Newbies guide: How to take a streetcar in Toronto

Jun 3 2016, 7:40 pm

Toronto is constantly on the move, and when you’re new to the city, the multiple ways of getting around can seem overwhelming. Cars, buses, and even subways may be familiar to most, but there is one mode of transportation that is fairly unique to Toronto: streetcars.

The red and white aboveground trains are a hallmark of the city, and a crucial part of travel in Toronto. There are 12 routes in total and they run as part of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) grid, connecting travelers with subway stops and major destinations. Unlike buses, streetcars typically run on a straight or more structured route, similar to subways.

Here’s everything you need to know about taking advantage of this Toronto transit staple:

What does it cost?

$3.25 for adults or $2 for students (13 to 19) and seniors (65+). Tokens, Metropasses, weekly, and daily passes, are also accepted. PRESTO systems have also been installed on many streetcar routes, charging $2.90 for adults, and $1.95 for students and seniors when you tap on.

How to pay

Like bus drivers, streetcar drivers cannot give change so if you’re paying cash, make sure to pay the exact fare. Cash and tokens can be placed in the metal receptacle at the front of the streetcar. Debit and credit is not accepted.

How do I get on the streetcar from the street?

Streetcars run in the same direction as traffic, even when they have their own designated streetcar lanes (large paved lanes that run in the middle of traffic, as seen on Spadina Road). In the same way as busses, stand on the side of the street where traffic is heading in the direction you need to go. There are always streetcar markers indicating stops, and often shelters to make your wait a bit more comfortable.

How do I go from the subway to the streetcar?

Some subway stops, such as St. Clair West, have streetcars that come right into the station, making it easy to transfer to the next leg of your journey.

However, if you are planning to catch a streetcar from a spot that requires you to leave the subway station and go up to street level, you must get a transfer at the beginning of your journey. If you, for example, grab a transfer on your way out of St. Patrick station and try and use it on the streetcar outside of the subway station, it is considered invalid. Basically, just to be safe, always get a transfer at the beginning of your TTC journey, whether it’s from a subway, streetcar, or bus—that little slip of paper proves you paid, and can be the key to avoiding a nasty fine if transit cops are doing inspections.

If you have any form of valid transit pass or a transfer, you can board at any streetcar door, you do not need to wait to get on at the front. On streetcars enabled for PRESTO, you can simply tap your card on the green PRESTO unit, available at each entrance to the streetcar. Once it says “accepted” you have paid your fare.

How do I get off this contraption?

When your stop is announced, pull the yellow cord that runs above the windows to indicate that you would like to get off at the next stop. Doing so will illuminate a red sign at the front of the streetcar confirming that a stop has been requested. You can then exit the streetcar from the through the nearest set of doors. If you are getting off at the back doors, it can be helpful to stand on the steps, which will ensure that the doors will open once the streetcar stops. 

How do I go from a streetcar to the subway?

Many streetcars will run directly into the subway stations, in which case, you can simply walk out and follow the trains. If a streetcar stays at street-level at a subway stop, such as at Queen station, your transfer will be your ticket into the station. Just show it to the TTC employee checking fares and then go through the turnstiles.

What else do I need to know?

Most streetcars have stairs at each entrance, which can be a challenge for those with disabilities, strollers, or luggage. Keep that in mind when you are planning your route. Some streetcars routes do have accessible streetcars, enabled with ramps. For more information, see the TTC’s accessibility page.

Image: TTC

Image: TTC

Ishani NathIshani Nath