A street network performs most efficiently and safely from both a traffic operations and a road safety perspective if roads are designated and operated to serve their intended purposes. This includes the efficient travel for all modes and the safety and convenience of all road users. According to the Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Manual of Geometric Design Standards for Canadian Roads, 1986, road classification is “the orderly grouping of roads into systems according to the type and degree of service they provide to the public.”

A road classification system designates streets into different groups or classes according to the type of service each group is intended to provide. This is a fundamental tool for urban development and road management. Grouping roads with similar functions can improve transportation planning, road infrastructure design, maintenance, traffic and road operations.

But while road classification can help meet the needs of communities for transportation services, just as importantly, it can help protect against the adverse impacts of motorized traffic in neighbourhoods. Some roads should carry higher volumes of traffic at higher speeds, while others (the majority) carry lower volumes at lower speeds. This allows neighbourhoods to flourish between main traffic corridors. The absence of a hierarchy of roads would result in less efficient routes for traffic with associated increases in the time and cost of transporting people (whether by foot, bike, bus or car) and goods. The quality of urban life would also decline as motorized traffic would increasingly infiltrate into neighbourhoods to avoid mounting congestion.

Every street owned by the City of Toronto has been given one of five classifications (with the exception of public laneways).

Image of a local roads

  • Provide access to property.
  • Less than 2,500 vehicles per day.
  • Low traffic speed.
  • Generally no bus routes.
  • Cyclists – special facilities as required.
  • Sidewalks on at least one side of road.
  • Truck restrictions preferred.
  • Low priority for winter maintenance.

Image of collector roads

  • Provide access to property and traffic movement.
  • 2,500 to 8,000 vehicles per day.
  • Less than 1,500 bus (or streetcar) passenger per day.
  • Signalized intersections at arterial roads.
  • Truck restrictions permitted.
  • Cyclists – special facilities as required.
  • Sidewalks on both sides of the road.
  • Medium priority for winter maintenance.

Image of a Minor Arterial Road

  • Traffic movement is a primary function.
  • Some property access control.
  • 8,000 to 20,000 vehicles per day.
  • 1,500 to 5,000 bus passenger per day.
  • Speed limits 40 to 60 km/h.
  • No “Stop” signs; main intersections controlled by traffic signals.
  • No truck restrictions.
  • Sidewalks on both sides.
  • High priority of winter maintenance.

Image of a Major Arterial Road

  • Traffic movement is a primary function.
  • Subject to access controls.
  • Greater than 20,000 vehicles per day.
  • Greater than 5,000 bus passengers per day.
  • Speed limits 50 to 60 km/h.
  • Cyclists – special facilities desirable.
  • Sidewalks on both sides.
  • High priority of winter maintenance.

Image of the Gardiner Expressway

  • Traffic movement is a primary function.
  • No property access.
  • Speed limits 80 to 100 km/h.
  • Greater than 40,000 vehicles per day.
  • No local transit service.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists prohibited.
  • Grade-separated intersections (no traffic signals).
  • Highest priority of winter maintenance

For additional information on City Council’s adopted Road Classification System and historical changes to the Road Classification System, please refer to Development of the Road Classification System.