A Short History of the CLRV

Now that we’re on the verge of acquiring, or at least issuing a proposal call for a fleet of new streetcars, it’s worth looking back at the origins of the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle and its travails on the Toronto system.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive history, and some comments here are strongly coloured by my own experiences with the fights to keep a streetcar system alive in Toronto and transit technology debates in general.  Bear with me.  My thesis will be revealed in time.

Back in the mid 1960s, the TTC had a plan to build a network of suburban streetcar lines (what we would now call “LRT” or “Light Rapid Transit”) including, notably, a circumferential line made up of:

  • A route from Warden Station (then the planned eastern terminus of the BD subway) northeast through Scarborough to Malvern, connecting to
  • A Finch hydro corridor route west to roughly the Humber River, connecting to
  • A diagonal route following the hydro corridors in Etobicoke and eventually coming south to connect with the BD subway.
  • In addition, there would be a spur to the airport, and another north-south link between the Finch line and the Spadina Subway.

That was 1966.  The proposed vehicle for this network was an updated version of the PCC, the streetcar which served as the backbone of the transit system until the arrival of the CLRV fleet 40 years later.  Plans existed, even a brochure describing the car.  And then everything stopped. Continue reading

“One Stop” Doesn’t Stop Here

The video advertising screens in our subway stations prompted robust debate when they were first proposed.  Many felt they were the thin edge of an invasion of our commuting space by relentless video ads especially on the vehicles.

Those who supported the video screens argued that they were a huge improvement over the old “Metron” displays, and touted the wondrous things this new advertising medium would bring us.  As we all know, the video screens were installed in many stations, and then everything stopped cold.

Where are the rest of the signs?  If this was such an important, profitable project, why haven’t all of the Metron units been replaced, indeed, why hasn’t there been a proposal to increase the number of screens?

Many stations, notably Davisville at TTC Head Office, still have Metron units, some of which are operating with ancient news items or commercials, not to mention clocks that are on time give or take a few hours.  These were supposed to be long gone, but they linger on.

One important function claimed for the screens was the ability to broadcast system status information.  How can you do this when many stations don’t even have them, and those that do have only one on each platform, and none in other areas?

Could it be that the advertising market is only lucrative for busy, high-activity locations such as Bloor-Yonge Station?

Is this an example of the shortcoming of expecting the private sector to provide an important piece of infrastructure that should be everywhere, but which is only where they have a hope of making money?