Ben Durham

Running the numbers: pay-per-ticket VS 12-month TTC pass

Text reading Toronto's TTC Passes COMPARED on top of ben with his hands up, smiling... ready to talk!

Some context

If you haven’t already, check out my previous post about The Costs of Commuting. I go over the various methods of commuting in Toronto, Canada – and this post elaborates on the “Public transit” category! Specifically, pay-per-ticket VS 12-month TTC pass costs.

Here’s the previous video:

VIDEO: Commuting cost comparison! (car | bus | ebike | bicycle)

and here is THIS post’s associated video!

Let’s get back to the article though!

Public transit costs $1,662.60 annually with an annual pass

Below are the costs of using the trains and busses of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) as of October 2019:

  • $3.25 (Adult)
  • $2.20 (Senior, age 65+ / Youth, ages 13-19)
  • Monthly pass (Adult – $151.15; Senior/Youth – $122.45)
  • 12 Month Pass (Adult – $138.55; Senior/Youth $112.25)
  • Post-Secondary Monthly Pass ($122.45) 
  • PRESTO Tickets   (One-ride – $3.25; Two-ride – $6.50; Day pass – $13.00)

As you can see, the pay-per-ticket costs $3.25 (good for a 2-hour period) for an adult. An unlimited 12-month pass is $138.55 per month for an adult.

We established in the last post that taking public transit costs approximately $1,500 to $1,750. This accounted for using an annual pass at $138.55 per month ($1,662.60). The range is just a range to make up for variables (occasionally taking a cab, etc.). Here’s an excerpt:

Let’s assume that you’re an adult who commutes year-round and gets a 12-month pass for $138.55 per month ($1662.60 annually). The benefit of this is that it’s a flat rate. Unlimited rides for the entire year. Bam, just like that. To account for any variations in pricing, let’s provide a range of between $1500 and $1750. So, after everything is accounted for, the costs of commuting for the average Torontonian are between $1500 and $1750 annually, using the TTC.

The explaination of TTC costs from the previous Costs of Commuting blog post.

Pass comparison segment

Now for what you’re here for! A colleague of mine was thinking of switching her TTC pass from an annual TTC pass to a pay-per-ticket pass. My immediate thought was to add a scenario to the last post, but that quickly got too long. It deserves its own post, so here it is… because aren’t we all curious?

She cited that she might be able to save money by making use of the 2-hour span allowed per ticket connection so she’d save money by not having to pay the annual membership. Instead of jumping to conclusions, I wanted a real answer. So I ran the numbers!

Running the numbers!

According to this post on, there are approximately 249 working days for the average Canadian worker. This takes into account weekends and 12 holidays.

According to this article on, The Ontario’s Employment Standards Act gives most people the right to 2 or 3 weeks of vacation in a year.

  • If employees have worked less than 5 years for the employer, they get 2 weeks (10 days) of vacation in a year.
  • If employees have worked 5 years or more for the employer, they get 3 weeks (15 days) of vacation in a year.

The average job tenure in Canada (all occupations), according to this report on, is 102 months (8.5 years). So, let’s just go right in the middle at 2.5 weeks of vacation time, or 12.5 [working] days.

The average days of absence (AKA “sick days”) in Ontario over the course of the last five years is 8.34 days. That’s according to this awesome data provided by Statistics Canada in this report.

The math so far is:
(249 working days) – (12.5 vacation days) – (8.34 sick days) = 228.16 days. 228 rounded. That’s 228 commuting days for the average Canadian, per year!

Now for the TTC’s single-ticket cost of $3.25, taken twice per day for 228 days. That’s $6.50 * 228 = $1,482. That means the costs of literally only commuting via the Toronto Transit Commission would be $1,482 annually. So, yes, it’s cheaper! …but now for the big but.

Using unrealistic assumptions

My pay-per-ticket calculated annual cost of $1,482 is very, very, assumptive. It’s assuming that you do NOTHING ELSE other than going to and from work every day. You would still have the flexibility of a 2-hour buffer between obtaining your ticket and getting back on a bus though. So it’s technically feasible to squeeze grocery shopping and errands in that timeframe, but realistically? It’s not very realistic unless your work, grocery stores, shopping centre, errands, and home are all very close to each other. That, and, in my opinion, having to worry about delays and timing your connections perfectly isn’t worth the “potential” savings.

This also assumes that you never use the TTC on weekends, holidays, vacation days, or sick days. Now THAT’S definitely unrealistic! You’d need to become a social recluse in order to make that happen! Which I really, really don’t suggest… but that’s a whole other post.

The $1,482 number is an extremely unlikely and unrealistic number. It would require extreme devotion and many sacrifices in order to save just a few dollars. Specifically, (1662.60) – (1482) = ‭$180.6‬0. More likely than not, you’d end up paying more than if you had just paid the annual pass in the first place.

Literally, after just 55.57 more rides (180.60/$3.25), you’d be at the breakeven point!

Using realistic assumptions

On the other hand, the $1,662.60 number is a way more realistic non-variable number. It’s the better commuter transit pass option because it will only change when you use something other than the TTC (i.e. a cab) or inflation rears its nasty head. But inflation will cause pay-per-ticket prices to rise as well as the annual passes, so it’s irrelevant to this scenario.


If you have a full-time job, don’t even bother trying to save a measly $180.60 on going the “pay-per-ticket” route. Just get an annual pass! It’s well worth your sanity and its flexibility. It was reasonable to assume that the pay-per-ticket vs 12-month TTC pass wouldn’t be too far off, but now we know the true answer!

If you stick to just commuting, the pay-per-ticket is cheaper. But most humans of Toronto need to do more than “just commute”. To be fair, now that you’ve read these numbers, maybe this can help you run the numbers for your specific situation! Maybe you really only need the pay-per-ticket option. And if that’s the case, good on you!

But, for most people who use the TTC year-round for everything, you’ll probably be better off if you just go and get an annual pass.


I hope you enjoyed my calculations and maths. Maybe you even learned something that will change the way you think! If you have any questions or just want to chit chat, hit up the comment section below or on the YouTube video at the top of this page. On top of that, you should definitely subscribe to my blog and YouTube Channel and Like the video!

You might want to get up-to-date…

You might want to get up-to-date with my other blog posts if you haven’t already. There are four right here that are all to do with e-bike related content:

Cheers. Ben.

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Ben Durham

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Just an average person on a bike who’s focused on getting more people out of their cars and on to bicycles or electric last-mile micro-mobility solutions!

That, and rooting for active transportation infrastructure upgrades in North America (we need to catch up)!

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