Cutting through Premier DOUG FORD’S hyperbole, the provincial government’s plan for the TORONTO Transit Commission (TTC) might work. Its ace seems to be money, and the province’s ability to cut through red tape when it comes to the subway’s expansion in the Greater Toronto/Hamilton Area (GTHA).

The plan, presented at Queen’s Park, says Ontario would take over the building and maintenance of the present & future subway; TTC would deal with day-to-day operations; TTC would continue to run the streetcars and buses and keep fare box revenues; a push would be made to integrate the TTC with GO and regional transit systems; the province & city would agree on the dollar value of the present subway system and the maintenance price tag.According to the Toronto Star, the two sides are negotiating the subway’s value. It seems to be worth about $9-billion, with maintenance and upgrade of tunnels, signals and track amounting to $5.6-billion. This suggests, according to the Star, there’d be a one-time net gain of $3.4-billion for the city.

In a report published by the TTC in January/2019, the subway network and stations would need an estimated $22-billion in capital investment over the next 15 years. This wouldn’t include expansion projects, such as the downtown relief line.

This could be a ‘spider and the fly’ type story.  “I think we’re being suckered,” said city councillor JOSH MATLOW, the only councillor who voted against talks with the province.


<Small green and brown omnibus, Toronto Street Railway, ca1860’s. They ran as backups to the main fleet of horsecars.Media producer TREVOR PARKINS-SCIBERRAS has learned that relics from the earliest days of public transit in TORONTO are accumulating dust in Ottawa’s Science and Technology Museum. He wants them back where they belong. The major obstacle is finding a place to show them.

<Yorkville Omnibus, in service from 1849 to 1861 between TORONTO and the Village of Yorkville>  Once part of a museum display, the vehicles appear to be in excellent shape, but they’ve been in storage for decades. “They are part of TORONTO’s history, not Ottawa history,” Trevor says. “I really think the TTC could bring them back and run a touristic attraction for them, if they wanted.”

<John Thompson Omnibus, 1880, carried passengers from TORONTO to Richmond Hill>  Spokesman BRAD ROSS said the TTC has no record of heritage vehicles belonging to the TTC in storage in Ottawa – or anywhere else for that matter. “Vehicles are decommissioned and sold as scrap – and have been for years.” he said. “Where they go after that isn’t something we track.”

<1892 closed streetcar, Toronto Street Railway Company>

<One of TORONTO’s first double-deckers, 1921>

<Single-decker bus, Toronto Transportation Commission, 1922>

<PHOTOS – Trevor Parkins, Transit Toronto, blogto>


KEENAN5Broadcaster and newspaper columnist EDWARD KEENAN is known for telling it like it is. In a March 8 column he’s concerned that York Region (i.e. the 905 outer ring of suburban towns, cities and sprawl) is lobbying the federal government for cash to extend TORONTO’s subway (largely paid for by city taxpayers) to Richmond Hill “a neighbouring city up there in the northlands”.  The column – ‘No room for Vaughan in Toronto transit’ – opens with a vivid description of the 905 City of VAUGHAN . . .

KEENAN3With that out of the way, the main concern of Mr. Keenan is that folks in Richmond Hill will get first choice of seats and standing room on TTC trains heading south to TORONTO. By the time the trains reach the city limits, the good burghers waiting there (who are paying for the system) will have to squeeze themselves aboard.  To make a long story short, Mr. Keenan and the good burghers don’t think it’s fair to extend their subway further into the ‘burbs.  That’s putting it mildly.

KEENAN2KEENAN6<Edward Keenan, columnist Toronto Star>


MUSEUMSTN1TORONTO’s Museum subway station is on The Guardian’s list of the world’s most beautiful metro stops. Opened on April 8, 2008, the rebuilt station features columns and sculpture replicating artifacts found in the Royal Ontario Museum above.  The design for the station platform was done by TORONTO architect Jack Diamond of Diamond+Schmitt Architects. The same group created TORONTO’s Opera House in the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, and the Maison Symphonique in Place des Arts, MONTREAL.



    Five years ago former mayor DAVID MILLER and City Council approved $834-million as TORONTO’s share in purchasing 204 air-conditioned LRV streetcars from Bombardier Canada. The Province of Ontario kicked in another $417-million.


Two of them are now in service on Spadina Avenue. The other 202 will be phased in over the next five years, and all of the old models will be retired.  DAVID MILLER and Toronto Transit Commission CEO ANDY BYFORD can take much of the credit for delivering these state-of-the-art vehicles to the people of TORONTO. LRV highlights: fast acceleration, bike racks, 70 seats with room for 181 standees, ramps for wheelchairs and bundle buggies, and four doors for quick boarding.

The “skunk at the party” is Mayor ROB FORD, who has no use for streetcars. In fact, he wants to dump them all. “I know one thing. I won’t get on a streetcar,” Ford has proclaimed. “If I have an option, driving or streetcar, I’m going to get in my car. I just want to eventually phase them out . . . People want subways, folks. They want subways, subways. They don’t want these damned streetcars blocking up our city. That’s what they don’t want.” Says he.



TORONTO has one of North America’s finest public transit systems, at least according to Seattle-based Walk Score – and the mounting cost of maintaining the TTC is uniquely funded from the fare box (70%) and city property taxes (30%).


This is the first year that Walk Score has surveyed transit systems in Canada and the US.  Says co-founder MATT LERNER: “To have a great transit score you usually need to have a mix of rail and bus nearby. Toronto has a lot of neighbourhoods with a great transit score,” he said, adding the city has about 25 neighbourhoods that score more than 90, earning them the title ‘riders’ paradise. “The city really just has excellent transit.”  TORONTO has fared very well against US cities too, outscoring every one of them except NEW YORK and SAN FRANCISCO.The top three Canadian transit cities: TORONTO (score 78); MONTREAL (score 77); and VANCOUVER (score 74).


TORONTO’s love affair with streetcars means tearing up and putting down tracks

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) operates the most extensive streetcar network in the Americas, with brand new cars arriving in 2014.  Tearing up and putting down tracks is nothing new around here.  York Street at Adelaide in the Financial District is one of the latest rebuilding sites.

STREETCARS1<PHOTOS BELOW – City of Toronto Archives> 1) Rebuilding tracks at the intersection of Spadina Avenue & College Street, 1930’s  2) Digging up tracks on Yonge Street for subway construction, 1950’s>



Unique in North America, HARVEY SHOPS can rebuild streetcars from scratch

The TTC’s Hillcrest maintenance shop, 1138 Bathurst Street, is where the streetcars and buses go for an overhaul and repairs. Opened in 1923, the property was once home to the Hillcrest Race Track. It’s now a major TORONTO Transit Commission maintenance centre.  <PHOTO – Vic on Flickr>

Highly skilled employees here have the expertise and equipment to rebuild streetcars from scratch, a project the Commission undertook a few years ago.

The Harvey Shops, unique in North America, are named after D. W. Harvey, the TTC’s general manager from 1924-1938.  They’re actually a series of small repair shops under one roof – each specializing in different skills – from sheet metal and upholstery, to motor, body repair and paint.  For anything and everything about TORONTO’s transportation system – subways, buses and streetcars – take a look at Steve Munro’s excellent website:

Toronto Transit’s CEO, ANDY BYFORD, talks common sense

ANDY BYFORD, a graduate of London’s Underground, and now CEO of the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) wants to prioritize the building of a Downtown Subway Relief Line (DRL).  From Pape to Union Station, with 5 stops along the way, it might look something like this:

Our subway system is overloaded, and ANDY BYFORD believes the time has come to stop talking and start doing.  “We’re just holding back the tide, we really do need to start thinking about relief for (the Yonge Line), to provide additional capacity to get people from the suburbs downtown,” he told CBC radio.  “The way to do that is to get people off the Bloor-Danforth line earlier, so that they don’t interchange onto the Yonge line.”And before suburbia starts kvetching about building another downtown subway at their expense, BYFORD adds: “At the end of the day, this isn’t a private shuttle for people living around Queen and King (in the core).  This is a line to get people from the suburbs, primarily, into the prime traffic objective — in other words, where people want to go — which is the commercial and financial centre of downtown Toronto.  Let’s get that debate going.  Obviously funding is an issue, but let’s at least start the talking.”