History Maps Toronto Transit

The TTC, by the numbers

In the 1950s, the TTC numbered its bus and trolley coach routes in a systematic fashion. But with rapid growth in the 1960s and 1970s, that scheme came to an end.

Route 116 Morningside was created in 1989, replacing a branch of Route 34 Eglinton East

On Sunday, June 20, the TTC will renumber two bus routes, Route 5 Avenue Road and 6 Bay. This change comes ahead of the opening of the Crosstown LRT and the Finch West LRT, which will be assigned those numbers, as they added to the city’s rapid transit network in the next few years.

Route 5 Avenue Road, in service since 1954, will become Route 13 Avenue Road. 6 Bay, which has existed since 1963, will be renumbered 19 Bay. Those follow similar measures in 2001, when the 2 Anglesey and 4 Annette routes were renamed to 48 Rathburn and 26 Dupont, respectively.

Though there are over 150 bus routes operated by the TTC, including express routes and all-night routes, the TTC was relatively late numbering all of its services. A consistent system for numbering bus routes did not exist until the late 1950s (though they did not appear on system maps until 1964), while streetcar lines were not assigned numbers until 1979.

Later, new series of route numbers were assigned to the overnight “Blue Night” network in the late 1980s, rapid transit lines in 2001 (just prior to the Sheppard Subway’s opening), and express bus routes only a few years ago. But for the regular service lines (those between 7 and 189), the numbers seem random — not grouped by geography, service type, or year each route was established.

In the late 1950s, though, when bus routes were numbered for the first time in 30 years, there was a system: numbers would be assigned in alphabetical order, with north-south routes given odd numbers, and east-west routes assigned even numbers.

Bus on Route 34 Eglinton East, in the late 1950s.
City of Toronto Archives Series 648, File 29, Item 1.

Route 1, Armour Heights, was a short shuttle that ran along Avenue Road between the fare zone boundary at Roe Avenue (the end of the frequent 61 Nortown trolley coach) and Bombay Avenue, north of Highway 401. Route 2 Anglesey served several neighbourhoods in central Etobicoke. Route 96 Wilson remains a busy east-west route in North York, and Route 97 Yonge was originally a very frequent trolley coach route between the north end of the subway at Eglinton Station and the City of Toronto limits at Glen Echo Loop.

In 1964, the numbering system was still mostly intact, with two notable exceptions: 6 Bay, introduced one year earlier in 1963, was a north-south route. Route 17 Birchmount, introduced in 1960, broke the alphabetical order after Route 15 Brimley.

The opening of the Bloor-Danforth Subway in 1966 and major extensions in 1968 resulted in major route restructurings, and while the TTC tried to maintain the odd numbers for north-south routes and even numbers for east-west routes, that eventually came to an end, especially when further expansion required the use of three-digit numbers in the mid 1970s.

The interactive map below shows the full extent of the TTC’s service area in 1964, along with the municipal boundaries of that era, before Metro went from thirteen cities, towns, and townships to just six.

Link to interactive map

Though today’s regular service bus route numbers do not follow a specific pattern, recent changes to the night bus and express bus numbering systems have restored order to the numbering scheme.

Number Route Type
1-6Rapid transit lines (subway, LRT).
7-189Regular local bus service
300-396Night bus and streetcar routes, with numbers often echoing the daytime service (for instance, 329 Dufferin night buses follows the daytime 29 Dufferin bus’s route)
400-407Community buses, offering ultra-local accessible services in selected parts of the city.
501-512Streetcar routes. Streetcar route numbers were introduced in 1979, coincident with the introduction of the CLRV streetcars. The small area for destination signs in the new vehicles required numbers to be displayed instead of names for information to be legible.
600-699Subway operations, internal use only. Previously, rapid transit routes were numbered in the 600-series, with Yonge-University-Spadina numbered 601, Bloor-Danforth 602, and Scarborough RT 603. Briefly, the Harbourfront Streetcar was branded as a rapid transit route and assigned number 604.
900-996Express network bus routes, with numbers often echoing the regular service (for instance, 996 Wilson Express follows the local 96 Wilson bus’s route)

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