How Network Structure Matters — The Birth of the Grid in Toronto

Robert Wightman left an interesting comment that begins by linking to Jarrett Walker’s piece on Portland’s 30th anniversary of their grid-based transit network.

Toronto’s grid is almost a half-century old.  With it we avoided having the 60’s growth turn into the rambling sort of suburban transit system found so often in the 905.  Here is Robert’s comment:

Jarrett Walker has an interesting article on his web site about the 30th anniversary of the grid in Portland. Next September is the 50th anniversary of the TTC’s implementation of the suburban grid system in the then OUTER REACHES OF Toronto. Before that date if you wanted to go from Lawrence and Warden TO DON MILLS  AND LAWRENCE you took a bus (Pharmacy IIRC) to Luttrell Loop, the Bloor car to Pape and the Don Mills Bus to Lawrence. After that date is was a straight 10 to 12 minute ride instead of a 90 minutes sightseeing tour of Scarborough, Toronto, Leaside and North York.

I will bet that are not many at the TTC who realize what a monumental effect that decision had on the growth of transit usage in Toronto, especially the suburbs. This anniversary should not be forgotten and the people who were responsible should be honoured, probably posthumously unfortunately. The foresight and courage of these people to take a major risk and change all the suburban bus routes to form a cross city grid is a major factor in the TTC’s current success.

I have PDF files of the early 1963 and late ’63 ride guides and the difference in coverage is amazing. What is also noticeable IIRC is that the Sheppard bus ran from Dufferin to Warden or Kennedy, the Finch bus from Dufferin to Leslie or Don Mills. Most of the outer 416 was still farmland.

Maybe Steve could start a new thread on this topic and anyone who has any relevant information could add to it. The TTC should also play up this anniversary as it was a major game changer in Toronto and the planning should be remembered.

The grid is, of course, absolute poison to those who believe a transit system’s job is to take them from their front door radially to the subway system.  Even with our grid, the network is still very subway-centric looking at service quality for anyone who wants to travel around the suburbs.