That, believe it or not, used to be the TTC’s slogan years ago when transit service was a far more important part of the life of Toronto than it is today. Three love affairs have brought us to where we are now:
- The automobile
- The subway which moves huge numbers of people provided they’re going where one was built
- Tax cuts and changes in public spending priorities
From time to time, people ask me both about how service has declined and about the practical limits on streetcar service. I am not going to pretend that the answer to our problems is to build streetcar lines running in mixed traffic everywhere. For one thing, there’s a lot more of that “mixed traffic” than there used to be. But it’s interesting to see what streetcars were doing even well into the “modern” automotive era.
One sad part of looking at these numbers is that the downward spiral is there for anyone to see. This has always been a concept we talk about as if it is in the future, that one more budget cut or fare increase will push us over the edge. Guess what? For the once-proud trunk lines downtown we passed that line a long time ago. Taxis pick off would-be TTC riders at every stop because the service is so infrequent and unreliable.
The TTC refuses to improve service claiming that to do so in mixed traffic is pointless. Nothing like giving up on “transit priority” and a “transit city” before we even get a chance to try.
Up on St. Clair, the idea of putting in a right-of-way has been around for decades. Alas, the service has dwindled over the years.
The TTC is always happy to cut service in response to a claimed drop in riding or to balance their budget, but they are most grudging about putting it back to handle growth and to attract new riders. That’s what the Ridership Growth Strategy is supposed to be about, but of course until we have more streetcars, we can’t do anything on that front.
The periods covered by this spreadsheet are:
- April 1954 just after the Yonge Subway opened
- April 1964 two years before the Bloor Subway opened between Keele and Woodbine
- January 1968 before the extensions to Islington and Warden opened
- October 1971 before the Spadina Subway opened
- October 1980 heading into the prime decade of growth for the TTC
- April 1990 in the start of the early 90’s recession
- February 1996, the black day when service cuts thanks to Harris funding cuts ravaged the system
- September 2006 when a few small improvements can be seen, but the overall trend is still not upward
The service levels are shown in minutes and seconds, as well as in cars/hour. Things get a bit tricky where there are mixtures of ALRVs and CLRVs, not to mention the days of two-car PCC trains. I haven’t tried to concoct an equivalency measure for different sizes of vehicles, but you can see what has been happening.