History of the Toronto Transit Commission

History of the Toronto Transit Commission

Before the TTC: Omnibus and Toronto Street Railway

Toronto's first public transportation company was the Williams Omnibus Bus Line and owned by furniture maker and undertaker Burt Williams in 1849. William's franchise carried passengers in horse-drawn stagecoaches via King and Yonge Streets between the St. Lawrence Market and the Village of Yorkville for 6d. (six pence).

Toronto's first transit system was a franchise for a 'street railway' in 1861 to Alexander Easton under the name Toronto Street Railways (TSR). A second franchise was granted to the Metropolitan Street Railway of Toronto (MSR) in 1885.

In 1891 the TSR lost the franchise, which after a few months of municipal operation was transferred to William Mackenzie's Toronto Railway Company, which replaced the horse-drawn streetcars with electric ones between 1892 and 1894.

Outside of the city, transit connection to the suburbs were known as 'radial railways' (because their lines radiated from Toronto), among them the Toronto and York Radial Railway and the Toronto Suburban Railway.

Public Transit: Toronto Civic

Prior to the establishment of the TTC, the City of Toronto operated the city owned system under the Toronto Civic Railways (TCR) name, which was created to serve areas to which the Toronto Railways Company (owned by William Mackenzie) did not.

TTC: The early years

In 1920, a Provincial Act created the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) and, with the expiration of the TRC's franchise in 1921, the Commission took over and amalgamated nine existing fare systems within the city limits. Between 1921 and 1953, the TTC added 35 new routes in the city and extended 20 more. It also operated 23 suburban routes on a service-for-cost basis. It abandoned money-losing radial railway line (known as 'interurbans' elsewhere in the continent), North Yonge Railways.

The Great Depression and the Second World War both placed heavy burdens on the ability of municipalities to finance themselves. During most of the 1930s, municipal governments had to cope with general welfare costs and assistance to the unemployed. The TTC realized that improvements had to be made despite the depression and in 1936 purchased the first of the newly-developed PCC streetcars. The war put an end to the depression and increased migration from rural to urban areas. After the war, municipalities faced the problem of extending services to accommodate the increased population. Ironically, the one municipal service that prospered during the war years was public transit; employers had to stagger work hours in order to avoid overcrowding the streetcars. Toronto continued their program of purchasing PCC cars, running the world's largest fleet, including many obtained second-hand from U.S. cities that abandoned streetcar service.

TTC: Post-war years

Public transit was one of the essential services identified by Metro Toronto's founders in 1953. On January 1, 1954, the Toronto Transportation Commission was renamed the Toronto Transit Commission and public transit was placed under the jurisdiction of the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. The assets and liabilities of the TTC and four independent bus lines operating in the suburbs were acquired by the Commission. In 1954, the TTC became the sole provider of public transportation services in Metro Toronto.

ubway boom

The original Union Station-to-Eglinton section of the Yonge Street subway, Canada's first, was conceived and built with revenues gained during the war, when gas rationing limited the use of automobiles. The subway line opened to the public on March 30, 1954, after five years of work. Its underground portions were built entirely using cut-and-cover construction, with reinforced boards and even temporary streetcar tracks laid over the trenches to allow Yonge Street to remain open as the tunnels were built. The original Yonge Street subway line went from the railways' Union Station on Front Street north to a suburban terminus at Eglinton Avenue. Premier Leslie Frost and Toronto mayor Allan Lamport, among other important persons, rode the first train that morning, going north from the yards at Davisville Station, and then south from Eglinton along the entire line. At 2:30pm that day, the last streetcar to travel Yonge Street south of Eglinton made its final ride. The subway reduced the trip from Union to Eglinton from about half an hour by streetcar (in good traffic) to less than fifteen minutes.

It was the first subway line to replace surface routes completely. It was also later the site of as experiment with aluminum subway cars which led to their adoption throughout the system and by other transit systems. Several expansions since 1954 have more than quadrupled the area served, adding two new connected lines and a shorter intermediate capacity transit system.

The University line opened nine years later, continuing from Union back north under University Avenue to St. George station; it was intentionally designed to serve much the same area as the Yonge line, in order to increase capacity in anticipation of the planned east-west line. Another three years past that, the original Bloor-Danforth Line was built, going under Bloor Street and Danforth Ave. from Keele in the west to Woodbine in the east. Within two years, the Bloor-Danforth line had been extended in both directions, to Islington in the west and Warden in the east.

Plans were made for a streetcar subway along Queen Street, which were upgraded to a full subway in 1964, from the Humber loop to Greenwood, curving north to connect to the Bloor-Danforth Subway. All that ever materialized of this line was an incomplete east-west station structure under Queen station at Yonge, which remains in existence today. The Queen Subway plan was cancelled in 1974 in favour of new lines in the suburbs.

The 1970s saw Toronto adopting a streetcar abandonment policy; the plan was to have low-volume services be served by buses, and more heavily-used routes to get subway lines. Later in that decade, the rising cost of subway construction and the awareness of the limitations of buses reversed that decision; Toronto is now one of the few North American cities to retain its streetcars through the 20th century, and is now slowly expanding the service.

Changes to the composition of the Metro Toronto council moved the balance of power towards the suburban areas, and soon afterwards in 1973 the Yonge subway line was extended north to York Mills Road, and the next year it was as far north as Finch Avenue. Five years later, the Spadina line opened, going from the north terminus of the University line to Wilson Station. In 1980, the Bloor-Danforth Line was extended once again, to the current termini of Kipling Station on the west end and Kennedy Station on the east.

The Lean Years

But after that, subway building came to a standstill. For the next 16 years, there would be no more subway extensions, and for eight years past that, any new subways. Instead, a proposed extension on the Danforth end of the Bloor-Danforth line was built in 1985 as the L-shaped Scarborough RT line (originally envisioned as a light rail line using streetcars in a dedicated right of way, but ultimately built as a mini-subway), which went from Kennedy to McCowan Station. Two years later, a new station was added south of Finch on the Yonge line, at the North York Centre.

Even so, plans were developed to build new subway lines along Eglinton and Sheppard Avenues, as well as an extension to the Spadina line. However, Conservative provincial government of Mike Harris halted work on the Eglinton line in 1995 and the partially dug tunnels were filled in. The only subway expansion was on the Spadina line, adding one new station at Downsview in 1996.

Recent history

In 1998, Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto ceased to exist and was replaced by a new City of Toronto (formed from the amalgamation of its six former municipalities). Four years later, the Sheppard Line was opened, the first new subway line in decades. But it was much shorter than originally planned, going from Yonge St. east only as far as Don Mills Road, instead of connecting with the Scarborough RT at Scarborough Centre (which remains one of the TTC's priorities for further extensions, should the funding become available). The TTC is running four-car trains on the abbreviated Sheppard Line, 2/3 the size of those on the other Toronto subways, but the stations were built to accommodate full-length trains should sufficient traffic develop.

In January 2005, the cash-strapped TTC introduced a plan to curtail costly subway expansion and look at expanding the rapid transit network less expensively. This could involve busways, or expanding the streetcar system with more modern vehicles and less running in mixed traffic.

Nonetheless, the TTC recognizes the importance of rapid transit for the growing Greater Toronto Area, and is already in the planning stages, including an environmental assessment, for an extension of the Spadina line north to York University. The key to this next large step, as well as the completion of the Sheppard line, lies in the hands of the Province of Ontario and the federal government of Canada who have both promised better funding for public transit in the city.

On May 29, 2006, a wildcat strike took place after TTC employees walked off the job suddenly, primarily caused by safety concerns and late shifts. The strike was immediately deemed illegal by the Ontario Labour Relations Board and they were immediately ordered back to work, but not without causing severe disruption in the city on what was a very hot day. The strike, however, was not without consequence to TTC management, as the general manager, Rick Ducharme officially tendered his resignation just one week later.

A transit strike was averted for 21 April, 2008, after a tentative contract was reached the day before. The deal in the contract was to give workers a 3% increase in salary over three years. On April 25, 2008, the TTC union voted down this contract. 65% of workers voted no to the settlement, and as of midnight on April 26, 2008, the Toronto Transit Commission was officially on strike. [http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2008/04/25/ttc.html Wireless ] ]

The TTC workers were legislated back to work on 27th April 2008 by the passing of Bill 66 by the Ontario Provincial Parliament.

The TTC continues to be the sole provider of public transit within the City of Toronto, as well as operating contracted services into the neighbouring York Region. Regional commuter service (both bus and rail) is operated by GO Transit, the vast majority of which goes to downtown Toronto's Union Station. Connection buses of the Mississauga, Brampton, York Region, and Durham Region transit systems enter Toronto at various points.

TTC Chairs and Chief General Managers

* P.W. Ellis, Chairman 1920-1929
* F.L. Hubbard, Chairman 1929-1930
* William C. McBrien, Chairman 1931-1932
* S.J. McMaster, Chairman 1932-1933
* William C. McBrien, Chairman 1933-1954
* William G. Russell, Chairman 1954-55
* Allan Lamport, Chairman 1955-1959
* Charles A. Walton, Chairman 1959-1960
* C.C. Downey, Chairman 1960-1963
* Ralph C. Day, Chairman 1963-1972
* Franklin I. Young, Chairman 1972-1973
* Karl L. Mallette, Chairman 1973-1975
* G. Gordon Hurlburt, Chairman 1975-1979
* Julian Porter, Chairman 1979-1987
* Jeff Lyons, Chairman 1987-1989
* Lois Griffin, Chair 1989-1992
* Michael Colle, Chair 1992-1994
* Paul Christie, Chair 1994-1998
* Howard Moscoe, Chair 1998-2000
* Brian Ashton, Chair 2000-2002
* Betty Disero, Chair 2002-2003
* Howard Moscoe, Chair 2003-2006
* Adam Giambrone, Chair 2006 to present|General Managers
*H. H. Couzens, General Manager 1920-1924
*D.W. Harvey, General Manager 1924-1938
*H. C. Patten, General Manager 1939-1952
*W. E. P. Duncan, General Manager 1952-1959
*W. E. P. Duncan, General Manager of Subway Construction 1959-1961
*John G. Inglis, General Manager of Operations 1959-1968
*W. H. Paterson, General Manager of Subway Construction 1961-1973
*James H. Kearns, General Manager of Operations 1968-1977
*J. T. Harvey, General Manager of Subway Construction 1973-1977
* R. Michael Warren, Chief General Manager 1975-1981
* Alfred H. Savage, Chief General Manager 1981-1987
* Allen F. Leach, Chief General Manager 1987-1995
* David L. Gunn, Chief General Manager 1995-1999
* Rick Ducharme, Chief General Manager 1999-2006
* Gary Webster Chief General Manager 2007-present
** Acting Chief General Manager 2006-2007


*The TTC Story by Mike Filey

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