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Moving Toronto in 1946

JANUARY 02, 2016

Last Friday was the 70th anniversary of an event that put Toronto on track to becoming the major participant in our country’s quest for faster and more efficient public transportation, a position we held for many years. It was on Jan. 1, 1946, that by an overwhelming majority of 79,935 to 8,639 the city’s electorate voted to authorize the TTC to construct both a Yonge St. and a Queen St. rapid transit line to the tune of $51,750,000, provided that the federal government picked up 20% of that cost. Following voters’ approval, all details and specifics related to those two projects would be determined by TTC engineers.

But as it would turn out, two of the items incorporated in the rapid transit plan never materialized.

The idea that 20% of the project cost be funded by Ottawa, never happened because the necessary federal-provincial agreement on other infrastructure financing couldn’t be confirmed between the two jurisdictions. As for the second part of the proposal — that is the Queen St. rapid transit line that would have seen the Queen streetcar line operate through the heart of downtown in an underground tunnel with entry and exit portals located just west of University Ave. and east of Jarvis St. — was held in abeyance for the time being. In fact, only the Yonge station of this proposed route was built. The rest of the Queen St. part of the 1946 vote never happened, although the idea of going ahead with it surfaced several more times.

Even with the vote confirmed, it still took some time for anything to happen. Finally, on Sept.8, 1949, construction began on Canada’s first subway, the Yonge line with terminals at Union Station and Eglinton Ave.

From an historical point of view (after all, that’s the purpose of this column) the rapid-transit approval given seven decades ago wasn’t the first time Torontonians wanted something done to improve the increasingly poor service they were getting from the Toronto Railway Company, the privately owned enterprise that ran the system from 1891 until the municipally controlled Toronto Transportation (Transit after 1954) Commission took over in the fall of 1921.

During that 30-year interval of private ownership, it was common knowledge that a maximum return on the Toronto Railway Company’s well-heeled investors was paramount. So while the TRC had control over surface transit, nothing in the agreement covered underground transportation. As a result, when the voters were asked at the municipal election held on Monday, Jan. 3, 1910, for its approval of some form of underground subway to be built at a cost of $5 million, a majority of 8,571 citizens ticked the ballot’s “Yes” box.

Interestingly, while the subway proposal was approved, another item on the ballot was a suggestion that a viaduct be constructed across the Don Valley to connect Bloor St. with the Danforth. Too costly and too soon the voters said and the idea was defeated by more than 4,400 votes. What we now know as the Prince Edward Viaduct would have to wait. And wait it did until it was built and ready for traffic eight years in the future.

And even though the construction of a subway had been approved it too would have to wait. In fact, by the time the 1912 municipal election arrived, subway interest had waned primarily because of the huge increase in construction costs. (Just a brief aside; up until 1956 municipal elections were held annually, then from 1956-1966 every two years, from 1966-1972 every three years, 1972-1982 back to every two years, 1982-2006 every three years and since 2006 every four years. What’s next?)

The subject of underground rapid transit never really surfaced again in a major way until the First World War was successfully concluded. That interest led to the Jan. 1, 1946, vote and 3,010 days later the Yonge subway.

However, both before and after the end of First World War (people were too busy during that war making sure the good guys didn’t lose) there was some interest in an idea put forward by Sir Adam Beck, the founder of the original Ontario Hydro. He proposed the creation of a network of high-speed surface electric “radial” lines that would, as the name suggests, radiate east, west and north from the city and connect the many surrounding communities with the big city (a concept some would say was not unlike an electrified version of today’s GO Transit system). Politics and the increasing use of cars and trucks ended that idea. (For a comprehensive discussion of Beck’s electric “radial” scheme and it’s possible impact on alleviating today’s transit problems had it been implemented, see David Spencer’s book Transit Progress Derailed (Railfare*DC Books).

To bring the status of subway construction up to date, the extension of the Yonge-University-Spadina line continues to push its way north and west into the City of Vaughan with a planned opening in 2017. Regarding the extension of the Bloor-Danforth line further into Scarborough, to paraphrase the words of TTC’s CEO Andy Byford, the project “is in the planning stage, test drills are under way, Environmental Approval consultations are happening and various preparatory contracts have been let”. Is the Scarborough light rail version still possible? Will financial constrains change that picture? Stranger things in the wonderful world of Toronto transit planning have happened.

One last item, though not strictly a subway, it’s important to note that the Eglinton Crosstown (a 19 km light-rail service with 10 km of the route in a sub-surface right-of-way = subway) is on schedule for a 2021 opening.

After several false starts the work on the city’s first rapid transit line began on Sept. 8, 1949, when the first piles were driven at the intersection of Yonge and Wellington in the very heart of the city. The new Yonge subway opened four years, six months and 23 days later. In the TTC Archives photo, the view looks south on Yonge towards Front St. The building with the conical tower is the long demolished Board of Trade Building in which the TTC had its offices until moving to the present W.C. McBrien Building at 1900 Yonge St. in 1958. William McBrien was the Chairman of the TTC for 22 years and passed away less than a dozen weeks after the new subway, for which he fought so hard, opened. The Metro Toronto Chairman Fred Gardiner, when eulogizing McBrien, suggested the Yonge line be named the William C. McBrien Subway.

Even though one of the hottest topics around town these days is the need for improved public transportation, especially the construction of that elusive DRL (Downtown Relief Line), Torontonians had actually started agitating for some sort of improved “rapid transit” to and from the heart of the city as early as the first decade of the last century. The reason for their collective concern becomes obvious when one inspects this 1914 photo and counts the number of streetcars (as least 14) operating up and down Yonge St. from the King corner as far north as Shuter St.

Politicians ‘wimping out’ by not stopping UberHop: TTC union

DECEMBER 15, 2015

Taxi drivers have a new ally in their fight against Uber — Toronto transit workers.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 president ripped Mayor John Tory and Premier Kathleen Wynne for not slamming the brakes on Uber’s new UberHop service.

UberHop offers $5 rush-hour rides from four poorly serviced transit spots in Toronto into the financial district.

“Tory and Wynne are simply wimping out, there’s no better word for it,” declared in a statement from the Local, Tuesday.

“They should simply pass a new provincial law and city ordinance that will shut Uber down until it agrees to abide by the law and offer its services on a level playing field.”

The TTC continues to consult its lawyers about Uber’s new service, but Tory says it’s simply another convenient, affordable option for consumers.

“Can you believe that the mayor of Canada’s largest city says he doesn’t have the resources to shut down people who are operating outside the law? Uber is laughing at Tory all the way to the bank,” Local 113 stated.

The tough-talking union leader pledged Local 113 will work with politicians, community organizations and the taxi industry to “stop American billionaires from telling us how to run our city.”

“You think congestion is bad now? Just wait until Uber-whatever completely takes over our roads,” the Localwarned.

Uber Canada spokesman Susie Heath acknowledged traffic congestion is a “major issue” for the city.

“For commuters who typically travel to and from the downtown core by car, including ridesharing, UberHop is an alternative that can help them get where they need to be with other fellow commuters in fewer vehicles, which helps reduce congestion on our roads.”

Proof of payment will soon be required on all TTC vehicles

DEC 9, 2015

Proof of payment will soon be required on all TTC streetcars as the transit system moves to allow back-door boarding.

As of Monday (Dec. 14), riders can use any door to board any streetcar, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Proof-of-Payment (POP) will be required.

“Getting a paper transfer is key. That’s a big behaviour change. Think of it like a receipt, and get a transfer where you pay your fare,” TTC spokesman Brad Ross said Wednesday.

“If you pay by token, cash, or ticket, you need to get a receipt which doubles as your transfer,” he said.

A Metropass is already proof of payment.

Riders who use the Presto system will still need a paper transfer if transferring from a streetcar route to a bus route, or from a streetcar route to a streetcar route without a Presto reader.

All streetcars and buses will soon have the Presto system, Ross said, eliminating the need for a transfer, but that’s not in place yet. Once that change has been made, riders will need to “tap” their Presto card every time they enter a TTC vehicle.

“If it’s the second, third, or fourth vehicle [on the same trip], there won’t be a deduction,” Ross said, but the card will register that a transfer has been made.

There have been, and will continue to be, fare inspectors who will request riders to demonstrate that they’ve paid. That means either showing a paper transfer, “tapping” the Presto card on the fare inspector’s reader, or showing the Metropass.

The TTC is hoping to eliminate token, ticket and Metropass use by the end of 2016. If approved by the board, weekly and monthly passes will be moved to the Presto system. A daily e-Purse will be introduced (unlimited travel for the price of a day pass), as well as a single ride card (equivalent to cash). That motion will go before the TTC board on Dec. 16.

As the TTC makes the switch to Presto, there will be new fare gates across the entire TTC.

Proof-of-Payment is any of the following:
•Valid Transfer
•Metropass
•Weekly Pass
•Greater Toronto Area (GTA) Weekly Pass
•Day Pass
•E-Ticket
•Convention Pass
•Validated TTC Ticket
•PRESTO card (after tapping when boarding)

TTC Wi-Fi users need Twitter accounts this month

Dec 08, 2015

The TTC may have expanded its free Wi-Fi offering this month to another four stations. But the number of riders who can access it has been temporarily confined to those with Twitter accounts.

The social media company has a sponsorship agreement with BAI Canada, the TTC’s internet provider, for the month of December making internet access on the subway conditional on logging on to Twitter.

Riders who don’t have an account and want to text on the TTC would have to open one before heading underground. Those who already have one will automatically connect to the TConnect service on the TTC and remain connected for 12 hours on Wi-Fi accessible stations.

The transit sponsorship agreement is a first for Twitter, said spokesman Cameron Gordon.

“Anything in terms of privacy from our side is no different than if you were signing up for a Twitter account above ground,” said Gordon, adding that it takes about 45 seconds to create a Twitter account.

Twitter’s terms and conditions apply while you’re using it.

Once you’re on the system BAI, which has a 20-year, $25 million contract to provide internet on the TTC, has no access to your Twitter information, said BAI Canada chief operating officer Ken Ranger.

The TTC doesn’t pay for internet on the system. It is a sponsored service for which BAI is paying $25 million over 20 years for the rights, said transit spokesman Brad Ross.
He compared the Twitter agreement to accessing the internet at a coffee shop.

“Basically all it’s doing is opening up the pipeline for you to go on the internet when you’re in the stations. We don’t know who you are once you’ve logged in. It says, ‘Ok you have a Twitter account,’ and it opens up the pipeline,” he said.

The TTC launched Wi-Fi at Bloor Station about two years ago. Since then it has rolled out south of Bloor on the Yonge-University-Spadina line and from Christie to Castle Frank on the Bloor-Danforth subway.

The entire system will be Wi-Fi accessible by 2017.

Most riders can text but cellphone service is limited to users on WIND Mobile.

There are more than 12 million Canadian Twitter accounts and the Toronto area tends to have a higher per capita use of the site than other cities, said Gordon.

Mayor John Tory optimistic Trudeau will fund Toronto transit

Dec 03, 2015

Mayor John Tory says he is optimistic that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government will follow through on the funding promised to big cities like Toronto during the federal election campaign to help build green infrastructure and improve transit.

Tory is attending the international climate change summit in Paris, where he will take part in discussions with big-city mayors from around the world.

Money from the federal government is crucial to help Toronto build transit, deal with waste issues and retrofit buildings to make them greener, Tory said.

“Mr. Trudeau ran on a platform of cities in many respects, obviously tying in a lot of it to climate change and environmental issues,” Tory said Thursday. “I’m absolutely convinced he is genuine when he says he wants to invest in cities and a big part of that is public transit and infrastructure.”

During his campaign, Trudeau said his party was “fully committed to the federal share” of SmartTrack, the $8-billion transit plan touted by Tory. The federal government is expected to provide $2.6 billion.

Though he doesn’t know when and how that money is coming, Tory said he is confident Trudeau will deliver on the election promise.

“I’m optimistic about everything I’ve seen so far that he’s going to follow through on that and help us make the investment we need to make,” Tory said.

It will be difficult to get Torontonians to give up their cars until there is a convenient and affordable public transit option, he said.

“In Toronto we took a couple of decades off in building transit and now we are starting to put our funds in place to build transit in partnership with the other governments.”