Vintage Toronto Ads: Come On and Take a Free Ride
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Vintage Toronto Ads: Come On and Take a Free Ride

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Source: the Toronto Sun, December 28, 1972.

For the fourth year in a row, New Year’s Eve revellers will be able to take advantage of free TTC service to go to and from their celebrations, even if only to stay on the subway all night to toast their fellow passengers. Free transit service to ring in a new year has occurred intermittently over the past few decades, almost always paid for by a sponsor—McGuinness Distillers did when they paid thirty thousand dollars to help Torontonians welcome 1973.
Since legislation at the time prevented the TTC from offering free service, city and law enforcement officials welcomed the donation. Alderman Paul Pickett, who had proposed a free ride scheme the previous year, hoped free service would “give a positive incentive to people to leave their cars at home and use the transit system.” An editorial in the Globe and Mail echoed the thoughts of many who also hoped the free rides would reduce the risk of an unhappy new year:

There was never really any acceptable excuse for impaired driving, on New Year’s Eve or any other night; but now it will be futile to plead that there was simply no alternative. Lives may well be spared, injury can be avoided, and the ignominy, expense and chagrin of arrest and charge can be set aside…It’s a magnificent opportunity to be both sociable and safe, and we hope that by now other distillers are wishing they had thought of it first.

Around 377,000 passengers took advantage of the free service. Subways and surface vehicles turned into parties on wheels, with young and old engaging in conversations, blowing horns, and freely drinking (which was illegal, but everyone seems to have turned a blind eye). One streetcar driver told the Star that he noticed those too young to drink took advantage of the night to explore the city or just ride for the heck of it. If there was a quotable line for the evening, it came from the many riders who repeatedly proclaimed “I can’t believe it’s free!”
Additional material from the December 20, 1972 edition of the Globe and Mail; the December 19, 1972 and January 1, 1973 editions of the Toronto Star; and the January 10, 1973 edition of the Toronto Sun.

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