Fast Cities: Comparing transit across CanadaNew report analyzes rapid transit investment in Canada’s five largest cities

Sept. 5, 2014

TORONTO — Toronto has fallen behind Canada’s other major cities in terms of rapid transit infrastructure, according to a new report from the Pembina Institute.

Fast Cities: A comparison of rapid transit in major Canadian cities reviews the state of transit investment in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and Ottawa. The report shows that Vancouver and Calgary have led the way in building new rapid transit for the last 10 years, while Toronto and Montreal have made relatively few investments during that time.

Technology plays a key role in this trend. Toronto and Montreal have invested primarily in subways, while Canada’s other major cities chose more affordable and quicker-to-deploy technologies such as light rail transit and bus rapid transit. As a result, they built more infrastructure more rapidly, and at a lower cost.

Quick facts

  • Calgary and Vancouver have built the most rapid transit over the last 10 years. During that time, the two cities have opened 22 and 20 kilometres of new lines respectively.
  • Torontonians take the most trips on rapid transit, at an average of 133 per year. Despite this, Toronto has less infrastructure per capita to accommodate riders than Calgary, Ottawa or Montreal.
  • Montreal leads the way in easy access: 37 per cent of its population lives within walking distance of rapid transit.
  • Toronto’s current transit expansion projects are the least cost-effective in Canada. By focusing on below-ground rail, the city will spend an average of $236 million per kilometre of new rapid transit — far more than its peers.


“Toronto and Montreal created strong transit cultures by investing in subways a generation ago. However, they’re now being surpassed by cities like Vancouver and Calgary, which have adopted more flexible transit solutions to serve their growing populations.”
— Cherise Burda, Ontario Director, Pembina Institute


Visit the Pembina Institute’s website to download a copy of Fast Cities.


Cherise Burda
Ontario Director, Pembina Institute

Bernard Rudny (English / français)
Communications Lead, Pembina Institute


The table below summarizes the state of transit investment in the five cities reviewed. See the full report for more details and methodology.

Table showing transit infrastructure numbers


Our perspectives to your inbox.

The Pembina Institute endeavors to maintain your privacy and protect the confidentiality of any personal information that you may give us. We do not sell, share, rent or otherwise disseminate personal information. Read our full privacy policy.