Transit 101: Getting Around Toronto

2020-05-26T16:44:17+00:00April 2nd, 2020|

TTC Streetcar in Toronto

Work. Home. Repeat. Work. Home. Repeat. Riding the rocket every day can get a bit mundane. When you get into a routine of commuting, it’s easy to forget that there are entire parts of the city that you may never have travelled to or visited. Even when you’re on the subway staring at the map of the subway lines, you don’t realize that Toronto is a city with about three million people in its core boundaries and just over six million people when you include its regional boundaries.

That’s just the population. When you talk about its geographic size, Toronto spreads about 641 square kilometres. We actually have no idea how large that is, but it sounds like a lot of space. Luckily, the city has one of the most sophisticated public transportation systems in North America. We even won an award no one knew existed, so whether you agree or not, just know that somewhere a group of people gathered and agreed that we deserved to win. And not only do we have trains, buses and streetcars to move people around the city, we also have a system for getting commuters in and out of the city from our most distant suburbs. You’d be surprised just how connected our transport system is.


What is the TTC

If you’re asking this question you’ve probably never been to Toronto. That’s OK. We’re nice people here who like to get around on this thing called the Toronto Transit Commission, or TTC for short. It’s our public transportation system, which includes trains, buses and streetcars.

Toronto wouldn’t be Toronto without our neighbourhoods. From the Beaches to High Park, Queens Quay to Yonge and Eg, the TTC makes it possible to have brunch in Kensington Market and still make it to Leslieville for a 2 p.m. gallery launch.

Whether you hop on a streetcar or bus or head underground into one of its subways, the TTC moves you around the city with a bunch of other strangers you’ve never met. What more could you ask for?


TTC subway lines

There are four subway lines in Toronto: Yonge/University, Bloor/Danforth, Scarborough Line and Sheppard Line.

Yonge/University (Line 1) — AKA The Lungs

Line 1 is the lungs of the subway system. Seriously, it literally looks like a lung that’s been split at the top. At the top of one side of the lung is Finch Station. If you hop on the train from there and head south, you’ll end up at Union Station, which is the heart of transportation in Toronto (more on Union later). Heading north up the other side of the lung from Union, you’ll end up at Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, which puts you in the city of Vaughan. With 38 stations along this line, it really is the main gateway in and out of the city.

Bloor/Danforth (Line 2) — AKA Old Town Road

There are 31 stations on this line, and none of them take you to the airport (you’ll have to jump on a bus from Kipling station if you want to make it to Pearson). That said, Line 2 runs east and west along Bloor and Danforth with a stop at the ROM as a small concession. The furthest west you can go on this line is Kipling station. If you’re looking to travel east, Line 2 will take you all the way to Kennedy station, where you can connect to Line 3 and head over to Scarborough Town Centre.

Scarborough Line (Line 3) — AKA STC

Let’s be honest; this line only exists so people can get to Scarborough Town Centre without driving. Why else would there only be six stops? Line 3 will take you from Kennedy Station northeast to McCowan. The only other benefit of this line is that it connects to Line 2.

Sheppard Line (Line 4) — AKA FOMO

No one really uses this line, but it’s part of the subway map, so we felt compelled to include it. Line 4 has the fewest stations with just five stops. It runs west to east beginning at Sheppard/Yonge station, which is near the top of Line 1 and extends out to Don Mills station.


Navigating subway line transfers

There’s no point in having these different lines if they didn’t intersect at some point. It’s what we Torontonians like to call common sense. If you’re travelling north and south along Line 1, it connects to Line 2 at Spadina station, St. George and Bloor/Yonge station. That means you can get out at either of these stops to head east or west along the Bloor/Danforth Line.

Line 3 connects at the east end of Line 2. It’s how people living in the east end of the city make it into and out of work without having to sit in DVP traffic for hours. Then there’s good old Line 4. It connects with Line 1 at Sheppard/Yonge station. There have been discussions of extending this line. But for now, it is what it is — which isn’t really much.


GO Transit train and bus system

If you’re trying to get a bit further outside the city limits, then GO is your best choice. Go Transit offers a system of buses and trains that extend west out to Hamilton, Kitchener/Waterloo, east to Peterborough and Newcastle, south to Niagara Falls and North to Beaverton and Orangeville.

There are eight GO Train Lines:

  • Lakeshore West
  • Lakeshore East
  • Milton
  • Kitchener
  • Barrie
  • Stouffville
  • Richmond Hill
  • UP Express (which goes from Union Station to Pearson Airport)

There’s also the Niagara Line that runs from Hamilton to Niagara Falls but doesn’t connect to Union Station, which is the Hub for GO transportation.


Union Station

We have to give Union Station its own space to shine here. It’s the hub of public transportation for travel both inside and outside the city. You’ll see a lot of suitcases rolling behind passengers rushing through the mayhem to get to their train or bus on time. You’ll also see some commuters sitting patiently at a bar having a drink or on their phones in one of the seating areas because of another delay. It’s part of what gives Union its personality.

You can access all of Toronto’s major transportations systems at Union, including the TTC, GO, Via Rail and the Up Express. About 300,000 commuters pass through Union every day, and when you’re either coming into work in the morning or leaving in the evening, you know it’s organized chaos at its finest. More recently, you’ve probably noticed a lot of construction happening at the station. That’s because Union is undergoing a revitalization project to help better facilitate the massive amounts of travellers it serves day in and day out. This includes doubling up on the train trips during rush hour and quadrupling the number of weekend train trips.



PRESTO is the electronic payment system Toronto and its neighbouring cities rely on to take pay for transit and its nearby towns. It’s the most convenient way to pay for travel because it eliminates the need for cash or tokens or any other form of payment. PRESTO is also great because it works for eleven participating transit agencies, including Brampton and York Region all the way to OC Transpo in Ottawa and, of course, GO Transit. You simply need to tap your card every time you enter a station or get into a streetcar or bus. With GO, you can actually tap at machines in the station before getting on the train.


Rocketman helps you ride on time in Toronto

OK, we just gave you a bunch of information on how the transit system in Toronto works. What you need now is a Toronto transit app that helps you move from point A to point B in a timely fashion. That’s what Rocketman is for. Stay ahead of your commute by using our real-time transit alerts and arrival times.


Download Rocketman:

Rocketman GO, TTC transit app for iOS

Rocketman GO, TTC transit app for Android



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