An All-Too-Real Fake History of Toronto Transit
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An All-Too-Real Fake History of Toronto Transit

Relief Line is your not-so-serious glance at the city we love.


Even the most casual follower of Toronto transit news can come to one conclusion: it doesn’t always go well.

In fact, our City has a very proud tradition of going nowhere fast on the transit file.

To pay tribute to this legacy, with a little guesswork and fill-in-the-blanks, this week’s Relief Line honours the transit history we call the better way.

1793: John Graves Simcoe proposes a short, dirt path to accommodate foot traffic between York’s two taverns, but local officials request more time to consider the plan. As of 2016 studies by Metrolinx and the City of Toronto continue. Promised public consultations on the controversial Simcoe Rapid Walking Corridor have yet to be scheduled.

1877: Mr. and Mrs. Archibald Winthrop’s horse-and-buggy attempts to make right-hand turn without noticing that the newfangled, bi-wheeled contraption of Professor Hannibal Ambrose Pennyfeather is passing-by. This near-collision leads to the first recorded instance of a Toronto cyclist yelling, “Watch where you’re going, asshole!”

1921: Private and public companies merge to form the Toronto Transportation Commission with the mandate to, “serve the community, provide safe and reliable service to all Torontonians, and to keep our trolleys free of foreign Bolshevik infiltration.” After it’s no longer politically expedient, the Commission would quietly drop the section on providing reliable service.

1939–1945: Even though there war raged in Europe, Torontonians were able to come together to plan a subway to relieve the city’s terrible traffic congestion. This historic ability to unite and prudently invest in much-needed infrastructure rightly earns them the moniker “The Greatest Generation.” Also, they defeated Hitler or something.

1954: The Yonge subway line opens and first-time commuters are treated to an exciting ride on a temporary shuttle bus as the TTC carried out much-needed maintenance on the aging signal system.

1960: In an effort to make the city more car-friendly City Council passes a motion to, “Fuck it, let’s turn the whole thing into a parking lot.”

1972: Activists led by Jane Jacobs successfully stop the Spadina Expressway, giving ordinary Torontonians the misguided impression that they have a say in these matters.

1981: While riding on one of Toronto’s first bike paths, Robbie Ford falls off his CCM Targa, scrapes his knee, and vows revenge.

1990s: Bob Rae and/or Mike Harris screw some stuff up. Ask your parents about it.

2002: The TTC unveils its most bold and daring artistic creation to date: The Sheppard Line (steel, concrete and plaster). The $2 Billion “living art installation” includes empty platforms, infrequent trains, and offers a scathing critique of government planning and financial management.

2007: Mayor David Miller’s Transit City is celebrated as Toronto’s one-millionth transit plan.

2010–2014: Literally nothing.

2016: Some small progress is finally made when an online article advocating for greater understanding between cyclists, pedestrians and drivers leads to a considered and fruitful discussion in the comments section by people who actually took the time to read the entire article and…oh no, wait, they’ve just started hurling death threats at each other.

2029: Heralded by the one they call John Tory, the completion of the fabled Scarborough Town Centre Subway Station ushers in a golden age of prosperity and peace throughout the land.

Taking its name from a popular Torontoist column, the Downtown Relief Line begins construction.

2049: A proposed initiative to connect the digital brains of all New Torontonians into the singularity, thereby making physical travel unnecessary and all human suffering obsolete, is put on hold. Third-term Premier Michael Ford justifies his refusal to pay for the plan by saying that his late uncle would have wanted it that way.