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When exactly is rush hour in Toronto?

Posted by Chris Bateman / April 29, 2014

ttc subwayWhen is rush hour in Toronto might be a bit of a difficult question to precisely pin down. As Jerry Seinfeld aptly sums it up, in big cities "everybody goes every way all the time." It's true. With a population of 2.7 million, traveling by highway or public transit is never a lonely experience in Toronto, even if most people wish it was. But when exactly is a trip by road or the TTC most likely to involve delays?

As far as the TTC is concerned, the busiest time of the morning is between 8:15 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.. That's when all the available subway trains, streetcars, and buses are in service to meet the biggest spike in demand, says spokesman Brad Ross. Officially, the morning peak is from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., but those 45 minutes in the lead-up to 9:00 a.m. see the most crowding.

On the highways, the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway is most congested at the same time: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Mike Brady, the manager of the city's Traffic Safety Unit, says that's when vehicle speeds are slowest due to the sheer weight of traffic. The highest number of vehicles - not necessarily the worst delays - occurs weekday mornings on the Gardiner west of Kipling at the same time, he notes.

The afternoons are a little harder to navigate. The TTC says, based on observation, demand tops out between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., several hours after the highways are most congested from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.. The afternoon transit peak technically lasts from 3:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., so perhaps it's a case of the roads cresting before public transport.

Conclusion: There are three distinct rush hours in Toronto. The first, between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., is when both highway speeds and transit crowding are worst. In the afternoon, the second rush between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m. is when the DVP and Gardiner are slowest. The third rush, slightly later between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., is when the TTC is most claustrophobic.

Maybe it's time to find another way home.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Paul Flynn/blogTO Flickr pool.



rob ford / April 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm
This is why I only work from 11 - 2 everyday, so I dont contribute to rush hour. its part of my service to taxpaxers.
CW / April 29, 2014 at 12:22 pm
I'd say the times provided for the TTC are dead on for the Bloor-Danforth line. Within those times the trains will likely fill up, especially in the morning mid-line or afternoon at Bloor-Yonge or St George. 10 minutes before or after and there may be empty seats. Is this the same for the Yonge line and feeder routes?
CR / April 29, 2014 at 12:56 pm
So people that drive work two hours less on average than those taking transit?
??? replying to a comment from CR / April 29, 2014 at 01:03 pm
Id say its even more than that.

The Gardiner and DVP are packed by 330pm most days.

So they've come in later than most and leave earlier than most.

Lucky to get a 4 hours work day by most of those drivers.
Marc replying to a comment from CW / April 29, 2014 at 01:09 pm
I find Yonge pretty intense anytime of the day now. Sometimes, even at 9pm, it gets pretty crowded.

The University-Spadina side however, dies down around 10am and then again closer to 7pm?
iSkyscraper / April 29, 2014 at 01:10 pm
Schools, people. Schools. Many kids are too young to take transit and rely on schoolbuses and parents picking them up so the roads start clogging early. Plus all the people that drive at 6 am to beat traffic and get in early then leave on the early side.

Jack / April 29, 2014 at 01:35 pm
Yonge line at Eglinton station seems to peak right at 8:30. I've noticed that even 5 minutes later, the crush is dramatically lessened. What I don't get is why the trains seem to run 5-6 minutes apart after 8am rather than the 3-4 minutes before 8am. It severely affects crowding.
p replying to a comment from rob ford / April 29, 2014 at 01:48 pm
jen / April 29, 2014 at 01:53 pm
The southbound Spadina streetcar is at its worst between 8:30 and 9am. You have to get to the Bloor Street station by 8am if you want to avoid the inevitable line-up.

The automobiles start backing up on Spadina around 3pm or so trying to get to the Gardiner.
Brent / April 29, 2014 at 02:00 pm
re: early PM peak for drivers: I would suspect that this is the time when the expressways see the highest flow of traffic (the number of vehicles per hour passing a given point over a given time period), not when they are slowest. Traffic flow builds up until 4:30, when the expressways are as busy as they can get; at that point, traffic flow collapses under the weight of additional traffic trying to get on, and travel speeds and traffic flow go down.
Brian / April 29, 2014 at 02:56 pm
then u get all the a@@holes on bikes acting like they own the road
R.A. / April 29, 2014 at 02:59 pm
Not sure why the TTC thinks rush hour dips at 6pm. Funny that the streetcars are still rammed right up until 7pm, even later on certain routes right up until 7:30pm
Derya / April 29, 2014 at 03:00 pm
Why are the highways most congested between 3:30 and 4:30?
Asshole on bike replying to a comment from Brian / April 29, 2014 at 03:23 pm
How are the assholes on bikes who act like they own the road any different from the assholes in cars who act like they own the road?
Nash / April 29, 2014 at 03:30 pm
Then we get all those folks too busy posting online updates and listening to music on their headphones, on the roads as pedestrians and in cars as drivers. Still not as bad as in other cities around the world.
Aaron / April 29, 2014 at 03:41 pm
Car drivers are licenced, insured, pay road tax, as in maintenance and paint via gas consumption and generally don't drive on sidewalks like cyclists do.

Cyclists aren't licenced, not insured, many don't wear helmets (guess they don't care about themselves) and don't pay one penny to get their lanes painted. They do not contribute at all. They don't care and on average disobey road rules. Time to change that. Mayor Rob Ford is aware of this.
Dean Tudor / April 29, 2014 at 04:25 pm
It just means that we have too many executives (male and female) working 10AM to 3:30PM...Middle management rules...and they are the only ones who drive or can afford parking, or have free parking as a job perk.

Many businesses close by 6, so there are workers coming home, in addition to students, pub crawlers having one or two drinks before going home, and continuing ed students racing to Ryerson/U of T.
Jerry replying to a comment from Aaron / April 29, 2014 at 05:23 pm
Aaron, there is no such thing as road tax. Additionally, I almost certainly make a lot more money than you do - which means I pay a lot more tax than you do. Does that give me a greater right to government services such as roads?

Most cyclists are also car owners, so if you think car owners contribute in some particular way (which they don't), then so do all car owning cyclists.

In fact cars damage roads, waste resources, and ruin the environment, so if anyone should be given priority it is cyclists.

What is your response to all of that?

Candice / April 29, 2014 at 05:55 pm
It has gotten worse over the last 5 years, too. When I started working downtown I could avoid the worst of it by working a 10 to 6 day. These days I'm getting onto packed trains at 9:15 am (at least, during the university school year) and REALLY packed trains just after 6. It ain't getting better.
d / April 29, 2014 at 07:22 pm
Live where you work, work where you live.
Told you so! Miss Olivia Chow You've got a lot to learn. Even Tub of Ford knew better / April 29, 2014 at 08:00 pm
I told you sooooo!

Olivia Chow rushed to meet the Iron Sheik thinking she was meeting Arab royalty thinking it would help her grasp more of the multicultural vote.

Well now she's apologizing for meeting with and getting an endorsement from a racist, homophobic bigot!
Organ Grinder 58 Esplanade replying to a comment from Told you so! Miss Olivia Chow You've got a lot to learn. Even Tub of Ford knew better / April 29, 2014 at 08:02 pm
Chow's entire campaign has been sloppy. She blew it at the CityNews debate, so bad that she had to skip the Ryerson debate. She's way out of her element and if her demeanor and disposition are any indication, doesn't belong in the public eye at all, let alone in any leadership position.

I think she should fire that idiot Warren Kinsella, that might help her.
McRib replying to a comment from Aaron / April 29, 2014 at 08:26 pm
I don't understand why you even bothered taking the time to write that out. You cannot believe its true (if you do you must suffer from a ridiculously low IQ, in which case well done on the typing skills), so the only reason must be to rile people up. On BlogTO.

Is this really what you want out of life? To be a cunt on the internet?
PJ / April 29, 2014 at 08:59 pm
I live right downtown but for getting out of the city by car on the Gardiner westbound, my rule is basically not to attempt this between 2pm and 7pm. If you leave after 2pm, then you will likely queue for 30 mins just to get on the expressway and by then, it is too late - traffic hell. By 7pm it has usually cleared up enough to make the trip. Obviously this rule only applies Mon-Friday.
Holy Thundering Jesus / April 29, 2014 at 10:24 pm
Commuting into the core of the city is insidious, all that comes to mind is transit rage!
insidious replying to a comment from Holy Thundering Jesus / April 30, 2014 at 11:09 am
: causing harm in a way that is gradual or not easily noticed
tommy replying to a comment from Organ Grinder 58 Esplanade / April 30, 2014 at 11:20 am
What the hell does that have to do with when rush hour is in Toronto!?
jo replying to a comment from Jack / July 31, 2015 at 08:34 am
They want it to be crowded. To them it saves money to have as few trains as they can packed to the brim. It's all about overly "maximizing" train space. It would take a big decrease in transit use to make them change their tune. Greyhound was a good example of that.
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