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cityscape

Streetcars For Toronto: An Anniversary

Forty years ago, Toronto's streetcar system was saved.

Drawing of a proposed new generation of streetcars, 1969, by Hawker-Siddeley.


Today, Toronto celebrates a major anniversary in its transit history. In 1972, the TTC unveiled a plan that would have stripped streetcars out of the city and replaced them with a Queen subway and lower-capacity buses everywhere else. A group called The Streetcars For Toronto Committee was formed to fight that plan and on November 7, 1972, with the help of city council, that fight succeeded. Though they were out of fashion in many circles both here and in cities elsewhere, Toronto’s streetcar network was saved. Except for the Rogers Road and Mount Pleasant routes, which ceased operating, it’s the one we still ride on today.

The plan to remove streetcars from their existing routes was part of a much broader strategy for redeveloping transit in Toronto, first unveiled in 1969. Some sections of suburbia would get a rapid transit network—including lines from Warden Station to Malvern, from Islington Station west and north to Finch (with a possible branch to the airport), and east-west along the Finch hydro corridor.

Toronto’s still-empty northern suburbs could have had a rapid transit network 40 years ago.

To kick-start those suburban routes the TTC intended to redeploy its streetcars—the ones it pulled from downtown and midtown—to run on the new network until they wore out. The downtown streetcar fleet would have provided a quick, short-term way to build the suburban network included in the broader transit plan, but eventually new cars would have been needed. The TTC worked with Hawker Siddeley on a new vehicle design; the intention was for Hawker Siddeley’s plant in Thunder Bay (now part of Bombardier) to produce the cars.

At the same time, the TTC also planned to build a Queen subway (what we now call the Downtown Relief Line), to soak up many of the transit riders on the King, Queen, and Dundas cars. Scheduled completion for that subway: 1980.

The opposition to the plan to strip the city of its streetcars stemmed from concerns about reducing transit capacity and quality. The plan would have begun by pulling streetcars from St. Clair, which would have been hit with a 17 per cent cut in capacity on the central part of the route, from Oakwood to Yonge.

Streetcar services were much more frequent in 1972 than they are today, and St. Clair had cars leaving Yonge Street every 90 seconds during rush hour. Of the downtown routes, only King has service now that is even close to 1972 levels: the system’s overall capacity has declined due to a shrinking fleet of vehicles. In 1972, there were almost 400 streetcars in Toronto; today there are fewer than 300. (Two small lines on Mount Pleasant and Rogers Road disappeared in the 1970s, but the Spadina/Harbourfront route more than makes up for them and the smaller 2012 fleet is stretched further.)

Streetcars For Toronto didn’t exist just to keep the downtown network running, but to advocate expansion of streetcar service both in the core and in the developing suburbs: the idea was to meet the goals of the 1969 plan, but without compromising the levels of transit service the streetcars were already providing.

The decision to reverse course and save the streetcars was not, as some histories would have it, an enlightened decision that emerged from the TTC. The charge to retain the higher-capacity streetcars was led by citizen activists with the endorsement of the former City of Toronto’s council. The Streetcars For Toronto Committee, led by Andrew Biemiller, was formed in September 1972; it received political support from aldermen Paul Pickett and William Kilbourn. I was a member of the committee, and would take over as chair late in 1973.

Developing downtown

With the decision to keep the existing streetcar routes, the TTC would need a new fleet downtown. Hawker Siddeley was quoting a price of $173,000 per car. The economics of a revived streetcar system looked very good, and the TTC directed its staff to sound out manufacturers for a 200-car streetcar order.

Downtown, the Spadina route was an obvious target for conversion to streetcar operation with its very frequent bus service. Much of the streetcar infrastructure remained in place from the original Spadina car (which had been replaced by buses in 1948) and the Harbord route (running from Dundas to Harbord until 1966). Spadina’s generous width made it ideal for a reserved streetcar right-of-way. Why did it take so long for this line to actually begin operating?

In the early 1970s a major office development, “Metro Centre,” was planned for the railway lands south of Front at Spadina. The TTC regarded the new streetcar line as a way to move riders with an express service from Bloor south, despite the very heavy local demand on other parts of the route. Some councillors opposed the streetcars as nothing more than a way to support oversized office development, and the proposed right-of-way as a barrier that would split neighbourhoods east and west of Spadina. It took two decades to settle on a better design, and for politicians to recognize what the new streetcar line could achieve.

Missed opportunities

Suburban expansion fared even worse. Although the Scarborough line was originally designed as LRT, Queen’s Park had another idea. A new technology using magnetic levitation would speed commuters around Toronto, they maintained—and, by the way, launch Ontario as the provider of this technology to the world. This fiction included the denial that any intermediate transit technology between subways and buses existed. The Queen’s Park lexicon did not include LRT.

The mag-lev scheme failed when the German government pulled funding from its developer. Ontario continued on its own with the wheel-on-rail technology we know in Scarborough.

Except for the “RT,” as the Scarborough line came to be known, plans for a city-wide network of lines across the city went nowhere. All that remains are illustrations of elevated structures including lines on Queen Street and Spadina Avenue.

The reality of the RT’s cost—over $230 million compared to the original $96 million LRT budget, plus millions in ongoing fixes to the unreliable technology—put an end to any hope of a cheaper network of “intermediate capacity” lines. Toronto’s focus turned back to subways and the prospect of suburban LRT disappeared from view.

Only fragments of a proposed “Waterfront West” line from Union Station to Mimico were built: the Harbourfront “LRT” (though it’s actually a streetcar) opened in 1990 on the stretch between Union and Spadina, with an extension to Exhibition Place in 2000. Spadina finally got its streetcars in 1997, 24 years after Streetcars For Toronto proposed the line. Although these too were styled as “LRT,” they gave little sense of what a surface route on its own right-of-way could do.

The future of street-level transit development

In 2007, Mayor David Miller announced “Transit City,” a suburban LRT network like the one Streetcars For Toronto had foreseen 35 years earlier. The plan wasn’t ideal, but it was the first attempt since the 1970s to design a rapid transit network with that elusive “intermediate capacity” mode between buses and subways.

The 40th anniversary of the streetcar decision should remind all transit advocates of how long we have worked for better transit, and how much opportunity has been lost to political manipulation of the transit file. There is a role for subways in Toronto, but they are not the only option. All over the world, LRT grows as an accepted, vital part of transit systems, while Toronto plays catch-up, fitfully and without strong leadership.

By the 50th anniversary, will the first four Metrolinx LRT lines be operating, with more in the pipeline, or will Toronto still be trapped in a political debate that yields little real improvement in the transit network?


Drawing of a proposed new generation of streetcars, 1969, by Hawker-Siddeley.



Comments

  • Anonymous

    If one reads up on the history of the streetcars on Mt. Pleasant between the St. Clair station and Eglinton (see http://transit.toronto.on.ca/streetcar/4114.shtml ), one will understand why transit users (not automobile users) prefer streetcars better than buses. This route went from using four streetcars during the day to one bus. It went from 24 hour service to no service after 7 PM.

    It has been seen in other cities in North America, that removing streetcars results in less patronage and service. Replace buses with streetcars on regular service (not part-time service), and transit users will use it.

    • Anonymous

      I think that the experience in Montreal would contradict your hypothesis. They have higher transit usage. Of course, they also have a much better subway system.

      • Gauephat

        Montréal only appears to have higher transit usage because the agencies there use different counting practices to inflate the numbers.

        • Rico

          Pretty sure both Toronto and Montreal use APTA methodologies to count boardings.

  • http://peteforde.com/ Pete Forde

    Cool write-up, Steve. I’m glad you folks fought the good fight.

    That said, I’m trying to cross-reference what you’re saying with this 1965 map showing all of the subway, streetcar and trolley bus routes:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Trolley_bus_1965_1.jpg

    According to this map, a lot more than Rogers and Oakwood were chopped. What of Earlscourt, Coxwell and Parliament? It also suggests that there were streetcars on Spadina significantly after 1948.

    I’m pained to see how vast Toronto’s streetcar network used to be.

    • gorilla-the_ape

      They were killed between 1965 and 1972. Coxwell and Parliament were killed in 1966 with the opening of the Danforth subway, the TTC didn’t build streetcar loops and instead converted them to buses.

      On Spadina, the Harbord streetcar used the lines between Dundas and Harbord until 1966, and the tracks on Spadina between King and College were used for transferring equipment.

      The Earlscourt streetcar was a branch of the St. Clair, so while it was cut back in 1978 after the Spadina subway pulled away a lot of the traffic, Steve probably doesn’t count it as an abandoned route, just a branch of a route which survives.

    • Steve Munro

      The retirement of the double-ended cars spelled the finish of the Spadina and Weston Road lines in 1948. Almost all of the other trackage you speak of disappeared during the cutbacks associated with the BD subway opening in 1966. All of this was long before the 1972 decision which is the subject of this article.

    • Jason Kucherawy

      It’s as if the streetcars used to take you all the way to where you were going!

  • Anonymous

    Hate to say it but the temp. bus service on Spadina right now is way faster than the dedicated streetcar lines. And more fun.

    • Esra

      It feels like they wait forever even when the bus is packed and three more are waiting to send them out in the morning. I miss the gentler ride and better odds of getting a seat on the stcar.

    • jen

      It’s only faster going south in the morning. Going north during rush hour is PAINFULLY slow with all the car traffic.

    • car4041

      There’s no way that it’s faster. Maybe it feels faster because of the roaring engine and bouncy ride, but in my experience it’s infuriatingly slow — the buses get stuck behind queues of cars waiting to turn right (which is difficult on Spadina because of the pedestrian traffic). Tonight it took 3 cycles of the light for my northbound bus to get through the College intersection. The streetcar can’t come back soon enough. (I also miss being able to stand up without having to hang on for dear life, and to read the paper without getting motion sickness.)

      • Anonymous

        I dont take the Spandina ROW at rush hour anymore as it is too slow. That is probably because there are too few cars running on it. It doesnt “feel” faster, it is faster because currently there are more buses which means less crowding; one of the major slowdowns at rush hour is the 4 minutes per stop where people try and cant get onto the car plus the fact that having stops on the other side of the lights is inefficient (think about how this would add time if streetcar stops on King were past the lights). The buses actually have more intersection forward time than the street cars do because they dont have to stop on the far side. I like streetcars but I like a DRL a lot more.

        • Nick

          The new streetcars will have all door loading, so hopefully this will speed up your experience, scottld.

    • Anonymous

      Its absolutely faster and I heard other riders saying so. I grew up on Spadina and my first job was at Spadina and King in 1981 so I have a wee bit of experience. I find the Spadina ROW slow and maybe it is because of the number of streetcars but right now there is a bus every few minutes and it rocks. I like streetcars but in reality I know that certain lines like Bathurst north are ridiculous taking 45 minutes to go a couple of KM at mid day. The Shuffle demons would have never writen a song called “Spadina Streetcar”.

      • Esra

        Re: buses every few minutes, I don’t think that’s a long-term solution though. Not to mention the environmental impact.

        • http://www.facebook.com/jsrait John S. Rait

          There are environmentally safe buses available for purchase now!

          • Esra

            Comparable to the lower impact from streetcars?

    • Anonymous

      Sorry, but no, it wasn’t; case in point, in mid July of this year, I was trying to get to Queen Street on the Spadina bus when it was held up by a ton of traffic (or a traffic disruption) one afternoon. A trip that would have taken a few minutes by street car took nearly half an hour because of said traffic jam (I was traveling on Spadina south to Queen in the afternoon.) I’d rather have the Spadina streetcar, and to be brutally frank, if I was designing a city like Toronto, I’d rather have streetcars and light rail all over it instead of subways and buses.

  • Anonymous

    I mean this with all due respect to Mr. Munro, who is an honorable and devoted advocate for transit. But history has shown that keeping the streetcars was a mistake.

    He correctly notes that the decision to keep streetcars was forced on an unwilling TTC, which would have been happy to ditch the system. As a result we have a system today that is frozen in time. The streetcars run with antiquated operating practices — things like the operator collecting each fare, which is not seen in any other tram system in the world. They run without the long-promised, never-implemented traffic priority on Spadina and St Clair. And there is no good reason, other than shoddy design or construction, why the lines on Spadina should need replacement now — only 15 years after first installation. The TTC hasn’t had any interest in proper streetcar operation in decades, has never bothered to learn from internationally-recognized best practices, and has never had an opportunity to lose its institutional apathy.

    Moreover, imagine that Streetcars for Toronto had lost. Under the alternate plan, we would now have a DRL as well as a suburban light rail network — things that we are still fighting to get. In other words, Streetcars for Toronto set back transit development in Toronto by decades.

    (And yes: this is an unpopular opinion. So go ahead and down vote if it makes you feel better. But also take a minute and tell me why I’m wrong.)

    Steve replies: The antiquated fare collection system is duplicated on the buses and subways, hardly something specific to streetcars. As for transit priority problems, that’s an ongoing fight with the City’s traffic engineers and also plagues the bus network. As for the track, the section from King to Bloor was better built than the original Harbourfront trackage south from King and east on Queen’s Quay which is now, over 20 years after it was installed, being rebuilt. The intersections on Spadina are getting rebuilt, and yes, they date from the mid 90s. The TTC has changed its track construction for special work since they were installed and expects the new junctions to last much longer than the 15 years or so the originals survived.

    As for the DRL, it was a victim of the desire to build subways into suburbia. Building more downtown just wasn’t a political priority.

    On no account can Streetcars for Toronto be accused of setting back transit development. The Queen subway was already dropping in priority when the decision to keep streetcars was taken.

    It’s popular to blame the streetcars and the 1972 decision for many ills in Toronto, but you’ve got your history and your technical info seriously wrong.

    • Steve Munro

      Steve replies: The antiquated fare collection system is duplicated on the buses and subways, hardly something specific to streetcars. As for transit priority problems, that’s an ongoing fight with the City’s traffic engineers and also plagues the bus network. As for the track, the section from King to Bloor was better built than the original Harbourfront trackage south from King and east on Queen’s Quay which is now, over 20 years after it was installed, being rebuilt. The intersections on Spadina are getting rebuilt, and yes, they date from the mid 90s. The TTC has changed its track construction for special work since they were installed and expects the new junctions to last much longer than the 15 years or so the originals survived.

      As for the DRL, it was a victim of the desire to build subways into suburbia. Building more downtown just wasn’t a political priority.

      On no account can Streetcars for Toronto be accused of setting back transit development. The Queen subway was already dropping in priority when the decision to keep streetcars was taken.

      It’s popular to blame the streetcars and the 1972 decision for many ills in Toronto, but you’ve got your history and your technical info seriously wrong.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks for the response. As usual, I respectfully disagree.

        Fare collection by the driver on buses is relatively common around the world. On the other hand, it’s not correct to point to the subway system, because it is not the case that the *subway driver* collects *every fare* as passengers are about to board. Why does the streetcar system do this? I invite you (or anyone) to point me to any other tram system in the world that does not operate on a station-payment or proof-of-payment basis. I would also note that you, Steve, have vigorously opposed the rollout of the Presto system.

        As far as the track replacement is concerned, it seems unreasonable to me that a 15- or 20-year track life is acceptable, given the disruption and expense of replacing it. For example, subway track lasts roughly twice as long. You say that the TTC has learned its lesson: why should we believe this? The TTC has been operating streetcar track for a century, so inexperience can’t be the reason.

        As far as traffic priority, and many other things, are concerned, we hear over and over that it is not the TTC’s fault, with hands waved in the direction of other city agencies. Yet poor performance and broken promises surround the streetcar system in ways that do not surround *any* other significant piece of city infrastructure. It would seem to be a valid conclusion that the TTC does not have the political clout to be a proper tram operator. In which case, why was it a good idea to force the TTC to keep the trams in the first place?

        • car4041

          Reality check: the reliability figures for the bus system are consistently lower than those for the streetcar system. (Check the daily customer service report that the TTC posts on their website.) There goes your claim that the streetcars perform worse than any other piece of city infrastructure. And I guess this means that the TTC should stop operating buses too?

          • Anonymous

            So it’s the first time I’ve seen those numbers. The goals for the bus, streetcar, and subway systems, respectively, are 65%, 70%, and 96% on-time performance. The debate here is whether Toronto should have ditched the streetcars and gone with buses. So after all this streetcar fuss and capital investment, all we’re getting is 5% more on-time service (whatever that means)? And in exchange we threw out a DRL and suburban LRT system? This proves my point.

          • Guest

            Ya we could have had a Sheppard or Finch LRT back then and avoided the colossally stupid subway! If only foresight was there 40 years ago!!! The 401 might not even need the 16 lanes it has today!

          • car4041

            It doesn’t prove your point. Ditching the streetcars wouldn’t have magically given us the billions of dollars we would have needed for a DRL and suburban LRT. And even after the streetcars were retained, the DRL continued to be part of the transit plan (see Network 2011). As Steve has discussed elsewhere, the DRL didn’t happen for *political* reasons, not because the streetcars were somehow in its way.

        • Steve Munro

          Andrew: My opposition to Presto has to do with its technical limitations and high cost, not to farecard technology. As for subway track, the TTC expects it to last at most 25 years, less on areas of high wear, just like their streetcar track. Claims that it lasts twice as long are fantasies of the Ford election machinery, not truth. Same for the vehicles. The TTC stopped building robust track at a time when they planned to shut down the system by 1980, but didn’t get back to doing things properly until 1993. We paid for that over the past decade with a lot of trackwork and street disruption thanks to prematurely worn out infrastructure.

          Others have pointed out reliability issues with the bus system so I won’t repeat that here.

          • Anonymous

            I’m quoting from your website: “The typical lifespan of subway tangent track is 30 years” (quote from here). Fifteen years is the age of the track being replaced (2012 minus 1997); 30 is twice 15 and more than “at most 25″. I don’t know if the “Ford election machinery” capable of that kind of math, but I wouldn’t know as I didn’t vote for him and never will. Can you clarify this discrepancy please.

          • Steve Munro

            The major trackwork now underway is for the section from King south and east to Union which dates from 1990 when the Harbourfront line opened. It was badly built and has survived this long only with extra maintenance.

            North of King, the new track is at intersections as I already mentioned, at carstops which are locations of high wear, around the curves north of College, and at the portal at Sussex which was not, for some reason, built with welded rail. The new intersections are much better made and installed, and they are expected to last at least 20 years even though they are in high traffic areas.

            All of the new track is built in such a way that the next time around, the TTC doesn’t have to dig down to and replace the street foundation. This tactic has already been visible at the carstop replacements where only the surface layer of concrete, not the ties or the foundation, was excavated. That’s a benefit of the track construction technique used since 1993.

            As for Rob Ford’s math, I am happy to know you are not a supporter, but there has been a lot of bilge from that quarter about subways lasting much longer than streetcars based on the longevity of the tunnels, not of what runs through them. Subway track and vehicles wear out at roughly the same rate as on the surface.

          • http://www.facebook.com/jsrait John S. Rait

            The recent track replacement at Greenwood and Queen Street East would prove Andrew’s point. The area was closed to traffic from months not days. The new non service track that is being installed on Leslie Street to Lakeshore Blvd will take at the minimum 18 months to complete closing 3 major east west intersections for months at a time.

          • Steve Munro

            The Queen East project ran long for three reasons: First, as I have already described elsewhere, the trackbed was excavated down to the foundation. This is a side effect of poor construction techniques decades ago, and the new track is built for faster, simpler replacement when it wears out. Second, this project was a joint effort with Toronto Water whose work extended the timeframe much longer than would be needed just for trackwork. Third, the need to maintain access to Russell Carhouse meant that track needed to be replaced in stages rather than all at one go as would be the case in a less critical location.

            As for Leslie Street, the time required is due to utility relocations, not the track itself. This was brought on by the TTC’s choice of the Ashbridge site and the route to it, something I was involved in fighting and criticized.

            That said, yes, there is a general issue with the length of time construction projects take in Toronto, and a sense of little urgency. TTC track construction, when unconstrained by other factors, tends to be quite fast these days considering the work involved.

        • Anonymous

          “Fare collection by the driver on buses is relatively common around the world.”

          So why is it a strike against streetcars? What’s so fundamentally different about putting the vehicle on rails that having the driver collect fares changes everything?

          It seems many of your complaints have nothing to do with streetcars as a mode of transit and everything to do with TTC operations.

          • Anonymous

            That’s exactly my point. Streetcars are great, too bad about the TTC. Forcing an unwilling TTC to keep a streetcar system it didn’t want was an easily foreseeable bad idea.

          • Anonymous

            That doesn’t address my question. You cited driver-based fare collection as a problem with our streetcars, evidenced by how rare it is for drivers of streetcars elsewhere to be responsible for that task. But bus drivers do it too, here and nearly everywhere else, so why isn’t that a bus operational problem? Why isn’t that evidence the TTC made a mistake keeping buses?

          • Anonymous

            If you’re going to make a capital investment on rails, there’s no reason not to install POP fare machines on the curb. They are no more complicated or expensive than parking meters, and they enable quick all-door boarding. Surely you have seen that our streetcars sit through green lights at a busy stops as each new passenger files past the driver, paying a fare. POP makes less sense on thin bus routes, since those buses are not on rails, require much less investment to set up, and can change easily. But you do see them on higher-order bus routes here and elsewhere, e.g. Viva. It’s just that you can’t point to the buses and say this is a fare-media problem: for instance, the fare machine could just print a
            transfer, making it compatible with the existing fare system.

          • Steve Munro

            The TTC will be installing fare machines at major stops as part of its Presto rollout.

        • Steve Munro

          The construction on Queen East took months, not weeks for three reasons. First, it was a joint project with Toronto Water who occupied portions of the street for far longer than would be needed just to replace the track. There was a similar experience with the lengthy work on McCaul Street between Queen and Dundas, and a few years ago with the Roncesvalles project.

          Second, as I have already mentioned, the pre-1993 style of track construction required replacement right down to the foundation, not just the surface layer, and is much more time-consuming than would be the case with “modern” track. Third, the staging of work around Russell Carhouse required that track access be maintained so that streetcars could get in and out, and this meant that work that might have been done on a “big bang” basis in a less critical location was staged over a longer period.

          On Leslie Street, the lengthy shutdown is required mainly for utility work, although some of that work is a side effect of the TTC’s choice of the carhouse site and the route to it. I have been critical of this and was among those trying to get the design changed, but to no avail.

          The original complaint here, among others, was that the TTC doesn’t learn from experience elsewhere, but in the case of track construction they have. However it takes a long time for the better techniques to work their way through an entire system, and the TTC is still a few years away from completing everything to new standards.

          All that said, I agree that there seems to be a lack of urgency in road projects in the city generally, not just those involving the TTC.

        • Anonymous

          Have you seen the track the TTC lays for streetcars these days? Its a very impressive system that will doubt last far longer than any tracks previously. The old ones were laid on wood ties, the new ones on solid steel, the old ones had concrete and metal in contact, a very bad thing for rusting, the new ones have all metal parts that are in contact with concrete wrapped in a thick rubber layer to ensure their contact doesn’t lead to rust. Plus the sub-bed and track bed are now separate so that any future needed repairs can be done even faster.

          The hands down reason streetcars are far superior to buses and attract more riders so do more to reduce our road congestion is the ride quality. Moving people is not like moving cargo, comfort matters to people. Streetcars are so immensely more comfortable than buses, especially on longer rides, that I won’t travel to parts of town that require bus rides of more than 10 minutes to get to but have no problem with either rail technology we currently have subways or streetcars, over the longer haul.

          Comfort matters immensely. Even when packed on like sardines streetcars are far more comfy than buses since you can stand without the risk of being thrown to the ground at any moment like on a bus. Good transit provides for its riders and attracts more as a result, streetcars delivers for riders like no bus is capable of doing. If we’re serious about improving transit in this city we need to be adding more streetcar lines as well as LRTs, subways and buses.

          • Anonymous

            OK sure, although I think the comfort argument is vastly overstated. The point is that we could have had a suburban LRT network decades ago, and all the comfort in the world doesn’t make up for decades of bad operation.

          • Anonymous

            You don’t actually ride the TTC do you? Comfort is hardly over rated, especially when you start getting a little older or have to put in a long day on the job doing physical work instead of sitting at a desk.

          • Anonymous

            I do ride the TTC. It’s that the comfort of streetcars compared to buses is overrated. I agree that they are a little more comfortable, but the last time I got knocked on my ass while standing was on a streetcar. I find that they lurch, because they accelerate and brake faster than the buses. But again, this has nothing to do with the point that I was trying to make.

    • car4041

      Do you really think that if the streetcars had been axed in 1972, we would have gotten a Queen subway and a suburban light-rail network? Just because that was ostensibly the plan? Given this city’s track record for bringing transit plans to reality, I’d say it’s more likely that the streetcar lines would have been ripped out and then, oops, there’s actually no money for a new subway or an LRT network — sorry Toronto, enjoy your buses!

      • Anonymous

        I can’t speak to the political climate in 1972, when the province was relatively wealthy and at which time Mike Harris was teaching elementary school. But more recent arguments over transit expansion have been about mode: LRT or subway. How do you argue against LRT in this city? You make it sound like a streetcar. So why is “streetcar” a political hot potato in Toronto when so many other cities in North America are building streetcar and LRT systems? I suggest it is because they are not well run.

        • Anonymous

          Yes Andrew, we know, streetcar666s are the root of all evil…

        • Anonymous

          Andrew, the only reason you hate the streetcar is because it makes it harder for you to drive your car, and also because (probably) whenever you use the TTC, you don’t plan your trips properly. If I’m right or wrong, then let me know.

          • Anonymous

            Incorrect on two counts. First, I don’t hate streetcars, I hate the way the TTC operates streetcars. Second, I hate the way the TTC operates streetcars because I have eyes, and can see how trams are run in other cities; and because I’m intelligent enough to realize that the TTC’s operations are very poor. I’m curious why so many people in Toronto are in such a desperate hurry to make excuses for the TTC in general and the streetcars in particular, rather than demanding excellence. Is that the city you want to live in, a bubble where mediocrity is fine and anybody who disagrees is a car-driving Ford voter? Not me.

      • Anonymous

        Considering all the subway extensions that have been built since 1972, I find it hard to believe a Queen Street subway wouldn’t have been a top priority.
        Remember had the PCs stayed in power in 1985, Network 2011 (which included a DRL) would have been well underway.

      • Winkee

        Like numerous other cities in North America. If we would have followed that plan who’s to say we would get subways, we could have just wound up like Los Angeles (among others), who are still racing to catch up to the mistakes made in the 50′s and 60′s.

        • Anonymous

          Except that Los Angeles has learned from its mistakes, and is now rebuilding the streetcars it got rid of in the 1940′s, thanks to the efforts of this organization (http://www.streetcar.la/)

  • http://www.facebook.com/jsrait John S. Rait

    The biggest mistake Toronto ever made is keeping the Streetcars. I live on Queen Street and the noise, congestion and dirt caused by the sand used in their braking system is unbelievable. Now the entire neighbourhood of Leslieville is going to pay the price of these outdated vehicles. Bring on the subway system!!!

    • Anonymous

      Got deep pockets, John?

    • Anonymous

      I don’t live anywhere near a streetcar line, but I still get a layer of dusty grime on everything near my street-facing windows. It comes from the other type of street car – cars on the street. And there’s plenty of noise from them too.

  • Streetcar

    The current streetcar system carries more people per day than the entire GO bus/rail system. Replacing them with buses would be impossible! The new streetcars will be faster at stops with all door boarding and no fare collection, and Bombardier claims that there will be very little sand usage (although I don’t truly believe this claim as it is a hydraulic braking system with the same number of trucks and heavier). The city needs to embrace new ideas such as no on street parking and congestion tolls in order to help with service reliability issues-the new cars should take care of stop dwell times and vehicle age issues.

  • rideroncollege

    Streetcars put people at risk. Entering into the roadway to get on or off a streetcar is a dangerous businesss. Riding a bike anywhere near a track is dangerous.
    Not to mention the lost $ due to countless numbers of people wasting time waiting for streetcars when a WHOLE LINE goes down when only ONE vehicle is out of service. Last time I noticed, buses can pass other out of service buses! And the whole cost to many businesses (witness Roncesvalles) who end up struggling to survive (many didn’t) during the track replacements. The visual pollution of wires all over the city is terrible. 19th century technology in the 21st – not a good fit.
    Oh yeah, the propensity of them to come in bunches of 3 every 20 minutes – that’s annoying too.
    This is a sad anniversary for the city and we should mourn.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for your input, ROB. Now get back on your Escalade and the Gardiner, and go home.

      Do not pass go, do not use your cell phone, do not read some LARGE PRINT briefing papers, and do not give the finger to any little girls you may encounter.

    • Streetcar

      Roncesvalles-primarily century old water main replacement that the TTC took advantage of to replace old track

      Subway-1 train goes down and it’s the same as streetcar, however streetcars divert

      Overhead=visual pollution, buses=actual pollution

      Roadway dangerous-lots of people run across against red lights or in front/behind to catch one=stupid dangerous

      1 streetcar=average of 2 buses=more congestion

      streetcars are faster downtown than buses as they don’t need to go into stops/fight to get back in-proven when they converted Bay in the 60′s and had to add 10 minutes as well as current shuttles/replacements get more time. 510 Spadina buses get an extra minutes each way, however during PM rush it takes them 90 minutes to do a round trip to Queen’s Quay Loop-streetcars did it in 38

      Streetcars cost less overall to operate

      Bunches=traffic congestion, very small headways, and long stop dwell times

    • Nathanael

      Cars, buses, asphalt roads — all 19th century technology.

  • the hell

    You’re celebrating the antiquated street cars?

  • Brandon Wren

    All I can say, with my experience, is the streetcar system in Toronto is a mess. Blocks two lanes of traffic when stopping to pick-up passengers (Let alone the dangers involved in this). When there is a breakdown (which happens frequently) it screws up all traffic on that line, and streetcar capacities on lines nearby as a result. You end up waiting and hour just to get on the train on alternate lines. In the winter, because plowing is so difficult cars parked on the side of the road don’t park close enough to the curb blocking rail lines. Again, stops all traffic on that street until that car is moved whereas a bus can simply drive around that. There are benefits to the flexibility of the bus I see it everytime I am in Toronto.
    In my opinion, replacing these lines with buses seems far more beneficial. If there is an accident on that street it can drive around it. I can’t fathom that the costs of operating buses rather than street cars would be more when you factor in the maintenance required for these lines. Look at the Spadina line right now all the work involved to replace that line. Just absolutely crazy IMO.