The Toronto Transfer Gallery

Toronto Subway Transfer

Text by James Bow

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To the uninitiated a transfer — at least, in the context of the Toronto Transit Commission — is nothing more than a receipt. Today, TTC patrons are entitled to pay a single fare for a ride across the system, but very few trips can be accomplished on a single vehicle. We have to switch between streetcars, or between buses. We have to get on the subway and then get off. The transfer, issued by the bus or streetcar driver or via a subway transfer machine wherever you paid your fare, proved that you paid that fare.

It sounds like an inconsequential, ephemeral thing, but for many transit fans in Toronto, the transfer was something more. It was a souvenir. It was a reminder of that trip you took to see grandma, or visit the CNE, or to head to school or go on a date with your girlfriend. For lesser-travelled routes, it was proof that you had gone places that few others had tread. And it was steeped in history. The transfers issued by buses and streetcars today still refer to fare zones, even though fare zones within Metropolitan Toronto had been abolished in 1972, and it had been literally decades since the number of fare zones had gone up to six. There was a code to how to read the transfer that most passengers didn’t pay attention to, but which railfans felt special to have unlocked.

Then there were the subway transfers. For the first few decades, they were stamped out of push-button machines with a satisfying schunk!. It became a game to collect a transfer from every station on the subway network, with special bonus points for finding those “secondary entrance” transfers like “Sheppard-Poyntz”, “Eglinton-Duplex” or “Midland-Automatic Entrance”

Some of the romance disappeared from transfers when new dispensers on the subway spat out slips of heat-treated paper silently. And as the fare readers arrived on the new streetcars, printing fare receipts (not transfers) that looked no different from parking stubs, we transit fans knew that the days of the paper transfer were numbered. Electronic fare payments are the future. They are more convenient, offer more payment options, and are utterly necessary if the dream of seamless public transportation across the Greater Toronto Area is to become a reality.

Still, long-time transit fans will be sad to see the transfers go. In memory of this vanishing memento, we have updated one of the oldest pages on the Transit Toronto website to gather and display samples of Toronto transfers through the ages. Above and to the right is a version of the TTC transfer that we put together to promote our site when we were about a year old. In the next few years, this may be the only transfer left in the city.


Toronto Transfer Image Archive

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