“Streetcars for Toronto” – 35th Anniversary

Forgive the belated posting, but this November marked the 35th anniversary of Streetcars for Toronto’s (SfT) successful fight to keep the streetcar on the streets of Toronto. In my opinion, this is on par (though perhaps not as glamorous) with the “Stop the Spadina Expressway” battle as one of the most significant civic victories in Toronto’s history. The people behind this movement deserve our thanks and praise.

In the Fall of 1971, the TTC had planned in principle to phase out Toronto’s vast streetcar network, completely eradicating it by 1980 and replacing it with diesel buses and trolley coaches. In the Summer of 1972, two City of Toronto aldermen, William Kilbourn and Paul Pickett, called a public meeting to discuss the retention of the streetcar. There, a call for the formation of a committee was made, and The Streetcars for Toronto Committee was subsequently born.

The chairman was Andrew Biemiller, a Professor of Child Psychology with the University of Toronto. The Vice-Chair was Steve Munro, then a computer programmer, now Toronto’s pre-eminent transit advocate and Jane Jacobs Prize winner for his activism.

Other members included:

• Mike Filey, columnist with the Toronto Sun and author of several books on Toronto’s history, including “The TTC Story: the first 75 years”
• Ross Bobak & Chris Prentice, then university students
• Robert Wightman, then a secondary school teacher
• Howard Levine, then an urban planner, later became a member of City Council
• John F. Bromley, transit historian
• Greg Gormick, currently a transit consultant and contributing editor to Railway Age magazine

SfT decided to focus on a thoroughly researched, technically correct report instead of organizing mass protests. “A Brief for the Retention of Streetcar Service in Toronto”, an 18 page document (along with a 1 page news release of facts) based on social, economic, engineering and land-use planning principles was released three weeks before the Nov. 7th, 1972 TTC meeting, allowing for the issue to develop in visibility and importance.

At the Nov. 7th meeting, the TTC voted unanimously to retain the streetcar system.

Toronto’s streetcar system is important in two ways: tangibly, it is “pound for pound, the best transit vehicle ever produced” (TTC General Manager J.H. Kearns in Nov. 1972). How many other cities were inspired to revive, maintain or create streetcar systems because Toronto kept it’s own? Would we even have our Transit City plan today? Intangibly, the streetcar line holds neighbourhoods together and has become one of Toronto’s most iconographic symbols.

Can you really imagine Toronto’s streets without streetcars?

The success of these concerned citizens is a testament to the power of civil society, and in some ways helped to create the atmosphere of civic concern and action that Spacing, the TPSC, TEA and the Rocket Riders, among others, now thrive in. It brings me to that oft used, but eternally relevant quote from Margaret Mead – “never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Thank you to all the members of Streetcars for Toronto, for being concerned and determined enough to change our world.

photo of PCC in 1974 by Joe Testagrose

28 comments

  1. Is the 18 page “A Brief for the Retention of Streetcar Service in Toronto” from 1972 available on the web anywhere? If not could it be? It would be interesting to see how these 35 year-old arguments have held up and how they apply today.

  2. SfT were a very important group in our city’s history and I wish their anniversary had gotten more fanfare than it did. But I also wonder if that movement has these days become TOO successful, in that City Hall is completely uninterested in any transit expansion that doesn’t involve a streetcar, and even then only routes running down the middle of streets.

    Pretty much everyone acknowledges that the current state of transit east and west of the core and south of Bloor–ie, the big streetcar lines–is disastrous, and yet no one seems to have any plan to fix it. Since people of the SfT mould are now running transit planning in Toronto, Queen St, for example, is considered to be served by the Very Best Mode Of Transit There Possibly Is, The Holy Streetcar, Hallowed Be Its Name. Therefore any problems with transit on Queen (or King, or College, etc.), of which there are many, are the fault of poor service and not of the limitations of the mode, which are significant over long distances in a congested urban setting.

    And typically the streetcar advocates, Steve Munro and City Hall among them, erect the straw man of the exorbitant costs of subway expansion to justify their fixation on just one type of transit. Never mind that there are rail and Hydro corridors running all over the city on which the TTC could run light rail vehicles at high speed and little capital cost, intersecting major streets but bypassing traffic and avoiding the need for acrimonious median rights-of-way. Never mind that the TTC refuses to even study subway construction using cheap cut-and-cover methods, or for that matter running subway trains above ground where possible, thus inflating estimated costs for new subways to some of the highest in the world.

    Take one example: the Weston/Georgetown railway sub running from Union northwest. It passes the massive developments at Spadina and Bathurst, Liberty Village, Parkdale, the College/Dundas triangle, the GO/subway interchange at Dundas West, the Junction, Weston, Rexdale/Woodbine and, best of all, comes within 2km of Pearson airport. What transit planner in their right mind wouldn’t look at that and see a golden opportunity for some sort of urban rail? Only the kind who’s absolutely fixated on running streetcars down the median of every street in the city, at the expense of all other possibilities.

    My point is that we’re only ever given two options, and quickly told that the one we would all prefer–subways–is far too expensive. And so we will get Transit City, which is going to replicate the Spadina Line across huge distances in the outer 416, while everyone south of Bloor gets absolutely nothing. Zip. Zilch. The most densely populated and transit-dependent area in Canada will receive exactly zero from current TTC planning. Why? Because it’s already got streetcars, of course, and they’re perfect, or at worst easily perfectible!

    Sorry for the rant.

  3. matt — nice comments. i just wanted to note that the railways are privately owned by CN and CP, are used very heavily in the city for freight traffic and are regulated federally by transport canada. i point out these facts to suggest that it isn’t straightforward to get people moving next to all that freight, especially when it’s the province or the city trying to introduce the passenger traffic. all of these factors have contributed to preventing an airport spur on the georgetown GO line, a west-end railpath that goes all the way to union station, and streetcar-sized trains on the GO stouffville line during low-demand periods, to give three examples of good but frustrated ideas.

  4. And after reading a rant like Matt’s, it becomes self-evident that an education of Torontonians is still urgently needed.

    LRT for Transit city is not streetcars in their current incarnation. LRT is not Scarborough RT nor is it 1870s track ROW down the middle of the street.

    LRT is light rail (not like the tanks that currently roll down Toronto streets), separated from traffic, with suburban stop distances about every 1 km. In heavily trafficked areas (e.g. Eglinton from Laird to Caledonia), it goes underground. North American examples to note include Calgary, Edmonton, Denver, San Diego, the soon to be finished line in Seattle. European examples include Stadtbahn/Pre-metro in Germany (Cologne, Hanover).

    What I would love to see in Toronto is the Train-tram – first pioneered in Karlsruhe, Germany (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tram-train). The LRT can ride on both light rail and existing heavy rail – which in my opinion would be the ideal model up the Weston Sub and out to the airport.

    With some education (and proper placement by TTC), Torontonians will learn that LRT and streetcars are generally NOT the same thing

  5. Thanks to Craig for making a post about this anniversary. With everything else that has been happening, the month of November slipped by without mention of this event.

    I have to take exception to some of Matt’s comments about me holding sway at City Hall with the notion that streetcars are the only solution everywhere.

    If he has been paying attention to my own blog, he will know that I have been very highly critical of the way the TTC has mismanaged the Queen line, among others, for years and, in the process, has driven away a third of its ridership, not to mention seriously damaging the credibility of streetcars as a transit mode. If they had deliberately tried to destroy the system, this would be a very good tactic.

    Until quite recently, counterproposals, even the thought of having a serious look at these problems fell on deaf ears. Only now that it’s elevated to a political level is the staff actually doing anything and admitting that just possibly the service on the street is less than perfect.

    A subway is NOT the answer on Queen for two basic reasons:

    First, the stops would likely be much further apart than they are today, and this would have a serious effect on neighbourhoods, some of which are only now enjoying a revival. Imagine Queen West without, for example, any stop from Ronces to Dufferin because that’s what you are likely to see. Second, if we have the kind of money it would take to build a Queen subway, we can make huge improvements in the existing system including simply operating better service on the lines we have.

    Hydro and rail corridors do criss-cross the city, and most of them are not in areas corresponding to major demand corridors for transit, other than for express medium-distance services. The Transit City Finch line, for example, stays out of the Hydro corridor precisely because the passengers are on Finch Avenue itself.

    I’m not going into the rest of Matt’s points. Let’s just say, I think he is very wrong on many points.

    This is intended as a celebration of SFTC’s anniversary, and so Happy Birthday to Us!

    Steve

  6. Geoff: I understand your point, and agree (and know) that streetcars and LRT are not the same thing. For the record I would be ecstatic if Transit City were about the introduction of something like the Stadtbahn in Koln…but it’s not. All indications so far have been that it will be a series of lines like Spadina or St Clair, running in street medians (except on Eglinton) with almost no reduction in the current stop frequency from the relevant bus route. What’s more, no one seems sure that the lines will even have signal priority over auto traffic. If this impression is mistaken (and I hope that it is!) then I stand corrected.

    Steve: I’m sorry if the tone of my original post came off as a bit nasty–as I tried to get across I am very grateful for what SfT did, and I can’t imagine Toronto without streetcars. Not to mention the fact that your advocacy for the TTC has been invaluable over the years. But on this particular issue we will have to agree to disagree; no question service is screwed up on Queen (and I do read your blog and am eagerly awaiting the rest of the route analysis on it). However I think the reality is that there are real, finite limits to what streetcars can do, especially in the mixed-traffic environment they are stuck with on such a busy street. The question of stop placement on a hypothetical Queen subway line, is, I feel, a bit of a straw man. Why should we assume away all the potential pitfalls of Transit City, of which there are many if Spadina and St Clair are any indication, but regard every possible drawback of a certain design for a subway line as both immutable and insurmountable? It doesn’t make sense to me.

    The funding issue is obviously crucial, but then again we are in the rare position in Toronto today of enjoying probably unprecedented access to capital for transit. MoveOntario rubber-stamped the wish-list of virtually every municipality within 50KM of Queen’s Park! If Toronto had included, say, the old and shockingly logical Downtown Relief Line plan in its official transit planning no doubt it would have been funded as well.

    But then again I find one of the biggest problems we have in talking about transit in Toronto is this false dichotomy of streetcars vs. bored-tunnel subway, and I use the term ‘streetcar’ intentionally as Transit City does not appear to be giving us European-style light rail. Nor does it address the question of what the commuting passengers of, say, the Don Mills line are supposed to do when they get deposited at Pape and Danforth other than pile on to our inadequate existing rapid transit network.

    The discussion of rail corridors and other such alignments is to me what’s really missing, regardless of their ownership (I refuse to believe that if the Premier decided to get on the backs of CN and CP, and/ or paid them enough, solutions couldn’t be magically found to all of these problems). Additionally, what’s wrong with express medium distance services? Isn’t that what subways are? If given the choice between a new subway-type service in a rail or hydro corridor, albeit operating above ground, and something like the Spadina streetcar, I very much doubt your average Torontonian would go for the latter. Those corridors are indeed, as you point out, not *on* major streets, except in the many, many places where they intersect them (I’m particularly thinking about the railways here).

    It’s healthy, I think, that we are having these debates about transit in Toronto, since this is the first time in a while where these ideas aren’t just idle fantasy. Transit City is much better than the status quo, but I fear that in its attachment to one type of transit, and its writing off of the downtown, it represents a huge missed opportunity.

  7. By the way, the photo above documents the impending change of the Rogers Road car to trolleybus operation. You can see the new double overhead wires for TB’s partly installed beside the streetcar overhead.

    Rogers Road and Mt. Pleasant were the only lines that were converted from streetcar to bus (trolley buses in both cases) after the 1972 decision to keep the streetcar system.

  8. Matt: One big difference from Spadina is that these will be suburban lines through medium to low density development. Spadina goes through very high density. There won’t be the frequent stops and intersections that characterize Spadina.

    Imagine what Spadina were like if the only stops/intersections were Spadina, Queen, and Union. That’s what this will be like.

    Another is that the new vehicles will be light rail of the kind that runs in Europe, not the traditional 50ft streetcar.

    Also, subway costs 10x more per kilometre than LRT does. It’s not a choice between 1 LRT line and 1 subway — it’s a choice between 10 LRT lines and 1 subway. We have a huge infrastructure deficit. I’d rather have 10 new LRT lines than 1 subway.

    Contrary to your impression, Queen’s Park has very little money. They are funding MoveOntario because Toronto will die if it can’t meet demand as the ever-rising oil prices push people from cars to transit. If MoveOntario were to cost 2x more — and it would’ve cost 10x more if we simply substituted subway for LRT in all the proposals — it would not have been funded.

    As for what passengers will do at Pape after coming off the Don Mills LRT, let’s build the Don Mills LRT first. Perhaps, once we have the feeder in place and Ontario’s finances are in better shape, we’ll build the Downtown Relief subway line.

    ***

    Three cheers for Streetcars for Toronto! Thanks for keeping Toronto amazing.:-)

  9. Steve Munro’s blog is fascinating and his analysis is a real eye-opener for anyone disgusted with the state of streetcars. On this anniversary, kudos to Steve for his decades of activism!

  10. Leo

    The Don Mills LRT seems to be falling down the priority list, since getting it from Overlea to Danforth (and further) is likely to cost a fortune as it is likely to need a new valley crossing and some tunnelling.

  11. I think we are somewhere between Matt’s and Geoff’s perspectives.

    The Transit City lines are overwhelmingly aligned along existing arterials. Comparable examples might be Portland’s Yellow MAX line along Interstate Avenue, or some sections of centre-running line in Salt Lake City. Those lines tend to run at average speeds of 25 km/h or so, which is generally a little better than off-peak average bus speeds (Don Mills is around 22 to 23 km/h) and an improvement over peak speeds (Don Mills, again, around 18 km/h), but which is not as good as the subway (generally 30, maybe 35 km/h).

    Of course there are examples that run at much higher average speeds, but these tend to operate more like regular railroads and are usually on separate corridors (or, at best, beside an arterial). We could achieve this for Transit City if we took the approach of, say, using the Finch hydro corridor with stops at the major arterials instead of sticking to Finch and running more frequent stops (say every 500 metres or so). But the two approaches different purposes. If that is what Geoff and Leo are expecting, I suspect they are going to be disappointed.

    To Leo’s comments, I should hope we won’t have local service stop spacing, every 250 to 300 m or so, but I should also hope we don’t have the 2-km spacing he’s implying, certainly not if we are running along arterials like the plan shows, rather than, say, rail or hydro corridors. I would like to see something in the area of 500- to 600-metre spacing, which is longer than milk run local service but still allows a reasonable level of local access (like the B/D subway, for example). If we have all-door boarding, the intermediate stops won’t end up being the constraints. The constraint for travel speed and delays will be the huge suburban intersections that need long red times for pedestrian crossings. Transit priority signals can help in some cases but won’t be a cure-all, especially at the main intersections.

  12. Brent – I appreciate your perspective.

    I agree that some of the new Transit City lines would likely be able to run with B-D spacing – namely on Eglinton b/w Laird & Caledonia. As for other lines, I’m not sure that there is the population density to make it worthwhile (save Jane south of Dundas St W and the southern East York portion of the Don Mills line) on the other lines. But a station only at every concession road? That seems a bit much – I’d aim for 1 per km or at worst 1 per mile. But let the design of suburbia determine it on a case-by-case basis…not a cookie cutter approach.

    The question is, are we looking for near subway speed or a little less than streetcar frequency of stops. Given the design of suburbia and examples of cities around the world, I believe that Torontonians will likely prefer speed.

    As for using the Finch Hydro or Finch, I’m not sure. I’ve seen other cities use corridors that aren’t beside the major road (e.g. Calgary’s South LRT from the Chinook station to the Heritage station is a considerable distance – especially in a driving Prairie blizzard – to MacLeod Trail S). Would it fly here in Toronto?

    I’m not sure…but apropos consider the Danforth part of the B-D line is under Strathmore Blvd and not the Danforth. As well consider the distance between Kennedy, Warden and Victoria Park stations along with the distances between Eglinton, Lawrence, York Mills and Sheppard stations.

  13. For transit city, the best approach would be to have stops at the major intersections, and retain frequent local bus service for those in between.

  14. David C – I’ll have to look into posting “A Brief for the Retention of Streetcar Service in Toronto” report. A hardcopy is available at the City Archives (just outside of Dupont station) if you were so inclined.

    While I was researching some of the newspaper clippings around that time, the remarkable similarities between our transit issues today and those of 1972 was striking. It was as though nothing has changed really.

    I agree with Matt that the improvement of our downtown streetcar lines should be a huge priority, but in the words of James Bow, unfortunately it lacks “political sexiness”. Perhaps if they improved service (ala Mr. Munro’s suggestions) and tacked it on with the construction Transit City it could be done.

    One thing that I always dream about is the conversion of our downtown streetcar lines into contemporary LRT routes.

    – Physically separated lanes (with grass beds ala Strasbourg, France)
    – traffic signal priority
    – modern, low floor vehicles (possibly running in trains of 2 or 3)
    – payment before loading
    – all door loading
    – high frequency running times

    The first one is obviously the hardest to achieve, but I truly believe that we shouldn’t give up on it.

    I know – merchants will go nuts, car drivers will go nuts (loss of on street parking, a lane for driving and no left turns except at signaled intersections) and politicians are scared to death of it.

    Regardless of the growing pains it will take to get there – I hope we will seriously look at this in the near future because downtown Toronto deserves far better service.

  15. Does anyone have a comparison of ridership between of the “before” removal of streetcars on Rogers Road and Mt. Pleasant and the “after” replacement with buses on the two routes?
    I have seen figures of 31,000 on the 77 Spadina bus and 38,000 on the 510 Spadina streetcar, or a 22% increase.

  16. I of course have a copy of the original Streetcars for Toronto brief as I co-wrote it. If you wait until I manage to dig my way out of Queen Car issues in the next week or so, I will scan it and tidy up the text. Reproduction technology in 1972 was more primitive than today.

    This will make a good historical post on my own blog, and I can even point out the issues that have changed over 35 years.

    Steve

  17. Craig, thank you for naming these people. You don’t need a large group to begin important discussions and to challenge automatic thinking.

    The debate around suitable technology seems a bit more advanced than 1972, but we do seem stuck with a this v. that simplicity.

    There are many factors such as geography, funding, engineering and especially politics that must be accounted for, but we have a range of technologies to consider for any given route. Whether it’s bus in mixed traffic to heavy subway to commuter trains, each mode has a range of potential people-moving capacity.

    Matching the mode with the route is the tricky part, especially when you have to plan for a future network.

    Let’s watch the (soon-to-be-rechristened) GTTA closely, as they will have to evaluate which modes work best in various locations…

  18. In regards to ridership on Rogers and Mt. Pleasant after streetcar removal – one thing to remember about the Rogers streetcar was that it only connected with the subway at rush hours, the rest of the time it terminated at Oakwood & St. Clair. While the routing didn’t really change, making the service a branch of the Ossington trolley coach provided a full-time no-transfer connection to the subway (although at Ossington whereas the streetcar went all the way over to Yonge & St. Clair). As for Mt. Pleasant, the bridge construction that had the road closed for a long time in 1976-77 at the old Belt Line might have done a lot of long-term damage to the ridership on that route. When the trolley coaches started running in 1977, ridership patterns probably didn’t revert to the pre-closure levels.

  19. Tuesday, December 4th, Metro Hall, 3rd floor (ask the security guard for room number) is a Rocket Riders Forum on the 501 Streetcar with Steve Munro, James Bow, Ed Drass and Adam Giambrone speaking, in preparation for the deputation of Renee at the TTC Commission meeting Thursday December 6th open to the public at City Hall, 100 Queen Street 2nd floor.
    The forum on December 4th is from 6:30-9pm.
    The Commissions Meeting is 1-6pm.

  20. Regarding the discussion of a subway on Queen, forget it it will never happen, that is undoubtedly one of the most interesting bus rides in the entire city of Toronto, next to Ossington Buses, Mt. Pleasant Buses.

    A subway along Eglington West would be more appropriate considering the amount of people who transit along here and that the construction was started decades ago.

  21. I don’t agree that a subway along Queen would create chaos and destroy street life if we also kept the streetcar. If I need to get all the way across the city to High Park, and stay south the streetcar makes no sense. If I want to go from the Beach to Yonge Street, it makes more sense. Short trips on
    the streetcar are now impossible, as it is a longer wait for a streetcar than a 30 minute walk.

    I don’t see that there’s much political will to change that situation for riders, and the traffic congestion will only grow. How then is it possible that service can ever be good and reliable on this route, in the short-term let along in the future.

    Reality is that the transit plan considers nothing in the Southern part of the city, which includes it’s core, and the east end of the Beach. This area is the economic and cultural engine of our city and needs more transit service to reduce congestion now and in the future.

    What then will change for the core of the city as we make provisions for people to get into the core to work, but do nothing to allow them to move about easily in the core when they are here?

    It’s not about our individual communities, but can people move effectively in between them on transit that matters.

    It takes me 50 minutes to get from the Beach to Victoria Park and Danforth on the transit, which is a 10 minute drive in a car.

    Two buses are involved, and they don’t connect well. So, it’s not just about the streetcars being exceptionally inefficient, it’s the entire system that is inconvenient.

    Riders of transit in Toronto make great time and health sacrifices on a daily basis. Most people who drive need some conveniences placated in order to give up the convenience of being in their vehicles. I don’t see enough changes happening with the TTC to get people out of their cars in any significant numbers. In fact, I see service deteriorating, and vehicles deteriorating and so crowded as to be a health and safety risk on a regular basis.

    It takes me less time to take a GO train in from Erin Mills to the Beach than it takes me to get from Queen and Wineva to Queen and Yonge, along the 501 route, simply because the streetcars that service my area are 50% of the time or even more frequently not even coming to pick up riders, due to excessive short turns, and there is something seriously wrong with that picture.

    I’m not convinced that the subway would not be a good alternative to the streetcar. I definitely believe we need to keep the idea of the continuing the building the Queen subway in mind for the future. The subway would take a lot of pressure off the surface routes in the downtown core, including the 501, and perhaps more people would leave their cars at home if they could actually get to appointments on their lunch hour without the car.

    As it is now, the majority of people coming into the city from the GTA and outlying areas beyond the GTA do not feel that the transit in the city is good enough to leave their cars at home, and frankly as congested as it is, it is still easier to drive than to take transit (for now). The pathetically unreliable service on the Queen and King cars is a large part of the reason that commuters will not leave their cars at home.

    Blessings,
    Renee Knight (Yoga Rani)
    Petitioner and advocate for Neville Park 501 Service Improvement

    We now have over 300 signatures between our paper petition, which people can sign in person, and our online petition.

    http://www.gopetition.com/online/13076.html

    http://www.gopetition.com
    Queen Street Streetcar Service Petition (501-Neville Park)

  22. Really interesting post and great comments by all. Toronto doesn’t seem to know how to treat its streetcars at this point in time. US cities have clearly split these kinds of vehicles into subway-esque LRT (long distance, high speed, off-vehicle fare collection, big trains) and “streetcars” (charming transit for tying together local neighbourhoods and feeding other transit lines). See Portland for a prime example of each.

    Should Toronto be treating streetcars as rapid transit and eliminating stops, creating private ROW, drivers not collecting fares…. or should the streetcars be used as economic development tools to knit together urban stretches with very local use?

    Given the lack of GO and subway development within the city, I think the die has now been cast for the former — converting the streetcars to LRT. A streetcar circulator for tourists / development could perhaps be implemented over some kind of circular route around downtown using the existing tracks, but the main lines are badly needed for moving a lot of people over a considerable distance. Great job to everyone 35 years ago for saving the network. Now the time has come to put the streetcars on the rail maps (as opposed to the bus maps) and to upgrade the lines to full LRT.

  23. What’s truly missing from this debate is the impacts of transit on land use and development patterns.

    Leo – The line of 10 LRT lines being better than 1 subway line assumes that all rail is created equal and it’s just not true. For a tenth of the price, an LRT line will move about a tenth of the people. Will an LRT line allow the TTC to shorten surrounding routes because they feed into a fast and reliable trunk line? No. And to my point above, an LRT line will not shape surrounding development to the high density, pedestrian friendly, land efficient model we see all the way up Yonge St. as a result of the subway (and if you think the presence of the subway didn’t impact the densities along Yonge, compare Yonge north of the 401 to, well, any other arterial street in North York), because LRTs cannot possibly move enough people to make that kind of population concentration functional. So, personally, I will take 1 (well-placed) subway line. It’s the rising tide that raises all boats.

    Geoff – Pretending the problem with Matt’s argument is that he doesn’t distinguish between streetcars and LRTs is an easy way to just dismiss his arguments out of hand. All the cities you point to are irrelevant examples for discussions of transit in Toronto one of two reasons. Either a)They are much smaller than Toronto and couldn’t possibly support a subway anyway; or b) the LRT lines are the first attempt to create any kind of rapid transit network in these cities, and you logically start small with such initiatives, rather than jumping straight to the option that is most expensive and requires instantly high ridership to succeed.

    I particularly like the part of the LRT argument where the lines run underground for the parts of the line that can’t accommodate and on-street ROW. So for those portions, we get the reduced capacity of an LRT for the cost of a subway. Brilliant!

    What has experience told us about ROWs so far? Well, streetcars don’t have priority at intersections (they have to wait for the advanced green like everyone else), the Bathurst streetcar is actually FASTER than the Spadina streetcar covering the same distance (despite operating in mixed traffic), and the TTC has made an unholy mess of the St. Clair ROW implementation. Don’t get me wrong, there are certain instances where it makes sense, I’m just not sure I trust the TTC to make it happen.

    Matt – I mostly agree with your points, but it is truly wishful thinking to think the Premier can make anything happen with CN/CP. Firstly, railways are a federal responsibility. Having worked for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, I can tell you that the provincial government has almost no influence over CN/CP.

    Steve – thanks for enlightening us as to where the picture of the PCC was taken. I was puzzled.

  24. I have divergent views on these topics and yet they come back to a familiar theme: let’s look at what we can do with Front St. transit instead of a stupid road folly that’s a quarter-billion waste.
    The waste compounds itself into the WWLRT, part of the Transit City, and the totals add up: FSE@$255M + WWLRT @$540M + new Union Station entry@c.$125M = maybe $950M?
    That’s almost enough for a subway folks! (and the B/D relief line was to run under Front St.)
    The progressives of Miller, Pantalone and Giambrone are preferring a Metro-era road and its subservient transit sidekick (the WWLRT presumes the FSE is in place and won’t cast eyes on restoring transit to wider Front) and prefer wasting a few hundred million to beginning a corridor study that logically begins looking at all the options using the Queen St. subway line as a north limit as it’s basically aligned with the main choke point of inbound transport demand from the west – that’s the base of High Park. They’ve been officialdumb using piecemeal planning and tiny EAs for their devilopment of the Ex vs. serving demand – we prefer to mis-spend a few hundred Million to telling Joe he can’t have his big road.
    If we had a corridor study, or an EA process that forced the study of transit options to a costly road (What A Concept!), we could examine the conversion of the FSE to a Front St. transitway as one example. I believe we could have subway style stops in the core, better service from the Parkdale area with service to the Ex and the Trade Centre and Liberty Village and yet have a back-up to GO. Another option is to get some hybrid/combos of QUeen ROW and using the rail corridor to the NW – but the FSE interferes with the transit use of that corridor as it will spend c $60M to move this vital rail corridor that GO runs on.
    It’s a mess – but we’ve got a ton of money around, and now that the province has expanded GO trains by 20% starting soon, that will do more for congestion relief than both the WWLRT and the FSE, we don’t have to rush into blowing $800M+ because Joe wants to put more buildings into the Ex.
    And to serve the Ex? Just extend the Harbourfront line as a loop through the Ex to serve Ontario Place at the south end of the Ex Parking lot, and too bad about the car race – that should count as bonus to transit in the EA processes. Plan for extending the line west to Etobicoke somewhere on the Lakeshore but staying south of the tracks to avoid $200m in bridges but Joe and Adam like waSte.
    I’ll try to share these perspectives on paper with ideas for routes at the Queen St. forum, but I goofed on the day of the TTC mtg so I’ll be out of town – not that the TTC will listen to a new idea or 3 – I’ve been trying over the years.

  25. Streetcars for Toronto is one the main reasons why I decided to take up Transit Activism.

    I love Transit, and I love Toronto, and it really pains me to see our Transit system being slowly destroyed.

  26. There are other points here that need to be considered.

    In the first place, we need to keep in mind the obvious which is that the congestion is not caused by the streetcar but by the private automobile. A few years ago I was surprised to hear then Mayor Mel Lastman( Expressway Mel of all people)say that it was inevitable that the time would come when no automobile traffic would be alowed in the downtown core south of Queen. Were this to ever happen, the decrease in automobile traffic would be seen on virtually corridor leading into the city since so much commuter traffic is headed for the central core south of Queen. I can’t say whether the prediction is accurate but it does point out that the automobile need not be untouchable as it is now. At present, any improvement in surface transit must be made with the caveat that automobile traffic must be impeded as little as possible and any loss of parking spots has to be replaced. The return of streetcars greatly improved transit on Spadina but it also made life better for the automobiles using the street. Meteo Roads, as it was called back then, made sure of that. This has to change.

    Secondly, there are two different kinds of transit user. One type is the long distance commuter who travels somewhat invariably from a point in suburbia or semi-suburbia to a point in the centre core and back again at night. To these people, speed is about the only consideration.

    Other travellers, more typically living closer into the city may be more casual travellers, often without cars and using public transit to go to any number of destinations. For these people the traditional local streetcar is by far preferable. This latter group helps make up the people who keep our city streets alive and thriving. The commuter traveling from Missisauga to the TD Centre every day does not.

    It doesn’t take rocket science to grasp the fact that these two groups really require two different modes of transit. The higher speed LRT or subway or GO Transit etc. is best for the first group while for the second group a more local city streetcar run efficiently is preferable. It is VERY worth noting that where it is appropriate there is no reason that the speedy LRT cannot run for some distance along the more local lines as well. We can still learn from the interurbans of old.

    A couple of other considerations are the fact that when you remove streetcars from a city street, be it for a subway or whatever, you simply turn that street over to heavier automoblie traffic. I’m not holding my breath but I would love to see streetcars put back on Yonge St., at least as far north as Bloor. They could take some of the local traffic off the overcrowded subway and help revitalize the street. They could even run free of charge but NOT distribute transfers to other lines.

    And finally, if any new subway lines MUST be built, build them for the automobiles. Why should transit users always be stuck undergraound in tunnels away from the delights on the surface? For years I have polled people as to their preferred mode of transit, the choices being bus streetar or subway. I make no pretence to a scientific pole but I have asked an awful lot of people over the years from all walks of life. In all that time I have encountered ONE person who preferred the bus and about two people who preferred the subway. All the rest, and there have been an awful lot, preferred the streetcar. This may sound impossible but let me elaborate.

    Buses are out of the picture. People just don’t like them. It’s a bit more complicated with subways and streetcars. People liked the subways for their speed and this is no small consideration but in terms of actually liking the mode,i.e. enjoying the experience, the streetcar was way out in front. It was no contest. This shouldn’t suprise anyone. Look at the people on a subway. They are all either reading or listening to ipods or working away at their blackberries. Others seem to nod off but wake up for their station. Kids enjoy the railfan seat at the front but seldom do peolple look out the big picture windows to admire the dirty grey tunnel walls.

    And all that is important. There is more of a community experince on the streetcar while the subway tends to be very isolating and over an adult lifetime this can hardly be invigorating for the human spirit.

    Improving streetcar service on Queen may be a challenge but it is well worth thhe effort. Andn somethings e.g. more and bisgger streetcas and a better use of inspectors shouldn’t be all that hard as starters.

  27. I’m sorry, but most all the positives surrounding our streetcars seem based in nothing more than emotional appeal. Articulated trolley-buses would also give off zero emissions, carry just as many people as our current streetcar fleet, and would be much more flexible and quicker.

    With St Clair and Spadina, they should have used tee (railway) rail over girder (streetcar) rail. Sure no buses or emergency vehicles would be able to use the ROW, but streetcars would be able to move much quicker, and have similar speed characteristics to buses.

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