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TTC fare guide for tourists

Introduction

The Toronto Transit Commission is the primary public transit system in Toronto, Canada.[0] This guide describes the passenger fare structure assuming no prior knowledge, to help you save money and avoid getting into trouble.

On the whole, the TTC uses a gated fare paid zone system on buses and subways, but uses an open proof of payment system on streetcars. When in a POP zone, make sure you are always holding a valid paper transfer, transit pass, or tapped PRESTO card in case of fare inspection. The TTC has one unified fare zone; the price is the same to travel one way between any two points within Toronto.[1]

The transfer is an important concept on the TTC: It is a slip of paper that shows when and where you paid your fare. (It does not say where you’re going or how long it’s valid for.) This is useful for certain situations like changing buses without paying another fare. On all streetcars, holding onto a transfer is critically important since it serves as your proof of payment. It never hurts to hold a valid transfer, even in situations when you don’t strictly need one (except cluttering your pocket with paper).

Fare types

Official information – current fare prices: Toronto Transit Commission: Prices.

PRESTO
  • PRESTO is Metrolinx’s contactless transit fare card, valid on most transit companies in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area plus Ottawa.

  • Usable at nearly all TTC subway stations, streetcars, and buses.

  • Can be bought at some TTC stations, GO stations, and other locations in the GTA. The cost of the card itself is non-refundable.

  • A TTC fare costs the same by PRESTO or by token, which is the lowest single trip price offered to adults.

  • The Union Pearson Express line (non-TTC) is a few dollars cheaper on PRESTO than on cash fare.

  • PRESTO is especially useful outside Toronto, such as on GO Transit, Viva, etc. For example, GO has distance-based pricing, which is easier to handle on a smartcard than by cash. Also, some inter-company transfers, such as between GO and TTC, are discounted only on PRESTO (not by cash).

Cash
  • Bus: Pay into the operator’s farebox as you board the vehicle, change not provided. Recommended to ask the driver to issue you a transfer (say “transfer please”).

  • Streetcar: Pay into the streetside fare machine, streetcar on-board fare machine (Flexity Outlook vehicles), or operator’s farebox (CLRV or ALRV vehicles). Change is not provided. Always get a transfer (say “transfer please”) because riding a streetcar requires showing proof of payment upon inspection.

  • Subway: Pay into the farebox at a collector booth, change is provided. Recommended to walk up to a red transfer machine and press the button to issue you a transfer.

  • Cash is not accepted at (unmanned) automated subway entrances. If you encounter one, ask a bystander for directions or walk around until you find a manned entrance for this subway station.

Token
  • This is the standard adult one-way fare.

  • Tokens are cheaper than the straight cash fare when bought in quantity (usually 3 or more).

  • Buy them at a subway station collector booth or token dispenser machine.

  • Can be used at automated subway entrances.

  • Whenever you pay a fare, it is recommended to get a transfer.

  • Tokens are valid essentially forever[2], even when fare prices increase.

Day Pass
  • Unlimited travel for one day for one person.

  • But on weekends and holidays, an additional adult plus 4 youths aged 19 or under can travel on the same pass.

  • The cost of a Day Pass is slightly more than 4 adult one-way fares.

  • The pass itself is proof of payment on streetcars.

  • Transfer not necessary.[3]

  • Cannot be used at automated subway entrances.

Child
  • In the past the child fare was tickets, but the current policy (starting 2015-03-01) is that children who have not yet turned 13 years old can ride the TTC for free.

Ticket
  • Tickets are discounted fares for students and seniors, but not adults.

  • Buy them at a subway station collector booth. Sold in multiples of 5.

  • Use them only at the driver’s farebox or manned subway farebox collector, not automated entrances.

  • Whenever you pay a fare, it is recommended to get a transfer.

  • Proof of age required for seniors; students require a TTC-issued student ID card.

  • Tickets expire when a new series is issued upon a fare increase; there is a few months’ notice, and old tickets can be refunded for a limited time.

Metropass, Weekly Pass
  • A plastic card allowing unlimited travel for the card holder during the stated period (month or week).

  • Show the card to a station attendant, bus driver, streetcar driver, or fare inspector. Or swipe the card's magnetic stripe at a subway station turnstile.

  • Can be used at automated subway entrances.

  • The pass itself is proof of payment on streetcars.

  • Transfer not necessary.[3]

  • The passenger must hold the card while travelling, but can give it to another person after exiting the TTC system.

Transferring between vehicles

  • In many cases, transferring from a bus to the subway system (or vice versa) takes place within the TTC fare paid zone – so you do not need a transfer paper for this.

  • Some subway stations (especially those downtown) require you to exit the station in order to board a bus or streetcar – in this case you do need a transfer paper (or Metropass or Day Pass).

  • A transfer is intended to let you travel in one general direction on one fare. It does not let you make a stopover or do a round trip on a single fare.

Warnings:

  • In general, a transfer does not let you re-enter the TTC system after exiting it (e.g. exiting a subway station and re-entering, exiting a bus and re-entering on the same route).

  • Also, a transfer does not let you reverse your direction of travel.

  • This is because you are only allowed to use the transfer at reasonable transfer locations. For example, bus line 39 intersects bus line 25, so you can use a transfer issued on bus 39 to board bus 25 at that intersection. After riding bus 25 for a while, you cannot reuse the bus 39 transfer to board bus 25 because you are not at a location where bus line 39 intersects bus line 25.

Picture examples of transfer papers:

Transfer issued at subway station, front side

Transfer issued at subway station, back side

Transfer issued on streetcar, front side

Transfer issued on streetcar, back side

Official information: Toronto Transit Commission: Transfers.

About proof of payment

  • On all streetcar routes, you must hold a valid transfer, Metropass, Day Pass, or PRESTO card tapped at boarding, and be ready for a fare inspection at any time. If you paid cash/token/ticket on this route, you must immediately ask the driver to issue you a transfer paper, otherwise you might fail the random fare inspection once on board.

  • When entering a streetcar: If you already have a valid transfer or pass, you can board via any door (not necessarily at the front door). You don’t need to show your fare until asked by a fare inspector. However if you’re paying by cash/token/ticket, you must board at the front, pay into the farebox, and must ask for a transfer. If you’re paying by PRESTO, enter through any door and immediately tap your card. (If you tapped PRESTO recently and are transferring to the streetcar, you won’t be charged.)

  • Fare inspection can only happen on a POP route. It can happen on board the vehicle or upon exiting the vehicle at a subway station (Spadina Station, Union Station, others). (Fare inspection cannot happen on non-POP routes because people can legitimately choose to not obtain a transfer.)

Official information: Toronto Transit Commission: Proof of Payment, YouTube: Proof-of-Payment on the TTC.

Notes

  • You can get a free copy of the TTC system map – ask at a subway station collector booth, or find one perched at the front of some buses.

  • You are free to exit the TTC system (bus, streetcar, or subway) at any stop. This is unlike most Asian transit systems where you need to present your ticket / fare card upon exiting the subway turnstile (but this makes it possible to implement a fairer pay-by-distance pricing scheme).

  • Some routes outside of Toronto (such as up north in Markham) are served by TTC buses but are not part of the TTC system. Thus their fare structure is not covered by the TTC rules. Also, the Downtown Express premium bus routes require an extra fare.

  • This guide does not cover route planning because reasonable tools are available online: Official TTC trip planner, Google Maps. Caution – Google Maps sometimes suggests routes that use the TTC plus GO Transit (or some other transit system) within Toronto. Avoid these because they take more time and money than a pure-TTC itinerary; the TTC is sufficient for almost every imaginable trip within Toronto.

  • This guide is intended to cover a reasonable minimum of concepts for a first-time tourist to navigate the TTC smoothly. It is not intended to cover all the details that a seasoned commuter would learn about over time. (For example, topics not explained on this page include: Useful stopovers at legal transfer points, making loops with stopovers on just one fare, other fringe fares like the GTA Weekly Pass, and more.)

  • [0]: There are other minor transit operators within Toronto too, such as GO Transit, specific-purpose private companies, and neighboring systems like Viva that spill into the fringes of Toronto. However, the TTC is the one and only pervasive public transit system in Toronto, and it’s safe to ignore the existence of the others if your travel is strictly within Toronto.

  • [1]: Unfortunately it means a short trip, like taking a bus for 2 km, is rather expensive.

  • [2]: There were two times in history that the physical tokens were changed (and thus incompatible); they took place in years 1954 and 2006.

  • [3]: Because the pass is unlimited fare (for a limited time period), it means you can change buses/streetcars/subways without using a transfer. Furthermore, if you enter a bus/streetcar with a pass and ask for a transfer, the driver should not give you one. Although you can issue transfers at the red machines in subway stations, this is pointless if you have a pass anyway.

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