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Next Stop, Scarborough

The current controversy over subways is nothing new for Scarborough. Area residents and politicians have been debating public transit for more than half a century.

If keeping track of the latest developments in the debate over public transit in Scarborough is making your head spin, we understand. The constant reversals (first light rail, then subways, then light rail again, then different subways) may be dizzying, but they’re nothing new. Arguments over how to provide service to residents east of Victoria Park Avenue have raged for years.

Since the TTC assumed responsibility for public transit in Scarborough during the mid-1950s, area politicians and residents have complained about not receiving the level of transit service they feel entitled to. Some complaints have been justified, while others have been characterized by divisiveness, fear, pandering, and hot air.

Step inside our image gallery for a ride through Scarborough’s often-controversial transit history.

Additional material from the February 26, 1953, May 28, 1954, May 13, 1968, September 2, 1982, October 12, 1987, and January 13, 1988 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the May 28, 1954, June 8, 1954, January 29, 1975, November 20, 1980, November 22, 1980, June 17, 1981, March 23, 1985, and March 17, 2007 editions of the Toronto Star.


  • OgtheDim

    Anybody complaining that world class cities like London, New York, Chicago, Paris et al have decent subway systems so why don’t we should look at #3 on that slideshow.

    The inner suburbs of the city were barely big enough to have buses back in 54…subways to cow pastures would have been the only way to anticipate the growth.

    • vampchick21

      They also neglect to realize that the New York subway has roots going back to the 1860s and that the London Underground has roots going back to the 1850s, Paris to the 1870′s. Toronto built in the 1950′s.

      • OgtheDim

        Toronto wasn’t a city worthy of anything more then the Bloor Danforth and the YU line in the 50′s.

        Then the city spent a good 2 decades trying to ram freeways everywhere a la Robert Moses.

        We had a 20 year window in the 80′s and 90′s where an enlightened city/provincial/federal government could have done something that me the needs of a then maturing city already pretty much grown to its borders. Problem is right then is when the “must cut taxes everywhere” mantra came into view and took over political discussion in Canada. I’m not a fan of wasting money and despised the waste I saw in the Rae years. But, there are some things worth spending money on, and transit and good highway infra structure are two worth spending money on.

        Again it comes down to not having local needs seen as election items at the provincial and federal level. A constant drip of local need builds better transit then a loud periodic wail.

        • vampchick21

          Very true. And I’ll never understand the miser mindset that refuses to dole out a single penny on needed infrastrucure.

        • Functionalist

          Actually, the city could have built another downtown subway line in the 1960s. They were planning on doing so on Queen, but they built the Bloor-Danforth line instead. They could have also built another line at the south end of downtown. They built the bare minimum after decades of stalling. The first subways were proposed for Toronto in the 1910s.

          • vampchick21

            Proposed, but not built. So the roots of Toronto’s subway go back to 1910, still much later than other major cities, and we were anything but a major city at that time.

            They should have done the Queen subway back in the 60′s though!

            And it seems that decades of stalling and then bare minimum is just how the TDot roles!


          • Functionalist

            We were a major city back then: the second largest in the country and among the largest in North America. The turn of the 20th century was when the idea of subways started to take off after the early experiments in the late 19th century. So when Toronto first considered it, it was contemporary. They got American engineers from New York to draw the first lines on the map.

            There was too much stalling. It was rejected several times in plebiscites. The taxpayers didn’t want it until the situation got urgent with an overcrowded streetcar network after WWII. We shouldn’t wait until things come to a breaking point to build new transit.

          • vampchick21

            Really? Toronto’s population in 1910 was 208,040. New York in 1910 was 4,766,883. Logically it made far more sense for NY to have built their subway in 1904. By comparison to other cities in North America in 1910, we were the size of Portland City, OR, which was 28th on the list (US Cities).

            We were a major CANADIAN city, and while discussions did start at that time regarding subways, it doesn’t surprise me that it wasn’t until the 1950′s that we built anything, because the demand in the 50′s and the need was far far greater than it had been in 1910.

            That of course, does not negate my complete and total agreement with you that after we finally broke ground in the 50′s for a subway, our governments have been dragging their feet on real and needed expansion of service and routes and lines, both above and below ground. Our population boomed hard core after WWII and it’s never stopped. Our current system is pathetic considering the needs of the core and the inner suburbs and the need to move people from the 905 into and out of the city for work and play.

          • Functionalist

            That 1910 population was so densely concentrated in today’s downtown that a subway could have worked–especially considering how easy it was to build subways back then. Canada was booming back then; its second largest city could have done it. Rochester did it and so did Cleveland. If those cities had continued to grow, they would have come out ahead. You could just build a viaduct over any street and run it on that, or use trenches..

          • vampchick21

            You have a point. I didn’t know that Rochester and Cleveland did subways at that point (because, you know, it’s Rochester and Cleveland…

          • Sean_Marshall

            Rochester’s subway was a streetcar subway that was fed by several routes from its suburbs and nearby towns; the local street railway also had some freight services. Newark also built a subway around the same time; both were in disused canal beds. (Newark’s streetcar subway is still in operation.) Toronto certainly would have been the same league as both those cities, but could you imagine a streetcar subway under Yonge Street today?

            Cleveland didn’t build a “subway” until the 1950s (the first section of what is now the Red Line), though it had the Shaker Heights rapid transit system as early as the 1920s that makes up the oldest part of the Rapid system now. And except for being under the Terminal City complex and Cleveland Airport terminal, it isn’t underground, and the service levels are generally poor, the Red Line, the high-floor heavy rail metro, is served by 1-2 car trains every 10-20 minutes outside of rush hour, with onboard fare collection.

          • Functionalist

            Those cities’ subway systems are crude, but they could have been more refined over the years through renovations and better vehicles if they grew like Toronto. If the Yonge subway was a streetcar subway, we might have it and another more modern line under some other downtown street.

  • David

    I like the comment with the last picture:

    “Amid the heated rhetoric, we can be sure of two things: transit planners will always be able to find work producing designs for Scarborough’s latest transit schemes, and residents will continue to wait for improved service.”
    How true.

  • Spek

    While I lived a few minutes walk from it, I have no recollection of Kennedy Station being built. But I do remember my very first time inside: Christmas Eve, 1980, going there to meet my grandparents, who normally would’ve cabbed or bussed it from Warden. I also vividly remember my first time on the Scarborough RT: coming from an event at the Scarborough Civic Centre. My mom drove back home, letting me and my grandparents try out the new RT. Good times.

    Ask me about my first time on the Sheppard line — an experience I did as a full grown, coherent, sober adult, and I draw a complete blank.