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Toronto ranked best in Canada for public transit (really)

Posted by Derek Flack / March 12, 2014

Toronto transit best in CanadaToronto is the best city in the country when it comes to public transit. Yes, you read that correctly. According to a new report from Walk Score, we narrowly edged out Montreal for the top spot among Canadian cities. Of the 34 cities ranked, Vancouver rounded out the top three. Key criteria to the ranking, which is based on a score out of 100 (of which Toronto received 78 to Montreal's 77), include types of service (light/heavy rail, buses), transit coverage, and frequency of routes/stops.

This must come as quite the shock if you find yourself regularly complaining about public transit in this city. Could other big cities really have it worse? Assuming the methodology is sound, the answer is a resounding "yes." Because here's the real mind-boggling part. While Toronto tops the list for Canadian cities, it also ranks a very respectable third when stacked up against US centres, surpassed by only San Francisco and New York.

What do you think? Is it time to fill out the TTC Compliment form, or is this just an instance of others having it worse?

Photo by Empty Quarter in the blogTO Flickr pool.



Jordan / March 12, 2014 at 01:07 pm
I'd also say Toronto's system is a lot cleaner than San Fran's.
Moneesha / March 12, 2014 at 01:11 pm
Not surprised really. The only people who really complain about transit in this city are people who insist on driving in from whatever far flung suburban hell they choose to "live" in.
pbj / March 12, 2014 at 01:19 pm
Their methodology doesn't factor in reliability, delays, capacity or performance at all (our main gripes).

Transit Score seems to be mostly about access where I think we can all agree that our surface routes do a pretty good job of linking with each other and our subways
sousedbergin / March 12, 2014 at 01:29 pm
In before comments about fictionalized horrors of the subway written by people who have never been to Toronto.

My frustrations with the TTC are:
1. Despite price increases and strikes it has not improved.
2. There is still no federal funding.
3. Money is being wasted by morons (Scarborough subway)
4. Closes before the bars empty, starts late on Sunday, is crowded and the Subway covers very little territory being a line bisected by a skinny U.

I take it everyday, I read countless books and saved thousands and thousands vs a car but it really needs federal funding and needs to be thoughtfully expanded (LRT, DRL).
v79 / March 12, 2014 at 01:32 pm
The study gives points for types of transit, number of stops, etc. That's hardly something necessary in small towns that placed low in the rankings. Other cities like Mississauga do not have the density to require such as frequent stops, and have large industrial areas which will of course lower their "walkability". This poll is essentially of very little value and purpose. In terms of quality, accountability and dependency of service, I haven't been on a worse system neither in Canada, the US, Venezuela or Europe than the TTC.
mar replying to a comment from Wait for it... / March 12, 2014 at 01:39 pm
so much!!
Brent replying to a comment from pbj / March 12, 2014 at 01:41 pm
PBJ is correct. I would add that there are two other factors:

- The Transit Score is also partially based on frequency, in terms of number of trips per week. This is an area where Toronto really excels compared to many other cities, in the frequency of surface and subway routes not only during rush hours but even during evenings and on weekends. We also excel in the span of coverage (service operates pretty much any time between 6 AM and 1 AM, every day with possible exception of Sunday, on almost every route).

- Heavy and light rail are given a 2x weighting compared to conventional buses. If Transit Score considers streetcars to be equivalent to light rail, as opposed to buses, it would substantially inflate the score in the downtown area. (Unrealistically so, in my opinion, since most of the streetcars are operated as though they are conventional buses that just happen to run on rails.) If this factor applies, note that it would be exclusive to Toronto (other cities in Canada operate light rail, but none operate surface streetcar networks equivalent to ours.)
Wait for it... replying to a comment from v79 / March 12, 2014 at 01:44 pm
We have a WINNER!! Worst subway system in the world and everyone knows Mississauga has a better transit system than Toronto and should have been given a higher Walk Score (walkability and Missy in the same sentence? That constitutes comedy).
Yes, the study is useless because it does not conform to your own idea. Thank you for proving my point.
iSkyscraper / March 12, 2014 at 01:45 pm
It's not a huge surprise, although WalkScore is itself imperfect and subject to a lot of criticism of late:

In any case, there is much that could be better about the TTC but the core of any transit system is coverage. Toronto has a simply excellent bus-based transit system, bar none. Our buses go all over the place, they run on a grid, transfers into subways or other buses are super-smooth due to strong station infrastructure, and most importantly they come often. Yes, the ticketing sucks and they are crowded and expensive to ride and slow once you get on, but in terms of having access to transit it's a very good system.

The comment above is dead-on about capacity, performance, delays, etc. But the TTC remains a model of how to set up a multi-modal wide-coverage transit system.
W. K. Lis / March 12, 2014 at 01:57 pm
Despite campaigns by an anti-transit mayor, who orchestrated an attempt to reduce TTC service by 10% (because it was "gravy"), the TTC is still #1 in Canada. It would have been #1 in North America, if the TTC got an operating subsidy similar to New York City (55.5% 2009) or San Francisco (51.3% 2011) instead of what it begs for now (73% 2013).
W. K. Lis replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / March 12, 2014 at 01:58 pm
Those numbers are the Farebox Recovery Ratio, the amount of revenue it gets from fare.
Marc replying to a comment from v79 / March 12, 2014 at 02:22 pm
You need to stop shitting us. The C-Train and now decaying OCTranspo is much worse than the TTC.
Claire / March 12, 2014 at 02:24 pm
I was in Toronto just before Christmas and was amazed at the beautiful new long subway cars. If you think your transit system is antiquated you should try ours in Montréal. The Métro hasn't changed much from the '60s other than it is dirtier and falling into disrepair. The cars are very narrow and the wait between trains is longer than Toronto. The system closes earlier at night starting at 12:15am to 1am. Also it is a deep underground system that takes more time to access. We removed our Tramway (street cars) system in 1959 and replaced with polluting autobuses. Be careful what you wish for.
scottd replying to a comment from Wait for it... / March 12, 2014 at 02:38 pm
Tried getting home after work on the King Streetcar this year? Or the Dufferin bus? or the Bathurst steeetcar? Didnt think so.
Leftie Lulu / March 12, 2014 at 02:38 pm
I take the Dufferin bus every day during rush hour and am appalled at how busy the system is. I hate having to wait with others for a bus that may come with others due to road congestion and circumstances that occur during rush hour.

I feel that I am entitled to better rush hour service on the Dufferin bus because I am paying $125 a month for a Metropass and cannot be arsed to leave my house of cats 15 minutes earlier or later than I do because it's a trigger for anxiety. It is easier for me to gripe at @ttchelps instead.
Felipe / March 12, 2014 at 02:44 pm
TTC is great! Come to Brazil and you will see what is a real bad public transit!
ava / March 12, 2014 at 02:48 pm
public transit in toronto is not the better way. it is a joke that it got the high ranking in this study. the system is over crowded, does not keep the public informed of short turns and system problems. the ttc assumes all the patrons have smart phones to check to see where the system is working or not working. streetcars and buses short turned all the time, it takes so long to go a short way, all buses heading back to finch station bunch up at steeles and as a result long waits between buses.
Alex / March 12, 2014 at 02:54 pm
Toronto is very well served in terms of location. We have buses running almost everywhere, but they are often late, bunch up, and it takes forever to get across the city. These are probably issues with all transit systems though, which is why I guess they weren't taken into account.

Toronto is pretty spread out, so it takes a while to get between far points no matter what (car or transit, though obviously car is generally faster and more convenient). For the funding they get the TTC does a pretty good job. It doesn't mean we should stop pushing for them to be better though :)
tommy replying to a comment from Moneesha / March 12, 2014 at 03:02 pm
Seriously, it feels like the only people politicians listen to regarding transit are the people who don't take it.
In a drunken stupor / March 12, 2014 at 03:26 pm
People want subways, subways, subways. We need subways stops at the end of everyone's driveway and definitely a subway stop at every Steak Queen. Then we need to sell all the streetcars to the old spaghetti factory and use the money to buy more subways and maybe some crack and vodka.
Luckysod / March 12, 2014 at 03:29 pm
It only goes to show how dismal public transit is across North America compared with Europe, not only within cities but among them too.
LXMAN / March 12, 2014 at 03:36 pm
After recently touring across this country, I don't doubt this at all. Have you ever tried to even FIND transit in most other cities? Outside of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, transit is virtually non-existant. The cities simply aren't large enough to warrant a cohesive transit strategy. This list is basically the top 10 most populated urban areas in Canada. Of course toronto is #1 we have the largest population by a factor of 2
BalancedOpinion / March 12, 2014 at 03:45 pm
Been in Montreal for one week now.

- Metropass here is only $75-80, in Toronto it's $120+. Weekly pass is only $25
- Lots of subway stations, and multiple lines, in the downtown core. Very easy to get around quickly here.
- Rarely do you wait more than five minutes for the subway to arrive.
- I like the layout in the subway cars, although it wouldn't work in a bigger city like Toronto
- No "We apologize for your inconvenience", because everything just WORKS.

- No streetcars
- Buses are confusing and don't come as often, and bus drivers are nowhere as friendly or helpful as TTC drivers.
- Subway is really really deep underground, lots of stairs, and escalators. Also they didn't layout the escalators too well, often you have to climb the stairs to get out of the subway station, when instead you should use escalators for going up, and stairs for going down. Oh well, at least the people here are more attractive.

Jess / March 12, 2014 at 04:04 pm
I wonder how much TTC paid this site for this bullshit.
Rude bus drivers, overpriced tickets & metropass, even more rude and dismissive guys behind the glass staring down to the last penny when you clearly have enough money (they don't care about the line up they cause at all), buses that go out of service and the next bus sometimes skips over everyone waiting, buses that are supposed to only come once every hour or half hour sometimes just don't show and have no explanation, racist bus drivers, bus drivers that can't drive worth a damn, reckless bus drivers who think they run shit because of the right of way they get, and disgusting subways with announcements you can't even hear sometimes. Oh and let's DEFINITELY not forget those days where these stupid buses that have to come every 10 minutes decide to make you wait for 40 minutes before all coming at once. Yeah, guys.. that's just what everyone wants.
Yeah, sure guys.. let's all pretend the TTC is amazing. I can surround you all by a campfire and tell you stories all night of stupid and incredibly dangerous and sometimes illegal things they've done to me, my friends, my family, and my coworkers.
Richard / March 12, 2014 at 04:09 pm
We need more subway lines,

the city is growing but transit is not matching.

and city Hall well shit,
Jess / March 12, 2014 at 04:10 pm
oooh and lets not forget that time they spiked up the prices saying that it's due to budgeting when they spent tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars on a damn ADVERTISEMENT for the new subway. Why do you need to advertise that there is a new design for the subway? don't you idiots think we'll see it and know if it's different when we get on it one day? and we'll probably tell our friends about it anyway. save that money to make up for your precious "budget". we all know it's bullshit and most of that money just goes to the guys on top, anyway.
i took the bus for years trying to be more eco friendly but thanks to your years of constantly pissing me off with your nonsensical issues, i went out and got a car. words can't describe how happy i am now that i don't ever have to sit in your ugly red seats again
MONEESHA IS A FAT SAGGY BITCH replying to a comment from Moneesha / March 12, 2014 at 04:23 pm
brett / March 12, 2014 at 04:27 pm
all this tells me is public transit is grossly underfunded across north america.

all hail the gas-eating automobile.
dylan / March 12, 2014 at 04:30 pm
I wish I could have had a dollar for every time I've been cut off by a ttc driver and I'd have a bundle lol. They think they own the road kind of like cabbies and they get away with it. Hate it.
steve / March 12, 2014 at 04:39 pm
So funny how so many proved @wait for it.. point and totally missed why Toronto got a high transit score.
There is TTC coverage, access to TTC if that easier to understand in pretty well every corner of the city. You can get anywhere in the city by TTC all within close proximity to were you are and were your going.
Such a whiny chorus my ears are ringing.
Daily commuter / March 12, 2014 at 04:50 pm
Streetcars in non-dedicated lanes are the devil's work. I say this as a daily rider. It's confounding that someone thought they were a good idea.
AG / March 12, 2014 at 05:11 pm
lol @ at the people complaining about how crowded the ttc is. are you guys all small town canadians who've never been to a big city before? time to grow up. toronto isn't even that big / crowded yet.

and for the ttc, everyone knows we need more lines, but our system now is pretty damn great and extensive considering the low density of the city. very few cities have as extensive coverage, at least from what i have seen in NYC, London, Paris, Hong Kong, Singapore - cities that have way more subway lines but you also often have to walk about 10-15 minutes to get to a stop. it's time to stop fkin listening to the suburbanites, they need to get real and live sustainably in smaller quarters in the core.
realityCheck / March 12, 2014 at 05:24 pm
This says more about the group doing the rating than it does about the quality of Toronto's transit. Oh well, I guess anyone can come out on top depending on what criteria are used (or trumped up).
sick o TTC / March 12, 2014 at 06:17 pm
I'm not a suburbanite and I ride TTC almost daily. It's not number 1 it's a piece of shit. It's not worth the high fares. It's that simple.
lol / March 12, 2014 at 06:39 pm
Take the king or queen or dundas or college street car during rush hour and get back to me.... How can a system so unreliable be considered any good. outrageous
WhatAJoke replying to a comment from Felipe / March 12, 2014 at 06:54 pm
This is Canada man. I'm not trying to be proud or have prejudice, but for what we claim we are (a first world/developed country), TTC is a disgrace. First of all, it is expensive as shit. Second of all, they do not offer student rates (yes they give you $5 off of $120 monthly passes). Third, they are friggin busy. Fourth, the do NOT run on schedule. (I've been using public transportation everyday for the past 5 years).

I have also lived in Vancouver and I have had many trip to Montreal. Vancouver has a much much nicer bus system and montreal has a waaaaay more comprehensive coverage with subway/metro.
Shaf / March 12, 2014 at 07:33 pm
These fine folk who conducted the survey obviously haven't waited for a nonfrequent/overcrowded bus like the 17 birchmount or used the TTC during rush hour/weekend.
linden / March 12, 2014 at 08:06 pm
TTC is ok compare to other Canadian cities but in reallity North Amrica is not the public transportation heaven, so even if Toronto ranks number one,it is still very far from great.
Lilia / March 12, 2014 at 08:08 pm
TTC is mostly good. The dundas and queen street cars are pretty slow and don't seem to come very frequently yet I don't want to complain because I don't want the city to get rid of streetcars, they're a city icon. Spadina streetcar is great.
Any city will be busy at rush hour but if you find this busy you should try Mexico City, then you won't complain anymore.
If you've ever lived in a smaller Canadian city where the buses run every half an hour or in a town where there are no buses then you really won't complain anymore!
Holy Thundering Jesus / March 12, 2014 at 10:46 pm
that's pretty sad if it's true, so basically transit across this country is shite! and the ttc is the cherry on top of that giant pile!
Spike replying to a comment from scottd / March 13, 2014 at 12:04 am
Tried checking the schedules to see when the next bus/streetcar will come so that you can go home? Didn't think so. Expecting the TTC to be like the transporter on Star Trek? Most likely. Voting for provincial and federal governments that don't fund transit, but still love to complain about how shitty it is? Very certainly though so. Expecting the TTC to be really fast despite having to compete with all of the car traffic that's on the roads? Extremely likely. Thinking that 'subways, subways, subways' will solve all of Toronto transit problems? Big fat stinky certainty.
Spike replying to a comment from Shaf / March 13, 2014 at 12:07 am
The 'fine folk' probably have forgotten more about transit than you ever will, and know their shit backwards and forwards.
KevinN / March 13, 2014 at 12:12 am
What station is that in the photo? Davisville?
Toronto sucks / March 13, 2014 at 02:45 am
I love how Toronto is in perpetual denial. It has a mini and dirty subway system mostly built for a city of 1-2 million people yet we have many more than that. Montreal has similar weather to us if not worse and their subways are waaaayyyy cleaner. Not to mention they look better. But we would never do that here for the dreadful fear that oh no, no don't say it, oh my god, it might cost is more money to look at something nice for the lifetime we will be riding the junk to pay off the house nobody can afford. Toronto. Is dirty. It stinks, the people are not very friendly. The transit sucks
Greg Hannah replying to a comment from MONEESHA IS A FAT SAGGY BITCH / March 13, 2014 at 06:03 am
Toronto's transit could always be better, and it will continue to grow and serve residents better than a car (and a hell of a lot cheaper!). Once the Sheppard line is complete, the Scarborough SRT replaced, the Spadina line extension into Vaughan and the Eglinton Crosstown operating the system its going to be almost twice as good. Add to that the downtown relief and Finch lines, it's going to be terrific. I wish we had better funding from the Province and the Feds., then we could afford to bury more of these lines instead of operating them above ground and be subject to the rough climate here, mainly winter. Btw (you above), the subway shutdowns are for upgrades, once the new signals are in place subways will come quicker and much closer behind one another then it will move many more people faster and more efficiently.
Wish list: 1) A subway under King east and west and eliminate that streetcar route, as it goes east curve down to Queen St at River Street and serve Queen E. over to Victoria Park. 2) Entire Sheppard line underground instead of LRT (but we can't afford it without funding) and extend the line west to Downsview Park (and east to the Metro Zoo), 2) Bury all of the Eglinton crosstown.
Check your Reality replying to a comment from realityCheck / March 13, 2014 at 11:55 am
Yup. The group doing the rating was totally biased toward Toronto because they are from.. oh, wait... they are from Seattle. Ooops, there goes your theory. LOL!
Suck on it replying to a comment from Toronto sucks / March 13, 2014 at 11:58 am
Nothing to read in your Montreal news so you have to troll here? Montreal's subway is dirty, cracking, patched and dingy. Contrary to the idea posted earlier that you rarely wait more than five minutes for a train, you rarely get a train in five minutes. It is a fact that trains run less frequently than in Toronto's system and it is a fact that capacity of the trains is less because the cars are not much bigger than our streetcars. If you don't like it here, don't visit.
NativeTorontonianAl / March 13, 2014 at 02:26 pm
The TTC would be fine for Toronto, if the city did not sprawl and allowed so much unnatural pop'n growth since the late 80s. This is tied to the sprawl and bad/irresponsible city planning and waste of land, and again, if this didn't happen then there would have been more room to build transit and infrastructure freely and openly. It is all tied and linked together. It's not just the sprawl, but simply the lack of will and initiative from our govts concerning transit. Very poor subsidies for a first-world country, and complete neglect and disregard. They have been looking out too much for the auto and gas industries. The final insult is that while we have to suffer with how our transit system is not being expanded, for crying out loud make the payment system friendlier and up-to-date! Tokens, paper transfers do not cut it anymore. Overall, we're paying too much for too little, and the worth of the TTC is not worth its fare prices ie. metropass being over $120, should be more in the $70-80 range.
NativeTorontonianAl / March 13, 2014 at 02:27 pm
*and the sprawl and mass immigration is what has caused the 905 cities and their region to balloon unnatrually, putting strain on Toronto.
realityCheak / March 13, 2014 at 06:03 pm
@CheckYourReality...I didn't say the group doing the rating was biased in front of Toronto. What I was suggesting is that focused on criteria that may have given a rating to Toronto's transit experience that is wayyyyyy beyond what many Torontonians feel it deserved. Maybe you think that this group's rating adequately reflects the quality of Toronto's transit. I don't -- and apparently neither do many of the people who post here. Personally, I don't think the criteria used adequately reflect a user perspective -- which I think fall along lines of cost, reliability, speed, etc. If Toronto got points for having a streetcar (which on many routes represents extremely slow and unreliable service), one wonders if TO would have ended up with an even higher score if it had horse and buggy service on some routes. The fact that some group hands out a prize doesn't mean the prize (or the group handing it out) has any credibility. I know that's hard for some people to comprehend... but try to wrap your head around that.
Faisal / March 13, 2014 at 10:47 pm
Well yes it's easy to see why Toronto was voted best transit system in Canada. There isn't much other competition. Anyone who takes multiple transit systems will tell you that yes the TTC has issues like other transit systems but when it comes to getting you places, it wins hands down. Don't know why this was such a surprise.
Belle of Acadia / March 15, 2014 at 11:00 pm
Torontonians have transit heaven compared to Halifax, NS. My goal is to move somewhere in Canada where you can actually live without a car. All I can say is if you can't drive or afford upkeep of a car... may the gods help you (because the province won't). In people opinion despite the results of Walkscore, what do YOU think is the best Canadian city for a non-driver?
Murray / March 22, 2014 at 02:43 am
Having lived in Calgary for 20 years before moving back to the
Big Smoke, I am not surprised by rankings. transit in calgary is the worst possible(ranked 2nd last). Have also spent time in Vancouver and find it good also. Premier Mom must be livid with this, now how will she justify taxing the crap out of the whole province to pay for transit(or buy elections). Sure things can always be better but sometimes we have to make do with what we have.
Randy McDonald / March 22, 2014 at 02:02 pm
Has it occurred to anyone that Toronto mass transit, for all of its problems, might really be one of the best systems in North America?
NativeTorontonianAl replying to a comment from Belle of Acadia / March 23, 2014 at 09:43 pm
Please don't ever ever compare a city like Toronto to the Halifaxes of the world. Toronto is supposed to have an extensive and constantly expanding subway system. It cannot hide, because it's even the largest city of Canada and its "hub". Halifax is small potatoes. However, what is important to point out is that there are many countries with cities the size and level of Halifax, that have had for some time, their own transit system as in an advanced LRT or subway system with continued planning and growth for the future. NO excuses.
Belle of Acadia replying to a comment from NativeTorontonianAl / March 24, 2014 at 06:59 pm
I'm not comparing them, I agree they are not comparable and yes there is no excuse for Halifax not having a subway system and decent public transit.
LISA replying to a comment from Murray / April 26, 2014 at 03:18 am
I totally agree. After living in Van for only one year I was amazed what a crappy system Calgary has. It's expensive and unreliable and gets worse every year.
Simon Tarses replying to a comment from Richard / May 22, 2014 at 12:22 am
No, we don't. Please stop believing in bullshit from our stupid mayor.
Nick / January 27, 2015 at 12:26 pm
Torontonians should not settle for status quo. Our metro system sucks, and its horrendous for many reasons but two are particularly glaring -different transit authorities governing different jurisdictions, and the scope of coverage. I moved to London (UK) for about 5 months and I have to say as someone who grew up in Toronto, coming back here was dreadfully painful. To see a proper system in London, coming back to Toronto really shows how third rate our transit system actually is. If you want to live anywhere outside of the city, living without a car becomes a daily exercise in commuting misery.
Yuan / February 11, 2015 at 09:57 am
I have traveled a lot, used a lot of public transportation in Europe, Asia and North America. So every time I feel it's really some sort of joke looking at the TTC subway map. Toronto is ranked the 4th largest city in NA and it has only two main subway lines (okay, 4 if you count Sheppard/Yonge and Scarborough RT, but really??)? And none of them would link to the city's airport. Besides the problem of delay and capacity, the progress of public transportation construction is just downright shameful. It began operation in 1954 and still only have one straight line and a U-shape line for the entire city? COME ON! Take a look at Tokyo's subway system or New York's, which are also the largest city in their countries respectively. Okay, let's not even talk about New York, just Tokyo. It is city which has been entirely bombed to rubble during WWII! No No No. It is also not fair to compare Toronto with Tokyo as it is much bigger and much more densely populated and must have its public transportation serving more people reliably everyday. Let's compare it with Beijing, the second largest city in China, a country that's sometimes referred as communist and third world. Even Beijing started subway operation in 1969 and now has 18 lines; and most importantly, one of its lines actually takes you directly to the airport and you don't have to pay the high price of CAD$27.50 one-way to take a separate train to the airport from the busiest part of the town in Toronto like Metrolinx is trying to convince everyone to do here. I just don't understand why the subway here is so underdeveloped. Is it because of the coldness and the long winter? But Moscow even started operation in 1935 and now has 12 lines. Come on, TTC. This is just plainly shameful.
tdot truth / March 27, 2015 at 10:43 pm
What ever 3rd world countries flush down the toilet end up in toronto :)
tdot truth / March 27, 2015 at 10:43 pm
What ever 3rd world countries flush down the toilet end up in toronto :)
Paul / October 24, 2015 at 07:31 pm
2015: GTA Population ~6 million.
2030: between ~7.5-8 million
2050: possibly up to 10 million people.

Toronto area already has traffic problem and the subway system lags behind many (including some in poorer countries).
The population is gonna increase greatly and all the politicians are doing nothing.

The system should be expanded inside Toronto (main) and even expanded to some of the larger suburbs.

Canada is not poor, we are one of the largest economies.
Instead of wasting money for other useless things more money needs to be pumped into the largest Canadian cities.

Other Cities: Montreal