TTC Stories: How To Navigate The Transit System

Spoiler-alert: I’m a country kid. No, seriously, camo prom gowns were so common as to be unremarkable, many a kid rode his tractor to school, and “Red Solo Cup” was our graduation song. So, as you can imagine, public transit was non-existent.


Rush hour in Fort Frances

Probably my absolute favourite thing about cities: Look! I can travel ANYWHERE in this city! And it’ll seriously only cost me three dollars! That’s insane to me. But it took a little while to learn to navigate (my first time going from Royal York Station to Ryerson took me over two hours … I still don’t understand how).

But enough embarrassing stories about my rural-ness. As a former commuter, let me give you some advice on travelling in Toronto with our transit!

1. Get The Apps

If you have a smartphone, there are two apps I HIGHLY recommend getting. Like, I’ve been known to download them on my friend’s phones because they’re so convenient. Google Maps will literally give you step by step directions on how to use public transit to get to where you’re going, and Rocket Man will tell you how long until the next streetcar or bus will be pulling up.

2. Learn The Basics

Toronto’s transit system is pretty straightforward; we’re basically a grid city. You can learn the major streetcar routes downtown and which streets near Ryerson are also subway stops and therefore have a bus running along them. Once you know this, you’ll have no trouble getting from wherever-you-are to wherever-you-need-to-be!

3. Know What’s 24/7

Fun fact: I once waited 45 minutes for a Dundas streetcar at 2:00 AM. Another fun fact: The Dundas streetcar doesn’t run past 1:30 AM. If you need to be out late, make sure you’re either on Bathurst or Yonge street if headed North-South, or on Bloor, College, or Queen if headed East-West.

4. Get Used To Delays

Fun fact: I once waited 35 minutes for a Dundas streetcar at 9:00 AM. Due to the way rail transit works, streetcars “bunching” is inevitable. I’d add another 10 minutes onto your commute if you’re taking a streetcar, because that way if you are caught in a gap, you can head to the next closest form of transit.


We don’t need a subway downtown, they said …

5. Find Out The Quirks 

Toronto public transit is different from others in quite a few ways. The biggest ones, for those used to other cities, is that a transfer will not allow you to get back on public transit. It can only be used to switch from a mode of transit going one direction to another headed a different direction (ie, getting from the streetcar onto the subway). The only exception is the 512 St. Clair Streetcar, but do people actually live north of Bloor if they aren’t living at home?


Memorize this map. You’ll be grateful if you ever have to get somewhere quick.

6. Ask Questions

Seriously! I can’t count the number of times I’ve saved myself from making a dumb mistake by asking the driver if this would take me to where I was headed (probably like +ten times). Wouldn’t you rather look like an idiot to the bus driver than, say, to your potential employer because you were late?

7. Take Advantage of Ryerson!

SERIOUSLY! You guys. You can get discount TTC passes from our Student Centre, you can get deals on tokens, and you would be an outright fool to not take advantage of this stuff. Especially if you commute on a regular basis – do it. You won’t regret having “too many tokens.”

Picture yourself after you stop dropping in 3$ for the TTC every time

The transit system is one of my absolute favourite things about Toronto. I don’t have to walk for two hours, or spend 40$ on a cab to get to where I’m going. I can actually use their transit and know I’m going to get there. Try it out and explore the city! You can go anywhere in Toronto, and adventures are fun!