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A History of Fares on the TTC

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by James Bow

For the most part, public transit in North America is not a private industry; it’s a public service. This has increasingly been the case since the Second World War when the private automobile put many municipal transit systems into receivership. Some have argued that since public transit provides a public service, giving mobility to those who otherwise wouldn’t have it, why should fares be charged? In most cases, roads and public transit have to be subsidized by the government to continue to operate. Why should the rider have to pay for a portion of his ride when a driver, most often, does not?

And if you decide that fares should be applied, how should they be applied? Does a city system charge a single fare for travel within the city, regardless of the length of the trip? Or should the fare amount more closely match the length of the actual trip? How do you police that?

One way or the other, the Toronto Transit Commission and its predecessors have been struggling with these questions since public transit became a city-owned and operated public service. The questions are very much in play today as the TTC struggles to cope with inadequate government funding and a city region that has sprawled well beyond its reach. It has influenced route structures and even the forms our transfers take. Though it is the lifeblood of the commission, fares are easy to take for granted, other than being a pain in the wallet.

In this article, we will discuss how the TTC’s approach to fare structures was shaped, and the quirks in the system this has produced.

The Toronto Civic Railway Runs Deficits

Toronto Civic Railway Fare Structure, December 13, 1912:

Adult day fares: 2¢ cash; 6 tickets for 10¢

Children under nine: 1¢ cash; in arms: free

Night fare: 5¢

The question of whether or not fares should be charged at all was wrestled with by the City of Toronto as early as 1912. Nine years before the creation of the Toronto Transportation Commission, the City of Toronto founded the Toronto Civic Railways, to extend service into newly-annexed portions of the city that the Toronto Railway Company refused to service. As the TCR was city-owned and operated, some politicians and members of the public suggested that since passengers were already paying for the operation through their taxes, why charge any fare at all? As one councillor said, “We’re here to serve the public, not to make money.” The compromise was to set the base fares at two cents, an extremely low rate. The TCR would operate in deficit for the duration of its existence.

TCR General Manager R.C. Harris struggled fruitlessly to have fares raised to something closer to a break-even point. In March 1918, Harris presented a report to the Toronto Board of Control. Among other things, he said:

“…Since the institution of the various Civic carlines, the ratepayers at large, up to December 31, 1917, were called upon to pay $590,688 for special service accorded those in the districts contiguous to the Civic lines. As before reported, it cannot be urged that this practice is sound, wise or business like. Every public utility should be made self-supporting. It is unfair that the citizens at large should be compelled to make good annually, through the tax rate, the deficit created by reason of preferential treatment accorded a section of the community. Furthermore, it provides one of the most potent and damaging arguments against public ownership…

“…We should persistently hold in mind the necessity of conserving every financial resource, against the acquisition of the Toronto Railway Company 43 months hence, when the citizens may be emancipated from the pretence for service offered by the company, whose delinquency in discharging its obligations is, unfortunately, aggravating rapidly.”

R.C. Harris’ recommendations fell on deaf ears and, by September 1921, the TCR had accumulated a total deficit of $1,409,861.

Toronto Transportation Fare Structure, January 1, 1928:

Adult day fares: 7¢ cash; 4 tickets for 25¢ 50 tickets for $3

Students under 16: applicable adult or child fare, depending on height, 7 tickets for 25¢

Children under nine: 3¢ cash; 10 tickets for 25¢

Night fare: 10¢

Nine Separate Fare Schemes

The Toronto Railway Company was charging a higher fare, and when the City of Toronto took over operations, they had no thought of lowering the TRC’s fare to the Civic Railway’s level. Even though the TRC’s franchise had expired, the City of Toronto was obliged to pay $11,483,500 for the system’s assets. It then had to spend a lot of money upgrading the dilapidated track, equipment and properties to desired standards. The city was not willing to put this cost on its tax bill. So the Civic Railway’s fares finally increased.

However, the City was able to point to a major fare improvement with the new Toronto Transportation Commission. In the teens and the early twenties, as the dispute between the City and the Toronto Railway Company festered, not only had the Civic Railway been built to extend service to the city’s outer limits, but other railroads had gotten involved.

The Civic Railway had lines along Danforth Avenue, St. Clair Avenue West, Gerrard Street, Bloor Street West and Lansdowne Avenue. These lines were built in isolation from each other on the TRC’s fringe, with only the Lansdowne and St. Clair streetcar routes connecting to provide a transfer. Complicating matters was the presence of the Toronto Suburban Railway in northwest Toronto and the Toronto and York Railway Company in North Toronto. These companies had provided service to the villages surrounding Toronto and, when these villages were annexed, they found themselves within the City of Toronto’s boundaries, but still in control of their charters.

The result was nine separate streetcar systems were operating within the City of Toronto on August 31, 1921, each charging their own fares. Citizens of Toronto could travel across the city for as little as five cents, or as much as twenty-five, depending on the routes they took. As the TTC took over the other systems operating within Toronto’s boundaries, it unified the city under a single fare. It was higher than the Civic Railway’s fare, but it applied equally to all citizens regardless of where they lived.

Extra Fares Beyond City Boundaries

One of the TTC’s mandates may have been to provide a single fare structure for the whole of the City of Toronto, but that extended just to the city’s boundaries and no further. In the process of acquiring the companies offering street railway service within Toronto’s boundaries, the TTC acquired several radial operations extending beyond those boundaries. This included the Toronto Suburban Railway lines to Weston and Lambton (November 15, 1923), and the Toronto and York Radial Railway lines along Yonge Street, Lakeshore Road and Kingston Road, including the radial service to Lake Simcoe and Port Credit (January 11, 1927).

Radial lines operated more like passenger railroads than city streetcar systems. Fares rose by distance travelled, and every car had a conductor who could accept money and dispense tickets. As the TTC’s new radial lines did not serve Toronto residents, the TTC saw no reason to change these fare structures or to operate these services with a deficit. Passengers paid by distance on the Mimico, Scarboro and Lake Simcoe runs and then paid the TTC fare as they entered the City.

But many of the suburban towns and villages surrounding Toronto wanted city-style streetcar service. As their citizens were heading into Toronto to work, it made sense for the TTC to provide this service, so they came to the City and offered the TTC contracts to build and maintain streetcar lines beyond city boundaries. York Township and the TTC cooperated to form Township of York Railways, which soon established lines on Rogers Road, Oakwood Avenue and Eglinton Avenue. The Weston and Lambton radial lines of the Toronto Suburban Railway were rehabilitated and taken into this system as well. Later, bus services were added, and free transfers were provided between the various lines. Once passengers entered the City and transferred to a city car, the TTC fare was required.

In the case of Rogers Road and Oakwood, the policing of this zone boundary was easy: Oakwood Loop at St. Clair and Oakwood was on the city boundary and the routes ended there. Passengers hoping to transfer to Bathurst, St. Clair or Bay cars would have to pay TTC fare. Transfers from the Rogers Road or Oakwood cars would not be accepted. The Weston streetcar initially operated to the city boundary only, with passengers forced to transfer to a short shuttle route on Keele to connect to the rest of the system. On November 28, 1925, however, the lines were combined, bringing Weston streetcars to the corner of Keele and Dundas, well beyond the City boundary. Passengers had to get used to paying two fares if they were to cross the boundary at Rogers Road. Twin fareboxes were employed: one for the TTC and one for the Township of York Railways.

In September 1928, the villages of Long Branch, New Toronto and Mimico contracted with the City of Toronto to upgrade the Mimico radial line to streetcar standards. The new service between Long Branch loop and downtown Toronto began on December 8. At the same time, the TTC extended city tracks up Kingston Road beyond the city limits at Victoria Park to Birchmount, replacing a portion of the Scarboro radial. The TTC continued to charge suburban fares on these routes beyond the city limits but didn’t employ two fareboxes for the purpose. Instead, passengers entered and exited cars (usually Peter Witts) by the centre doors. Outbound passengers paid the city fare and suburban fare, got a fare receipt and surrendered it as they left. Inbound passengers paid the suburban fare as they entered, and sat in the front section of the car if they weren’t going into the city. If they were going into the city, they could pay their city fare and take their seat in the rear section of the car.

The change of the Mimico radial into the Lake Shore streetcar left a short stub between Long Branch Loop and the town of Port Credit, which became known as the Port Credit line. Cars operated in a single fare zone and passengers continuing their journey could pay their additional fare as they boarded the new streetcar at Long Branch. The Scarboro radial line east of Birchmount loop, however, operated in two fare zones, one of which was shared with the Victoria Park-Birchmount segment of the Kingston Road (Queen) car. Passengers travelling from one end of the zone to the other only needed to pay one fare, and so transfers were available between the two cars. Kingston Road cars operated in the same fashion as Lake Shore cars in policing the city fare.

This system worked because two people were required to operate streetcars at the time. Behind the driver was a conductor who could handle fares full time. As two-man crews disappeared, and the driver became responsible for handling fares, a system of pay-as-you-leave was set up to handle travel across fare zone boundaries. Outbound passengers paid their city fare upon boarding and left the car by the front door after they crossed into the suburban boundary, paying their suburban fare as they left. Inbound passengers paid the correct fare to their destination and were issued fare receipts. The receipts were collected by the driver or a supervisor at the city limits.

Even so, on October 28, 1935, the TTC split the Lake Shore car line into two sections, with a Long Branch route operating between a loop at Roncesvalles to the western loop at Long Branch and the eastern Lake Shore section (later Queen) operating east from Parkside loop or Humber loop during rush hours. A fare overlap came into effect at this time, with Long Branch passengers able to travel on one fare as far east as Roncesvalles, paying the city fare when transferring to a city car.

Stability Through Depression and War

Toronto Transportation Fare Structure, January 1, 1937:

Adult day fares: 10¢ cash; 4 tickets for 25¢ 16 tickets for $1

Children not over 51 inches in height: 3¢ cash; 10 tickets for 25¢

Infants (in arms) Free.

Rates in effect at all hours of the day and night;

Now in control of all street rail facilities in and around the City of Toronto, the TTC entered into a phase of relative stability. The growth of the street railroad network was held back by the onset of the Great Depression, although bus services gradually increased, including a number in the suburbs. Many of these routes connected with other routes, producing essentially separate systems on the fringe of the city. These included:

  • Lakeview - Port Credit:

    Adults: 5¢ cash, 5 tickets for 25¢
    Children: 3¢ cash, 10 tickets for 25¢
    Infants (in arms): Free
    No transfers issued or accepted.
    Connection with Long Branch car at Long Branch loop.

  • Mimico - New Toronto - Long Branch:

    Adults: 10¢ cash, 4 tickets for 25¢
    Children: 3¢ cash, 10 tickets for 25¢
    Infants (in arms): Free
    Free transfers between Long Branch streetcar and Mimico bus
    Connection with Queen and King city cars at Roncesvalles and Queen.

  • Lambton Bus (from Keele/Dundas to Prince Edward/Dundas): Adults: 5¢ cash.
    Children: 3¢ cash; 10 tickets for 25¢
    Infants (in arms): Free
    No transfers issued or accepted.
    Connection with Dundas and Weston city cars at Dundas and Keele

  • Forest Hill Bus

    Adults: 5¢ cash; 11 tickets for 50¢
    Children: 3¢ cash; 2 tickets for 5¢ 10 tickets for 25¢
    Infants (in arms): Free
    Free transfer issued to the suburban zone of the Eglinton West bus — good for one transfer only. Connection with St. Clair and Bay streetcars and Eglinton West buses within the City zone.

  • Eglinton West Bus

    Adults: 5¢ cash; 11 tickets for 50¢
    Children: 3¢ cash; 2 tickets for 5¢ 10 tickets for 25¢
    Infants (in arms): Free
    Free transfer issued between this route and the Forest Hill bus and the Oakwood streetcar — good for one transfer only.

  • Weston Road - Roger’s Road (sic) - Oakwood

    Adults: 5¢ cash; 11 tickets for 50¢
    Children: 3¢ cash; 10 tickets for 25¢
    Infants (in arms): Free
    Free transfers issued between these routes. Transfers are also issued between Oakwood cars and Eglinton West bus — good for one transfer only.

  • Vaughan Bus

    Adults: 5¢ cash; 11 tickets for 50¢
    Children: 3¢ cash; 10 tickets for 25¢
    Infants (in arms): Free
    No transfers issued or accepted.

  • Leaside Bus

    2 Fare Zones
    Adults: 5¢ cash; 11 tickets for 50¢ one fare for each zone
    Children: 3¢ cash; 2 tickets for 5¢ 10 tickets for 25¢ one fare for each zone
    Infants (in arms): Free
    No transfers issued or accepted.

  • Kingston Road - Scarboro (Street Cars to Birchmount Road. Buses to Scarboro Post Office)

    2 Fare Zones
    Adults: 5¢ cash; 5 tickets for 25¢ one fare for each zone.
    Children: 3¢ cash; 10 tickets for 25¢ one fare for each zone.
    Infants (in arms): Free
    Free transfers issued between streetcars and buses in the first zone only.

  • Kingsway Coach (from Jane loop west on Bloor Street):

    2 Fare Zones
    Adults: 5¢ per zone
    Children: 3¢ per zone, 10 tickets for 25¢, 1 ticket each zone.
    No transfers issued or accepted.

  • Islington Coach (from Runnymede west to village of Islington)

    2 Fare Zones
    Adults: 5¢ per zone
    Children: 3¢ per zone, 10 tickets for 25¢, 1 ticket each zone.
    Infants (in arms): Free)
    No transfers issued or accepted.

There were strange quirks in this setup. Passengers on the Weston car could transfer to the Rogers Road streetcar and transfer again to the Oakwood streetcar, but only passengers who paid their fare on the Oakwood streetcar could transfer free to the Eglinton West bus. The Eglinton West bus was a half-city, half-suburban route, with a second fare charged at the city boundary. Eglinton West suburban passengers could transfer free to the Forest Hill bus at Spadina Road.

Strangest of all was where connections were possible, but no free transfers were offered. The Vaughan bus, which operated between Bathurst and St. Clair and Oakwood Avenue, connected with the Bathurst, Bay and St. Clair streetcars at one end, the Oakwood streetcar at the other, but was separate from both systems. The Islington Coach parallelled the Lambton bus from Prince Edward Drive to Runnymede but didn’t allow transfers.

Toronto Transportation Fare Structure, July 15, 1949:

Adult day fares: 10¢ cash; 4 tickets for 25¢ 16 tickets for $1; 32 tickets for $2.

Children not over 53 1/2 inches in height: 3¢ cash; 10 tickets for 25¢

Infants (in arms) Free.

Rates in effect at all hours of the day and night;

A TTC route map, revised July 15, 1949, suggests a simplification of the suburban fare structure. The cash fare on all suburban routes, except Long Branch, Mimico and Port Credit, was listed as five cents. Multi-zone routes (except for the Bathurst bus) were listed as five cents per zone. Tickets for the Township of York cars and the Leaside and Forest Hill buses were listed as eleven for fifty cents. Children’s fares were listed as three cents per trip.

Long Branch streetcars and Mimico and Port Credit buses used the city system of fares (seen in the box on the right) and free transfers were offered between the Long Branch and Mimico routes. The map does not talk about transfer connections elsewhere, even though a substantial system of seven interconnected routes existed in the township of York and the village of Forest Hill, with a lesser system of three interconnecting routes existing in Leaside and the township of East York.

Metropolitan Toronto

When the province of Ontario moved to consolidate the City of Toronto and its twelve surrounding suburban municipalities into the federation known as Metropolitan Toronto, the Toronto Transportation Commission was given the task of overseeing transit for the regional municipality, and its name was changed to the Toronto Transit Commission. As a result, the TTC embarked on a consolidation of its suburban services and revised its fare structure.

TTC Fare Structure, July 1, 1954:

Adult day fares: 15¢ cash; 5 tickets for 50¢ 20 tickets for $2.

Children: 5¢ cash; 6 tickets for 25¢

Scholars: 10 tickets for 55¢

Effective July 1, 1954, the metropolitan area and the townships to the north and west were split into six zones radiating out in concentric circles from the Queen/Yonge intersection. The central fare zone, formerly the city zone, was expanded, to include not just the City of Toronto, but also a substantial portion of the townships of York and East York. The Rogers Road and Oakwood streetcars came into the central fare zone. The boundary was strung between several loops around the City of Toronto’s boundary, where streetcars arrived and connected with buses coming in from the suburbs. These facilities were obvious places to police the zone fares.

The central zone boundary started at Humber Loop and, running clockwise, ran to Jane Loop on the Bloor streetcar line, Avon and Bicknell Loops on the Weston and Rogers Road lines, Gilbert Loop on the Oakwood streetcar line, Roe, Glen Echo and Doncliffe loops in the north end of the city, and Luttrell, Bingham and Neville Park loops in the east. Many other bus routes terminated at the City boundary as well, including the Chaplin and Lawrence bus routes at the Bathurst/Lawrence intersection. Other routes crossed the central zone boundary on their way to the suburbs. These included Weston, Keele, Dufferin, Bathurst, O’Connor and Woodbine. These buses policed their fares using a pay-enter and fare receipt system, with passengers showing their receipt or transfer when they departed the vehicle. Surrounding the central zone were multiple suburban zones. Far more buses crossed the first and second suburban zone boundary than the suburban/central zone boundary and, although transfers were issued, zone fares were policed in the manner described above.

The central zone boundary was the reason why the Kingston Road streetcar was cut back from Birchmount loop to Victoria Park on July 1, 1954. As the boundary was at Victoria Park, it made it much easier to police the central and suburban fares in this location by extending the Scarboro bus to that loop and having passengers transfer to the Kingston Road streetcar there. The Long Branch streetcar already terminated at Humber Loop at the Central Zone boundary, along with the Berry Road and Mimico buses, where passengers paid a new fare to continue their journey onto Queen. As a result, the Long Branch streetcar service was maintained, even though it crossed from the first to the second suburban fare zone at Albany Avenue, just west of Royal York. Pay enter and fare receipt was applied for travel between suburban zones one and two.

An exception was the 96 WILSON bus. On September 5, 1961, at the same time as this service loop was expanded to cover more of the area northeast of the Sheppard/Weston intersection, this service was separated into its own branch operating to Blondin loop. Previous to this, the route crossed the Zone 2 and Zone 3 suburban boundaries at Blondin Loop at the corner of Weston Road and Blondin Avenue, with a stop required for a supervisor to police the fare receipts. When the extension took place, the cut back to Blondin loop forced passengers on the 96A branch to disembark and board waiting buses on the 96 Blondin-Yonge branch. This made it simpler for the TTC to police the extra fare, though it was an inconvenience for passengers who’d taken their seats before Blondin. It suggests that the TTC found the policing of the zone fare to be costly and complicated.

The route which coped with the most suburban zone fares was the 93 WOODBRIDGE bus, which ran from the Central Zone fare boundary at Runnymede loop via Scarlett Road, Weston Road, Albion Road and Woodbridge Road past Steeles into the village of Woodbridge. As it turned onto Pine Street, north of Highway 7, it entered Suburban Zone 6. The 59 NORTH YONGE bus was only in Suburban Zone 5 when it entered Richmond Hill. Woodbridge passengers travelling from end to end would have to have paid thirty cents before they even paid city fare.

Transfers and the Six Fare Zones

TTC Fare Structure, November 1966:

Adult day fares: 20¢ cash; 6 tickets for $1; 18 tickets for $3.

Children: 10¢ cash; 4 tickets for 25¢

Scholars: 9 tickets for $1

It was at this time that a new design of transfers appeared, taking into account these six zones. Passengers paying the correct fare received a transfer with the outermost paid zone punched. This was a proof of purchase that allowed a passenger to travel through the paid zones. On February 1, 1962, the suburban zones were reduced so that a single suburban zone existed along with the central zone within the boundaries of Metropolitan Toronto (among other things, this allowed the 96 WILSON bus to operate straight through Blondin loop without additional fare collection, although that extension did not take place until September 4th of that year).

Beyond Metro’s boundaries, three more suburban zones existed, although only the North Yonge bus ran into zone five. It should be noted that the first suburban zone in 1954 followed the same roughly circular pattern around the Queen/Yonge intersection, with its northernmost point at the Yonge/Steeles intersection. So, whereas the Woodbridge bus had its first, second and third suburban zones — all within the borders of Metropolitan Toronto — merged into a single zone, there was nothing to merge on the North Yonge bus. The Woodbridge bus maintained its two suburban fare zones north of Steeles, while the North Yonge bus maintained its three. The TTC would never have six fare zones again, but the transfers kept the zone information well past 1972, when all zone fares within Metropolitan Toronto’s were eliminated, and a single extra fare was charged to cross beyond Metro’s boundaries.

The reduction in suburban fare zones resulted in a decrease in fares paid for by suburban commuters; this even though, between 1954 and 1966, the cash fare within the central zone had risen from fifteen cents to fifty cents. As the suburbs of Metropolitan Toronto boomed, the suburban municipalities on the council wanted transit service improved. This included the lowering of effective fares for suburban residents. With the TTC losing market share to the automobile and facing rising costs due to the capital expense of new subway development, not to mention the lengthening of average commutes, the political pressure to eliminate the zone boundaries within the system meant that the TTC was increasingly dependent on government subsidies to operate.

In May 1968, the TTC extended the Bloor-Danforth subway west to Islington Station and east to Warden. As a result of this extension, five stations opened outside of the central fare zone (Islington, Royal York and Old Mill to the west and Victoria Park and Warden to the east) while two were located at the boundary between Zone 1 and Zone 2 (Jane in the west and Main Street in the east). As the TTC deemed it impractical to impose zone fares using the fare receipt and return method, it was decided that the entire subway would operate within Zone 1 and that Zone 2 passengers, most of whom were heading downtown anyway, would pay the Zone 1 fares as they entered the subway.

For this reason, the bus terminals at all of the Zone 2 stations, and the stations on the zone boundary, were located outside of the fare paid zone, so that fares could be collected and transfers checked (especially in the case of Main Street and Jane where both Zone 1 and Zone 2 buses operated). Designing for this operation resulted in sizable mezzanine levels at all of these stations (excepting Old Mill), where the fare collection booths were initially located. When zone fares were eventually eliminated, the fare paid zones were adjusted to take in the bus terminals at all stations except Jane and Old Mill, where such arrangements proved impractical.

During the period that the subway operated in a different zone from the suburban buses connected to it, the TTC was obliged to operate a parallel bus service to serve Bloor Street west of Jane Street under a Zone 2 fare. The 3 Kingway bus operated west from Jane station, providing connections with buses running to Old Mill, Royal York and Islington stations, allowing passengers from Zone 2 to access the areas served without paying a Zone 1 fare. Intriguingly, the TTC retained this service for several years, as 3 Kingsway and 49 Bloor West, even after the zone fares were eliminated.

TTC Fare Structure: July 3, 1973

Adult: 30¢ cash; 4 tickets for $1

Senior: 30¢ cash; 8 tickets for $1 (with ID)

Students (with ID): 15¢; 7 tickets for $1

Children: 10¢; 6 tickets for 50¢

Sunday/Holiday Pass: $1

Flat Fare versus Fare by Distance

In 1921, one of the goals of the City of Toronto in establishing the Toronto Transportation Commission was enabling Toronto residents to travel throughout the city on a single fare, regardless of the length of the trip. Transfers between routes were free. The city was compact enough, and ridership high enough, that the Commission was able to perform this service while making back most of its costs (operating and capital expenses) from the farebox.

But the fact remained that public transit ran most profitably when people used it to take short trips. On routes where there was good cycling of passengers on and off at each stop, each vehicle ended up carrying far more passengers en route, and this efficiency covered expenses well. But as Toronto’s suburban growth spilled out beyond the city’s boundaries, commutes began to lengthen. This meant transit vehicles had to travel farther to carry the same number of passengers. There was less cycling of passengers on and off at each stop. Revenues decreased and expenses increased.

As the suburbs around Toronto were not part of the city proper, City Council had no qualms of charging these passengers extra to cover the extra expenses, or even imposing fare zones so that revenues per trip more closely matched the costs per trip, but after 1954, the suburban municipalities around Toronto sat with Toronto on Metro council. Also, the pace of urban sprawl increased. The densities of the suburbs decreased, meaning that public transit could no longer efficiently serve the outer suburbs and make back its costs. At least, not without a fare system that recognized the higher costs of longer commutes.

The zone fare system, while not perfect, at least managed to do this, but it was unpopular with suburban residents and their politicians who felt that all residents within Metropolitan Toronto should be covered under the same fare, regardless of the distance travelled. In the 1960s, debates over TTC fares and service on Metro council were often rancorous. At one point, the boroughs of North York and Etobicoke went to court to overturn Metropolitan Toronto’s subsidy of the TTC, unless Metro Council acceded to their demands for improved service.

When the province of Ontario reorganized Metropolitan Toronto in 1967, it gave the suburban municipalities surrounding Toronto a majority of seats on the council, reflecting the increase in their population growth, and the suburban view of public transit as a subsidized public service rather than a utility that paid its own way, won out. On January 1, 1973, the two-zone fare system within Metropolitan Toronto was abolished, and the zone fares outside of Metropolitan Toronto’s boundaries were combined into one. The TTC had now become wholly dependent on government operating subsidies to balance the books.

TTC Fare Structure: January 4, 1981

Adult: 65¢ cash; 7 tickets for $4

Senior: 65¢ cash; 7 tickets for $2 (with ID)

Students (with ID): 35¢; 7 tickets for $2

Children: 20¢; 5 tickets for 90¢

Sunday/Holiday Pass: $2

Monthly Metropass: $29.75

The Impact of Passes

Passes represented a revenue drain to the TTC, and the Commission had been reluctant to add them until public transit came to be seen as a social service rather than a business that paid its own way. The TTC offered its first transit pass in 1973, when it introduced the Sunday or Holiday Pass, offering unlimited travel for a group of people up to and including one adult and five children or two adults and four children. This pass applied to all holidays, except for Labour Day, which was the last day of the popular Canadian National Exhibition and thus seen to be too much of a revenue loss for the TTC.

Monthly passes were introduced in 1980. Named the Metropass, these passes could only be used by their purchaser and required a TTC-issued photo ID (until 2000 when the TTC accepted driver’s licenses as acceptable ID). Reduced rate senior passes were introduced in 1984 and student passes were added in 1991. These passes could only be shown to drivers and ticket collectors until 1990 when a magnetic stripe allowed users to pass through automatic turnstiles. The turnstiles were programmed to accept swipes once, and not again for a certain period of time, to prevent users from passing their passes back to other passengers to use. The TTC introduced free parking at certain lots for Metropass users in 1992. Further discounts came in 1993, with the special Annual Metropass. A higher-cost version of this pass was transferrable, meaning it could be used by more than one person. Both versions were quickly withdrawn, however, replaced by a 12-month discount plan.

The TTC introduced day passes in 1990, expanding the Sunday or Holiday Pass program throughout the week. These passes could only be used by single individuals Monday through Saturday, and on weekdays only after the morning rush hour ended at 9:30 a.m. The TTC began expanding the Sunday and Holiday group pass, however, in 1994, covering periods around Christmas and the March Break.

Vending machines for monthly and weekly passes weren’t introduced until February 2006 (accepting debit cards only), and only at certain subway stations.

TTC Fare Structure, January 1990:

Adult fares: $1.20 cash; 8 tickets for $8; Metropass $53

Children 12 and under: 55¢ cash; 6 tickets for $1.75

Students (with ID): 75¢ cash; 8 tickets for $4

Seniors (with ID): $1.20 cash; 8 tickets for $4; Metropass $34.50

Day Pass: $5

The Establishment of Suburban Transit Agencies

The consolidation of the suburban fare zones became less of an issue, as transit agencies were set up in the municipalities surrounding Metropolitan Toronto. In 1974, Grey Coach and then GO Transit took over the operation of the 59 NORTH YONGE bus. That same year, Mississauga Transit took over the operation of the 74 PORT CREDIT route. The newly minted Vaughan Transit subsidized the TTC’s operation of buses on Keele Street north of Steeles and soon had the TTC add service on Dufferin Street, while Markham Transit contracted the TTC to operate service north from Victoria Park and Steeles to the industrial area of Esna Park. In both cases, property taxpayers north of Steeles were responsible for these subsidies, and thus there was no burden to Metropolitan Toronto taxpayers. Vaughan and Markham Transit eventually merged to form York Region Transit, which today contracts the TTC to operate north-of-Steeles services on Jane Street, Weston Road, Keele, Dufferin, Bathurst, Don Mills, Victoria Park, Woodbine, Warden, Kennedy and McCowan Road.

The one service operating outside of Metro’s boundaries that wasn’t subsidized by the new transit agencies was the 58 MALTON bus. Although the bus operated in Mississauga Transit’s territory, bureaucratic red tape between the city councils meant that Mississauga did not subsidize the service until the 1990s. The extra fare charged west of Highway 427, giving Toronto residents access to Pearson International Airport, the old town of Malton and Westwood Mall, was initially sufficient to cover expenses. The TTC brought Pearson Airport into the TTC’s fare zone in the late 1990s when the TTC realized that there was no place to loop buses on Dixon Road within the City of Toronto anyway and that the increase in ridership to the Airport resulting from the decrease in fares would make up for any lost revenues. At that time, negotiations between the TTC and the City of Mississauga resulted in the City of Mississauga covering 58 MALTON’s operating deficit for the portion of the route northwest of the Airport to Westwood Mall.

Earlier that decade, Mississauga Transit asked the TTC to extend the 32 EGLINTON WEST bus into the Airport Corporate Centre northwest of the Eglinton/Renforth intersection, in the City of Mississauga. It asked that only the regular TTC fare be charged, and paid for any operating deficit the extension incurred. It later decided that this was too costly and asked the TTC to charge the Mississauga Transit fare west of Explorer Road, which was done effective January 4, 2004. In exchange for the fare increase, passengers on the route could transfer to connecting Mississauga Transit buses.

TTC Fare Structure, June 1996:

Adult fares: $2 cash; 10 tickets for $16; Metropass $83

Children 12 and under: 50¢ cash; 10 tickets for $4

Students and Seniors (with ID): $1.35 cash; 10 tickets for $10.70; Metropass $73

Day Pass: $6.50

Dependence on Government Subsidy

From 1973 until 1988, the subsidy received by the TTC increased dramatically, with half paid for by the City of Toronto and the other half by the Province of Ontario. By 1988, the TTC required a quarter of a billion dollars to keep its buses, streetcars and subway trains operating. This approach did work in increasing the TTC’s ridership, with the agency carrying 463 million riders that year, second only to New York on the continent.

Then, as a recession swept through Ontario, government deficits ballooned and the TTC’s ridership dropped, the Commission’s subsidy was cut back, with fares rising well above the rate of inflation to cover the shortfall. On February 18, 1996, the newly elected government of Mike Harris ended provincial subsidies of public transportation. The result was a significant cutback in transit services. The City of Toronto’s subsidy of the TTC was roughly $150 million, and the TTC had a continental high farebox recovery of 82%. With passengers paying far more for far worse service, the TTC’s ridership had dropped to roughly 360 million.


New style token, introduced in 2007 replacing all previous tokens, designed to combat counterfeitting.

A Problem With Counterfeits

As the TTC’s fares rose, reaching $2 in 1992 (cash; $2 in tickets in 2005), TTC fare media became an increasingly tempting target for counterfeiters. This started to bleed into the TTC’s revenues. In response, the TTC began altering its fare media. Tickets, which had maintained roughly the same size, shape and style from the 1920s, became larger and more colourful — theoretically easier to detect as counterfeits. Counterfeiters were undeterred, however, and began targetting the TTC’s token.

The token, a small round coin of either aluminum or brass, had been introduced to the TTC in 1954 with the opening of the subway and the first appearance of automatic turnstiles. At the time, tokens were worth ten cents. Millions were circulated, increasing in value as TTC fares went up. In the months before fare increases, the TTC was obliged to limit the distribution of tokens to prevent hoarding.

In February 2006, various police agencies including the FBI broke a counterfeiting ring which had managed to produce almost $10 million worth of fake tokens. These were almost indistinguishable from real TTC tokens (although some patrons discovered that fake tokens — some delivered by the TTC’s own vending machines — could not be accepted by the TTC’s automatic turnstiles). In response, the TTC unveiled a new style token in November 2006, made of two different metals and textured in an attempt to thwart counterfeiters. Twenty million tokens were produced for $1.7 million, and the old tokens, some of which had been in circulation since 1954, were rapidly removed from circulation. Passengers could exchange old tokens for new ones only up to February 28, and only in person.

TTC Fare Structure, April 2006:

Adult fares: $2.75 cash; 10 tickets for $21; Metropass $99.75

Children 12 and under: 70¢ cash; 10 tickets for $4.70

Students and Seniors (must show ID): $1.85 cash; 10 tickets for $14; Metropass $83.75

The Ridership Growth Strategy, the Greater Toronto Transit Authority and the Smart Card Debate

As the City of Toronto struggled out of the 1990s, it and the TTC prepared to face the massive population growth expected to hit the Greater Toronto Area by 2021. With the City of Toronto expecting to have a population of over three million by then (with growth primarily achieved through intensification), several councillors realized that public transit service in Toronto had to be increased to keep up.

The operating subsidy of the TTC has been gradually increased since 1996, with the province of Ontario returning to the funding table in 2001. In 2003, the TTC released its Ridership Growth Strategy — a plan using simple, achievable measures to increase its annual ridership from what was then 400 million to half a billion. Among the measures proposed were fare decreases, some of which were achieved by the decision to make the TTC’s popular monthly pass, the Metropass, transferrable. No longer was a single pass only to be used by the passenger who bought it; he or she could now hand it to friends or loved ones to take the TTC themselves, with restrictions (no passing back the pass as you paid your fare). Similarly transferrable weekly passes were also introduced. The result was a dramatic increase in pass purchases, such that the TTC sold out its complement of passes within days during the first month of the program.

While this was happening, the province of Ontario has readdressed the issue of public transportation in the Greater Toronto Area. With the urban region now covered by several different transit agencies, each charging their own fare, the situation has been likened to what existed in 1921, before the creation of the Toronto Transit Commission, when nine separate systems operated within the City of Toronto’s boundaries. The government of Dalton McGuinty commissioned the creation of the Greater Toronto Transit Authority, to coordinate the delivery of public transit throughout the region, eliminating the boundaries between agencies, allowing for “seamless” travel.

This has sparked a renewed debate about fare management among the transit systems. Although some suburban politicians, like the late mayor of Vaughan, Lorna Jackson, have suggested that the Greater Toronto Area be covered by a single fare, others have pointed out that the deficits that this would unleash, with travel from Square One to the Scarborough Town Centre costing as little as a trip from the Eaton Centre to the Exhibition, would bankrupt any transit organization and weigh it down with subsidies. It is generally agreed that a fare by distance scheme would have to be applied.

One of the top priorities of the Greater Toronto Transit Authority was to create a smart card fare system that would use electronic cards to tailor the amount paid by passengers to the distance travelled. The Toronto Transit Commission was reluctant to come on board, however. As it was still catching up on the service cutbacks of the 1990s, it feared that the priorities of the GTTA are towards various schemes to benefit suburban riders and that insufficient funding would be applied to bring services in the core up to adequate levels. The TTC noted that its capital requirements are so much larger than any of the surrounding agencies and that changing its decades-old gravity-based fare collection system could be very costly — the equivalent of several buses and streetcars that would already be full of passengers were they operating now.

The Province Launches Presto

In 2007, the provincial government announced its MoveOntario 2020 program, also known as “The Big Move”. This regional transit plan to build as many as fifty rapid transit projects across the Greater Toronto Area also included a plan to promote integration between the ten public transit agencies within the GTA. At the centre of this integration was a smart card Metrolinx called “Presto”, planned to be comparable to London’s Oyster Card system.

In July 2007, Metrolinx handed out 500 fare cards to commuters arriving at Meadowvale and Cooksville GO Train stations. The cards were part of a trial called “Launch 1”, allowing commuters to tap on and tap off their fares at these GO stations and at Union. The service was also available on the Mississauga Transit GO shuttle routes to the station (60 MEADOWVALE SHUTTLE-CROSSCURRENT, 62 COOKSVILLE SHUTTLE-WEBB, 63 COOKSVILLE SHUTTLE-KANEFF and 64 MEADOWVALE SHUTTLE-MONTEVIDEO) and at the TTC’s Union station. This trial continued until September 30, 2008, and the results were used as part of the next roll-out.

In October 2009, Metrolinx awarded a contract to Thales Group and Accenture to design and develop the Presto fare card system. The Presto Card would use RFIDs for contactless tap-on/tap-off fare payments. On November 30, 2009, a limited number of customers were recruited to test a new system, with card readers installed at Oakville, Bronte and Union GO stations, the TTC’s Union station, and ten Oakville buses on three routes.

Presto Rollout in 905

Hamilton Street Railway - May 3, 2011

Brampton Transit - May 30, 2011

MiWay - May 30, 2011 (adult only)

Durham Region Transit - June 27, 2011

York Region Transit - July 2011

Later: Oakville Transit, Burlington Transit

The next stage of the rollout launched on May 10, 2010, making the Presto system available to the general public. Transit users were able to buy Presto Cards and use them at participating stations. Stations on the Lakeshore East, Milton and Georgetown GO Train lines were the first to receive the Presto readers, and St. George, Queen’s Park, St. Patric, Dundas, College and Bloor-Yonge subway stations were also added. Kipling and Islington stations followed in the summer of 2010. Phase three of the rollout added transit agencies across the 905 region and Hamilton. GO continued its rollout, finishing all its train stations and its buses by summer 2012. Meanwhile, the TTC added Presto card readers at Don Mills, Downsview, Finch, Yorkdale and York Mills subway stations.

In the spring of 2012, OC Transpo joined the Presto system, with a soft launch leading to a full rollout on its buses on May 18, 2013. These readers were also compatible with the Soci�t� de transport de l’Outaouais’s new Multi farecards, allowing the two systems to share transfers.

With these systems in place, the next step was expanding the Presto card system across the Toronto Transit Commission. This would be, by far, the biggest part of the roll-out. The TTC had well over three-quarters of the daily transit ridership within the Greater Toronto Area, and the largest fleet of vehicles. The TTC had committed to the Presto system in 2007 but warned that the initial $140 million offered by the provincial and federal governments and the City of Toronto would be insufficient to cover a full rollout of the Presto system. In 2009, the TTC estimated that Presto would cost another $365 million to complete. Even though the provincial government would announce, in March 2011, that Presto would become the TTC’s fare card of choice, the financing details remained to be worked out.

Finally, on November 28, 2012, TTC Chairman Karen Stintz and CEO Andy Byford signed a master agreement with Metrolinx, committing the TTC to the Presto card system, with funds made available. In the fall of 2014, Metrolinx and the TTC added Presto card machines in several more Toronto subway stations. On November 30, 2014, Presto readers were made active on the new Flexity streetcars operating in the system. The older CLRV and ALRV streetcars were added and made active on December 14, 2015, and work launched on the task of adding readers to the remaining surface vehicles, and the rest of the Toronto subway network.

TTC Fare Structure, August 2020:

Adult fares: $3.25 cash; PRESTO $3.20, PRESTO Tickets for $3.25 (one-way trip) or $6.50 (two-way trip); Metropass $156.00

Children 12 and under: Free

Students and Seniors (must show ID): $2.30 cash; PRESTO $2.25; Metropass $128.15

Day Pass: $13.50

In April 2016, new paddle-door fare gates were installed in Main Street Station as part of the Presto roll-out. Other of these new-style gates were installed at Sherbourne, Warden and many other stations, while other turnstiles received Presto-compatible readers. The subway became fully Presto-compatible by December 22, 2016. The buses were converted on a division-by-division basis, with the Queensway division being the first to be fully converted on May 31, 2016, and Birchmount and Eglinton being the last on December 23, 2016.

The roll-out did not occur without controversy. The Auditor General of Ontario criticized the rollout in 2012 for “glitches, cost escalations and untendered contract extensions.” Faulty Presto card machines frustrated TTC riders and made news headlines during the fall of 2016. The Presto rollout also effectively spelt the end of the TTC token, Metropass and Day Pass system. Not all of this had been implemented by the end of 2016. The TTC planned to replace its Day Pass with a daily tap limit, meaning that no passenger would be charged more than four taps per day on the TTC (equivalent to around $12). Passengers, however, expressed confusion about what would happen with their Metropass, and irritation over having to shell out $6 for a PrestoCard. Early in 2015, the TTC had moved to allow children twelve and under to ride the TTC for free, but to get through Presto gates, they’d have to have a Presto Card to show that no fare needed to be charged.

The Presto system is also forcing a debate on how to handle the TTC’s transfer privileges. Comments by Metrolinx likening the Toronto subway network to a regional transit infrastructure led to fears that regional fares would be charged to use the subway system. Metrolinx has denied this speculation, but it remains to be seen if the seamless transfers between Toronto’s subway network and surface vehicles will remain, or if passengers will have to tap off as they leave the subway.

Other smaller issues abound. With the subway extension to York University and Vaughan set to open at the end of 2017, Metrolinx has yet to answer what fares York Region passengers will have to pay to go to York University. Previously, they entered the University on York Region buses — now, they will be obliged to transfer to the subway at Vaughan Centre and Highway 407 stations. Will they be required to pay for a TTC fare, or will Presto allow them a discount? A similar question exists for Barrie GO Train passengers who get off at York University station. That station is due to close when Downsview Park station opens, offering a transfer between GO Train and subway.

These debates are certain to continue as the city and its suburbs wrestle with maintaining transit services in the face of significant population growth. Since public transit is no longer profitable enough to run as a business, it has become wholly dependent upon the whims of government policy. As a social service, maintaining mobility for those who don’t have access to a car, as a social tool, reducing pressure on city roads and expressways, and as an economic engine, getting commuters to work on time, is a vital but costly resource, and the divergent interests that have been at play since the city/suburb divide materialized, will continue this debate long into the future.

Additional Fare Facts

  • On January 15, 1970, senior citizen fares were introduced. Senior citizens could benefit from half fares, provided they were receiving income supplements from Ottawa. By November 1971, this was extended to all residents over the age of sixty-five.
  • Special multi-day unlimited travel passes have been issued during special occasions, including the Papal visits of 1984 and 2002.
  • As part of the Ridership Growth Strategy, in October 2005, when the Metropasses were made transferrable, restrictions were reduced on the TTC’s day passes. Any individual could now use the pass straight from the start of service, around 5:30 a.m., instead of after 9:30 a.m. as had been the case. The family pass, which had applied to only Sundays and holidays, allowing up to two adults and four children to travel on one fare, was now applied to Saturdays, also straight from the start of service, around 5:30 a.m.
  • Effective March 1, 2015, children’s fares were eliminated, allowing all children twelve and under to ride free in the company of an adult.

TTC Fares Image Archive


  • Bromley, John F., TTC ‘28, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1968.
  • Bromley, John F., and Jack May Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1973.
  • Hood, J. William, The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1986.
  • Mike’s Transit Stop - TTC Fares From 1954 to Present
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Welcome to Transit Toronto! This is an information site dedicated to public transportation in Toronto, maintained by transit enthusiasts for transit enthuasiasts. This is NOT the official website of the Toronto Transit Commission, Metrolinx or any other transit provider or government agency. To access the official websites of these agencies, consult this page here.