Travel information: getting around Toronto

Sure, there's a subway, but the streetcars are quaint and effective

By Annette Bordeau

Streetcars are one of the best ways to get around the city, they run on time and go to places (the Beaches, Little India) that the subway doesn't reach. Explore individual neighbourhoods on foot, but use the good public transport links to shuttle between them.

Public transport

Toronto has an efficient and easy-to-use public transport service run by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) ( In the central Toronto area frequent subway services, buses and streetcars ply the major arteries.

Subway services generally start around 6am Monday to Saturday, and the last train runs at around 1.30am. On Sundays, service starts at about 9am and ends near 1am. Buses and streetcars generally run from 6am to midnight or 1am daily. The Blue Night Network of buses, identified by a blue stripe on the kerbside sign, takes over at night. The 320 Yonge Blue Night bus traces the route of the Yonge subway line and runs all night. It can often get rowdy with drunken passengers, and for this reason it is known by locals as 'the Vomit Comet', but the mood on board is generally friendly.


The TTC takes safety seriously. Subway trains have alarms in every car, and there is a Designated Waiting Area on each platform that is brightly lit and has a 'push for help' button. This is also the spot where the conductor's car always stops. On the platforms there is a lever that stops the power on the subway trains, in the event that someone falls onto the tracks. Women using buses between 9pm and 5am can ask to get off between stops to minimise the walk to their final destination.

TTC Information

Call 416 393 4636 or visit Network maps are free from all subway-station offices.

Fares & tickets

The cash fare for adults is $2.75. Travellers aged 65 and older, or students under 19 pay $1.85 (with photo ID); under-12s pay 70¢ for a one-way trip; kids aged two and under travel free. Subway fare collectors can give change, but it's exact fare only on streetcars and buses (pay on board for both).

Fares are cheaper if you buy tickets or tokens in bulk. Adults can buy five for $10.50 or ten for $21. Five senior or student tickets are $7 and ten $14 (again, take photo ID), and ten children's tickets are $4.70. Tokens are available only at subway stations, while tickets are sold at convenience and other stores.

If you're going to be covering a lot of ground, your best bet is a day pass for $8.55, allowing unlimited travel from 9.30am Monday to Friday, and all day on Saturday and Sunday. The same pass, for the same price, can be used for groups of up to six, with no more than two adults, for unlimited travel on Sundays and public holidays.

A monthly pass gives you unlimited travel at any time. It's $99.75 for adults or $83.75 for seniors and students, but can only be purchased between the 24th of the month and the fourth business day of the following month.

Transfer tickets

If you need to transfer from one mode of transport to another, be sure to obtain a transfer/proof of purchase when you start your trip. They're available from the red machines in subway stations or from the streetcar or bus driver. If you leave it too long before starting the second stage of your journey, TTC staff may not accept the transfer ticket, though it's a rather ad hoc system. You're supposed to take the next connecting vehicle, but locals often dash into a shop between legs of a commute.


Bus stops are marked by red- and-white poles or bus shelters, and are often just before an intersection. Many – but not all – shelters have route timetables posted. Generally, buses arrive every 10-30 minutes.

Currently around ten per cent of Toronto's current fleet are so-called 'kneeling' buses, which allow for easier access for the elderly and disabled; all new buses introduced are of this type.


The Scarborough Rapid Transit line is a suburban above-ground extension of the Bloor-Danforth subway line that most visitors only see en route to the Toronto Zoo. GO Transit, the province-run company, runs a commuter rail network, but it's of little use to visitors.


Toronto's streetcars are the best way to get around the city. Because many run on rail tracks in dedicated central lanes, they usually run to schedule. And they evoke a feeling of nostalgia – romance even. Conveniently for visitors, many of the main central arteries – Queen, College, Dundas, King and Spadina – are served by streetcars (whose numbers start with a 5).

Most of the streetcars start downtown, but many journey into the outer edges of town. For visiting areas such as the Beaches, Roncesvalles Village, Parkdale, or Little India, you will almost certainly have to use the streetcar to get there, as they are not served by subway lines.

How to.. get on & off a streetcar

To take the streetcar, wait at the stop (they look the same as bus stops) and cross in front of stopped cars to board by the front door. Sometimes you'll need to look for a shelter in the middle of the road, especially along the 510 Spadina route. (Passengers who have a transfer or pass may board by the back door along the busy 501 Queen line only – you must use the front door on all other lines.) To disembark, step down into the stairwell and push open the doors using the bars.

Cars are supposed to stop well behind streetcar doors but it's always a good idea to look right before getting out. Streetcars are not wheelchair accessible.


There are four main subway lines. The Bloor-Danforth line runs from Kipling Station in the west to Kennedy Station in the east. The north-south line is divided into two parallel arms – the Yonge line, which runs from Union Station to Finch Station, and the University-Spadina line, which runs from Union Station to Downsview Station. The fourth line runs east-west along Sheppard Avenue, from Yonge-Sheppard Station to Don Mills Station on the north side. (Don't be fooled into thinking there is something to see up there just because there's a subway – aside from a nearby IKEA and a hospital, it's mostly suburban housing.) The major transfer points between these east-west and north-south lines are Bloor-Yonge, St George and Yonge-Sheppard stations, where the lines connect, with platforms linked by stairs. You don't need a transfer to change subway trains.

Water transport

The city operates ferries from Harbourfront to Centre Island (summer only), Hanlan's Point and Wards Island. Call 416 392 8193 for schedule information or visit Return fares are $6 for adults; $3.50 for seniors (65 and older) and under-19 students; $2.50 for under-15s; kids aged two and under go free. The ferry terminal is at the foot of Bay Street, at Queens Quay W, by the Westin Harbour Castle. Ferries generally run from 6.30am to midnight daily at 30-minute to 2.5-hour intervals, but services change depending on the season and the weather. In the summer, a trip on the ferry is a Toronto tradition and a wonderful way to cool off. Always call ahead, and be careful not to miss the last boat back.


Toronto taxis operate under a standard system of fees and rights as set out by the city. The meter starts at $3 and increases by 25¢ for every 0.19km (0.12 miles) driven or 31 seconds of waiting. As in any city, check the meter has been reset when you get into the cab.

Drivers are not allowed to recommend restaurants or hotels to you unless you make a request, and they must follow any route you suggest or otherwise take the most direct route. If you think you have left an item of property in a taxi, call the company directly.

Taxi numbers

Beck Taxi 416 751 5555.
CO-OP Cabs 416 504 2667.
Crown Taxi 416 750 7878.
Diamond Taxicab 416 366 6868.
Royal Taxi 416 777 9222.
Yellow Cab 416 504 4141.

The taxi complaints line is 1-877 868 2947 and it operates 24 hours daily.


As with most big North American cities, you should avoid having to drive in central Toronto if you can help it. During morning and afternoon rush hours especially, jams are long and tedious, and public transport or your own two feet will always get you where you're going quicker.

The law

  • You need to be at least 16 years old and have a valid licence from your home country to drive in Toronto.
  • The speed limit is generally 50kmph (about 31mph), while the major highways are 80kmph (50mph) to 100kmph (62mph). While you can drive close to 120kmph (75mph) on the major 400-series highways to keep up with the pace of traffic without getting a ticket, don't try that on city streets. Police enforce speed limits strictly, especially in marked school zones where the limit is reduced to 40kmph (24mph).
  • In Toronto, it's legal to make a right turn on a red light (unless the signs say otherwise) if you first come to a full stop.
  • As in most cities, drivers are required to stop for school buses picking up and dropping off passengers. You must stop for a school bus on either side of the road unless you're on a divided highway, and you should also stop for streetcars picking up passengers. It's illegal to drive around one, and you'll not only get a ticket but also run the risk of getting an earful from disgruntled commuters.
  • Pedestrians always have the right of way at crosswalks, which have painted markings and a string of lights, but they can be tricky to spot in congested areas.

Breakdown services

Canadian Automobile Association
461 Yonge Street, at Carlton Street, Church & Wellesley (416 221 4300/emergencies 416 222 5222/ Open 8.30am-6pm Mon-Fri; 9.30am-4pm Sat. Emergency line 24hrs daily.
Breakdown services for members and members of reciprocal organisations, depending on plan. Other locations: throughout the city.

Fuel stations

241 Church Street, at Dundas Street, Dundas Square (416 703 4556/1-800 567 3776/ Open 6am-midnight daily.
Other locations: throughout the city.

55 Spadina Avenue, at King Street W, Entertainment District (416 977 3653/1-800 668 0220/ Open 24hrs daily.
Other locations: throughout the city.


Parking rates are steep. You'll pay as much as $4 for half an hour or $20 for a day of parking in a privately run downtown lot. City-operated lots are a little less expensive at $3 an hour (look for the green 'P' emblem).

Parking on most major city streets is illegal without feeding a nearby meter (costing between $1 and $3 an hour), and parking enforcement officers are ever vigilant. Downtown streets have either single-space meters or pay-and-display machines that cover multiple spaces on one block. Meters and machines take take coins and many take credit cards, but keep a collection of loonies ($1), toonies ($2) and quarters handy. Street parking privileges are withdrawn during rush hour on busy roads, usually 7-9am and 3.30-6.30pm. On residential side streets uptown, one-hour parking is usually free, but even these streets are monitored by officers.

Vehicle hire

You must be 21 or over to rent a car in Ontario. Rental companies will offer you accident and collision insurance and, although it may seem expensive, you'd be wise to take it if not covered by your own policy.

920 Yonge Street, at Davenport Road, Yorkville (416 935 1533/1-800 462 5266/ Subway Bloor-Yonge. Open 7am-9pm Mon-Fri; 7am-6pm Sat; 9am-5pm Sun. Credit AmEx, MC, V.

556 St Clair Avenue W, at Bathurst Street, Forest Hill (416 651 0020/1-800 561 5212/ Subway St Clair. Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri; 8am-4pm Sat. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Other locations: throughout the city.

Discount Car & Truck Rentals
243 Danforth Avenue, at Broadview Avenue, East Side (416 465 8776/1-866 310 2277/ Streetcar 504, 505/subway Broadview. Open 8am-6pm Mon-Fri; 8am-4pm Sat. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Other locations: throughout the city.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car
700 Bay Street, at Gerrard Street, Chinatown (416 599 1375/1-800 736 8222/ Bus 6/streetcar 506/subway College. Open 7.30am-6pm Mon-Fri; 9am-noon Sat. Credit AmEx, MC, V.
Other locations: throughout the city.

Walking & cycling


For off-street strolls, take a self-guided Discovery Walk through parks and points of interest – contact the Parks and Recreation department ( A useful map is 'The OTHER Map of Toronto', which guides you through green sights – available free at Tourism Toronto and the TOTIX booth in Yonge-Dundas Square.


Experienced city cyclists will find Toronto a doddle, with easy navigation and about 59 kilometres (37 miles) of bike lanes. But you need street smarts, and accidents are a regular occurrence. For details of city bike programmes, call 416 392 9253 or go to

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While every effort and care has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this guide, the publisher cannot accept responsibility for any errors it may contain. Before you go out of your way, we strongly advise you to phone ahead and check the particulars.

More travel information

Getting to Toronto
Toronto fast facts A-Z
When to go to Toronto

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By Abdul Hamid - Oct 29 2011

Please let me know how long it takes by subway from Kipling to Kennedy station