Updated January 8 at 7:30 pm: Links have been added at the end of this article to Transit Toronto’s site.
Back in 1952, the TTC was about to open its first subway line and was contemplating the future of the streetcar system. Options included rehabilitation of its Peter Witt car fleet as well as the acquisition of more PCC cars.
By that time, new PCCs would be expensive as the market for them had more or less disappeared thanks to the onslaught of bus conversions in North America. However, many used fleets, some quite new, were on the market and Toronto was quick to snap them up.
A fascinating report to the transit commission dated June 3, 1952, was written by W.E.P. Duncan, Operations Manager, and it recommends among other things the acquisition of used streetcars from Cleveland and Birmingham.
This report is also interesting for what it tells us of demands on various major routes and the number of streetcars assigned to each line. The Bloor route, carrying 9,000 per peak hour/direction, would require 174 cars. Today’s network requires 192 cars in total, of which 38 are ALRVs. Demands have changed quite a lot.
The report includes strong language about the retention of streetcars, not a common approach in the 50’s.
There is obvious justification for the abandonment of streetcars in smaller communities but the policy of the abandonment of the use of this form of transportation in the larger communities is decidedly open to question. In fact it is hardly too much to say that the results which have occurred in a good many of these larger cities leaves open to serious question the wisdom of the decisions made.
It may be not wholly accurate to attribute the transit situation in most large American cities to the abandonment of the streetcars. Nevertheless the position in which these utilities have now found themselves is a far from happy one. Fares have steadily and substantially increased, the quality of the service given, on the whole, has not been maintained, and the fare increases have not brought a satisfactory financial result. Short-haul riding, which is the lifeblood of practically all transit properties, has dropped to a minimum and the Companies are left with the unprofitable long hauls. Deterioration of service has also lessened the public demand for public passenger transportation. The result is that the gross revenues of the properties considered, if they have increased to any substantial degree, have not increased anything like the ratio of the fare increases, and in most cases have barely served to keep pace with the rising cost of labour and material. It is difficult to see any future for most large American properties unless public financial aid comes to their support.
These facts being as they are, Toronto should consider carefully whether policies which have brought these unfortunate results are policies which should be copied in this city. Unquestionably a large part of the responsibility for the plight in which these companies find themselves is due to the fact that the labour cost on small vehicles is too high to make service self-sustaining at practically any conceivable fare.
Why then did these properties adopt this policy? It is not unfair to suggest that this policy was adopted in large part by public pressure upon management exerted by the very articulate group of citizens who own and use motor cars and who claim street cars interfere with the movement of free-wheel vehicles and who assert that the modern generation has no use for vehicles operating on fixed tracks but insists on “riding on rubber”. If there is any truth in the above suggestion it is an extraordinary abdication of responsibility by those in charge of transit interests. They have tailored their service in accordance with the demands of their bitter competitors rather than in accordance with the needs of their patrons.
Two important points made here still apply today.
First, the importance of the short-haul rider. These are the cheapest to serve. In the flat-fare environment of the 50’s, they would also yield the greatest revenue per passenger and were most sensitive to quality of service. We know this today — people love the ability to jump on a vehicle for a short trip provided that they don’t have to wait very long for it. If they can walk faster, they do, but deeply resent the poor service.
Second, is the attitude that motorists should not be catered to as fellow users of the road. Transit should not adjust to accommodate them, but should address them as rivals. In today’s context, this churns up the “war on the car” rhetoric, and the days when transit could demand precedence are long gone. All the same, transit gives up too easily too often because politicians talk a good line about priority measures but go to great lengths to avoid hurting motorists.
The plan set out in the report set the stage for the eventual elimination of streetcars by 1980 on the assumption that the major routes would be replaced by at least one of the Bloor or Queen subways, even though the latter would be initially operated with streetcars. This leads directly to the suburban rapid transit plan of 1969, described in the previous article.
Updated January 8:
For an excellent article on the many sets of second-hand streetcars acquired by the TTC, please see Transit Toronto’s site. The two photos linked below are also on that site.
Photo of a train of two ex-Cleveland cars westbound on Bloor entering the transferway at Bloor Station (where, until recently, Bloor street widened out for the streetcar station removed after the BD subway opened in 1966). A train of ex-Lousiville cars passes eastbound. The westbound train is a Danforth Tripper headed for Bedford Loop (now St. George Station and the OISE building).
Photo of a train of two ex-Louisville, ex-Cleveland cars on Bloor Street at Bedford from Transit Toronto. These cars were ordered by Louisville, but the city abandoned its streetcar system before they were delivered. Cleveland bought them, but later in the throes of abandonment itself, resold them to the TTC who acquired almost-new cars at a very attractive price.
Since the TTC had 591 PCC’s I gather that they had already purchased the Cincinnati cars. It is interesting to note that they got 75 cars for less than the current cost of 1 LFLRV. The other interesting facts are:
1) The numbers of cars needed for service on Bathurst, Carlton, Dundas, King, Queen – Kingston Rd. and St. Clair compared to what is needed now;
2) The fact that Bloor needed 174 of the 175 MU equipped PCC’s. This leaves 1 spare car? Do these numbers include spares or are they the actual number of cars in service?
3) It is refreshing to notice that TTC management in 1952 was forward looking and did not care what others were doing. I wish that this were the case with the current management and commission.
Steve: Yes, the Cincinnati cars were already here (4550 to 4601). The Clevelands (4625-4674) and Lousivilles (4675-4699) followed, then the Birminghams (4700-4747) and finally the Kansas City cars (4750-4779). 4575 was the PCC demonstrator.
The spare factor in 1952 was cited as 6% for the system overall, and that included the Peter Witts that were getting a bit long in the tooth. The numbers cited are for scheduled service.
Great post and it is interesting to read what the TTC was writing in the early 1950s about the challenges to transit and especially streetcars at that time.
You mention the context that Toronto was just finishing the Yonge subway and the TTC was certainly considering that many streetcar lines might be replaced by subways. That itself was amazing – most large cities in the US certainly weren’t building subways, they were replacing streetcars with buses and waiting for massive federal funding to start building urban freeways, essentially waiting for transit itself to tossed into the dustbin of history.
The choices that Toronto made in the late 40s and early 50s profoundly affected the city we have today – far more than cancelling the Spadina in 1971 (had we not built subways, it would have already been built by then).
I’ve been reading about US urban history recently and, for example, Detroit held a referendum in 1929 on whether to start building subways – it was opposed by 72%, so the city starting building more roads and eventually freeways to an unhappy end.
Toronto took a unique path, and we should be grateful for the leadership that was shown at that time, even if it had some hiccups over the last 60 years.
I find the comments on labour for smaller vehicles interesting. Not because of the evident economic reality it is driving at, but rather because how some people could (and probably will) twist that into pro-subway rhetoric (drivers are only one of many parts of the equation for subway labour).
Karl Junkin says:
January 8, 2010 at 7:59 am
“I find the comments on labour for smaller vehicles interesting. Not because of the evident economic reality it is driving at, but rather because how some people could (and probably will) twist that into pro-subway rhetoric (drivers are only one of many parts of the equation for subway labour).”
Your are right, even if subways go to one person operation they will still need station collectors, attendants, managers or what ever you call them plus cleaning personnel. There is a lot less maintenance on a surface LRT line and with the ability to run in trains with a single operator they would have a lower operating cost per passenger, especially outside the rush hour. The TTC has about 70 subway and RT stations, each of which requires at least one collector and some require 2, so there are about 75 collectors working even when there are not that many subway trains running. If they went to proof of payment they may not need so many as collectors but there probably would still be a need for personnel for security reasons. It will be interesting to see what they do in the subway portion of Eglinton LRT.
LRT would seem to be the best ratio of total employees per line to passengers carried, especially if they go to 3 and 4 car trains.
I find it interesting using the streetcars numbers with the existing (non-truncated) streetcar lines:
Even halving the number (the NFLRV are twice the length of PCC’s) we get 170.
Leaving out the truncated lines, such as Bathurst, St. Clair, etc., it shows that we are short-changed in the number of new NFLRV streetcars we need to provide good frequent service.
Even today, the number of CLRV/ALRV is not enough to provide the service of the 1950’s on the same streetcar lines. It is my feeling that if the traffic is congestive, we need more (not less) streetcars.
Steve: The TTC did a very good job of a constant downward spiral of poor service, riding loss, service cuts, more riding loss, on many of its surface routes, and now does not have enough streetcars to respond to even a modest growth in demand.
There were 5000 PCCs built starting in 1936 so the 1946 era Cleveland PCC would have come off a line with its initial costs more than paid for. In 2009 dollars the secondhand 14m Clevelands would have cost $18m but given we’re receiving a 28m car it’s fair to say 2 MUed PCCs would be required for the capacity of one Flexity too.
By contrast, the BBD press release for the downtown cars says 450 Flexity streetcars in service so assuming another 150 in the meantime the 204 downtowns will be 25% of the global fleet for the subtype. If the TC cars are built as derivatives then Toronto will have about 40+% of the global fleet.
A lot of Canadian cities may end up with cheap Flexities because Toronto got a line built here and their orders will essentially be out of paid for buildings and designs.
@Steve: (The TTC) now does not have enough streetcars to respond to even a modest growth in demand.
Never mind the growth in demand, one NFLRV streetcar for every 1.5 CLRV/ALRVs is a very poor tradeoff, which will decimate streetcar line ridership like the TTC did on the 511 Bathurst & 501 Queen lines when it replace CLRVs for fewer (but longer) ALRVs.
Steve: The current fleet, assuming it is all working (which is not true) is 195 CLRVs (one was scrapped), plus 52 ALRVs, roughly equivalent to 78 CLRVs in capacity, for a total of 273 strictly on a capacity basis. There are 204 new cars which are roughly equivalent to somewhere around 350 CLRVs depending on how many people we assume will fit into the new cars, and how loads will be distributed on them with all door loading.
Without question the total number of cars in the fleet will be lower, although their reliability allegedly will be higher and more should be available for service. The TTC claims that the replacement ratio will be highest on routes with frequent service such as Spadina and King where they will probably do a straight capacity conversion, plus some allowance for growing demand. On routes with less service, the replacement ratio will be closer to the present headway so that the effect of larger cars is not to double the headways on existing CLRV lines. That’s what they claim anyhow.
Two other issues are the need for an additional purchase for the pending waterfront lines (these are not included in the 204 car base), as well as the probability that in the medium term, there will still be around 100 CLRVs in operation to pad out the fleet.
Like you, I worry that the TTC will make a hash of things, run much wider headways, continue to mismanage the service, and drive away riding on the routes now operated with CLRVs.
Re Bob Wightman’s initial comment, BLOOR & DANFORTH TRIPPER required 174 cars after the subway opened in 1954 but usually 5-10 were single units, usually on BLOOR as DANFORTH TRIPPER tended to use semi-permanently coupled pairs. These pairs varied over the years. If I recall correctly they started with 4625+4626, 4627+4628 etc leaving only higher numbered A-11 and the A-12 cars for BLOOR, and this changed fairly quickly to 4698+4699, 4696+4697, etc, down to 4664+4665. This was because the ex Louisville cars had double seats on both sides of the aisle at the front, the only TTC cars like that, and they were considered a bit of a nuisance in regular service at first. After Feb 26, 1966 when they were assigned to QUEEN and others, they appeared regularly during the day time.
Upon closer reading I discovered that the abandonment time line set up in 1952 was the one still being followed by the TTC in the early 70’s when the Street Cars For Toronto Committee finally convinced them to stick with trolleys. I was pleased to see how forward thinking the TTC was in 1952 and shocked to see that they hadn’t really re-evaluated that decision in the next 20 years.
I just visited Bombardier’s website and found some information about their Flexity 2 LRV.
They are 2650 mm, 104 inches, wide and ride on real trucks which fit under the end sections and the middle section of the car. This seems to be an improvement on the earlier low floor cars. The motor is mounted on the truck frame out board of the wheel on the end of each axle.. It looks like a sweet design. This might allow all wheels to be powered. It is worth a look.
Steve: The “Toronto city” car differs from the standard setup for Flexity’s of either generation if you look closely at the drawings. The front truck and the first door swap positions on the Toronto car, and this changes the dynamics for our tight track geometry. This should not affect the basic truck design, and I understand that elements of the Flexity2 are included in the Toronto car.
Steve: “The “Toronto city” car differs from the standard setup for Flexity’s of either generation if you look closely at the drawings. The front truck and the first door swap positions on the Toronto car, and this changes the dynamics for our tight track geometry. This should not affect the basic truck design, and I understand that elements of the Flexity2 are included in the Toronto car.”
I thought that the front and end section were shorter on the legacy cars to eliminate the overhang and allow the cars to get around the tighter curves, but I looked at the drawings on the web and you are right. They do appear to have a door on the front section. I thought that I had read that they would have 2 double doors on each suspended section and a single door on the rear section since there would not be a motorman’s cab to get in the road.
“Like you, I worry that the TTC will make a hash of things, run much wider headways, continue to mismanage the service, and drive away riding on the routes now operated with CLRVs.”
That’s my concern as well. While the new cars will technically provide more capacity, if people have to wait longer to board, they will look at alternatives – therefore causing that capacity to be wasted.
And is at these times where I wish the TTC had standard gauge on their streetcar network. It would be much easier to buy used streetcars and we all know the TTC needs any streetcar they can get their hands on but I won’t go on because standard gauge on the legacy network is simply out of question.
TTC gauge caused no problem with the used PCC cars, and presumably with any other cars available today.
I can only imagine how many more used PCCs would have been bought, or how many Witts and even older PCC air-electrics would have been rebuilt, if the TTC had kept to its original plan of maintaining streetcar service on Yonge north of Eglinton. Even this short feeder from City Limits Loop would have altered the streetcar scene significantly.
With the 765 PCC streetcars that Toronto had, there were 14 different models. We will get 2 different models of low-floor light rail vehicles, 204 single-end to be used as streetcars, and the rest will be double-ended for Transit City. With the PCC, we had a good variety, but the new ones will have only 2 (maybe). It would be nice if they could add a little variety among the new streetcars so they don’t all look the same.
I love the hand-lettered “KEEP OUT” sign in the first old photograph. The TTC’s habit of using poor, haphazard signage clearly goes back a long way.
Steve: Particularly considering that the sign is facing the wrong way. It should look outward to motorists (or wayward pedestrians) who might try to walk into the paid area of the transferway.
I think that it may have been there to keep passengers from trying to exit and cross the street to get to the sidewalk. I bet that more people would try to exit there and save the walk down the stairs than try to enter.
Steve: Yes, that’s possible, although “Keep Out” is a rather odd way to say “No Exit”, or “No Way Out” as it would have been in those days.
I wouldn’t mind seeing an iconic style for the Flexities but if we wanted that we should probably have bought Alstom trams and not Bombardier. We do least cost German-Canadian, not French frippery, in Ontario.
The second photo is at Bedford. That’s the original Swiss Chalet behind the car.
Steve: Many thanks. I was fairly sure tha tall building in the background was the Park Plaza, but didn’t recognize the building closer to the car.
Just a question out of curiosity, and I hope it’s okay to post it here, as it’s about the new Flexitys, and not Streetcars for Toronto…
The new streetcars will have doors that open flat against the body, as opposed to folding out on the current ones, which have the stop sign on them. This looks like it may be an issue as motorists may not be able to notice the open doors and create a dangerous situation (there are several videos on YouTube showing examples of this conflict). Has the TTC had any discussions about this?
And on that note, is there a reason (besides road width) that we don’t have more pedestrian islands at streetcar stops? I personally think there should be more of an effort to install islands at streetcar stops, there are locations where they could be squeezed in.
Steve: There have been no discussions about streetcar door operations as far as I know. A related question is how well the operator will be able to see doors on a long vehicle, and whether they will have passenger activated opening from both in and outside the vehicle. Opening all doors to the wintry gales isn’t necessary at every stop.
As for safety islands, the next major effort in that regard will come this summer on Roncesvalles where sidewalks at carstops will be rebuilt to bulge out to meet the streetcars. This works on 4-lane streets where the curb lane can be permanently blocked (ie: parking is allowed at all times), but it won’t work everywhere.
Fred S says:
January 10, 2010 at 5:32 pm
“Just a question out of curiosity, and I hope it’s okay to post it here, as it’s about the new Flexitys, and not Streetcars for Toronto…
“The new streetcars will have doors that open flat against the body, as opposed to folding out on the current ones, which have the stop sign on them. This looks like it may be an issue as motorists may not be able to notice the open doors and create a dangerous situation (there are several videos on YouTube showing examples of this conflict). Has the TTC had any discussions about this?”
Most cities in the world that have streetcars have doors that open in or slide flat. The problem seems to be with people from outside the core that don’t know what a streetcar is. My idea is to pretend that they are a type of school bus. Put flashing lights on the rear end and behind all the doors and treat them like a school bus; same rules same penalties except only for cars travelling in the same direction. It would require a short period of very strict enforcement, no warnings, and people would get the idea. I have seen this some where else.
Steve wrote: “Opening all doors to the wintry gales isn’t necessary at every stop.”
I was in Edmonton a couple of weeks ago and I can certainly testify to this. Push buttons for passengers to open the door for X seconds is a must-have for both our cold winters and hot summers.
Dave Cavlovic’s post about service north of Eglinton on Yonge is very interesting. To take that one step further, what if the vote that decided the fate of North Yonge had been pro rail and not pro bus? The impact that such a move would have made to today’s transit scene would be really incredible.
re: Ian Folkard: What would the transit scene have been today, indeed! Considering how much foresight that went into potential, double-track streetcar service on North Yonge is tantalizing and madding at the same time. The original Yonge Blvd. bridge over the West Don River (now absorbed into Hwy. 401) allowed for eventual double-track operation. Why going straight along Yonge through Hogs Hollow, as was done until 1948, was considered a problem for PCCS is not quite clear to me. Any answers out there?
One thing you can say about the abandonment program that was introduced in 1966 and canceled in 1972 is that the TTC didn’t seem to be in any hurry to wipe the streets clean of streetcars. If they’d really wanted to they could’ve just cut the system down to nothing within a half dozen years or so. To be sure there were lines that should have been kept all through the post WWII period until now but look what other cities cut their streetcar lines down to: nothing.
Steve: The 1952 report does make the point that demand on the streetcar lines far outstripped what could be handled with buses, and that at least one new subway downtown would be needed to handle the loads. That was the rationale for continuing with streetcar operation with the assumption that there would be subways under Bloor and Queen more or less by the time the fleet would wear out.
Unlike other North American cities, generally Toronto did not replace streetcars with buses, but did replace them with HRT subways. The cities that just replaced streetcars with buses experienced a big decrease in ridership. In Toronto, unless the HRT subway was close by, replacing buses with streetcars reduced ridership on that route.
In addition, as the TTC expanded into the suburbs, it did not expand the streetcar system to serve them. Unlike other North American suburbs, Toronto did build higher density (high-rise) buildings to help supply riders to the expanding bus lines. However, the low density away from the high-rises did not help the TTC. Only now are we starting to build medium density to better help the TTC.
When I was growing up we made occasional visits to some relatives of my mom’s outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and on one visit a cousin of my mom’s mentioned that transit ridership went down quite a bit there after streetcars and trolley busses were replaced with diesel busses. That’s one case in point I thought of after reading the previous post.
Another case in point: my dad once told me of living along a streetcar line in Detroit for a time during the 1940s and, if I remember correctly, he said the service went down the tubes after busses took over the line while he lived along that line. That shows that the TTC, whatever it’s faults at any time in it’s history, showed infinitely more sense than most other transit operators in the post-WWII period.
It isn’t just the replacing of streetcars with buses that service or headway is reduced, it is also the trolley buses. I used to live close to the 2 Annette trolley bus as a teenager, and I remember that the service was better than it is now. Matching or exceeding the 35 Jane bus, when the TTC had fare zones.
I think it really went downhill when Harris cutbacks reduced service everywhere across the TTC. The Annette bus had to be reduced to no service in the late evening because of no province subsidy.
Today the 26 Dupont diesel bus has 20 to 30 minute evening service. Still terrible service.
What about the TTC didn’t go downhill during the Harris era?