Why Do We Have Streetcars?

This piece is much more of an editorial than my usual writing here in response to a lot of ill-informed commentary about the streetcar system and Transit City.  This is not intended as a definitive, answer-all-questions epic on why we should keep streetcars, but as an overview of my position. 

Some will think I am too aggressive, moving too fast, or just plain out of my mind for my opinions on the role streetcars and LRT can play in Toronto.  I happen to have similar feelings about those who advocate subways and other inappropriate technologies.

For three decades, Toronto has been appallingly served by its professional transportation establishment and by its politicians.  While the rest of the world goes on with building, or rediscovering, the streetcar and LRT, we clung to the idea that they were quaint, something for the tourists, but not “real” transit.  We blew years on studies looking at small extensions to our subway network that would do almost nothing for the city overall and leave large areas without decent service.  We just about convinced everyone that good transit could never happen because we could never afford it.

With Transit City and the Official Plan there is hope that we are moving in an important new direction.  

Recently, a reporter at the Star who shall remain nameless left me both a voicemail and a comment here asking that I get in touch about a piece he is writing.  He has not returned my call back, and the email he left bounces.  This leaves me little alternative but to reply here to the questions I think he might be asking. Continue reading