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December 18th, 2018
Beaches Living Guide Fall/Winter 2018/19


Toronto's Love Affair with its Streetcar

When you travel in other countries, you might notice that in most large cities, there are usually no streetcars. Many cities have some light rail systems these days, but you don't see what Toronto has had for over 120 years - a system of downtown streetcars that share the road with vehicle traffic.

Streetcars are something that makes Toronto unique. The whirring sound of the wheels on the tracks, the times when the driver has to get out of the car to adjust the overhead mechanism, and the fast, sleek ride with dozens of fellow passengers.

In fact, in recognition of our love of streetcars, San Francisco painted one of their trams red in tribute to our "longstanding commitment" to streetcars. They called it the "Red Rocket" and embellished it with a TTC logo.

Love them or not, streetcars are part of what makes us Toronto. And in the years ahead, you'll see more, not fewer, streetcars as they efficiently move thousands of people around our city.


Streetcars in North America: Just in Toronto, you say?

Streetcars used to be very popular, everywhere. At the turn of the 20th century almost every major North American city relied on the streetcar as its primary mode of public transportation. This would change.

As buses rose in popularity, streetcar tracks were ripped up and the vehicles put out of service. By during the 1970s and '80s, many transportation "experts" referred to the streetcar as a mode of transportation that was obsolete in North America. Eventually, only a few "legacy lines" remained in places like Boston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

City of Toronto, however, decided not to go with the trend! The city had used streetcars since the cars were first pulled by horses in the 1860s. Over time, the horse drawn cars were replaced by electric power so by 1924, the city had about 1,000 streetcars in service. And as cities such as Cleveland, Kansas City and Cincinnati no longer needed them, the City of Toronto bought the cars and brought them here. This meant that by 1945, the TTC had one of the largest fleet on the continent including over 700 "newer" PCCs.

With the introduction of subways in the 1950s, there was a focus on expanding bus lines. Toronto's streetcars remained in service but the PCC cars were starting to get old, and there were fewer and fewer supplies of quality streetcar equipment in the world. In 1962, the TTC approved the "streetcar abandonment program", and some routes discontinued. Toronto, however, loved its streetcars. In 1972, Toronto citizens and a group known as "Streetcars for Toronto" stepped up to the plate and successfully protested the plans. This ushered in a new era of cars, ones that would be built this time specifically for our transit system.

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