Once Upon A Time in Scarborough

Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of flak about LRT proposals for Toronto.  Some folks imply that I am personally responsible for leading one or more generations of politicians astray, and that LRT is an invention of my very own with which, like the Pied Piper, I have lured the city away from its true destiny, a network of subways and expressways.

That is an exaggeration, but there are times I wonder at the powers claimed for me, and wish I had taken up a career as a paid lobbyist.

In fact, there was a time when the TTC was considering a suburban LRT network of its own, one that bears some resemblance to plans we are still discussing today, four decades later.

To set the stage, here is an article from the Globe and Mail of September 18, 1969 about the new life Toronto’s streetcars would find in Scarborough.  Included with the article was a photo of a train of PCCs on Bloor Street at High Park, and a map of the proposed network.

The TTC’s hopes for streetcars on their own right-of-way are a bit optimistic, and it’s intriguing how the ranges seen as appropriate for various modes have all drifted down over the years.  All the same, it was clear that the TTC had an LRT network in mind and was looking eventually for new cars for that suburban network.  It didn’t happen, of course, because Queen’s Park intervened with its ill-fated high-tech transit scheme.

A few things on the map are worth noting.  North York and Scarborough Town Centres are still “proposed” as is the Zoo.  There is a proposed Eglinton subway from roughly Black Creek to Don Mills, and the proposed Queen Street subway turns north to link with the Eglinton line and serve Thorncliffe Park.  The network includes links to the airport from both the Eglinton and Finch routes.

I didn’t invent this plan, and Streetcars for Toronto was still three years in the future.  Somehow, the TTC and Toronto lost their way, and what might have been the start of a suburban transit network, years before the development we now live with, simply never happened.