The expansion of Toronto’s rapid transit network has the opportunity to bring about a positive transformation in mobility and residents’ experience of the city, provided the infrastructure is designed and integrated into the city’s public realm in an appropriate and thoughtful manner. In anticipation of the need to provide City design guidance for transit facilities and infrastructure, City Planning launched work on the Transit Design Guide in 2019 as a tool and resource to aid in the design and development of rapid transit projects and infrastructure across the city. Each component or element of a transit project – from a station site, to an electrical substation building, to linear infrastructure – can have an impact on surrounding communities and the public realm.

The Guide is intended to inform how transit can enhance and contribute to the city’s public realm and surrounding context. The Guide provides design guidance and process direction for consideration in the design of new and upgraded transit infrastructure, brings together new design and process direction, and provides references to existing guidance for the various subject matter. The purpose is to bring clarity and consistency around the City’s expectations for the design of transit infrastructure. This includes recommendations, applicable at each stage of planning and development, and in co-ordination with stakeholders and delivery sponsors and/or agents, to eliminate or mitigate obstacles in the design and delivery of transit projects. The content of the Guide builds on existing guidance, as well as consolidating and clarifying lessons learned and best practices from Toronto and other municipalities.

The Guide applies to the urban, architectural, and landscape design of new and upgraded rapid transit sites and related public-facing infrastructure within Toronto. The Guide does not apply directly to the engineering, construction, or operations of rapid transit facilities and lines. Where appropriate, it includes strategies and processes to resolve complex, multi-disciplinary design challenges, when the Guide’s design principles and objectives are impacted. It is intended to supplement and create consistency amongst the large body of direct and indirect design guidance for transit projects, rather than replace existing policies, guidelines, regulations and standards.

The Guide provides design direction for various subject matter, but project teams will still need to ensure that each project responds to its unique project-specific requirements and urban context. In this regard, the Guide does not generally provide metrics or specification level guidance, but rather performance-based design direction, leaving room for project teams to adapt the design direction and apply creativity and professional judgement.

The intent of the Guide is to encourage the integration of design considerations for transit infrastructure at the earliest stage in the planning process. This Guide should be read comprehensively and together with other City, Provincial and Agency documents that provide direction on the planning and design of transit infrastructure. The design guidance in each chapter addresses a specific element, and should be read together with the Introduction section of this Guide.

Responsibility for delivering transit projects in Toronto is shared between many stakeholders, including but not limited to, the Province, City, TTC, private developers, and other agencies. With so many different stakeholders potentially involved in the design and delivery of transit projects, this Guide serves as a reference for ensuring urban integration, design consistency and excellence across all projects, modes and contexts.

The Introduction Section of the Guide sets out, at a high level, the vision, principles, as well as planning and design objectives that elements of transit projects should achieve in the context of the City’s policy framework. The Guide’s design guidance is organized around five principles – urban integration, user experience, resilience and sustainability, intermodal operations, and accountability – that define the broad objectives that transit infrastructure is intended to achieve.

The chapters that follow the Introduction provide the guidance for the design of various elements of transit infrastructure covered by the Guide, couched in the overarching vision and following the five principles identified.

While chapters are intended to stand on their own, they have linkages to other chapters of the Guide for related elements. The Guide will be a living document, supplemented over time as needed and as resourcing becomes available to complete additional chapters for other elements.


Since the beginning of the study, City Planning, together with a consultant team (Access Planning, Perkins + Will), has engaged a Core Team of professionals from across various City Divisions, Agencies and other in recognition that we all share an interest in achieving a quality public realm and unlocking the city-building potential of transit. To-date, the Core Team has included members from the following City Divisions, agencies and groups:

  • City Planning (Transportation Planning, Urban Design, Community Planning, and Strategic Initiatives & Policy Analysis)
  • CreateTO
  • Economic Development & Culture
  • Engineering & Construction Services
  • Metrolinx (Design Standards)
  • Parks, Forestry and Recreation
  • Transit Expansion Office
  • Transportation Services
  • TTC