Toronto transit technology takes a leap forward (May 2015 Update)
07 April 2015

Toronto transit technology takes a leap forward (May 2015 Update)

Crosstown LRT, Union Pearson Express, Downtown Relief Line, PRESTO SmartCard Payment System, new LRT Vehicles, and the Spadina Subway Extension

The Crosstown is one of the largest – and most ambitious – infrastructure projects in North America, designed to improve transit in mid-town Toronto. There will be up to 26 stations in total, with an estimated 100 million trips annually in 2013 The Toronto Pearson Express airport to downtown train service launches Aprl 6 2015. Right before the Pan Am Games in the Toronto area between July 10-26.

Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT

The $4.6 billion Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT project, part of the $8.4 billion development to build a 52km LRT line in Toronto, will run 19km from Black Creek (west end of Toronto) to Kennedy subway station (east end of Toronto) and is expected to be completed by 2020 (exact date is subject to significant amounts of variance like any transit project).

Related Transit Projects

crosstown map

Five other projects are also part of the largest LRT expansion in Toronto's history.

(1) Sheppard LRT

The 12km Sheppard LRT, which will link the Sheppard subway line at Don Mills subway station.

The line is to be operated by the Toronto Transit Commission. Metrolinx had budgeted $944.5 million from 2009 through 2014 for the design and construction of the line. Funding was approved by the provincial and federal governments in May 2009. It was also then canncelled in April 2011.

Detailed engineering had also been initiated for the grade separation of Sheppard Avenue East and the GO Transit tracks east of Kennedy Road. 

The line was expected to open on September 11, 2013, the first of the seven Transit City lines to be completed. The line was cancelled and construction halted by Mayor Rob Ford in April 2011, however City Council reinstated the line in March 2012. In June 2012, the province of Ontario announced that construction of the Sheppard East LRT would not resume until 2017 or finish until 2021.

(2) Scarbrough LRT Replacement

The 9.9km replacement and extension of the existing Scarborough LRT.

The upgrade and replacement of the Scarborough RT portion was scheduled to start in late 2015, after the conclusion of the 2015 Pan American Games and the 2015 Parapan American Games. Scarborough RT riders will be bussed for three years until the upgrade is completed.

Metrolinx and the TTC are considering opening the line in segments, rather than all at once. The project is targeted for completion in 2020.

A group of Toronto councillors in 2013 wanted to replace the planned LRT for Scarborough with a subway. But a subway would cost $500 million more. 

In September 2013, the Government of Ontario, under Premier Kathleen Wynne, announced it would fund the extension of Line 2 Bloor–Danforth to Scarborough Centre, which will result in the eventual closure of the Scarborough line.

 See details here.

(3) Finch West LRT

The 11km Finch West LRT.

The Finch West LRT is a proposed light rail line in Toronto. It was part of the original Transit City proposal announced on March 16, 2007, to be operated by the Toronto Transit Commission. Construction is to begin in 2015, and the line to be inservice from the Toronto-York-Spadina Subway Extension to Humber College in 2019.

The Finch West LRT will add 11 kilometres of new rapid transit along Finch Avenue from the planned Finch West subway station at Keele Street to Humber College. The new service will provide improved, faster and reliable transit.

When first announced, it was expected to cost approximately $1.2 billion, with construction to begin in 2010 and an expected opening in 2013, as the second of the seven Transit City lines to be completed after the Sheppard East LRT line.

On April 1, 2009, the Ontario government announced that it would provide funding for construction of this line. Mayor Rob Ford cancelled the line after taking office in December 2010. In February 2012, city council voted to restore the LRT as part of a new transit plan restoring some of the elements of the Transit City proposal.

The Finch West LRT line will run for 23.4 km, estimated to account for 25 million trips in 2021. The western terminus of the line will be built in the Highway 27/Humber College area in Etobicoke. The line will run along Finch Avenue West eastward, terminating at Finch Station in North York.

The Finch West LRT is a $1 billion (2010$) investment from the Ontario government to expand transit in Toronto. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016.

More details here.

(4) Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension

The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension Project will provide a critical extension for the existing Toronto Transit Commission subway system across the municipal boundary between the City of Toronto and York Region.


The Toronto - York Spadina Subway Extension is an 8.6km extension from Downsview Station northwest through York University within the City of Toronto and north to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, in The Regional Municipality of York.

YU Exterior main

The estimated cost of this project is $2.6 billion. This project is under construction and was expected to be operational by the end of 2015.

Cost overruns resulted in the TTC Board approving a plan for 2017 opening. Toronto Mayor John Tory says he’s “furious” with cost overruns and delays on the Spadina subway extension, and he promises a review of all “mismanaged” city projects.

More details here.

(5) Airport to Downtown Rail Link: The Union Pearson Express

Opening June 6 2015


The Union Pearson Express will deliver quick, dependable service between Toronto Pearson International Airport and Toronto's downtown Union Station – the two busiest transportation hubs in Canada. The link is scheduled to come into service in 2015, just in time for the Pan/Parapan American Games.

Connecting Toronto Pearson International Airport with Union Station in downtown Toronto in just 25 relaxing minutes, the Union Pearson Express simplifies how Canada’s busiest airport is linked to its largest city. With only two brief stops at the Bloor and Weston GO Stations, the Union Pearson Express offers travellers swift and reliable service.

Traffic between downtown Toronto and Toronto Pearson airport is expected to double over the next 10 years.

UP Vehicle-576x339

The Union Pearson Express including modern, comfortable interiors, power outlets for laptops, multi-channel ticketing options, Wi-Fi, luggage facilities and screens with flight information. At stations, customers will be able to roll luggage directly on and off the train.

Metrolinx has closed a contract with Sumitomo to deliver 18 Diesel Multiple Units (DMUs) that are designed to be convertible to electric propulsion in the future, when the rail corridor is electrified.

pearson express transit toronto


Running every 15 minutes, the Union Pearson Express will mean less wait time for the thousands of passengers taking the shuttle every day. Onboard, guests will be able to enjoy Wi-Fi, flight information screens and easy ticketing options – including using convenient PRESTO cards for payment – not to mention the comfort of the well-appointed and welcoming interior.

The Fees

Toronto are residents get a discount through a PRESTO Smartcard. PRESTO is a reloadable smartcard, offering travellers discounted fares on UP Express, GO Transit and nine other transit agencies in the Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa areas. (

airport train fees

The 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games brings the world to Toronto, and the Union Pearson Express will be ready to provide a warm and convenient welcome to the city.

The Crosstown LRT is a 19-kilometre light rail transit line (LRT) that will run along Eglinton Avenue, connecting west to east from Jane Street/Black Creek Drive to Kennedy Station.

Ten kilometres will be tunnelled underground between Keele Street and Laird Drive and will continue east on an at-grade right-of-way separated from traffic to Kennedy Station, where it will join with a converted Scarborough RT line on an elevated structure. Construction of The Crosstown began in the summer of 2011, and has a projected completion date of 2020.

The Crosstown will cut travel time significantly and link to 54 local bus routes, three TTC interchange subway station and GO Transit. Travel along The Crosstown from Kennedy to Black Creek Drive will be significantly faster and more comfortable than current bus travel.

The LRT will be modern, fast, reliable, comfortable and environmentally friendly.

The $4.9-billion Eglinton LRT line is slated to be complete and carrying passengers by 2020. 

New Light Rail Vehicles

On June 14, 2010 Metrolinx signed a purchase agreement with Bombardier for 182 Transit City light rail vehicles. The value of this purchase is $770 million and includes an option for 118 additional vehicles to a maximum of 300 LRVs in total.

These vehicles will serve the four new LRT projects including  Sheppard East LRT, Eglinton Crosstown LRT, Finch West LRT and the Scarborough RT replacement/extension.

On August 31 2105,  the new TTC streetcars started service on the 510 Spadina route. The vehicle rollout schedule for all streetcar routes will take several years to complete:

  • 510 Spadina: Spring 2015
  • 511 Bathurst: Fall 2015
  • 509 Harbourfront: Late 2015
  • 505 Dundas: 2015/2016
  • 508 Lake Shore: 2016/2017
  • 501 Queen: 2016/2017

More details here.

Guided tour of the streetcars is here.


Conceptual streetcar design above.

TTC NewStreetcar20131

Final shipped streetcards above.

PRESTO SmartCard Payment System

Putting PRESTO on the TTC was a condition of the province’s $8.4 billion in funding for the LRTs. The new streetcars from Bombardier will have Presto readers installed as soon as they are delivered and running, late next year or in 2014.

Most of the subway system, the air-rail link and bus routes that serve the Pan American Games venues will have Presto installed by August 2015. Only a few bus routes will still have to be converted after that.


PRESTO has long been awaited by municipalities in the region who installed it in the hopes of providing their residents with a seamless commute across the boundaries of the various transit systems.

Without the TTC’s full implementation, PRESTO's effectiveness would be limited because most regional transit users also use the TTC for at least part of their commute.

The Presto system is one of the most complex fare systems in the world because it involves all the regional transit systems and is customized to the Toronto area. For example, the TTC’s transfer system is unique, and Presto has to be adapted to it.

There are over 400,000 PRESTO cards in circulation  and the system is adding about 22,000 new cards a month as more GO riders and transit users transition to the system. The PRESTO system is processing over 5 million transactions a month.

Metrolinx and TTC developing a plan to accelerate rollout of PRESTO
Subject to approvals, TTC and Metrolinx have developed the following program:

  • Mobilizing TTC and Metrolinx resources and vendors to complete enabling work as quickly as possible.
  • PRESTO will be available at 26 subway stations by July 2015, up from the current 15 stations.
  • By the end of 2015 all legacy streetcars would have PRESTO devices installed on their front doors. Accomplishing this involves Metrolinx receiving support from the TTC to divert the equipment scheduled for the new streetcars, which have been delayed, to the existing, legacy streetcars.
  • A plan to enable PRESTO on the TTC bus fleet is being developed with the TTC so that PRESTO cards can be used on all buses by the end of 2016.
  • The TTC is also working to bring brand new fare gates to all TTC stations.
  • Focusing the initial deployment on base PRESTO services currently available on the other transit services, and adding other functions, such as payment by credit and debit cards, to subsequent releases.
  • The objective is to allow customers to be able to use PRESTO cards at all 69 TTC subway stations and throughout the entire TTC by the end of 2016.
  • Metrolinx and the TTC are committed to ensuring that PRESTO is delivered across the TTC system as quickly as possible while maintaining quality and ensuring a positive customer experience.

PRESTO is available at the following stations (as of April 2015), more are coming...

  • Bloor-Yonge
  • College
  • Don Mills
  • Downsview
  • Dundas
  • Finch
  • Islington
  • Kipling
  • Queen’s Park
  • Spadina
  • St George
  • St Patrick
  • Union
  • Yorkdale
  • York Mills

Learn more about PRESTO.

Learn more about the TTC rollout updates here.

Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion

The City of Toronto’s City Planning Division, together with the TTC, is planning a new rapid transit line to connect Line 1 Yonge-University, downtown to Line 2 Bloor-Danforth, east of the Don River. This line will relieve crowding on Line 1 Yonge-University, at Bloor-Yonge Station, and on the surface transit routes coming in and out of downtown.

Toronto has began the Downtown Rapid Transit Expansion Study (DRTES) to assess future rapid transit needs based on anticipated growth in Toronto in accordance with the City’s Official Plan. The plan identifies and assesses potential rapid transit improvements.

The assessment study found that as the new subway and LRT lines come online, the downtown core will undergo gradual transit gridlock. A downtown relief strategy is needed. This will only become more problematic as the downtown density increases.

One idea is to create a downtown subway relief line that takes the pressure off the existing downtown subway lines, the King streetcar, and the Queen streetcar.

Public meetings began in March 2015.

Next Phases starts in 2016.

Potential corridors and station areas will be evaluated towards identifying a preferred route and station locations for the Relief Line, along with benefits and potential impacts. The final evaluation of the preferred option will follow the requirements of an Ontario Transit Project Assessment Process (TPAP).

Learn more details here.

Relief Line website here.



Proposed Western Line 2 Extension towards Mississauga

The TTC's Rapid Transit Expansion Study, published in 2001, identified three possible western extensions to the line. The first was a 3.2-kilometre (2.0 mi) link to Sherway Gardens, with a station added at the East Mall at a later date. The second included an additional 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) from Sherway Gardens to Dixie Road, while a further section from Dixie Road to Mississauga City Centre, which included three stations, was considered but rejected due to cost and planning considerations.

This was replaced by a planned Dundas LRT run by MiWay going from Kipling to Hurontario Street, linking to the planned Hurontario LRT as part of the MoveOntario 2020 transit plan.

Bloor danforth expansion2

Potential Mobile Payment Options

The PRESTO team is looking at mobile payment options as mobile payments using chip-enabled cellphones and smartphone become more popular and common.

How the Crosstown is Tunneled
Planning for the Toronto TTC Relief Line
Published on Mar 3, 2015
The City of Toronto and the TTC are planning for the "Relief Line", a future rapid transit line that would connect downtown Toronto to the Bloor-Danforth Subway east of the Don River. It will assist in relieving crowding on the Yonge Subway line and the Bloor-Yonge interchange station as well as provide riders with more travel options.

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