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Streetcars are Vital to Toronto


The TTC recently put forward a far reaching plan that if implemented would, in the commission’s opinion, do much to make Toronto a more liveable and environmentally-sustainable city.

The main component of the “Toronto, Transit City” plan is the construction and operation of seven new light rail transit routes that would serve people living in all areas of the city. By the way, light rail is defined as modern streetcars operating on an exclusive transit right-of-way.

Interestingly, this plan is somewhat reminiscent of one put forward nearly 90 years ago when the province first created the Toronto Transportation Commission and gave it a mandate to make some sense out of the incredibly fragmented public transit service then in existence.

The private streetcar company was bought out and combined with the smaller city-owned system that had done its best to serve the suburban areas of the city.

What resulted was a new city-wide transportation authority, today’s TTC. Now, passenger revenues as well as taxpayers’ money would be available to modernize and keep the system in good running condition.

What’s on your wish list?

From the very beginning a wide variety of electric streetcars in the form of Peter Witts, Birneys and PCCs, formed the backbone of the system. These vehicles were eventually supplemented by buses and in 1954 trains on the pioneer Yonge subway line.

Over the years, streetcars continued to be an important component in the TTC fleet. However, in the fall of 1972, TTC staff recommended the abandonment of its aging streetcar fleet. They were to be replaced by diesel buses. The anticipated approval of this recommendation would mean that within seven or eight years Toronto would be void of its streetcars.


But not so fast. A group of concerned citizens that included Steve Munro, Andrew Biemiller, Howard Levine, John Bromley, Chris Prentice and myself, with the guidance of city aldermen Paul Pickett and Bill Kilbourn, convinced the TTC to rethink the idea.

On Nov. 7, the five Commissioners led by Gordon Hurlburt and David Lacey voted to, in Commissioner Lacey’s words “retain streetcar service for all time.”

We’ve now gone full circle with the TTC’s Transit City proposal featuring the good old streetcar albeit in the form of modern, efficient vehicles operating along exclusive transit rights-of-way.

Now, whether this innovative plan gets the go-ahead …that’s anybody’s guess.

  • The Golf Historical Society of Canada will hold its annual Trade Fair and Auction next Saturday at Glen Abbey’s Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum, 1333 Dorval Dr., Oakville. The Museum will open at 10 a.m., with the auction starting at 3. p.m.

There’ll be hundreds of exhibits as well as tributes to Al Balding and Moe Norman. Bring your old golf clubs or golf memorabilia for identification and valuation. The public is welcome and admission is free.