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.

36 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time in Scarborough

  1. The interesting thing about the map is the fact that none of the lines ran in the median of any street. The line started from Warden Station and followed an old railway right of way then hydro right of way to the hydro right of way north of Finch to west of highway 400. I am not sure what they did from there to highway 401 and 427 but from there they ran down to Kipling on another hydro right of way.

    I realize that this does not replace any heavy bus route but I always wondered how this high speed LRT route would have fared if it had been built in the late 60’s or early 70’s and had actually had a chance to shape development rather than react to it 40 years later. I sometimes wish that we could have had a true high speed LRT line to show what it could really do. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


  2. It’s funny you should post this at a time when a news article talking about the increased commuting times in the GTA.

    In light of this issue, the question becomes whether Transit City is too little, too late. The problem is that while it helps the Toronto Proper, it does not reach far enough to do any help for suburban commuters, the prime reason the highways are so clogged these days.

    You may say that commuter rail should assist with suburban commuters, which is true, but while there are plans to intensify service along these corridors, there is nothing to be said about service in between suburban areas, like you have stated in the past. We need a commuter rail network that will not only connect Peel, York, and Durham, but also to North York, North Scarborough, and Northern Etobicoke. The parking lot situation that is the 401 adds to the urgency of this.

    I also wonder if the charges for TTC parking have something to do with this. I don’t know about you, but it appears that the road situation has gotten significantly worse since then. Say what you will, but the free parking was doing its job in keeping commuters off the roads.

    Steve: I agree that Transit City doesn’t do much for the 905, but we have to start somewhere and, after all, David Miller is only the Mayor of Toronto. I could easily argue for an even bigger network, but we’re lucky to have funding for part of it, and there’s no guarantee future administrations won’t do everything they can to sabotage further expansion.

    Nothing prevents York or Peel Regions from building a high-capacity network of BRT and/or LRT beyond their will (or lack of it) to spend money on transit, and the lack of support from Queen’s Park. If Toronto had built into the suburbs 40 years ago, it might have established the basis for better transit in the 905. That’s what Streetcars for Toronto sought when we argued for streetcar retention in Toronto. Without that base, we would never see anything else.

    As for the parking lots, the total parking offered by the TTC represents a tiny fraction of the total demand, and the lots are not completely empty. Moreover, they generally serve people who are going downtown, not making trips within the outer suburbs.


  3. Interesting quote about the streetcars in general and about the Bay streetcar:

    “Mr. Sansom said the TTC’s experience has been that the only people who like street cars are the transit riders. For instance, it looks as if taking the street cars off Bay Street was a big mistake. The buses aren’t carrying a fraction of the number of people.”


  4. 1) Why is it that WE (as in Toronto) have to build into 905? why don’t they build into 416? They could start with some TTC-DRT connection (that rush hour into rouge hill GO station does NOT count).

    2) that map you posted looks a lot like transit city plans, basically….what’s to stop from the same thing happening? A lot of talking but nothing gets done or very little, I highly doubt the Transit City project will be fully done.
    The WWLRT, Scarborough-Malvern, and the EWLRT (the east of bay on queen’s quay into cherry street redevelopment thing) and the Downtown Relief Line in my opinion won’t really be done. What if Metrolinx comes and merges all the GTHA transit agencies, Toronto would suffer for the 905.

    I have this fear that I will be your age (I am 29) and that I will be having the same talk on the DRL, Scarborough-Malvern, EWLRT and 501.

    I know I will be going on about the 68 Warden, Warden station being not accessible and other things I go on about when I turn your age.

    All this (I don’t mean you) is talk talk talk and more talk but no actions from our politicians and metrolinx.

    Steve: I think we’re a bit further ahead than before, but I agree that the 905 has yet to put up any serious commitment to transit. York Region is happy to let the TTC take the whole cost of running the subway extensions in exchange for the paltry amount of new revenue they will generate. The TTC has already estimated a multi-million dollar annual loss the day the Spadina line opens. How much will fares have to go up to pay for these projects?

    The problem with Metrolinx is that increasingly it is looking like an appendage of the Ministry of Transportation. Everything it does is subject to Ministry approval, and it’s only a short step from there to wondering what, exactly, this wonderful new private sector board does.


  5. Yes, you and Jane Jacobs forever changed the course of history … 🙂 … which can easily be remedied by a 1.21 gigawatt flux capacitor.

    What would have happened otherwise? Let’s see …

    – a QUEEN subway (which these young whipper-snappers call “DEE OUR EL”)
    – a decimated Annex (they don’t call it a student ghetto now fer nothin’)
    – a not-so crowded Bloor-Yonge, and,
    – a not-so packed DVP and Gardiner

    After watching the Annex go downhill over the last ten years, I’m not so sure that saving the neighbourhood was really worth it.

    There were a lot of positives in keeping the downtown streetcar network, but would a Queen subway have been more beneficial overall? Who knows, but I’m pretty sure it would have happened by now if the streetcars were ditched. The combined E-W loads of King, Queen, Dundas, and College could not have been handled by buses. If the Queen subway had pulled riders off Dundas, King, and Bloor-Yonge, it can be argued that we would have been further ahead. That’s not to say that a suburban streetcar network was a bad idea … only that keeping them downtown in mixed traffic was a bad idea.


  6. “taking the street cars off Bay Street was a big mistake”

    The experience in Dublin has been that the professional classes will ride the Citadis trams but won’t ride buses. On Bay Street, that’s a big chunk of the ridership.

    The problem in Toronto is that even on the lines which serve Bay Street workers east-west, the high floor streetcars stuck in traffic don’t seem to much different to buses, and the TTC and the City can’t bring themselves to deal with the congestion either through road changes, enforcement or next-vehicle technology to manage expectations. Before someone mentions the trial, I know NVT is “coming” but this organisation has had a website claiming the advent of a trip planner for 518 days and counting – holding my breath seems unwise.


  7. Ha! these are the “hiccups” I talked about in another post — the map is great but must be considered as context against the 1966 Official Transportation Plan that Metro Council approved with the Spadina, Scarborough, Crosstown, Richview etc expressways.

    Toronto established a precedent in the early post war period that transit was important, even if we failed often on the follow through in the decades that followed. This made Torontonians a lot less willing to sacrifice downtown neighbourhoods to expressway construction because there was a sense that there was an alternative, even if our politicians didn’t always get on board.

    I think a lot of this was about changing spending priorities (health care, social policy) rather than an abnegation of the importance of transit itself. Better late than never, we are getting on board that there is no alternative to addressing urban transportation problems other than transit. Strangely enough, it is a change in government accounting policy (amortization of capital) that is allowing this to happen.


  8. @M. Briganti: Grass only seems greener on the other side.

    Abandoning the College streetcar in exchange for a Queen subway would have destroyed Little Italy, one of the best restaurant districts in the city and a great place to live. It would not have done the Little Azores any favours either.

    Ramming the Spadina Expressway through the downtown core would have destroyed not just the Annex — which I like in its present form very much, even more than the form it was ten years — but also Kensington Market, a veritable cultural treasure, and Toronto’s fabulous Chinatown.

    Frankly, it would also have aborted much of the downtown condo renaissance as well.

    Have you seen the map of the change in average individual incomes in Toronto 1970-2005?

    Personally, I attribute a lot of downtown’s current prosperity to the retention of the streetcar network and to the prevention of Spadina Expressway.

    Steve: A few years ago, the number of people living and working downtown, an influx made possible by the absence of the Spadian expressway, grew beyond the number who would have commuted from the suburbs on that expressway.


  9. A big loss was not building the Eglinton Subway. That would have gone a long way in solving traffic flow problems. It is my understanding that one of the reasons the Eglinton line was shelved was due to huge opposition from merchants along Eglinton West, who feared even more loss of business during construction. Apparently, they were seriously affected by the opening of Yorkdale Mall.


  10. The New Jersey PATH trains run from New Jersey into downtown New York City. It is a completely separate fare system from the New York Subway. People have to pay another fare, should they transfer.

    I think that the 905 should look into building their own separate rapid transit system, instead of asking for extensions of the 416 rapid transit system. We can give them permission to tunnel under Toronto, but they should pay for the construction and operation.

    Won’t happen. Too much sprawl in the 905 for such a system to work. Better to use the GO train expansion, now in the works.


  11. I don’t have anything productive to add to this conversation, but just wanted to say that I emitted a sigh on behalf of all of Toronto after reading this post.


  12. If I had this option I would support LRT. This is markedly different than Transit City. A LRT line running in its own corridor would have been great.

    As it is, I just don’t believe that Transit City will do much for those who don’t live directly near a TC corridor. Simple examples will illustrate this. If you’re at Neilson and Finch and want to go downtown post-Transit City, what do you do? You take the bus to Malvern, take the SRT and then the subway. At no point do you touch a TC LRT. If you’re at Vic Park at Lawrence and you want to go to Yonge and Finch. What do you do? Well you bus to Yonge and then ride the subway up to Finch. Basically, unless you are starting or ending your journey along a TC route it won’t do much for you. However, on the other hand people go far out of their way to ride a subway or regional rail service. And they probably would have gone out of their way to ride this cross-Scarborough exclusive ROW LRT because this line would have been something akin to Ottawa’s Transitway. TC on the other hand will be seen in due time as a jazzed up streetcar network. Good for some, hardly meaningful for all.

    Steve: On any network it is possible to construct trips that work and others that don’t. I could build endless examples showing that the subway network is worthless because it is too remote (measured by surface route access time) from many neighbourhoods. The subway has always been of most benefit to those whose homes and major destinations are at or near the stations, and transit’s attractiveness declines as the subway access time increases. The whole idea of TC is to build a network of routes where the TTC guarantees frequent all day service and where traffic congestion is not allowed to impede transit.

    Your specific example of Neilson and Finch, by the way, will use the SRT which will be LRT and part of the TC network, assuming Queen’s Park ever coughs up the money to extend it north of Sheppard. There’s an argument to be made for a second east-west line across the northern 416, but whether it’s more appropriate on Finch or Steeles would make an interesting debate. The proposed Finch East line (an invention of Queen’s Park’s, not of City Hall’s) to Don Mills goes through a lot of low density housing in an area that was protected from upzoning thanks to the machinations of the former North York folks in the creation of the new Official Plan. However, Metrolinx has a fetish for “connections” and it looks good on the map even though it doesn’t make sense. If you’re going to head east on Finch, then don’t stop at Don Mills.


  13. “Personally, I attribute a lot of downtown’s current prosperity to the retention of the streetcar network and to the prevention of Spadina Expressway.

    Steve: A few years ago, the number of people living and working downtown, an influx made possible by the absence of the Spadian expressway …”

    This is absolute nonsense. Those condos were not built where the Spadina expressway would have been. The problem is that we only have one N-S expressway link, and from a transportation perspective, that is simply wrong.

    Downtown’s prosperity and the condo boom ARE NOT due to the retention of streetcars … more like the retention of yuppies. As for the Annex, I happen to live there (well, Seaton Village, anyway), and it’s gone downhill big time. It’s nothing more than a U of T student ghetto now with 20 sushi and cheap food joints, people puking as they come out of the Brunny, etc. Its bohemian vibe is almost gone. And Little Italy isn’t even italian anymore — it’s just a place where young trendy 20-somethings hang out (who are brainwashed into thinking they’re eating good food).

    Steve: I didn’t say the condo boom was due to the streetcars. Also, I did not say that the condos were built where the expressway would have been.

    What I did say is that if we had the expressway network, downtown would have been a very different place, extremely car oriented, and we would not have seen the renaissance of downtown that brought the condo boom.

    You are trying to argue chickens and eggs, but you’re all fowled up [I couldn’t resist].


  14. OMG. I actually find myself agreeing with Mimmo for a change. I lived in the Annex and later on College St in the 90s, and hands down, the neighborhoods are going downhill – at least along the main streets. So while not the focus of this post, I have to throw in my 2 cents and say that I agree that College Clubland and the barf trails at Bloor and Brunswick I could do without. However, I’m not sure how much the role of transit’s presence or absence is to blame. Things change, neighborhoods evolve.

    It is interesting to speculate what would be now had some of these older proposals gone through. I think most of us wish that more subway building had taken place years ago when things were cheaper, and that now we’d be getting upgrades rather than Mel Lastman’s subway to nowhere. I must also agree with the assessments of others that, vis a vis PATH, 905 rapid transit should be the one to expand into Toronto rather than the other way around. Viva’s bus service does creep down to Downsview, for example. But say the Spadina extension terminated at York U, and a separate 905 subway came to that terminal, what a logical thing to do.

    But I have to point out one thing to Mimmo – while it’s on the edge of the city, there is the 427 as a N-S highway. I think one artery in the middle of the city in enough.

    Steve: I understand that some of the Brunswick’s barf trails are thanks to the evolution of that bar from a local watering hole to one catering to suburban visitors who (wait for it) use the subway to get there.


  15. . Briganti says:
    January 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    “Personally, I attribute a lot of downtown’s current prosperity to the retention of the streetcar network and to the prevention of Spadina Expressway.

    Steve: A few years ago, the number of people living and working downtown, an influx made possible by the absence of the Spadina expressway …”

    “This is absolute nonsense. Those condos were not built where the Spadina expressway would have been. The problem is that we only have one N-S expressway link, and from a transportation perspective, that is simply wrong.”

    True, but if the Spadina expressway, the Crosstown Expressway, the 400/Black Creek Expressway, the Richview Expressway and the Scarborough Expressway were built then much of downtown Toronto would have been given over to parking lots or garages and there would have been no room for these condos. I take an evening course in Toronto every Thursday and I come down from Brampton around 4:00 p.m. and I NEVER travel on any expressways. I do not have any problem getting into the downtown and I never suffer from the anxiety that I used to when I too 410, 401, 427 and the Gardiner, and it only takes about 15 minutes longer on a good day and a lot less on a bad day.

    An interesting sidebar to all this is that Spadina, which in the good old days had 4 lanes for autos, and now has only 2 is a lot faster and suffers from less congestion than it did before. Is this because auto users have been scared away or is it because the better managed flow works with only half the lanes available for autos. Don’t forget that Spadina was one of the heaviest bus routes before the streetcars came back. I think that 2 lanes of well managed traffic plus turn lanes works better than 4 lanes of a total free for all.

    Steve: When it was four lanes, it was not uncommon to see two or three of them occupied by trucks loading and unloading for the stores on Spadina. Clearly these merchants needed three parking lanes in order to stay in business.


  16. Steve said: If you’re going to head east on Finch, then don’t stop at Don Mills.

    Do you think it would be possible to have an LRT on finch and on sheppard? (meaning converting the Sheppard stubway to LRT then extending to Weston which I think is the end of Sheppard West).

    Wouldn’t they have to do a grade separation for the Stouffville line (which should be re-named Lincolnville line)?

    Steve: Eventually I don’t see why we couldn’t have an LRT on both of them, at least east of Yonge. I am not so sure about Sheppard West given the development patterns. Yes, a grade separation at the Uxbridge Sub and Finch would be required, although there’s lots of room for the construction.

    Briganti said: The problem is that we only have one N-S expressway link

    Technically we have 2 expressways going North/south

    1) 404/Don Valley Parkway combo
    2) 427

    Technically we have more, W.R. Allen expressway, 400/black creek drive. Just because it is a DRIVE doesn’t mean BCD is not an express way, it used to be the 400, a name change doesn’t mean it isn’t an expressway.

    W.R. Allen Expressway is to the highways as the Sheppard stubway is to the subway system.

    I could also split 400/BCD and 404/DVP into 4 seperate expressways but I am not going to split hairs.


  17. RE: Finch East

    God I hope that Metrolinx backs off and lets the planners get this one right. As Steve says, go past Don Mills or don’t go at all because those of us living in Scarborough will be in trouble.

    Right now, an express bus running at approx 20km/hr on avg gets me to Finch Subway in 30 minutes, and that is a bad day (usually the bus hits an average of 25km/hr getting me there in 24 minutes). Imagine taking a non express bus for 5km and then the LRT for 5km. It won’t affect everyone, but still warrants a study that might point to a disaster in the making at the Don Mills & Finch intersection.

    Speaking of Finch E, between Yonge and Bayview there have been much construction in the past few years where developers would knock down 3 or 4 detatched houses and build “exclusive townhouse” complexes. A new one currently under construction will make about 20 units, each with 3 bedrooms. I don’t see this infill trend slowing down, especially with an announced Finch E LRT.

    I remember Steve mentioning something about the narrow roadway and it definitely doesn’t seem like they’ll be able to add lanes in at certain places along this segment.

    As you can tell, I can’t wait for the EA to start on this one. Let’s make sure we get it right.


  18. Stephen Cheung: Since it is well known that you are a BRT fanatic, why not have a suburban BRT network? Why does it have to be RAIL all of the sudden? Of course, if it is a BRT network, leave it out of Toronto, we like our LRT thankyouverymuch.

    Steve: Everything has its place. There are corridors where BRT is all that ever will be needed either due to demand level, or because the corridor serves as a line-haul link serving many routes. Toronto has only a few locations where many routes share one street, and even fewer where they do so on an express basis.


  19. See:
    M. Briganti says:
    January 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    “This is absolute nonsense. Those condos were not built where the Spadina expressway would have been. The problem is that we only have one N-S expressway link, and from a transportation perspective, that is simply wrong.

    Downtown’s prosperity and the condo boom ARE NOT due to the retention of streetcars … more like the retention of yuppies.”

    M. Briganti says:
    January 7, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    “Yes, you and Jane Jacobs forever changed the course of history … … which can easily be remedied by a 1.21 gigawatt flux capacitor.”

    I think it would be fun to have M. (what does M. stand for M.?) Briganti and Steve on Goldhawk Live, or Adam’s Rocket show on CP24 duking it out like Siskel and Ebert of yore or Vaughan & Cato (G&M Drive section). They’d argue, harangue, ridicule each other’s opinion for 5 minutes then go to their corners and cool-off each 90 second commercial break… What entertainment that would be… and educational too to get people thinking seriously about transit policy issues!!! 😛

    Steve: Be careful what you wish for. Mimmo and I actually agree on some issues, even though we may come at them from different perspectives, and we may decide to gang up on Adam!


  20. Last time I checked, with the exception of the 192 Airport Rocket (which technically goes into Mississauga to get to “Toronto’s” main airport), there is an extra fare for travelling outside the 416 on the TTC.

    Of course, let’s not forget that a lot of people work, shop, etc. in Toronto even though they live outside the 416. That relates to property taxes in Toronto from these businesses, part of which pays for transit. Of course, in the grand scheme of things, we need an integrated transit system not a “you vs. us” argument. Let’s stop complaining about where people live and start building a reliable system. (Of course, if I were running the TTC, I would not be expanding service outside the 416 unless I could collect an extra fare – one fare within Toronto and one fare for outside the 416 – or telling the other regions to cough their shares of the costs.)

    And by the way, York Region has invested some money in transit through VIVA.

    Steve: Actually a chunk of VIVA’s costs came from Queen’s Park. My beef with York Region is their abdication of helping to pay the net operating costs of the subway extensions.

    One of Metrolinx’ biggest failings is that it sees everything in “regional” terms, and that translates to “crosses a regional municipal boundary”. Many trips, of course, don’t do this, and Metrolinx doesn’t care much about them. This was a big issue for the original Metrolinx board who, for their troubles, were turfed by Queen’s Park. “Integrated” and “Regional” are quite arbitrary terms that reflect current political and operational boundaries, not any clear split from a transit planning point of view.


  21. J – we need to have no concerns about any tantrums from York. Unlike Laval, they have better negotiators and won’t be paying any of the operating losses. Thanks again Mr Sorbara!


  22. I agree that there many trips that only take place within Toronto. But in this day and age, not everyone wants (or needs) to travel to downtown Toronto. People may live in Peel or Durham Regions, but work in York Region for example. Times have changed, and transit has to evolve as well. That’s partly why we are getting Transit City.


  23. “Steve: Be careful what you wish for. Mimmo and I actually agree on some issues, even though we may come at them from different perspectives, and we may decide to gang up on Adam!”

    That would be fun! Actually, Steve and I agree on almost everything. I thought it was fairly obvious (and transparent) that I take the opposing view just to stir things up. Call it devil’s advocacy, Archie Bunkerism, whatever. If I actually disagreed with Steve’s views, why would I be here? Do I really want to see our streetcars disappear? Of course not — I was actually upset when the Harbord line was removed — I have happy memories of my dad rear-ending two Harbord steetcars, and then, after BD opened, a Wellesley bus.

    Now, if you want to see some real subway fanatics, go to saveoursubways.com — over there Steve is public enemy #1, and his mugshot is in their post office. Maybe I’ll go over there and defend streetcars.

    Steve: Considering that there is a grand total of four posts on that website, I’m not sure it’s worth your time. Their critique of Transit City misses several important points about the larger context in which I, among others, have argued for improvements.

    For example, TC does not serve the regions. It wasn’t intended to. Also, there’s a fair agreement among many here that we need at least the east half of the DRL. TC was not intended to address travel bound for the core.

    This sort of straw-man argument undermines legitimate discussion regardless of which faction it may come from.


  24. TorontoStreetcars said, “…with the exception of the 192 Airport Rocket , there is an extra fare for travelling outside the 416 on the TTC.”

    There is another exception (as far as I am aware): Steeles East 53B and 53E. These routes loop via McCowan Road, Elson Street, and Markham Road in York Region. I believe there remains no extra fare collection on this route (there is no mention of it on the TTC’s website) even though it involves a nearly 3 km journey through York Region. The difference here and the Airport Rocket is that there are no transfer points with non-TTC-operated routes.


  25. That map is one of the most fascinating TTC-related maps I’ve ever seen. It confirms what I’ve said before about ICTS that the individuals behind changing the Scarborough line to ICTS should have chosen to build a whole new line to show off that technology from either Islington or Kipling subway stations to the airport. It was one thing for the Province to need a place to show off their gadgetbahn but quite another to highjack a line already started.


  26. W. K. Lis says: “Mr. Sansom said the TTC’s experience has been that the only people who like street cars are the transit riders.”

    Which implies that Mr Sansom thinks transit riders’ preferences are the least important. Very revealing…

    Miroslav Glavic says: “1) Why is it that WE (as in Toronto) have to build into 905? why don’t they build into 416? They could start with some TTC-DRT connection.”

    I know DRT don’t have any proper connection, but don’t forget about GO Transit’s Highway 2 and 407 services. DRT wants to take over the Highway 2 services at some vague point in the future.

    Discussion point 1: to what extent should cross-municpial services be provided by municpial transit (as opposed to GO Transit)?

    Discussion point 2: what role should GO Transit play in moving people around Toronto (particularly by rail)?

    Steve: The distinction is rather arbitrary and has a lot to do with municipal boundaries and revenue sharing mechanisms. A route that has been through just about every set of hands is the North Yonge line. It started out as part of the radial streetcar network and ran as a TTC service (to Richmond Hill) until 1948. Then it became a TTC bus route, then a GO bus route, and now it’s part of VIVA.

    GO has some cross-border routes that use the subway system as a jumping off point (e.g. Yorkdale terminal) and run as express services on the highways for part of their run. If it were not for the Toronto boundary, some of these would likely be TTC routes. The buses might not be as comfy, but the fares would be lower.

    The rail services are well beyond the TTC’s mandate, and required a separate organization when they started in the 60s. For many years, the TTC saw them as competitors, or ignored them completely in their demand projections. Why include possible commuter rail lines in your model when you can gerrymander demand projections by loading all of those folks onto your subway network?

    Today, the situation is less clear. For example, a ride from Rouge Hill to downtown is comparable in length to a trip across the BD subway, but it’s faster and costs more. Just as the subway has an upper bound on capacity, so do the rail corridors although there is still room for some additional trains and a few corridors that don’t yet have service. Union Station (both the station and the rail corridor) have constraints of their own. GO rail lines, by the nature of the rail network, mainly serve downtown, but that’s not where everyone wants to go. The construction of new rail corridors is virtually impossible given the developments that already exist.


  27. In response to W. K. Lis highlighting this point in the article: “Mr. Sansom said the TTC’s experience has been that the only people who like street cars are the transit riders,” Tom West said, “Which implies that Mr Sansom thinks transit riders’ preferences are the least important.”

    I did not interpret Mr. Sansom’s comment as meaning he though the riders’ preferences are the least important. The comment continued with, “For instance, it looks as if taking the street cars off Bay Street was a big mistake.”

    To me, this sounds like Mr. Sansom had come to realize that rail-based modes of transit have an attraction over and above anything that rubber-tired vehicles can have. This is a key point about Transit City lines: they will attract riders who would never consider taking a bus.


  28. What’s old is new again.

    Thanks, Steve for posting the map and articles and other information.

    It is a really interesting look at the evolution of public transport in Toronto.

    Amazing how we seem to go round and round but never quite get to the goal of a complete working network that serves Toronto and 905.

    Regards from Kuala Lumpur,



  29. If you notice in that first plan for suburban LRT, the LRT lines don’t actually run on roads. They operate on dedicated corridors actually offering true “rapid transit”.

    The old plan is nothing like Transit City, which does nothing to offer rapid transit to the suburbs.

    I would like to know when the TTC actually stopped thinking that travel time is important, and that rapid transit is needed. Because it seems like the older plans actually were good. Nothing like the poor planning being done at the moment at the TTC.


  30. Wasn’t there another proposal or two, perhaps as early as 1966, similar to the one discussed here?

    Steve: There is a quite similar one dated 1966 which explicitly talks about streetcars. It’s interesting that the Globe article in 1969 also mentions streetcars, but the actual version of the plan published in that year only makes vague references to an “intermediate capacity mode”. The machinations within the Ministry of Transportation were already underway even though what would become the Ontario Transportation Development Corporation had not yet seen the light of day.


  31. The earliest mention of a streetcar line serving northern Scarborough appears in an article in the September 17, 1965 Toronto Star where Scarborough Reeve Albert Campbell was reported to have suggested it to the TTC, as well as (wait for it) extending the Bloor-Danforth Subway to Kennedy & Eglinton, but because of the high cost of the subway relative to his streetcar plan which would have used existing streetcars made surplus by the subway he thought it had a chance of getting done.

    Warning: Commercial plug following – to anyone interested in searching things like this out, I recommend signing up for access to the Star’s newspaper archive where you can see any page from the 1890s onwards. I’ve been doing some research and found many interesting pages on transportation plans, expressway plans, redevelopment plans and the reactions to these plans at the time. A worthwhile way to spend a winter weekend!

    Steve: Yes, Reeve Campbell had seen the Riverside line in Boston (an LRT line running on an old rail corridor and through the Green Line central subway into downtown.


  32. Robert – The Star’s newspaper archive is available through the Toronto Public Library’s website, so you can look it up from the comfort of your own home.


  33. “Steve: Considering that there is a grand total of four posts on that website, I’m not sure it’s worth your time. Their critique of Transit City misses several important points about the larger context in which I, among others, have argued for improvements.”

    How so? You posted the map yourself Steve, subways were intended for Eglinton Avenue and instead Transit City promises to give commuters a streetcar line on the surface part of the time and underground for roughly less than one-third of the ROWs length. Giving the TTC’s notoreity with bunching/stalling and failures with implementing TSP do you honestly think that ECLRT will be able to upkeep to the suggested running times? Perhaps not. Like you’ve said before, subways are the only transportation mode the TTC knows how to operate EFFICIENTLY. 150, 000 customers use the Eglinton corridor on a daily basis. That’s roughly 9400 pphpd, higher than what was requisite for building the original Bloor-Danforth subway in the 60s. What the heck has happened to this city’s priorities? Eglinton is very proximal to the Square One/MCC and Erin Mills high-density zones in Mississauga AND its Transitway AND its int’l airport, so a subway up here would alleviate the number of 905 users feeding into Islington/Kipling. And the possibility to route the subway at- or above-grade through Etobicoke and Scarborough would substantially reduce building costs (the TTC’s tendency to overbuild modern stations is a primarly reason for the bloated subway cost projections; running the line visibly will force them to build minimalist, space-conserving station boxes). The DRL is also of superior worth to Toronto as development is becoming concentrated in the downtown core east-to-west which presently has to contend with subpar, unreliable streetcar service to get around. Why is it taking a half-hour just to get from Yonge to Roncesvalles?

    So, I’m not against Transit City (the concept) but I am certainly against the absurd insinuation that it is better for the city on the basis of cost when the politicans deliberately low-balled and obscured the original final costs in order to win an election, then after victory revealed multibillion dollar streetcar lines that lack ROW exclusivity. What is it now, $13 billion and counting? There comes a time when one realizes that a subway(s) that the masses are already accustomed to commuting to is a better end to thrive for than a streetcar to nowhere that few may find to be of any actual improvement for the bus service, and at 5 minutes headways all-day, perhaps not. Making the local network connections to those trunk new subways that much better doesn’t cost billions to implement. I give Save Our Subways credit at least for their grassroots effort to acheive for our city a better standard.

    Steve: Eglinton does not serve 9,400 pphpd at its peak point. The bus services on Eglinton west of Laird are:

    34 Eglinton East – 15 per hour
    100 Flemingdon Park – 4 per hour
    54 Lawrence East – 14 per hour
    51 Leslie – 4.5 per hour
    56 Leaside – 2.5 per hour

    This gives us a total of 40 buses per hour. For service design purposes, I will assume 55 passengers per bus average. This is a fishbowl standard, not lowfloor. This gives us 40 x 55 = 2,200 passengers per hour of capacity in the AM peak. Eglinton West has less service. Even if you pack more people on the buses, you won’t get anywhere near subway demand levels.

    You are confusing ridership among all of the routes which spend at least some of their time on Eglinton with total ridership in the heaviest part of the Eglinton corridor. The Bloor Streetcar really did carry 9,000 per hour at peak.

    As for low-balling costs, I will partly agree in the sense that original costs did not include vehicles and carhouses (an obvious requirement), and the extent of underground construction has been expanded since the first proposal. Conversely fleet costs have been priced at the full-size requirements for a few decades in the future even though quite obviously we do not need all of the cars on opening day for each line, and could build up the fleet in stages through future purchases.

    I do not understand what you mean by lines lacking right-of-way exclusivity unless by this you refer to at-grade operation in streets. This was always the Transit City design, and nobody hid that from anyone. Transit City was announced after the last election, and it’s hard to understand how the cost estimates would be used to fool the electorate.

    Route the subway above grade in Etobicoke and Scarborough? I should remind you that all recent subway (and RT) expansion proposals have been placed underground through residential areas specifically because of political complaints. Be my guest if you want to try getting an elevated. Examples include the two extensions of the YUS and the proposal SRT north of Sheppard.

    I too am concerned about TTC Operations and their ability to make a surface line work. However, that’s no excuse for not trying. Indeed, if we say that we would spend billions simply to get around managerial foot-dragging and screwups, that would not be a wise investment.


  34. Hi Steve,

    I get the idea that Transit City 40 years ago was supposed to beat the car to the suburbs, as in Transit and LRT would have created transit oriented development along streets like Sheppard or Finch. Unfortunately, the car won the race to the suburbs, and those neighbourhoods along the corridors are car-based.

    Now that the Sheppard LRT is finally underway, is it too late for the Sheppard LRT to transform the corridor from a car-neighbourhood to a transit neighbourhood? How much change in these neighbourhoods could potentially happen? I’m a little worried since most of the land there has already been established as car malls, parking lots, other car-buildings, etc.

    Steve: The effect will vary depending on the existing built form, and will occur over time. The underlying premise is that the city’s population will continue to grow, and that underutilized land will be more valuable in the medium to long term for redevelopment. There’s also the question of peak oil, and the intensification of population rather than continued building in the distant suburbs.


  35. I’m curious to know, had the TTC never adopt the policy of abandonning streetcars, would the Yonge Streetcar have survived (even with limited service equivalent to that of the existing 97 bus), even with the subway running underneath?

    Could any streetcar line survive with a subway underneath? I’m sure their service would be diminished, but why even bother to introduce buses and rip out tracks?

    Maybe another factor was the shortage of streetcars later on.

    But ignoring that last factor, would a streetcar line survive overtop of a subway line ever?

    Steve: No. The majority of the demand on the Yonge and Bloor streetcar routes came from other lines feeding into them. Those sources of riders were redirected to the new subway line, and the streetcar would have only the local demand to contend with. In the case of the Yonge line, there was actually a plan for a time to retain streetcars north of Eglinton (that’s what the track connection to Mt. Pleasant was for), but it was never actually operated because the TTC decided instead to build a trolleybus network in the north end. What are now the Mt. Pleasant 103 and Avenue Road North 61 (to Roe Loop) were the 61 Nortown, and of course there was the 97 Yonge trolleybus. Later the 74 Mt. Pleasant trolleybus replaced the streetcar service south of Eglinton.

    When the Yonge line opened, the TTC had a large fleet of cars dating from the 1920s that were due for replacement or retirement. Similarly, the size of the PCC fleet dating from the late 30s and early 40s dropped considerably after the BD line opened.


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