Queen Street LRT: The Pre-Metro That Never Was

Lately, I’ve been digging in my archives to find information about plans that might have been but went awry for one reason or another.  The Queen Street LRT is particularly interesting given current debates about what can or cannot be done with subways or LRT.

In 1945, the TTC produced Rapid Transit for Toronto which contained proposals for the Yonge and Queen Street subways.  They knew clearly that Queen could not support a subway for many years, decades possibly, but came up with a scheme to provide better service without a full-scale subway.

The line would run in open cut from west of Bathurst Street to about Simcoe, drop into a subway through downtown, emerge again west of Jarvis and continue to the railway embankment east of Broadview.  You can see details here.

Our city would have been very different had this actually been built.  Streetcars from the Dundas and Carlton lines would turn south into the Queen Street LRT at Trinity Park in the west and at the CNR right-of-way in the east.  Much of what we know would have been demolished to make way for the open-cut right-of-way parallel to and north of Queen Street.  No trendy neighbourhoods to remake the city.  As the report states:

“These open cut sections will extend through depreciated-value areas where there will be pronounced economy in acquiring a private right-of-way a short distance north of Queen Street.”

Just imagine an open cut like the Yonge line from Rosedale north running parallel to Queen from Trinity to University, and from Jarvis to east of Broadview.  Any transit plan needs to be sensitive to the city, and LRT schemes are no exception.  LRT doesn’t need subway-type isolation from the neighbourhood and other traffic.

The line was expected to carry up to 9,000 passengers per hour with single units and two-car trains of streetcars (PCCs in those days).

Sixty years ago, the TTC knew what simple streetcars could do, but the lure of big construction projects and high tech transit seduced Toronto, and we have been paying for it ever since.