The subway is the biggest "heavy lifter" in Toronto's public transit system. There are about 1.3 million rides each day on the three subway lines, although many riders use two (and some all three) lines, so there are probably only about 1 million riders in total.
The main subway lines were completed between 1954 and 1978, with a short extension to Downsview (3km) and the Sheppard Line (5km) added more recently. Toronto led the world in improvements and innovations in its early years:
- When the Yonge subway opened in 1954, it offered free transfers to surface streetcar and bus routes at 6 stations. This was probably the first subway system in the world where passengers did not even need to show a paper transfer to connect onto buses or streetcars.
- In 1963, TTC introduced the first 75-foot long (23-metre) cars. With lightweight aluminum bodies, these were among the largest subway cars in the world at that time. They had faster acceleration, allowing fewer trains to operate the service on the Bloor-Danforth subway, despite the large number of stops.
- On the Bloor-Danforth line, opened in 1966, TTC opened the first "automatic" entrances, with entrance turnstiles operated by tokens and closed-circuit TV supervision.
- The H-5 subway cars, introduced in 1977, were the first to be fully air-conditioned. They were also the first in North America, and perhaps the world, to have fully-regenerative braking using solid-state motor controls.
However, TTC's innovation slowed down after the 1970s. Today, parts of the system are overcrowded and the infrastructure is aging. This section will look at two proposed extensions and a connector line, as well as options for modernizing the system.