost the entire length of the city from the Airport to Scarborough.

To a large extent, subway development is being shelved for now, partly due to the exorbitant cost of it, and partly due to the lack of subway level demand. A current focus for the TTC's rapid-transit expansion is a short extension bringing the western branch of the Yonge-University-Spadina Line north-west to York University, Steeles Avenue and Vaughan Corporate Centre in York Region. The Government of Ontario announced on March 23, 2006, that it will provide $670 million for this extension, about one-third of the expected cost. A likely project for the near future is the extension of the Yonge subway line northbound into Richmond Hill at Clark Avenue. For years, this project has been on the backburner due to the lack of additional capacity on the Yonge line for the increased passenger volumes, however a new signal system will allow headways to decrease from the current 150 seconds to as little as 90. Another project long considered to be financially beneficial to the commission is the extension of the Bloor Danforth subway line 1-2 kilometres westbound beside the CP rail line to The East Mall (major artery) near Cloverdale Mall (shopping centre), however this is unlikely to be built in the near future given the recent plans for a regional bus terminal at Kipling Station, the current terminus.

In September 2006, Toronto City Council approved a contract for 234 new state-of-the-art cars from Bombardier Transportation. Much controversy surrounded this purchase, as Bombardier was awarded a non-bid contract. Competitor Siemens AG stated that it could fulfill the contract for up to $100 000 000 less by assembling the trains outside of Canada, whereas the Bombardier trains will be built in the plant that has assembled most of Toronto's subways in Thunder Bay, Ontario.


Toronto's streetcar system is one of the few in North America still operating along classic lines and has been operating since the mid-19th century (horsecar service started in 1861 and electric service in 1892). Streetcar service dates back to the Toronto Street Railways horse-drawn cars and continues today with the current electric cars. New TTC routes since the 1940s have generally been operated by other modes, and the less-busy streetcar routes have also been converted. Streetcar routes are now focused on the downtown area, with none running farther north than St. Clair Avenue, about 5 km from Lake Ontario.

A massive expansion of the streetcar network (as "Light Rapid Transit" on private rights-of-way) was proposed by the City of Toronto and the TTC on March 16 2007, in the Transit City report. As of November 2007 streetcars are equipped with the Surface Vehicle Automatic Stop Announcement System (SVASAS) which is called out over the P.A. system which dictates the name of the next stop. In addition, an L.E.D. board on the streetcar displays the name of the street and changes each time it passes a stop which is mounted behind the operator's shield. Now, almost all TTC vehicles have the SVASAS. In October 2007 the Ontario Human Rights Commission introduced a new legislation that will require all transit operators in Ontario to call out all stops for the visually-impaired passengers.

The TTC's current fleet of 248 streetcars is nearing the end of their useful life, and the TTC will be buying at least 204 new LRVs. The commission has stated that potential bidders for the new contract must propose a 100% low-floor vehicle. These new vehicles will likely be costly, as the TTC's network has unique challenges such as steep grades on hills and a unique track gauge. The commission intends to customize a model that meets approx 75% of its criteria. So far, only Bombardier and Siemens have shown interest in bidding.

Buses and trolley coaches

Buses are a large part of TTC operations today, but before about 1960, they played a minor role compared to streetcars. Buses began to operate in the city in 1921 and became necessary for areas without streetcar service. After an earlier experiment in the 1920s, trolley buses were used on a number of routes starting in 1947, but all trolley bus routes were converted to bus operation between 1991 and 1993. The TTC always used the term trolley coach to refer to its trackless electric vehicles. Hundreds of old, aging buses were recently replaced with the new, low-floor Orion VII, and the TTC has recently acquired many hybrid buses. A new order will bring the total of hybrids to over 500, second only to New York City. Most of the TTC's Orion VIIs feature the standard, "bread-box" style, whereas its most recent order of hybrids features Orion's new, more stylish body. Although most of the bus fleet has already been replaced, a number of lift-equipped, high floor buses are reaching the end of their useful lifespan, and another order of buses may be needed around 2012.

Gray Coach

Gray Coach Lines was a suburban and regional inter-city bus operator founded in 1927 by the TTC. Gray Coach used inter-urban coaches to link Toronto to points throughout Southern Ontario. In addition, Gray Coach operated tour buses in association with Gray Line Tours. The main terminal was the Metropolitan Toronto Bus Terminal on Elizabeth Street, downtown. In 1954, Gray Coach expanded further when it acquired suburban routes from independent bus operators not merged with the TTC as it expanded to cover Metro Toronto. By the 1980s, Gray Coach faced fierce competition in the inter-urban service in the GTA. The TTC sold Gray Coach Lines in 1990.

Wheel-Trans service

The TTC also runs Wheel-Trans, a paratransit service for the physically disabled with special low-floor buses designed to accommodate wheelchairs and to make boarding easier for ambulatory customers with limited mobility.

Ferry service

The ferry service to the Toronto Islands was operated by the TTC from 1927 until 1962, when it was transferred to the Metro Parks and Culture department. Since 1998, the ferry service is run by Toronto Parks and Recreation.

The city is studying plans to re-introduce ferry service by the TTC. The plan would see ferry service from Etobicoke and Scarborough into the downtown. Terminals would be located near the current city ferry docks, at Scarborough's Bluffer's Park and at Humber Bay Park. Two ferries would be required on the routes. Of the two plans, the Humber service is most likely, because the geography of Toronto would allow a ferry to provide faster service while other modes jog around Humber Bay. From Scarborough, a ferry would need to jog around the expansive Portlands and Leslie Street Spit to reach downtown.

Operations and other information

Most TTC operations are based either at the William McBrien building (TTC headquarters and MDP Office) at 1900 Yonge Street (over Davisville subway station), or at the Hillcrest complex (TTC's Transit Control office) located at Bathurst St. and Davenport Rd.


The TTC makes connections with other transit agencies at terminals in Toronto:

Parking lots

The TTC operates 29 commuter parking lots, all of which are located at subway stations. These lots have a total of 13,718 parking spaces:

  • Don Mills - lot shared with Fairview Mall
  • Downsview - 1 lot
  • Eglinton West - 2 lots
  • Ellesmere - 1 lot
  • Finch - 2 lots
  • Islington - 3 lots
  • Keele - 1 lot
  • Kennedy - 4 lots
  • Kipling - 4 lots
  • Leslie- 1 lot
  • Victoria Park - 1 lot
  • Warden - 2 lots
  • Wilson - 4 lots
  • York Mills - 1 lot
  • Yorkdale - lot shared with Yorkdale Mall


Although the Wheel-Trans door-to-door service has been available since the mid-1970s, since the 1990s, the TTC has focused in providing accessible services on conventional bus routes, the RT and subway. While only 27 of the 68 stations on the Scarborough RT and the Yonge-University-Spadina and Bloor-Danforth subway lines are currently wheel-chair accessible, all stations on the 2002 Sheppard line are fully accessible. As of June 22, 2008, 120 of the TTC's 167 bus routes (including community and night bus routes) are accessible. Currently, the TTC's streetcar network is not accessible; however, the fleet is planned to be gradually replaced with modern, low-floor vehicles in the near future.

Most TTC buses, except for some of the newly-acquired NG hybrids with warranty are equipped with the Surface Vehicle Automatic Stop Announcement System (SVASAS) as of February 2008 which is operated over the loudspeakers dictating the name of the next stop (e.g. "Next Stop: Wade Avenue, Lansdowne Subway Station.") along with an LED board on the bus displays the name of the street and changes each time when a bus passes a stop. On October 25 2007 the Ontario Human Rights Commission introduced new province-wide regulations that will require all public transit operations in Ontario including GO Transit to call out all stops for the visually-impaired passengers. Transit operations who do not announce all stops could be violating rider's rights according to the OHRC.


There are 10 sets of public washrooms located on the TTC system, all at subway-served stations.


Most TTC surface routes terminate at loops, side streets or subway station complexes. The TTC system is one of the few mass transit systems in Canada where many surface routes can be accessed inside a paid-fare zone common to other routes or subway lines. This feature allows boarding via the back doors at terminals, reduces the usage of paper transfers, and the need of operators to check for proof-of-payment. However, if an authorized TTC employee, TTC Special Constable Services or Toronto Police officers is/are able to catch offenders, they are liable to face a $500 fine for fare evasion.

There are some larger loops at terminal buildings other than subway stations:

  • Bingham Loop
  • Humber Loop
  • Neville Park Loop
  • Long Branch Loop (adjacent to Long Branch GO Station)
  • Rouge Hill GO Station
  • York University, in front of the York Lanes shopping centre (This terminal will be served by the planned Spadina subway extension)


TTC buses are run out of a number of garages located around the city.

Arrow Road Garage: Located on Arrow Road, beside Highway 400. This garage operates a number of routes throughout North York and Etobicoke, and services mainly Orion VII, Orion VII hybrid and Nova RTS buses.

Birchmount Garage: One of three facilities in Scarborough, at Birchmount & Danforth Roads. This garages operates many routes in East York, Toronto and in the west end of Scarborough. It services Orion Vs and VIIs.

Eglinton (Comstock) Garage: This garage operates many routes in Scarborough and Toronto, and is located at Comstock Rd & Lebovic Rd., opened to replace the old Eglinton garage at Yonge and Eglinton, now used as a temporary bus terminal for Eglinton Station, and the Danforth Garage at Danforth & Coxwell. Eglinton Garage services the TTC's Orion VIIs.

Malvern Garage: This facility, also in Scarborough, at Sheppard Ave. East & Markham Rd. It services a large fleet of lift-equipped Orion Vs, GM New Looks and Orion VII hybrid buses.

Queensway Garage: This garage is the major facility for Etobicoke. It is located beside the QEW west of Kipling Ave., and services New Flyer D40LF and older D40 models, as well as Orion Vs and Orion VIIs.

Wilson Complex: The largest garage, located at the Allen Rd. north of Hwy 401, beside the expansive Wilson subway yard and bus terminal. This garage serviced the TTC fleet of natural gas powered buses before they were scrapped or converted to Diesel operation. Wilson services Orion V lift-equipped buses, as well as the TTC's newest Orion VIIs, GM 'fishbowl' buses and Orion VII hybrid buses. Like Arrow Road, it operates many routes throughout North York and North Toronto as well as in York. Complex also contains Wilson Subway Yard.

Lakeshore Garage: This facility, located on Commissioners Street west of Leslie Street is the headquarters for Wheel-Trans and TTC Community bus operations.

Streetcars are run from two carhouses on Queen Street:

Russell Carhouse is located east of Greenwood Avenue.

Roncesvalles Carhouse is located in Parkdale at the Queensway & Roncesvalles.

Both Russell and Roncesvalles carhouses service both the CLRV and ALRV streetcars.

Hillcrest Complex - heavy maintenance and repairs done on buses and streetcars and is located on Bathurst Street at Davenport Road.


The TTC fare system accepts cash, tickets, tokens, and transit passes. As of November 4, 2007, adult fares are $2.75 for a single trip, or $2.25 each for five trips using tickets or tokens. Passes are available by the day, week, or month, with a 12-month subscription option. The monthly Metropass costs $109.00 since then. Transfers are free (for trips in one direction), and are encouraged by the grid system of routes and by transfer terminals at many subway stations. Transfers must be picked up at the point of entry, as outgoing buses and streetcars will not accept transfers from the closest subway station.

There are about 1,200 vendors licensed to sell TTC fares in Toronto.

The provincial Minister of Transportation has announced plans to introduce the Presto card, a unified smartcard-based payment system for the entire Greater Toronto Area similar to the Octopus Card used in Hong Kong. Union station will be first station to use the card in 2007 and four other stations (Don Mills, Downsview, Finch, and Islington) by 2010. There are no plans for the TTC to actually adopt the Presto card yet, rather the surrounding transit systems. This is why only stations connecting to other systems will be equipped- Don Mills (YRT), Finch (YRT, GO), Downsview (YRT), Union (GO Trains, buses) and Islington (Mississauga Transit). The TTC has indicated that it is not yet willing to invest the required capital to convert to the Presto card.

Schedules and information

Route information can be accessed through the TTC Info number 416-393-INFO. Individual route schedules are available online at, but the website does not offer the kind of "trip planner" similar to those available from Vancouver's Translink or the Edmonton Transit System to show connections. Schedules for particular route are also usually posted at TTC transfer points.

Additional TTC information is circulated by "What's On" and "Rocket Rider/TTC Customer News" pamphlets located on some vehicles.

Information can be accessed in person at the TTC head office (Davisville Station 1900 Yonge St.), but the TTC Info Centre at the Bloor-Yonge Station has been closed.

Before the use of the TTC website, TTC patrons were able to obtain route information from various sources:

  • Paper schedules and system maps from drivers and collector booths
  • Fax number to obtain schedules and maps
  • TimeLine: Most stops had a phone number to obtain the schedule for the select route. This system was shut down on January 1, 2000, due to Year 2000 constraints.


The shelters used by the systems are split between CBS Outdoor (formerly Viacom Media) (with ads) and Toronto Transportation. A total of 4,100 shelters are managed by Toronto Transportation and most from the former transportation departments of the municipalities that make up the City of Toronto.

The Otter Loop Shelter on Avenue Road south of Lawrence Avenue West is the only remaining bus shelter from the 1940s and 1950s. The loop and shelter are not in regular revenue service and not owned by the TTC.


Advertising is commonplace and prominent in all TTC vehicles and locations. In fact, some subway stops are periodically entirely "repainted" on the inside using large plastic decals, to the wishes of a paying corporate advertiser; this is also done with individual buses and all cars in a particular subway train. In 2005, the TTC began installing video screens in subway stations to display advertising, news, weather, and safety information. This project is run by Toronto based ONESTOP Media Group. The agency contracted to post ads on the TTC is CBS Outdoor. However, the amount of money the TTC receives for allowing advertising on its property is very small. For the year ending 2003, the TTC received 2.3% of its revenue from advertising, or almost $17 million.

The TTC sells a line of merchandise through Legacy Sportswear, which is available online or at their store "TTC Transit Stuff" at the Union subway station. When Matt Blackett, publisher of Spacing Magazine, approached the TTC in 2005 with an idea to sell buttons, each of which represented the colour scheme and design of a particular subway station, the TTC declined. Blackett went on to manufacture the buttons himself. Dubbed "the civic pride fashion statement of the year" by the National Post, the buttons were a success, selling tens of thousands.


The TTC utilizes several types of voice and data communications. There are three main systems. The first is the system used by Operations, Security and Maintenance. This system operates on five UHF conventional frequencies. Channels 1, 3, 4 and 5 are used for day to day operations, while Channel 2 is reserved for the Wheel-Trans service.

Buses and streetcars use the CIS (Communications and Information System) system. This system is spread out city wide with transmit facilities throughout the city. Each bus and streetcar has a TRUMP set onboard. This is attached to a transponder receiver which allows CIS operators to track the location of the vehicle using Signposts. The TRUMP also allows the operators and CIS operators to send and receive text messages for such things as short turns and route adjustments. There is also the option of voice communications between the operator and the CIS operator. The CIS system was conceived in the late 1970s and was fully implemented in 1991.

The third system is used by the subway system. This is called the Wayside system. Replacing the old devices which communicated by the third rail are new UHF MPT-1327 Trunking radio sets. The Subway system is divided into 3 separate systems, each representing its respective subway line. This new trunking system allows Transit Control to communicate directly with a single train, a zone encompassing several trains, or the entire line. The Scarborough RT is not included in this system. They continue to use a single channel UHF system, much the same as the system used by operations staff.

All of these systems can be monitored by a scanner capable of the UHF Low band (406-430MHz). Numeric codes are also announced through the radio and/or the overhead paging system.

Safety systems

Safety features provided by the TTC include:

  • Request Stop Program on surface routes (9 p.m.-5 a.m.) (excluding streetcar routes); youth and female passengers travelling alone can request the driver to stop at points between bus stops (no such service is currently offered for male passengers although some drivers do take requests from men). The program was started in 1991, due in part to the activities of serial rapist and killer Paul Bernardo.
  • Designated Waiting Areas (DWA) on subway and RT platforms; these are well lit, have intercoms, monitored by security cameras, and are at the location where the guard car stops
  • Emergency Power Cut stations - indicated by a blue beacon - and located on both ends of all Subway/RT platforms with a telephone to call Transit Control's emergency number (3555)
  • Yellow Passenger Assistance Alarm strips on subway and RT cars since 1977
  • Approximately 800 cameras monitoring activities on the subway system and several cameras on some buses and streetcars
  • TTC Special Constable Services
  • Underground Alert messages displayed on the subway platform video screens to notify passengers about criminals


Each year the TTC auctions off items left on vehicles and not claimed. They are sold in lots, rather than individually. In 2005, the TTC launched an online auction via eBay Canada and Rite Auction Services.

OneStop Media System

The TTC in partnership with OneStop Media Group have rolled out large LCD Television Screens in major stations throughout the system. By 2010 all stations should have these signs.

The signs feature advertising, news headlines from CP24, weather information, and TTC specific information regarding service changes, service delays and information pertaining to using the system.

On June 12 2007, the TTC in partnership with the Toronto Crime Stoppers and OneStop have launched a new Underground Alert system at the Toronto Police Headquarters. The new Underground Alert system will post pictures and details of wanted suspects on the screens in stations throughout the subway system. Subway passengers will be encouraged to call police if they have any information.

The system can also be used when an Amber Alert is issued.

In September 2008, Dundas Station was the first to feature a “Next Train” announcement integrated into the signage. The TTC says that by the end of 2009 all 69 subway stations will have this feature.

Strike actions

TTC workers have performed strike actions nine times between 1952 and 2008:

  • 1952 - On strike for 19 days.
  • 1970 - On strike for 12 days.
  • 1974 - On strike for 23 days in August; service went back to normal when Conservative Government forced it to. This was the first time for the Provincial Government to be involved in a TTC strike.
  • 1978 - On strike for 8 days; service went back to normal because of the back-to-work legislation.
  • 1984 - On strike during Pope John Paul II's visit to Toronto.
  • 1991 - On strike for 8 days in September.
  • 1999 - On strike for 2 days in April; service went back to normal because of the back-to-work legislation.
  • 2006 - On strike for 1 day on May 29, known as the wildcat strike.
  • 2008 - On strike for 2 days on April 26 at 12:01 a.m. (see 2008 Toronto Transit Commission strike)



Although a generally safe system, the TTC has had a few accidents and incidents since 1921:

  • A TTC employee was killed in an industrial accident in 1982
  • The Russell Hill subway accident in 1995 resulted in the death of 3 passengers and 30 others sustained injuries. There were an additional 100 passengers whom filed injury-related claims from the accident
  • In December 2000 a garbage train caught fire while enroute through Old Mill Station. The train was completely destroyed, and service was replaced by shuttle buses for the morning rush. Service resumed for the evening rush hour, however Old Mill station remained closed for two days. Since the incident the TTC has stopped the practice of using garbage trains and maintains a fleet of surface garbage trucks to collect refuse.
  • A TTC ticket collector was killed during a robbery at Victoria Park station in 1995.
  • Numerous bus operators have been assaulted from patrons. One operator lost sight in one eye after being shot through a windshield in 2005.
  • A TTC asbestos removal crew employee was killed and several others were injured in April 2007 when the work car they were operating snaged on some cabling and dislodged a workplatform at the end of a night shift. As a result there was no subway service from Eglinton Station to York Mills Station for the next service day.
  • A Train had a minor derailment in February 2008 as it was leaving Kennedy Station. There were no injuries however subway service in the area was affected for more than 24 hours as the incident was investigated and repairs were done to signals and switches.
  • A bundle of cables used for power and signaling became dismounted and fell to track level on September 25, 2008. The incident happened at the height of the evening rush hour causing service to be suspended between Yonge and Bloor and Lawrence Station. Full service did not resume until the next day.



See also

External links

Route and schedule information


Fansites and advocacy

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