Toronto is a massive city, so finding the most efficient way to get around will be a priority for new arrivals. Luckily, the city has an extensive public transport network that makes it possible to get around Toronto without a car.
However, expats with kids, those living in the suburbs or those planning to travel around Canada will find a car a worthwhile investment.
Public transport in Toronto
Toronto has a wide-reaching public transport network that extends well into the suburbs. The network is made up of buses, streetcars and a subway system, which are all operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC).
While the buses and streetcars fall victim to Toronto’s notorious rush-hour traffic congestion, the city’s subway system is generally efficient and by far the fastest way to get around Toronto.
TTC has an integrated ticketing system called PRESTO, which allows tickets to be used on any TTC service. One-ride, two-ride and unlimited day passes are also available. For expats who intend to commute regularly, the PRESTO card is the most cost-effective option. These smartcards can either be used on a pay-as-you-go basis or as monthly passes.
Fare vending machines can be used to buy tickets or to purchase and top-up a PRESTO card.
Toronto’s subway system is made up of colour-coded subway lines that connect the city centre to various neighbourhoods. All subway services generally operate between 6am and 1.30am daily, except Sunday when operating hours are between 8am to 1.30am. Services are regular and waiting times are usually just a few minutes.
The streetcar is a mode of transport that is now largely unique to Toronto as most North American cities have phased them out. Toronto's streetcar routes often reach inaccessible areas and can be useful as an adjunct to other public transport services.
Toronto has an extensive bus network, which consists of more than 140 bus routes. So wherever expats choose to settle, the area is likely to be covered by at least one bus route. The frequency of bus services varies according to the route. During peak hours, services run every few minutes. During off-peak hours, buses run every 10 to 20 minutes. Buses usually operate from 6am to 1am daily, except for Sundays when services start at 8am.
Generally, commuters will find that buses in Toronto arrive on time. However, services operating in the city centre and those running during rush hour can be delayed due to bad traffic or weather conditions.
Taxis in Toronto
As is the case in most big cities, driving a car in the city centre can be stressful, especially for newcomers, so it is useful to have the option of hopping into a taxi once in a while. Generally, travelling by taxi is the most expensive way of getting around Toronto. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft are also available.
Cycling in Toronto
Cycling is becoming a popular way of getting around Toronto, and the city is fast on its way to becoming more bike-friendly. Toronto is developing a network of dedicated cycle lanes and safe bicycle-storage facilities.
Toronto has a public bike-sharing system called Bike Share Toronto, which offers users access to thousands of bikes. These bicycles can be picked up and dropped off at any one of the hundreds of docking stations scattered throughout the city.
Bike Share Toronto offers a number of subscription packages starting from 24-hour access to monthly and annual packages. Cyclists are initially charged a flat rate for the duration of their subscription and then charged an extra-usage fee depending on how long they use the bicycles.
Driving in Toronto
Driving a car in Toronto’s centre is not advisable. The city is often congested, and parking is expensive and difficult to find. However, expats planning on travelling around Canada and exploring greater Ontario may find it useful to invest in a car.
Expats planning on buying a car in Toronto will need to budget accordingly. One of the large expenses expats need to consider is insurance premiums, which are remarkably high in Toronto.
Apart from traffic congestion, a lack of parking and hidden speed traps, expat drivers in Toronto will find the general condition of roads and infrastructure to be of a very high standard. Signage is also clear, and it is fairly straightforward to navigate around the city.
While expats are initially allowed to drive in Toronto using their national driver's licence, they will be required to exchange their licence for an Ontario driver's licence within 60 days of arriving in the province. Depending on the driver's nationality, this may be a straight swap or they may have to retake written and road tests.