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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

What’s in a (streetcar) name?

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As part of Monday’s campaign launch to showcase the city’s new streetcar design (to hit the streets in 2013), the TTC asked residents to help develop a nickname for the streetcars. This reminded me about what they do in Gothenburg, Sweden (a cool city I visited last spring and found to be rather similar to Toronto). Each Gothenburg streetcar is named after a retired employee of the transit agency (you can see the name “Endre Nemes” in the photo just above the number 357 on the left side near the door).

Now, I don’t expect Toronto riders would go for something like naming a vehicle after a sleeping fare collector, but which people in our city’s history could we name streetcars after? Maybe one of the vehicles used on the Harbourfront line could be named after Pierre Trudeau who was responsible for providing the initial funding to the Harbourfront Centre in the 1970s; maybe a streetcar on the Spadina line could be named after Bill Davis, the Ontario premier who cancelled the planned Spadina Expressway which allowed Spadina to be turned into a transit corridor instead of a highway; or a Johhny Lombardi-named streetcar could run on the College line which cuts through Little Italy, home of Lombardi’s CHIN radio empire.

Who are the people you think would be deserving of having a streetcar named after them? And which line(s) — either current lines or future Transit City lines — would it run on?

(I’m aware this kind of a post lends itself to commenters heaping deserved and undeserved abuse our public and political leaders, so let’s try to keep it civil.)



  1. Nosmo King would be a good name to start with.

  2. It’s hard to find someone who has done more for streetcars in Toronto than Steve Munro. My vote is for the entire new fleet to be called the Munro cars.

  3. I would like to see some streetcars named after frequent riders who are notable for making a difference in their communities in some way but not necessarily famous. The unsung heroes of TO, if you will.

  4. In honour of the Leafs’ most immobile defenceman, I suggest the Brad Marsh – renowned for blocking traffic and for making even the surliest customers pay through the nose.

    Or how about getting corporate sponsorship from Subway sandwiches – sure, we may not build subways, but we can still support the idea of them!

  5. The Spacing Rocket anyone? Seriously, I can think of a ton of names and it’s actually not a bad idea, but perhaps could be interpreted as the TTC — yet again — trying to divert attention away from how badly the legacy streetcar system is actually run.

  6. Obviously the first round of names should be from “Save our Streetcars” … Steve Munro, etc;

  7. I would love to see the professionalism and dedication of civil servants recognized and honored. I like seeing the names of people like R C Harris, Adam Beck or Thomas Rennie on things. I would imagine such honors encourage professionalism among other public workers as well. Pierre Trudeau has enough stuff named after him.

  8. How about Jane Jacobs for the Bathurst street car.

  9. As a guy who thinks it was mostly a mistake to keep the legacy streetcar system (a position I think vindicated by current poor service and antiquated operating standards), I wholeheartedly support naming them after Steve Munro et al., just for the irony value.

  10. I am not greedy! I will take one car and leave the rest of the fleet to other deserving folks. We don’t need to name them all at once.

  11. “Pierre Trudeau has enough stuff named after him.”

    Hardly. This is a city where the prominent streets and public spaces never seem to named after great Canadians, but always after either obscure city builders, early English land holders, generic colonial names, or dull geographic names.

    I suggest a using a variety of different names including great Canadians.

  12. Ninjalicious – the guy who made the coolest zine ever ‘Infiltration’, about going places you’re not supposed to. I imagine he was a heavy user of transit, and is one of the greatest explorers of Toronto that ever wandered the streets, steam tunnels and back staircases of this city.

  13. How about: NOT IN SERVICE ? Oh right we already have a lot of those.
    Seriously… David Gunn cars? Oh right guns n gangs…
    Tough to get a good name. Giamboners? hmmm too much bad history
    Okay here’s my best shot: Name them after all previous Mayors of Toronto so we can all learn our history.

  14. They want a generic nickname for the whole fleet of new vehicles, not individual vehicle names.

    Like the “Toronto Rocket” name of the new subway trains.

  15. I don’t think this really matters. There’s simply too much angst/anger towards the TTC right now and all of a sudden, they spend this money to roll out a campaign to name Streetcars. Naming Streetcar lines after important people in the past is a decent idea but it can also be confusing or too long for some people. Let’s say the Bathurst line is called Jane Jacobs.Do we leave it at Jane Jacobs line? That leaves users who are not familiar with the system unsure of anything about the line, east-west? north-south? What street is it on? So maybe Jane Jacobs Bathurst North line? Do we need 4-5 words in naming a line? Isn’t that too long?

    I say just keep things simple and leave the names. If you want to put a little name next to each individual streetcar that was displayed, then go for it. If Streetcar #1635 is named Jane Jacobs and runs only the Bathurst line, I think that’s even better.

  16. Jack & JT: This particular post is not about naming a line after someone, just a single streetcar. I realize what the TTC is doing — but I’m suggesting something different.

  17. The PATH system in New York/New Jersey names each subway car after a town, village or city in the region whose residents comprise the commuters on the trains.

    There is a little plaque in each car with the name and then a blurb about its history and makeup. TTC could do the same with neighbourhood names – according to the Star’s map ( there are certainly plenty of names to work with. Educational, local, and very grassroots.

  18. Irish Rail named their 201 class locomotives after rivers – I’m sure there are 204 rivers in Ontario we could name the downtown cars after – the first two being River Don and River Humber (or vice versa). It might be easier for passengers to remember after an incident than the four digit serial number and the run number!

  19. You could name them after other Ontario towns, so that people in the hinterland feel more included and likely to support provincial funding for them. In Vancouver, the SkyTrain cars are all named Spirit of Port Alberni, or Terrace, or Powell River, or other places. Possibly people from those spots took photos of the cars during expo and avoided a swindling feeling… Imagine; Spirit of Thunder Bay, or Kenora Feeling! In a departure from this tradition, TransLink also just named a SkyTrain car after John Furlong, the Vanoc CEO…

  20. I’d like to consider streetcars named after neighbourhoods in Toronto. For example, it would be cool to ride the Kensington, the Davenport, the Riverdale, the Rosedale, the Victoria, etc.

    When I get mad at cars abusing the HOV/HOT lanes, the “automobile-obliterator” comes to mind (imagine a transit vehicle with a power-flap with enough power to shove blocking cars off to the side). Just kidding.

  21. For the Bathurst line I’d nominate one to be called The Lake Iroquois.

  22. If they are going to have individual names for each streetcar, as well as a generic name for the whole fleet, one might consider as individual names some of the famous men in streetcar history.

    Insull, Sprague, Edison, Westinghouse, etc. each who contributed in some way to make trolleys viable in the first place way back when.

    Another car name might be ‘Presidents’ Conference Committee’ or PCC, the designers who developed the PCC car that allowed Toronto to bring streetcars into the Seventies and Eighties after most other cities scrapped theirs.

    Another source of names might be TTC employees who have been injured or killed while on the job performing their duties to serve the public.

    They have to put up with allot of crap from some very ignorant patrons and vehicle drivers.

    It’s not the TTC’s fault when someone decides to end their problems by jumping in front of a subway train at rush hour tying up the whole system for hours.

    A Motorman, like a train Engineer never forgets that. There is usually eye-to-eye contact just before the person ‘goes under’.

    Everyone seems to be ‘down’ on the TTC, but, in reality, it is a great system.

    Try running Toronto with out it. Ditto the GO Trains and buses.

    Enough of that.

    Hope the new streetcars still have BELLS, as that distinctive sound goes way back in time and it is a legacy.

    Streetcar bells were the hallmark sound of a great city many years ago, and their tone still adds class to any thoroughfare.

    Thank You.

  23. Great idea! Naming them after past Prime Ministers, Premiers, Mayors and Councillors would be a fantastic way of promoting our history.

  24. generic names? I’m divided between the Red Rumbles and Red Rackets…

  25. Tooker Gomberg. Ben Kerr. Jane Jacobs. Ned Hanlon. Al Waxman. Moe Koffman. William Peyton Hubbard. Allan Sparrow.Mary Pickford. Colin Vaughan. Thornton Blackburn.