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A Definitive Ranking Of Public Transit Systems Across Canada

A rivalry for the ages.
Senior Editor
A Definitive Ranking Of Public Transit Systems Across Canada

Canadians metro areas are few but rich in culture and economy.

But there's one area in particular where Canadian cities have lagged behind their American counterparts: public transit.

ALSO READ: New Urgent Travel Advisories Are In Effect For Canadians

TL;DR Canada has 6 light and heavy rail transit systems. Below we've ranked them according to select criteria.

Whereas large and dense cities in the United States (with the exception of Los Angeles) have extensive subway and streetcar systems, Canadians have long bemoaned the few transit options in their own urban areas.

Thankfully, some Canadian cities are making huge investments to address that issue.

The country currently has six heavy and light rail systems. Below we've ranked each one according to citizen/train car ratio, organization, and breadth, and plans for expansion.

Via OCTranspo

6. Ottawa – O-Train

Type: light rail
Number of stations: 5 current (13 under construction)
Total track length: 8km (20.5km projected)
Number of train cars: 12
Number of lines: 1 curent (1 under construction)
Passengers per day: 28,600 (projected)
City population: 883,390
Ticket price: $3.45

73,615 citizens / train car

The O-Train performs worst in terms of car/citizen ratio. At 8 kilometres, it is also the shortest rail transit system in the country. Even after the completion of the new Confederation Line, the system, at a projected 20.5 kilometres long, will still be shorter than that of Edmonton. The new line is a good start, but much more work needs to be done.

Via Thankyoubaby

5. Edmonton – LRT

Type: light rail
Number of stations: 18 (12 under construction)
Total track length: 24.3km (current)
Number of train cars: 114
Number of lines: 2 (1 under construction)
Passengers per day: 112,805
City population: ~900,000
Ticket price: $3.25

7,894 citizens / train car

As a small city, street-level light rail transit is probably Edmonton's best option. Unfortunately, its trains are known for their signalling failures, which could put riders at risk. On the bright side, an expansion is underway that will almost double the size of the system.

Via Calgary

4. Calgary – Ctrain

Type: light rail
Number of stations: 46
Total track length: 59.9 km
Passengers per day: 314,400
Number of train cars: 256
Number of lines: 2
City population: 1.4 million
Ticket price: $3.30

5,468 citizens / train car

The Ctrain is well-organized but infamous for its frequent delays. The system is popular, but, as it stands, not nearly extensive enough to properly serve the population of Calgary.


3. Toronto – TTC

Type: heavy and light rail
Number of stations: 75 (subway); 685 (streetcar)
Total track length: 76.9 km (subway); 83 km (streetcar)
Passengers per day: 915,100 (subway); 292,100 (streetcar)
Number of train cars: 752 (subway); 250 (streetcars)
Number of lines: 4 (subway); 11 (streetcar)
City population: 2.8 million
Ticket price: $3.25

3,723 citizens / subway car
11,200 citizens / streetcar

Toronto's transit system is shockingly inadequate given the size of the city. Chicago, for example, is a city of comparable size but with a vast public transit system. The TTC only serves a small portion of the sprawling urban area. Moreover, the streetcar system does not come close to making up for the limited subway routes. According to the Toronto Star, the system also averages 58 service delays per day. It places as high as third only because of its middling citizen/car ratio.


2. Montreal – STM 

Type: heavy rail
Number of stations: 68
Total track length: 69.2 km
Passengers per day (including buses): 1,298,400
Number of train cars: 759
Number of lines: 4
City population: 1.8 million
Ticket price: $3.25

2,371 citizens / metro car

Montrealers love to complain about the STM. But it's actually one of the most efficient and well-funded systems on the continent. With trains running every five minutes, and even more frequently during peak hours, the STM is highly reliable. One unique perk: the metro lines are completely underground, so there are zero weather delays.

Local and provincial politicans have also recently proposed multiple visions for the future of the STM. Most notably, current Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante ran on the promise of a new Pink Line, which would connect underserved neighbourhoods and alleviate stress on the downtown loop.

Via TransLink

1. Vancouver – Skytrain

Type: heavy rail
Number of stations: 53
Total track length: 79.6 km
Number of train cars: 298
Number of lines: 3
Passengers per day: 477,500
City population: 603,502
Ticket price: $2.50-$5.00, depending on travel distance

2,025 citizens / train car

Vancouver has the longest urban rail system in the country. And while the Vancouver system rarely faces the same weather-related transit issues that plague other Canadian cities, it is also perhaps the most efficient network, too. The trains are completely automated. There is no human error (nor is there the possibility of widespread strike-related delays). One huge perk is the direct line between the airport and downtown.

    Thomas MacDonald
    Senior Editor
    Thomas MacDonald is a Senior Editor for MTL Blog focused on Montreal public transit and is based in Montreal, Quebec.
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