TTC radio - some background information

Article by John Lennox


The TTC have what I like to think of as three separate radio systems. There is:

  1. Their surface fleet,
  2. Their subway fleet, and
  3. Their supervisors' system.

I daily monitor the latter two, but will describe all three.

The surface system or CIS (Central Information System) radio lets a control office stay in touch with all their revenue-generating surface vehicles (buses and street cars) using a voice and data capable radio. They are in constant communication with each and every vehicle and know its location to with in a few hundred feet. The operator can update his/her status by using a keypad or by voice as needs dictate: same for their control centre.

The subway uses a trunked radio system having similar capabilities to the surface system; i.e. both data- and voice-capable radios; either handheld or vehicle-mounted in the cab of each car. These wayside radios replaced the old track line phone system. The Yonge-University-Spadina (YUS) line and the Bloor-Danforth (BD) line are usually separate but use the same frequencies.

The third system is what I call their supervisors' radio system. Transit control; rout supervisors; CIS controllers; vehicle maintenance, track maintenance and repair; Wheeltrans; and Transit Security are all found here. This can be the most interesting area to listen to as all messages about how the whole TTC system are heard here.

Monitoring the TTC

I will assume that the reader knows how to operate their scanner radio. Thus I will give some tips and tricks that have worked for me when monitoring the TTC rather then a step-by-step set of programming instructions.

CIS or surface fleet

These radios use a number of frequencies to transmit both data and voice messages. Conventional scanner radios may have trouble hanging up on the data channels and not scanning the voice one as a result. Locking out the data channel may help. If you are mobile you may need to very which channels are locked out at any one time to maintain full coverage.

Frequency list


TTC Central


TTC North West


TTC North Central


TTC North East


TTC West Etobicoke


TTC Central


TTC East Scarborough


TTC Central


TTC Data


TTC North


TTC South East

Wayside or Subway system

The subway uses a trunked radio system for its voice and data communications. The YUS and the BD normally operate as separate systems on a common set of frequencies. To my knowledge no current scanners can monitor this particular trunked system in trunk mode; but a conventional scanner works quite well. You must be in the subway or very near an open cut section to hear anything, as there are no repeaters transmitting on the surface other then in the open cut areas (and these are very highly directional in the direction of travel). You will only hear messages for the line you are on with the exception of those stations were interline transfers can occur (i.e. ST. George to Yonge-Bloor). The subway is divided into zones for control purposes. Transit Control will sometimes referrer to this when dispatching a call.

Frequency List












Data Channel


Data Channel


Greenwood Yard - Low Power

Zone List

Zone 1


Zone 2


Zone 3


Zone 4


Zone 5


Zone 6


Zone 7

St. Clair W

Zone 8

Union Station

Zone 9


Zone 10


Supervisors System

This radio system is the one I always listen to when traveling by the TTC.

All messages use this system at some point, as it is the bridge between the other two systems. It is the common denominator as all supervisors and CIS controllers use it for cross communication. It is fully repeated through out the subway as well as on the surface. Breakdowns and other emergencies are relayed here for co-ordination and/or alternate routing coverage.


This system is a conventional radio set-up using discrete channels; each with a CTCSS or PL tone for some channels. Frequency F4 is not used very much as it suffers from outside interference (can be real bad if no PL tone used).

I have not personally heard any action on the Scarborough RT frequencies but I may simple not be close enough and seldom ride this line.

The construction maintence frequency use to be active but I have not actively monitored it lately.

Frequency List


TTC F1 Main Channel

136.5 Hz.


TTC F2 Wheel Transit

136.5 Hz.


TTC F3 Inspectors

136.5 Hz.


TTC F4 Emergency

136.5 Hz.



136.5 Hz.


Scarborough RT



Scarborough RT Yard



TTC Construction Maintaince



Katz, Ron ,

Veerman, Bart ,Haruteg Scanner Book, Haruteg, Hamilton(Ontario) 1999

Quick background history

I am an early member of the baby boomer generation. I have been into radio from an early age. In my military career I taught radio operations in addition to several other technical subjects such as small arms instruction, and vehicle driving and maintenance. My civilian career has included time as a transportation supervisor and driver for a small fleet of buses for the disabled and most recently as a system administrator, teaching assistant, and technical support in a computer lab working with mental health survivors.

My hobbies include radio, computers, and photography. In fact, I am interested in almost anything of a technical nature. This includes both how the TTC manages its various vehicles and how they are maintained.

I have been into radio scanning from the late 70's on. As a bus driver I found the TTC's radio system very helpful. Accidents that affected them would also affect me. After I stopped driving for a living I found old habits hard to break: I continued to monitor them.

Information from various e-mail groups plus my own investigative powers lead me to where I am now in my knowledge of the TTC and its radio system.

About this Page

This page is an article within the Archives division of Transit Toronto articles.

To see more articles within the Archives division, you may return to the Archives division page.

You can also return to the main page for news and other articles in Transit Toronto.