Mapping Toronto’s street railways in the TTC era (1921-2016)

Yonge and St Clair, north-west
Yonge Street at St. Clair Avenue, 1922. The TTC was busy in its first few years joining together the various street railway systems together and expanding services. Here, work is underway to extend city streetcar service to Glen Echo Loop and connect with the former Toronto Civic Railway’s St. Clair line.  City of Toronto Archives Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 1571

Third in a three-part series — also see Part 1 (1861 to 1891) and Part 2 (1891 to 1921)

In 1921, the Toronto Transportation Commission was established to provide all transit services within the City of Toronto, on a complete cost-recovery basis. Within the City, there would be a single fare for all regular services, including free transfers, with additional fares for services outside the city limits.

The TTC immediately took over the operations of the Toronto Railway Company and the city-owned Toronto Civic Railways and began to unify the two systems. It bought new equipment, and replaced worn-out rail, carhouses, and other facilities. It introduced the first transit buses to Torontonians, and three decades later, Canada’s first subway.

Toronto’s streetcar system expanded through the 1920s, but stagnated through the 1930s, including the loss of almost all of Toronto’s radial railways. But it wasn’t until 1947-1948 that Toronto’s street railway network entered an era of decline, as trolley coaches, diesel buses, and subways chipped away at the streetcar’s dominance.

By the late 1960s, the TTC was looking to eliminate streetcars entirely by 1980, once the Queen Street Subway opened. Of course, that subway line never opened, and the streetcars remained. It wasn’t until the 1990s, though, that the network entered a renaissance.

1923

Within two years, the TTC quickly modernized the streetcar system. New streetcars — known as Peter Witts — were ordered and the oldest of the Toronto Railway Company’s cars were immediately scrapped. The TTC unified the TRC and Civic systems, replaced the radial railways within city limits with city services, and added new routes such as Coxwell and Bay. The City took over the Toronto & York radials as well, but handed their operation over to Ontario Hydro. The TTC also replaced much of the worn out rails, and built new turning loops at the end of streetcar lines replaced crossovers and wyes. This improved operations and allowed for larger, single-ended streetcars to operate on more routes.

The TTC also introduced buses. In the early 1920s, buses were were slow, small and less comfortable than streetcars, but they had their advantages. The TTC’s first bus route, 1 Humberside, provided a direct, single-fare ride through the South Junction neighbourhood to TTC streetcars at Dundas Street; the Toronto Suburban’s Crescent streetcar line couldn’t compete and was soon abandoned. The TTC also experimented with a trolley bus route on Merton Street and Mount Pleasant Road between 1922 and 1925; it was replaced by an extension of the St. Clair streetcar.

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s0648_fl0227_id0001Trolley bus on Merton Street, June 20, 1922. City of Toronto Archives, Series 648, Fonds 227, Item 1

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Thoughts on Newmarket’s new Rapidway (updated)

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Updated January 4 2017

Effective Sunday, January 8, York Region Transit will impose new service cuts on several of its routes, including Viva Yellow, which I describe below. One bus will be removed from the route, reducing headways from every 15 minutes to every 22 minutes. Service after 10:30PM-11:00PM will also be eliminated.

One wonders why, on one hand, there’s money to be hand to build fancy new bus infrastructure when there’s no willingness to fund transit that would make such capital expenditures useful.

As York Region gets set to welcome the Spadina Subway extension to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre [sigh] and continues to lobby for a Yonge Subway extension to Richmond Hill, it’s worth questioning whether York Region is really committed to operating a quality transit service, and if it is serious about reducing its dependence on the single-occupant automobile.


Original post, dated June 24, 2016

In September, 2013, I wrote a post in Spacing Toronto called “York Region’s Rapidways: the good, the bad and the ugly.” I went out to Markham to ride the first of York Region’s VivaNext Rapidways. With the recent opening of a similar Rapidway in Newmarket, and a new Viva Route on Davis Drive, I made a trip north a few weeks ago to check it out.

Viva is the brand used by York Region Transit for its network of limited-stop, proof-of-payment bus routes. When first launched in September, 2005, Viva was strictly a “BRT-lite” operation. Unlike regular YRT routes, the buses are fancier and more comfortable, the stops less frequent, and to speed up service, Viva operates on a proof-of-payment system where fares are purchased in advance from machines at Viva stops. and limited stops. A decade ago, all Viva corridors were supposed to be served by buses operating every 15 minutes or better, 7 days a week.

But a few years later, the cutbacks began to happen as York Region reduced funding for transit operations. Viva Green, connecting Markham to the TTC’s Don Mills Station, became a rush hour only route. Viva Orange, connecting Vaughan to Downsview Subway via York University was cut back as well and now only operates every 30 minutes outside of rush hour. Even Viva Purple (York University – Markham) had its operating times cut back. Worse yet, YRT reduced service on connecting conventional bus routes that feed the Viva system.

But while the region was reducing its spending on transit operations and raising fares, it was spending hundreds of millions of dollars on VivaNext, the region’s rapid transit plan. The plan calls for separated median right-of-ways on Highway 7, Yonge Street and Davis Drive, known as Rapidways, as well as two TTC subway extensions. York Region lobbied for, and got, a subway extension to Highway 7 in Vaughan which will open next year; it has also lobbied for an extension to the Yonge Subway from Finch Station to Richmond Hill. York Region, with its political clout, may just get that too.

Spending billions of dollars on building transit, without properly funding the services that use and feed into that fancy new infrastructure is a problem. This is what’s wrong with York Region Transit.  Continue reading

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Mapping Toronto’s streetcar network: The age of electric – 1891 to 1921

People & Historic shots. - [1920?]-1987

TRC streetcars on Queen Street, c. 1910. Note the old TSR horsecars used as trailers behind the electric cars. City of Toronto Archives, Series 1465, File 722, Item 18

This post continues from The Horsecar Era: 1861 to 1891 

In 1891, after obtaining a new 30-year franchise, the Toronto Railway Company went to work electrifying Toronto’s streetcar system. The TRC was a private company, led by William Mackenzie and James Ross. Mackenzie made his fortune in railway construction; together with Donald Mann, he would go on to build a railway empire before it collapsed by the end of the First World War. Mackenzie would also control other street railway and interurban lines in Ontario, including the Toronto and York, the Toronto Suburban, and the Niagara, St. Catharines, and Toronto.

By 1894, the TRC became fully electrified, providing quicker and more reliable service. In the twenty-five years that followed, new electric railways radiated out of Toronto to points such as West Hill in Scarborough, Port Credit, Woodbridge, and even as far away as Lake Simcoe and Guelph. But after a short sprint of service expansion within the City of Toronto, the TRC refused to extend its services beyond Toronto’s city borders of 1891. The City of Toronto was forced to form its own public streetcar company in 1911, and became determined to take complete control over urban transportation services once the TRC’s franchise came to an end.

Maps presented only show revenue routes, including peak period variations and some seasonal routes, such as Exhibition services. I omit some minor service and route changes. I welcome constructive feedback as I plan to re-publish these maps elsewhere.

1894

Electrification of the Toronto Railway Company began when the Church Street line was converted on August 16, 1892. The last horsecar made its trip on McCaul Street on July 18, 1894. The TRC extended several routes in Toronto’s west end, including King, Dovercourt, Bloor, Dundas and Carlton.

The Davenport Street Railway Company began operations on September 6, 1892 between Toronto Junction at Keele and Dundas Streets, and Bathurst Street at the CPR tracks, a short walk to TRC Bathurst Cars. The Weston, High Park & Toronto Street Railway Company began operating the same year within the Junction, from Evelyn Crescent to Keele Street, later extending east to the Toronto City Limits at Humberside Avenue. These two companies merged in 1894 to create the Toronto Suburban Railway.

The Toronto and Mimico Railway was the city’s second radial. After a troubled start in 1892, it extended west to New Toronto by 1894. The Toronto and York built east from Queen Street and Kingston Road to Blantyre Avenue in Scarborough Township. Two short spurs served the town of East Toronto (near today’s Main/Gerrard intersection) and down to the Beach.

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Suburban stations for urban needs: accessing GO Transit’s proposed new stations

21505188673_1d34d85175_kGO Transit train from the Pape Avenue footbridge, near the proposed site of Gerrard Station

At its last board meeting on December 8
, Metrolinx presented an update on the status of twelve new GO Transit rail stations, all located on existing lines. Eight of these proposed new stations are located in the City of Toronto; and six of those are station locations once promised as part of John Tory’s SmartTrack proposal. Unfortunately, the proposed new station designs (all available in this Metrolinx report) appear to be similar to existing GO stations in the suburbs, with needlessly large bus loops, PPUDOs, and parking lots. Development opportunities are limited.

Transit connections at some proposed stations, like St. Clair West, are poor or practically non-existent. This is rather unfortunate, as SmartTrack was originally proposed as a frequent, subway-like service between Mississauga and Markham, with full TTC fare integration. Today, it’s merely six additional stations on existing GO Transit rail corridors. Without quick and seamless connections to the subway and surface TTC routes, the ability to provide any transit relief is compromised.

I have more to say on this at Spacing Toronto.

 

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Mapping Toronto’s streetcar network: The horsecar era – 1861 to 1891

Horse car, with J. Gibbons, conductor, and J. Badgerow, driver, at Old North Toronto StationToronto Street Railway horse car on Yonge Street at the Canadian Pacific Railway crossing, after 1885. From City of Toronto Archives, Fords 16, Series 71, Item 3367

Over the last few months, I have researched many books and maps and created a series of maps that attempt to illustrate the history of Toronto’s street railways, from 1861 to the present. Toronto is one of only a few cities in North America to continually operate a street railway network (others include Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New Orleans), which remains one of the busiest and most expansive tram systems in the world.

Before the Toronto Transportation Commission was created in 1921, Toronto was served by several private streetcar firms. The Toronto Street Railway, which began operations in 1861, built Canada’s first streetcar system; two routes were opened that year, with small railcars pulled by horses. The TSR’s successor, the Toronto Railway Company, electrified the network, but with few exceptions, refused to expand it beyond Toronto’s 1891 borders. Only with the creation of the publicly owned TTC was Toronto’s streetcar system unified and modernized to be the envy of cities across the continent.

Creating these 38 maps was a challenge, because published materials covering the pre-TTC era (before 1921) are sparse. William Hood’s Street Railways : Toronto: 1861 to 1930 provides some history of Toronto’s earliest transit services, but with only some details. I also consulted Transit Toronto’s route histories and other books such as Robert M. Stamp’s Riding the Radials and John F. Bromley’s Fifty Years of Progressive Transit which covers the years from 1921 to 1971.

This post, the first of three, will cover the years from 1861 to 1891, the era of the Toronto Street Railway (TSR), when horse power ruled the streets. I do not cover every year, and I omit some minor service and route changes. But this, I hope, accurately illustrates the rise, fall, and renaissance of Toronto’s streetcar system.

1861
The TSR begins operations on September 10, 1861, serving a small provincial city of less than 50,000 people. The first route, Yonge, operates from Yorkville Town Hall, just north of the city limits, to St. Lawrence Market at King and Jarvis. A second route, Queen, was established in December of 1861, running between the market and the Ontario Hospital at the corner of Dundas Street, now Ossington Avenue.

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Unanswered questions about Toronto’s next subway extension

IMG_4677-001.JPGPioneer Village Station under construction, August 2016

By the end of next year, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Line 1 subway extension to Vaughan will finally open, two years later than originally planned. The line will provide relief for thousands of York University students and employees and improve service to transit-starved northwest Toronto. It will terminate at Highway 7 in Vaughan, at the ambitiously (and in my view, ridiculously) named Vaughan Metropolitan Station, posing a challenge to cartographers and designers everywhere.

When the $3.2 billion subway extension begins operating in December 2o17, it will be the first new major subway project since the opening of the five stop Sheppard Subway in 2002. It is also the first subway line to cross the City of Toronto boundary. (Coincidentally, this subway extension will cost the same as the proposed one-stop extension of Line 2 to Scarborough Centre.)

Aside from the delays, the big price tag, and the silly Vaughan station name, there are two more issues that will arise, and which have yet to be completely figured out: how four separate transit agencies will re-route their buses once the subway opens, and the necessary question of fare integration once that happens.

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From the vaults: the end of Yonge Street

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Note: This article was previously published in Spacing Toronto on April 13, 2011.

One of Toronto’s greatest debates concerns Yonge Street’s controversial claim as “the World’s Longest Street.” Indeed, the Guinness Book of World Records published Yonge Street’s status as the true record until 1999; a bronze art installation in front of the Eaton Centre at Yonge and Dundas has a map of Yonge Street extending to Rainy River.

This claim rests on the rather tenuous claim that that the 1,896 kilometre length of Yonge Street from Queen’s Quay on Toronto’s Harbourfront to Rainy River via Highway 11, at the Minnesota-Ontario border is in fact, the longest continuous “street.”

While a popular claim, I’ve been a skeptic of this local legend. Highway 11 and Yonge Street have never been one in the same, especially after the downloading of Highway 11 south of Barrie by the Harris government in the late 1990s.

In 1920, Yonge Street was added to the Ontario provincial highway systemas Highway 11, which extended from Downtown Toronto as far as the end of Simcoe County, at the Severn River north of Orillia, where an unnumbered highway continued through the unincorporated Districts of Muskoka, Parry Sound and Nipissing to North Bay. In 1937, Highway 11 assumed the Severn River-North Bay portion and the newly-completed North Bay-Hearst section.

During the Second World War, the section between Nipigon and Hearst was completed; it finally provided a complete provincial highway link between the Manitoba and Quebec borders and formed a crucial part of the Trans-Canada Highway until the more direct Highway 17 link from Sault Ste. Marie to Wawa was completed in the 1960s. Indeed, Highway 11 could still claim as the longest signed route within a sub-national entity but several national routes, such as US Interstates and US highways, are longer. In fact, the last reference to Yonge Street on Highway 11 north of Holland Landing is a short section of former Highway 11 in south Barrie.

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