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.
Grid = most efficient way to serve people, because of lack of overlap. The efficiency means higher frequency for a given funding level. Consequently, it annoys me intensely when communities large enough to support a transit gird don’t have one. (Example: Oshawa has a radial system. I worked out that a grid of routes would allow 50% increase in frequency compared with the current routes, without using a single extra bus).
Jarrett Walker also has a great post on why transfers produce a better system.
I also read Jarrett’s article with great interest though I didn’t realize that Toronto made a similar change. So I will second Robert’s suggestion that Steve start a thread on this subject. Before and after ridership numbers would be particularly enlighting.
Steve: Well, this is the thread. As for before and after numbers, I’m not sure how easy it would be to sort out the change that would happen naturally from population growth from the extra increase thanks to the grid. At 50 years’ distance, the level of detail in study data, if any, will not likely support that sort of analysis. For my TTC readers, is there anything in the planning archives on this?
That brings us to the root cause of the problem: subway service is considered good while buses and streetcars provide poor to very poor service. Therefore instead of fixing the “poor service” the TTC is trying to get you to their “good service” which is the subway. That also explains why so many “great minds” that include Mel Lastman and Rob Ford truly believe that subways are first class and streetcars are second class. If you ask a German or a Swiss commuter what do they prefer, a train or a tram, you will hear “Depends where I go. Here service is excellent regardless of mode”. Subway vs. LRT debate… only in Toronto.
Why subways are perceived to provide good to excellent service?
– They get you in and out of downtown faster than a car
– The are ultra-frequent
– Their travel time is predictable
Why streetcars and some buses are considered to provide poor service?
– They are slow for a variety of reasons – sometimes it is faster to walk then taking a Queen car
– The lines are poorly managed so you might be waiting for twenty minutes before they arrive in a pack
– They frequently short turn
– You might not be able to get in due to overcrowding
The good news that service on buses and streetcars can be improved dramatically. Contrary to popular belief, exclusive right of way is not required on most routes. Transit only needs to get priority at choke points to compete in speed with a car. We need bigger vehicles, we need more buses on busiest routes, we need LRTs in the suburbs, we need transit priority at intersections but most importantly – we need a true commitment from TTC to get the rider where they want to go on time regardless if they are on the subway, bus or streetcar.
Once bus service is comparable in quality to the subway, people won’t need to travel out of their way to get on the subway. In fact, an express bus can be faster than the subway. An LRT can be faster than the subway as well. It depends how a route is designed, what type of demographics it serves and their travel patterns. In theory, the main difference between the modes is capacity: lower capacity for the bus, medium capacity for the LRT and high capacity for the subways. Right now it is the quality. But it does not have to be.
For a “before and after” look, Transit Toronto has copies of the 1962 and 1965 maps. (It’s possible that Mike’s Transit Stop might have versions closer to the changeover.)
It is tempting to say that a comparison of the annual ridership trendline in the 1950s through 1970s would show whether the network changes had an impact on ridership, but I would suspect that any impacts would be lost in the growth that resulted from the 1960s subway openings (University in February 1963, and especially Bloor–Danforth in February 1966). This would particularly be the case if it took a couple of years for people to grow accustomed to the advantages of the new route structure.
Other than subway openings, I would say that the other major turning point in transit usage and ridership resulted almost exactly ten years later, with the introduction of a single fare zone within Metro.
I think what needs to be adressed as well is the alternative to Grid Formation: Street Hierarchy.
The reason the Grid is perceived so well (and for good reason) is because it allows easy access, not just for cars, but pedestrians as well. This was the major problem with street hierarchy back when it was introduced/radically used in the 60’s. The roads would be built exclusively for cars, and what would normally be a 1 minute walk could turn into a 15 minute one because of the way the roads twisted and turned. Today on the other hand, street hierarchies are built with pedestrian passages, making the transport easier for pedestrians, while still keeping cars on the main routes.
Either way, even if we look up in Richmond Hill, or Newmarket, where street hierarchy is predominant on the residential streets, a grid is still laid out for transportation. It all depends on how you want to control density and street traffic, but in the end, a grid is certainly the best way for transit to be laid out, even if the network doesn’t always follow the streets.
Alex K. said:
There’s the fourth point: Subways (in Toronto) are not subjected to the same bean counting political machinery as surface routes. The bus and streetcar is ALWAYS the first in line for cuts. If the Sheppard line were treated in the same way, it would have been a limited service route for the past 10 years with no service late evenings and weekends or at best one train every 30 minutes like in other cities with lightly used HRT.
Steve: At one point, former CGM Gary Webster mused about closing the Sheppard Subway, and the whole world fell in on him.
Toronto is very fortunate to have the advantage of geography in its favour for designing an efficient grid-based ransit system. An interesting twist on this happens in Hamilton where a perfectly efficient grid isn’t possible due to the Niagara Escarpment bisecting the city. The system map shows how several routes must converge along the limited number of North-South access roads that traverse the hill leading from the older “downtown” to the mostly post-war developments on top of the escarpment. Things are further complicated by the fact that there are no straight shots from a road on the “mountain” (i.e. the part of the city on top of the escarpment, for the uninitiated) to its corresponding pair “downtown.” This means that some routes function as a combination of “radials” and “gridlines” at different parts of their journey (Routes 33 and 21 on the map are good examples). I’m not sure how optimal the current layout is compared to more grid-like alternatives, I merely bring this up to illustrate a case where a system must adapt to imperfect conditions (and point out how lucky Toronto is in some ways!)
These geographic issues (combined with Hamilton’s massively over-built roads) make me believe that BRT is a better option for future investment compared to LRT when I look at Jarrett Walker’s writing on the subject. This in spite of an ongoing push from Metrolinx (and supported by some factions in town) for a light rail line in the lower city.
Looking at the older maps, this trip involved one further transfer as the Don Mills bus ran along Eglinton to the Yonge subway, not down to the Danforth. The Leaside bus (56) would take you from Danforth and Pape up to Eglinton and Laird.
Subways have capacity for expansion, LRT does not and subways are needed on our city’ busiest routes like Eglinton to provide ample capacity for expansion. Light rail means that the above ground sections cannot reliably handle headways as frequent as a subway can. Partially underground light rail may be adequate in cities like Buffalo, where the system runs every 10 minutes during rush hour and is underused, but for cities like Toronto (5.5 million in the GTA, 8 million in the Golden Horseshoe), high capacity is needed. Without high capacity there is the risk of overcrowding as the city continues to grow over the next few decades.
Steve: Oh sigh. It’s subways subways subways again. How many times do we have to mention that more frequent service can be run on the busier central part of Eglinton without the need to put the entire thing underground? Do you imply that no LRT line should be built anywhere because there is always an argument for expansion?
How quickly people forget that the University Subway (west of Union Station) closed after 9:40 PM Monday-Saturday and ALL day Sunday & holidays. The Avenue Road bus supplied service when the University Subway was closed.
People still get upset whenever part of the Subway is closed for maintenance and having to use shuttle buses.
While the grid system is the most efficient, the way the TTC does things it still has its problems. Several years back when getting from Scarborough Centre to Finch, by the time you took the Scarborough Rocket to the Sheppard subway to the Yonge subway, the time taken was comparable to taking the RT and subway downtown and transferring at Bloor! Keep in mind this was before the Finch Rocket started service, and there is a GO bus you can take to York Mills which is fairly frequent.
Andrew, please explain how the Yonge subway can have its capacity expanded. I am tired of waiting for a train where I can actually get on.
Ben, surely having two routings, each of which is about the same speed, is a feature and not a bug? If you hear that one routing has issues, take another.
(The problem is more finding out about an issue, than being able to find reasonable alternatives. Once you know e.g. the Yonge subway is down, it’s time to start looking for a N/S express bus that gets you close to where you want to go. But this is not so useful once you’re in the crowd at Yonge/Bloor.)
I do not think this grid system had a ‘monumental’ effect at all. Most of it was natural progression. You can’t just peek at early transit maps, you have to look at the City Street Maps of those days.
Nothing went west of VP on Eglinton because there was no road. The DON MILLS buses (in the fall of 55) started looping via York Mills, Leslie and Lawrence because
a) Don Mills Rd stopped and did not go north of York Mills, and
b) Leslie Street stopped at Lawrence, it did not go south of Lawrence because there was no Eglinton to connect with and so on.
In 1960 my dad drove to work, from Leslie & Lawrence by going south on Leslie to Lawrence, east to Don Mills, south to O’Connor, south on Broadview to Dundas and west on Dundas to where he worked. This was the most direct route.
Until 62, Victoria Park did not exist north of the Danforth which is why the DAWES bus had those duties on north Victoria Park, Until the early 60’s Lawrence Avenue East met Victoria Park at around Curlew & VP(after twisting and turning thru the valley). Also the example is incorrect (Pharmacy bus to Luttrell to Pape and Don Mills bus north). For one, the DON MILLS bus did not go down to Danforth until the BD subway opened in 1966, so in, say, 1961 it was possible to take PHARMACY bus to Eglinton, EGLINTON EAST bus to Don Mills and DON MILLS bus north to Lawrence, hardly a 90-minute trip.
BEFORE 1957 say, yes, you would have to take PHARMACY to Luttrell and then the BLOOR car to I guess Pape, LEASIDE bus north to O’Connor and then the DON MILLS bus to Lawrence, however as I said Eg East wasn’t built yet so you couldn’t even drive directly and also in these days the DON MILLS bus ran every 90-minutes, 60-minutes in rush hours! So no route was going to be fast.
Examples like this existed all over the city where transit waited for some road improvement, or ‘new’ bridge to be built. Yes, grid-system worked well but wasn’t a monumental shift IMHO.
The 1965 transit map reminded me of something I forgot. I suddenly remembered when I saw the Islington 37 running south to The Queensway and the Kipling 45 running south to the Lakeshore with no subway. Now, I quite vividly recall the TTC publicity for the “route splits” and introduction of the Kipling South and Islington South when the legacy routes were permanently short turned at the new subway in 1968. This is not very important, except for the revelation of the intense joy of reminiscing. It is not the importance of the memory, but the aura that it creates in reliving a beloved time with memories of small, historically unimportant, but “real to me” events. Thank you Brent for that post
William Paul says:
True, but the TTC could still have left the suburban routes as basically radial feeders to the ends of the street car lines. The decision to expand the grid through the suburbs where the new bus lines would not take passengers anywhere near the downtown, or a streetcar or subway line to downtown, was a major leap of faith. Look at most transit maps of North American systems and you will see what I mean. The road network had to be completed but that did not mean that the bus lines had to follow the new roads.
The ‘monumental’ nature of the grid system doesn’t come from the grid itself, but how effectively the grid helps do two things: provide a complete network and provide improved service.
Those two things come from another three things: creating the right infrastructure, having (and using) the right information, and finally, having the right attitude.
Case in point: When a highway or road (which also uses the grid system) is jammed or closed for some reason, the traffic reporters tell us about the alternates.
But what do the users of the TTC bus routes along that road get told? They get told that buses/streetcars are on diversion and the message is “wait it out”.
Similarly, when the subway is not in service for whatever reason, we get shuttle buses along the out-of-service section, but nothing is said about alternates.
That may make technical sense … when you are driving in a car a 1 km detour to avoid congestion is a possibility … but is a transit user going to be able (or willing) to make that detour?
Another example: We often hear that extending the Sheppard subway west to Downsview would provide an alternative route to downtown, but when the Yonge line is shut down, does the TTC provide shuttles to the University-Spadina line? It sounds like a good idea in theory, but in practice …
I said the following in my post to Jarrett’s site and probably should have included it in my message to Steve.
Aside from New York, most rapid transit systems run 8 to 15 minute service base and no better than every 5 in rush hour service; most of our bus line are better than this. Also every surface route except 99 Arrow Road makes at least one connection with a rapid transit line. This statistic will fall by the wayside when the RT closes for reconstruction.
Michael Greason recalls,
There is still a northbound bus bay in the six points intersection (Kipling/Dundas/Bloor) which is obviously suited only to a through Kipling bus. It therefore predates the 1968 opening of Islington station. While the bus stop sign is long gone, I’m surprised that it has survived any repaving or sidewalk rebuilding that might have taken place in the past 45 years or so.
I hear what you are saying Robert however:
The FINCH bus only ran first to Leslie and then to Don Mills because there was nowhere else to send it. As soon as the Finch East extension roadway was completed in 1975 (the curved part of the roadway between the Woodbine/Parkway and VP — as you can see from old street maps pretty much every road intersected in a jog, sometimes little, often huge, but most of the time a jog) anyways the instant this road was completed the FINCH EAST bus was immediately extended east to McCowan. In the west the only reason various routes ran along Finch to Bathurst was because of the Branson Hospital.
As you know service in Scarboro was all based on where the population was and they were in little pockets all over the place which is why the bus routes developed the way they did. Some of these routings were holdovers from the previous private operators. In the early days (54-58ish) DAWES was extended all over the place because it was the only route up there, same with PHARMACY going along Eglinton, up Kennedy, up Warden and so on. Instead of extending the PINE HILLS bus they split it into BRIMLEY and KENNEDY routes in 56 which extended service farther north.
In 1964 when SHEPPARD became the ‘longest’ route it went from Weston right thru to Agincourt (Midland) which replaced little branches and arms of other routes but the service still only ran 20-00 in RH and 30-00 at all other times so there was not much demand.
The DON MILLS subdivision you brought up always suffered from isolation as most N/S roads stopped at York Mills, to the east the Don Valley blocked all, to the south nothing until O’Connor (Thorncliffe was still a racetrack then) and to the west the ridiculous Law/Bayview/Post Road mess that still exists today. So even with a vehicle, this was a hard area to get to. If you check out reports on the ‘new’ Don Mills Plaza they whine about how isolated their strip mall is and are thinking of how to attract people to it
The west end was a mess of routes around the Eringate, Eglinton West, Richview area as this developed sort of like Scarboro. It was more convenient to extend the existing ANGLESEY service up and down and around to service this area rather than start a new route, without a (sorry Steve) ahem, subway to go, where were you going to put this route? The WEST MALL route sort of picked it’s way thru a lot of this as this was a badly needed N/S route in the area but grid-wise, things didn’t really straighten out until the (ahem sorry again Steve) subway came and the new routes associated with it.
Steve interjects: I have no objection to the western extensions of the BD (ahem) subway.
I think the grid was basically a good thing, but I don’t think people flocked to the transit system because of it. From the (albeit somewhat limited) documents I have or have seen the real spike in usage came with the subways and not the grid system. Getting rid of the zones may have helped a little but just like today, if you up the fare by a nickel people still need to go places so they will pay. I liked the zone fare system (I lived north of Sheppard back then so yes I did pay). Of course people on the fringes were bothered, ie zone is at Bingham, you live at Fallingbrook, another fare for three blocks! Unfair etc but I always got checked at Wrigley’s on Leslie and I never heard anybody complain of the zone. We were just happy to have an actual bus anywhere close to us.
There is a very detailed and very interesting report by D. Norman Wilson titled: “Report on Transit Service in the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto with Recommendations for its Future Expansion and Betterment”. It was at Urban Affairs but since they closed this down, I think all the material went over to the Baldwin Room. It is dated July 1955 and is a great read. Quite a lot of the suggestions actually happened some twenty / thirty years later! It talks about the roadway and bridges that were in the works and how this would affect transit and so on. How the opening of Eglinton from Leaside to Victoria Park will reorient transit and the additional traffic bridges at Sunnnyside, the opening of Eglinton West at Richview and the northerly extension of Spadina Avenue which “might one day provide for an ultimate high speed line and station platforms”.
As Steve is known to mention, this report also says that a new Eglinton East express service will “certainly be warranted however the capacity of the Yonge Subway is not unlimited and it may not be desired to route all of these passengers all the way to Yonge Street for this reason”, and this was a concern already in July of 1955. Subway was barely a year old!
Seems some things remain the same even 50 years later.
To William Paul:
I agree completely with what you are saying about the spread of the road grid being predicated by the completion of missing segments of roads across river valleys. (I am reminded of a saying by either Robert Moses or Sam Cass or both who said: “If God didn’t want expressways He wouldn’t have made river valleys.”) However, even with a grid system of roads many transit systems still ran a radial route system. The TTC elected to switch to a grid system in the suburbs in September of 1963, 3 years before the Bloor Danforth subway opened. True it took a lot more road construction and subdivision building to get the current grid system in place, but Sept. 63 marked the start of the suburban grid and this decision should be commemorated.
As an example of the impact of the gird system in the early 60’s I belonged to a Scout troop that met just south of Eglinton at Yonge. If we wanted to go camping at the “Camp Of |The Crooked Creek” near Orton Park and Brimorton, we had to have someone`s parents drive us. After September `63 we hauled our back packs up to Eglinton Station and took the 54, not the 54A, to the camp in 45 minutes. This might be a trivial example but it is just one of many.
September 63 may not have been the crossing of the transit Rubicon, but it was the time when the die was cast for a better suburban transit system. I just want to recognize the decision and its impact on the future of transit in Toronto.
William Paul noted about east-west roads at VP, “as you can see from old street maps pretty much every road intersected in a jog, sometimes little, often huge, but most of the time a jog”
Just an FYI: Scarborough was laid out with an east-west baseline and concession roads every 1.25 miles and north-south sideroads every 0.5 miles (except for VP to Pharmacy, which is only 0.25 miles). North York and Markham were laid out with north-south baseline (Yonge Street) and concession roads every 1.25 miles and east-west sideroads every 1.25 miles.
These differences resulted in jogs at the borders.
Calvin Henry-Cotnam says:
I think that Scarborough also had different east west base line that did not line up with those in Toronto. Both have east west road spacing of 1.25 mile so that would not cause the jogs. I am not positive but I think that the east west base line was what is now St. Clair.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
If you look a map of Ontario you will notice that the roads either run parallel to the lake shore or perpendicular to it. This is the reason that the roads in Peel and Halton are at a 45 degree angle to true NSEW. In Scarborough, Kingston road and Danforth Road are more or less parallel to the lake but the north south roads remained parallel to those in Toronto. This is probably because the roads in Durham would go back to the Toronto alignment.
Steve: Don’t forget that Kingston Road and Danforth Road are very old and their paths were governed by the topology (like Weston, Dundas and Davenport).
Robert Wightman wrote,
That is correct. Scarborough used what is now Eglinton as its baseline. I recall hearing that Pickering did so as well — err, it used the projection of Eglinton, since it would be in the lake out there. I cannot say for sure, but I seem to recall that Toronto used Queen Street (known as Lot Street at the time).
I recall hearing somewhere that it was common (though not universal) for townships with a baseline that is parallel to a shoreline (like Scarborough) to have sideroads that were only 0.5 miles apart. Townships with a baseline that is not referenced to a shoreline (such as Markham) to have sidelines the same 1.25 mile spacing as the concession roads.
Robert Wightman wrote:
Also every surface route except 99 Arrow Road makes at least one connection with a rapid transit line. This statistic will fall by the wayside when the RT closes for reconstruction.
There are 2 regular routes. 99 and 171 Mt Dennis that do not connect with the subway and I believe 2 400 series routes that don’t. One around Thorncliffe Park and the other around Royal York & Eglinton (Larose Ave).
William Paul mentioned the Eringate area and the West Mall. I grew up in this area and at that time the West Mall had a gap between Rathburn and Burnhamthorpe and between Dundas and The Queensway. The East Mall did not go north of Rathburn and had a gap between Burnhamthorpe and Bloor. The TTC was always changing the routes when gaps were opened up.
You’re correct. I used an old map. Mt. Dennis is like Arrow Rd and exists to mainly provide service for drivers getting to and from garages. I don’t count the 400 series.
An interesting benefit to this thread is the history of road development in Toronto and Ontario that I am learning.
With the Finch West LRT, I can see still need for the 99 Arrow Road service. Though now, it would be connecting with a rapid transit service, unlike now.
As for 171 Mt. Dennis, there may still be a need for it after the Eglinton Crosstown LRT comes in service. The Kodak Vehicle Maintenance and Storage Facility would be almost next door to the Mt. Dennis bus garage, in the block bordered by Ray Avenue, Industry Street, Black Creek Drive, Eglinton Avenue West, and Weston Road/railway tracks. Though I think most drivers may just use the Kodak facility as a passage to walk to the garage from the Weston Road/Mt. Dennis station.
I’m on my honeymoon to London and Paris right now, I’m in London at the moment, and taking transit over the past two days has really driven home how many things the TTC does get right. The grid of frequent services is so easy to interface with comparatively. I haven’t traveled widely by any means, but the superb nature of many TTC multi-modal transfers has really been driven home – I’m thinking St.Clair West here in particular. The ease of travelling in a flat-fare, free transfer system has also become apparent. Although there is a vast array of infrastructure here, I’m coming to realize how much the TTC does with what it has.
Question for you Steve – Does Toronto have an oddly large subway – I mean the physical size of the trains … When we got onto the tube at Heathrow, the size of the carriages/cars gave me pause.
Steve: Yes, Toronto trains are large compared to many other cities, certainly London.