What is Transit Toronto?
Transit Toronto is a web site wherein fans of the Toronto Transit Commission have gathered information on the system. It is our goal to show you, with articles and photographs, how the system ticks, what goes on behind the scenes, and the subtleties of the equipment, be it the TTC’s subway, its streetcars, its buses, or its sister system, GO Transit.
Are You Connected With the TTC?
Nope. This is in no way, shape or form an official web site for the Toronto Transit Commission. We certainly aren’t being paid to produce the HTML you see here. So, if you have a complaint about the TTC and you’re mad as Hell, don’t e-mail us, and don’t call us, because we can’t do a darn thing about it. Likewise, since we don’t work for the TTC, we don’t know everything about their inner workings, and we can’t tell you why the TTC doesn’t extend the Scarborough RT to Pickering or why buses run in Rosedale, so don’t ask us.
So Why Are You Doing This?
There is a group of people known as railfans, whose interest in trains or transit systems leads them to devote considerable time and energy to their hobby. We’re a lot younger than your average railfan, I think (we’re all in our mid-thirties), but we’ve probably caught the bug. But there’s more to it than that.
Aaron Adel loves Toronto and is very nostalgic for his childhood years in the 1980s. Before this page moved to its own server and gained its own domain, it was a part of a larger page detailing the activities of a circle of friends who called themselves the Huities (French for ‘eighties’). Growing up in Toronto, and having a good time of it, means fond memories of the Toronto Transit Commission. The TTC was THE way for teenagers to get around the city (I myself didn’t learn how to drive until I was twenty-three, and living in Kitchener). As Torontonians, we took great pride in how well the system stood up amongst the world, when it was in its glory days. The subway was a big part of Toronto, a big part of Aaron’s childhood, I’ll bet, and so he launched the Toronto Subway Page.
I’m much the same way. I grew up in Toronto in the 1980s, and the TTC was THE way for me to get around my city. My appreciation, however, was more for the streetcars than for the subways, and so when I contributed material to Aaron, much of it had to do with streetcars, and the focus of this page broadened. Brad O’Brien supplied a few of the bus pages that you see, and other railfans have contributed articles, photographs and all sorts of good stuff. And then we started moving out into the rest of the GTA, covering GO Transit and the neighbouring local transit systems. From this, we got our web site.
What is the Purpose of this FAQ?
The FAQ is here to further the goal set when Transit Toronto was originally set up as the Toronto Subway Page: to inform you, the user. We get a lot of questions, some of which we can actually answer, and so we’ve made this FAQ to provide those answers automatically. We hope this FAQ can provide you with interesting information about Toronto’s subways, streetcars and buses.
Why won’t the TTC run a route along such-and-such a street?
As we’ve said before, we’re not the TTC, so we’re probably not the best people to ask. However, we can tell you that if the TTC hasn’t launched a certain route, it’s because there isn’t enough demand for such a route.
The TTC last made an operating profit in 1972, when Metropolitan Toronto convinced the TTC to eliminate the 2-fare zone structure that had existed up to that time. Before that, the TTC had been relying on capital subsidies from the Province of Ontario and Metro throughout much of the 1960s; in other words, despite the fact that the TTC makes 81% of its operating funds from the farebox (one of the best performances of any transit system in North America), it depends upon government subsidies to continue to do what it must do.
In the glory days of the 1980s, the TTC received 75% of its capital funds from the province, 25% of its capital funds from Metro and 34% of its operating funds from both the Province and Metro. Then, through the 1990s, funding got cut, and the provincial government backed out of funding municipal transit altogether. While things have improved since then (the province now offers a portion of the gas tax to municipalities, and covers a third to two-thirds of capital expenses on a case-by-case basis), the TTC is still expected to make almost three-quarters of its operating funds from the farebox. Over and above this, the fallout of the TTC’s first fatal subway train accident in the history of the system (the Russell Hill train crash of August 1995) has highlighted the dangers of deferred maintenance, and TTC Commissioner David Gunn made it his priority to see to it that as much money as possible is spent on maintaining a State of Good Repair throughout the system. This mentality carried on into the chairmanship of Gunn’s successors.
In short, the TTC is on limited resources, and so it doesn’t have money to spend on all the routes it wants to run.
The TTC service plans throughout the 1990s carefully examine each route change proposal to see how much subsidy per boarding would be required to maintain the route, and how many riders the change would benefit. Whatever new route they create, the funds for that route will have to be taken from elsewhere in the system. If service has improved in your area, this has been achieved by decreasing service in another area. The TTC can’t get any more blood from the stone — they must work with what they have in order to achieve service improvements.
Click here for the full details on how the TTC plans its service improvements.
How come suburban transit outside of the Toronto city limits, seems to have fallen behind the TTC?
The text that follows is tainted with a lot of personal opinion, but does have some backing in planning circles:
Why is transit in the suburbs of Toronto nowhere near as extensive or cost-efficient as the TTC? The answer is, the suburbs are not built for transit.
Compare the differences in development between the residential neighbourhoods surrounding Toronto’s, and the residential neighbourhoods at the Toronto city limits. You’ll find that, for the most part, the suburban residential neighbourhoods are half to one-fifth as dense as the neighbourhoods surrounding downtown Toronto. The neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto are older and built to a planning ethic that existed before the more modernist suburban planning ethic that said that everyone should have a large lawn surrounding one’s home, and before the time when the automobile made that suburban planning ethic feasible.
In many quarters, density is perceived as a bad thing. Higher density neighbourhoods generally have more crime, more traffic and less open space. This ignores the fact that, although this is often true in the super-high density low-income apartment complex developments, moderate density, mixed-use neighbourhoods don’t follow this reputation. Indeed, moderate density, mixed-use neighbourhoods of the type that exist around Toronto’s downtown core have a significant advantage: they’re not car dependent.
From the 1950s onward, the car became the transportation method of choice for most people on this continent. When this occurred, the development patterns of our cities changed dramatically. Previously, Toronto’s growth had been in a “finger” pattern, with long fingers of development extending out into the countryside, parallelling streetcar lines and other significant transportation corridors. People had to live within ten minutes walk of a streetcar line at that time, they had no choice, and development reflected this. When the car came along, they could live almost wherever they pleased, and urban sprawl was born.
The neighbourhoods we’ve built since the 1950s have been almost exclusively car oriented. This has put a strain on public transportation as well as on our infrastructure in general. Service vehicles now have to travel farther to serve fewer people, costing the agency money. In order to save money, the only answer available has been to cut service, but this makes the transit service inconvenient for users and costs them more riders. It’s a downward spiral.
Here’s another example: In the denser, mixed use centre city, transportation lines can count on a lot of riders getting on and off at most of the stops along the way. In the suburbs, the bulk of the trips start at one end of the route, and run all of the way to the other end of the route (e.g. Finch Station). The total number of customers making use of the service may be the same, but since the suburban passengers generally have to travel farther, more buses are required to meet capacity. A single Queen Streetcar probably carries as many passengers on its length of the route that 20 Finch West buses are used to carry over the length of theirs.
The Toronto Transportation Commission has a farebox recovery of 75%, meaning that 75% of its operating costs are met by passengers paying their fares. That’s the highest average in North America, and probably double the recovery met by its suburban counterparts. Even so, before the TTC was called upon to service Toronto’s lower density development, it made an operating profit (before 1972), and in the 1950s, when the car wasn’t nearly so dominant, it was able to meet ALL of its operating and capital obligations. The Yonge Subway of 1954 was built almost entirely out of the TTC’s farebox revenues.
The Planning community is slowly changing, having recognized the disadvantages of car-oriented Modernist design. How much freedom does the car truly offer if you can’t go anywhere without one? A new school of thought is developing New Urbanism, or Neotraditional Neighbourhood Developments. These moderate density, mixed-use developments are proving popular with buyers who don’t want use spend a litre of gasoline to buy a litre of milk, and who want to be able to make a meaningful choice between getting there by car, on foot or using public transportation…
What are the top ten busiest bus and streetcar routes?
According to the TTC’s 2005 Service Plan, the ten surface routes for rider volume (daily) are:
- 504 King/508 Lake Shore - 48,400
- 510 Spadina/509 Harbourfront - 43,400
- 29 Dufferin - 43,300
- 506 Carlton - 41,200
- 501 Queen - 41,200
- 35 Jane - 38,700
- 39 Finch East and 139 Finch East Express - 38,300
- 25 Don Mills - 37,200
- 36 Finch West - 37,000
- 32 Eglinton West - 36,900
505 Dundas (36,000) just misses making it it into the top ten.
Compare this to the TTC’s numbers for 1998:
- 506 Carlton - 54,200
- 504 King/508 Lake Shore - 49,900
- 501 Queen - 46,200
- 29 Dufferin - 41,400
- 39 Finch East - 40,000
- 35 Jane - 40,000
- 505 Dundas - 39,000
- 510 Spadina - 38,000
- 32 Eglinton West - 37,300
- 25 Don Mills - 36,600
How many passengers does the TTC carry every day?
According to the TTC’s 2005 Service Report, on an average weekday, the TTC’s buses and streetcars carry as many as 1,422,720 passengers, realizing $1,009,850.00 in revenues and $2,057,200.00 in cost for a 49% farebox recovery ratio. According to the TTC’s 2004 Operating Statistics, the TTC’s subway and RT network carried as many as 878,000 passengers on an average workday. In total, the TTC collects 1,350,000 per workday.
How many vehicles does the TTC have in its fleet?
According to the TTC’s 2004 Operating Statistics, the TTC has 1502 40-foot buses (662 Accessible, 840 regular), 196 CLRV streetcars, 52 ALRV streetcars, 684 subway cars and 28 Scarborough RT vehicles. This does not include 5 community bus vehicles and 251 Wheel Trans vehicles.
More statistics (mileage, busiest stations, number of routes, etc) can be found here.
I’m looking for subway memorabilia like roll-signs, platform signs, subway plaque numbers, etc. Where can I get them?
If you’re looking for something more than the typical souvenir, like roll-signs or subway plaque numbers, you have a hard task ahead of you — although sometimes the hunting can be just as fun as the receiving.
There are people out there who hunt down scrap shops, or who contact the TTC and manage to be in the right place in the right time to pick up such memorabilia. While visiting the Model Train Show on March 22, 1998, I was fortunate enough to purchase a trolley bus rollsign for $30. The stall had about three such rollsigns and a set of doors off of a Gloucester subway train. That was about all they had in terms of TTC stuff, so you can see that such memorabilia can be rare and command a high price.
If you call the TTC and ask around politely for the whereabouts of certain materials, and if you don’t particularly care about what you find, you may be in luck. What is available depends entirely upon what is being scrapped at the time. I was fortunate enough to call the TTC back when their old fareboxes were being scrapped in favour of their current bill-friendly ones. They put me onto a scrap dealer, and I was able to head over to a Markham warehouse, and purchase a nice metal farebox for $80.
Judging from the prices these memorabilia fetch, you can probably guess that the farebox and the rollsign are the only two major items that I have in my possession (not quite true; I also have a streetcar rollsign dating from 1963, but that was a gift from my parents and I don’t know how they got it). Smaller items such as maps and pamphlets are more readily available at various local train shows and swap meets. The best venue is perhaps the annual Model Train Show held in North Etobicoke near the middle of March. Always keep your eyes peeled for that one. Barring that, contacts within the Toronto Transportation Society and the Upper Canada Railway Society may have such things, or many know where to look.
Where can I find out more about the history of the TTC?
You can start by reading our brief history of the TTC and from there peruse our streetcar, subway and bus route history pages. Failing that, our Links Page is a good jumping off place for numberous other websites on all things transit related.
Special thanks to Chadwick Severn for providing us with these numbers.