ⓘ Toronto streetcar system

Toronto streetcar system

ⓘ Toronto streetcar system

The Toronto streetcar system is a network of ten streetcar routes in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, operated by the Toronto Transit Commission. It is the third busiest light-rail system in North America. The network is concentrated primarily in Downtown Toronto and in proximity to the citys waterfront. Much of the streetcar route network dates from the 19th century. Most of Torontos streetcar routes operate on street trackage shared with vehicular traffic, and streetcars stop on demand at frequent stops like buses.

Torontos streetcars provide most of the downtown cores surface transit service. Four of the TTCs five most heavily used surface routes are streetcar routes. In 2016, ridership on the streetcar system totalled almost 65 million.


1.1. History Early history 1861–1945

In 1861, the City of Toronto issued a thirty-year transit franchise Resolution 14, By-law 353 for a horse-drawn street railway, after the Williams Omnibus Bus Line had become heavily loaded. Alexander Eastons Toronto Street Railway TSR opened the first street railway line in Canada on September 11, 1861, operating from Yorkville Town Hall to the St. Lawrence Market. At the end of the TSR franchise, the City government ran the railway for eight months but ended up granting a new thirty-year franchise to the Toronto Railway Company TRC in 1891. The TRC was the first operator of horseless streetcars in Toronto. The first electric car ran on August 15, 1892, and the last horse car ran on August 31, 1894, to meet franchise requirements.

There came to be problems with interpretation of the franchise terms for the City. By 1912, the city limits had extended significantly, with the annexation of communities to the north 1912: North Toronto and the east 1908: Town of East Toronto and the west 1909: the City of West Toronto - The Junction. After many attempts to force the TRC to serve these areas, the City created its own street railway operation, the Toronto Civic Railways to do so, and built several routes. Repeated court battles forced the TRC to build new cars, but they were of old design. When the TRC franchise ended in 1921, the Toronto Transportation Commission was created, combining the city-operated Toronto Civic Railways lines into its new network.

The TTC began in 1921 as solely a streetcar operation, with the bulk of the routes acquired from the private TRC and merged with the publicly operated Toronto Civic Railways. In 1923, the TTC took over the Lambton, Davenport and Weston routes of the Toronto Suburban Railway TSR and integrated them into the streetcar system.

In 1925, routes were operated on behalf of the Township of York as Township of York Railway, but the TTC was contracted to operate them. One of these routes was the former TSR Weston route.

In 1927, the TTC became the operator of three radial lines of the former Toronto and York Radial Railway. The TTC connected these lines to the streetcar system in order to share equipment and facilities, such as carhouses, but the radials had their own separate management within the TTCs Radial Department. The last TTC-operated radial North Yonge Railways closed in 1948.


1.2. History Plans for abandonment 1945–1989

After the Second World War, many cities across North America and Europe began to eliminate their streetcar systems in favour of buses. During the 1950s, the TTC continued to invest in streetcars and the TTC took advantage of other cities streetcar removals by purchasing extra PCC cars from Cleveland, Birmingham, Kansas City, and Cincinnati.

In 1966, the TTC announced plans to eliminate all streetcar routes by 1980. Streetcars were considered out of date, and their elimination in almost all other cities made it hard to buy new vehicles and maintain the existing ones. Metro Toronto chair William Allen claimed in 1966 that "streetcars are as obsolete as the horse and buggy". Many streetcars were removed from service when Line 2 Bloor–Danforth opened in February 1966.

The plan to abolish the streetcar system was strongly opposed by many people in the city, and a group named "Streetcars for Toronto" was formed to work against the plan. The group was led by Professor Andrew Biemiller and transit advocate Steve Munro. It had the support of city councillors William Kilbourn and Paul Pickett, and urban advocate Jane Jacobs. Streetcars for Toronto presented the TTC board with a report that found retaining the streetcar fleet would, in the long run, be cheaper than converting to buses. This combined with a strong public preference for streetcars over buses changed the decision of the TTC board.

The busiest north–south and east–west routes were replaced respectively by the Yonge–University and the Bloor–Danforth subway line, and the northernmost streetcar lines, including the North Yonge and Oakwood routes, were replaced by trolley buses and later by diesel buses. Two lines that operated north of St. Clair Avenue were abandoned for other reasons. The Rogers Road route was abandoned to free up streetcars for expanded service on other routes. The Mount Pleasant route was removed because of complaints that streetcars slowed automobile traffic. Earlier, the TTC had contemplated abandonment because replacement by trolleybuses was cheaper than replacing the aging tracks.

However, the TTC maintained most of its existing network, purchasing new custom-designed Canadian Light Rail Vehicles CLRV and Articulated Light Rail Vehicles ALRV, with the first CLRV entering service in 1979. It also continued to rebuild and maintain the existing fleet of PCC Presidents Conference Committee streetcars until they were no longer roadworthy.

When Kipling station opened in 1980 as the new western terminus of Line 2 Bloor–Danforth, it had provision for a future streetcar or LRT platform opposite the bus platforms. However, there was no further development for a surface rail connection there.

In the early 1980s, a streetcar line was planned to connect Kennedy station to Scarborough Town Centre. However, as that line was being built, the Province of Ontario persuaded the TTC to switch to using a new technology called the Intermediate Capacity Transit System now Bombardier Innovia Metro by promising to pay for any cost overruns which eventually amounted to over $100 million. Thus, the Scarborough RT now Line 3 Scarborough was born, and streetcar service did not return to Scarborough, instead stopping at the boundary.


1.3. History Second period of expansion 1989–2000

The TTC returned to building new streetcar routes in 1989. The first new line was route 604 Harbourfront, starting from Union station, travelling underneath Bay Street and rising to a dedicated centre median on Queens Quay along the edge of Lake Ontario to the foot of Spadina Avenue. This route was lengthened northward along Spadina Avenue in 1997, continuing to travel in a dedicated right-of-way in the centre of the street, and ending in an underground terminal at Spadina station. At this time, the route was renamed 510 Spadina to fit with the numbering scheme of the other streetcar routes. This new streetcar service replaced the former route 77 Spadina bus, and since 1997 has provided the main north–south transit service through Torontos Chinatown and the western boundary of University of Torontos main campus. The tracks along Queens Quay were extended to Bathurst Street in 2000 to connect to the existing Bathurst route, providing for a new 509 Harbourfront route from Union Station to the refurbished Exhibition Loop at the Exhibition grounds, where the Canadian National Exhibition is held.


1.4. History 21st century 2001–present

By 2003, two-thirds of the citys streetcar tracks were in poor condition as the older track was poorly built using unwelded rail attached to untreated wooden ties lying on loose gravel. The result was street trackage falling apart quickly requiring digging up everything after 10 to 15 years. Thus, the TTC started to rebuild tracks using a different technique. With the new technique, concrete is poured over compacted gravel, and the ties are placed in another bed of concrete, which is topped by more concrete to embed rail clips and rubber-encased rails. The resulting rail is more stable and quieter with less vibration. The new tracks are expected to last 25 years after which only the top concrete layer needs to be removed in order to replace worn rails.

Route 512 St. Clair was rebuilt to restore a separated right-of-way similar to that of the 510 on Spadina Avenue, to increase service reliability and was completed on June 30, 2010.

On December 19, 2010, 504 King streetcar service returned to Roncesvalles Avenue after the street was rebuilt to a new design which provided a widened sidewalk "bumpout" at each stop to allow riders to board a streetcar directly from the curb. When no streetcar is present, cyclists may ride over the bumpout as it is doubles as part of a bike lane.

On October 12, 2014, streetcar service resumed on 509 Harbourfront route after the street was rebuilt to a new design that replaced the eastbound auto lanes with parkland from Spadina Avenue to York Street. Thus, streetcars since then run on a roadside right-of-way immediately adjacent to a park on its southern edge.

The Toronto Transit Commission eliminated all Sunday stops on June 7, 2015, as these stops slowed down streetcars making it more difficult to meet scheduled stops. Sunday stops, which served Christian churches, were deemed unfair to non-Christian places of worship, which never had the equivalent of a Sunday stop. Toronto originally created Sunday stops in the 1920s along its streetcar routes to help worshippers get to church on Sunday.

The first two Flexity Outlook streetcars entered service on route 510 Spadina, on August 31, 2014; at the same time, all-door boarding and proof-of-payment POP was introduced on all 510 Spadina streetcars. Fare payments by Presto on the Flexity cars was introduced on November 30, 2014. On November 22, 2015, the TTC started to operate its new fleet of Flexity Outlook streetcars from its new Leslie Barns maintenance and storage facility.

On December 14, 2015, the TTC expanded Presto, POP and all-door loading to include all streetcars on all routes. All streetcar passengers are required to carry proof that they have paid their fares such as a validated TTC senior, youth or student ticket; paper POP or transfer; Presto card or ticket while riding.

With the January 3, 2016, service changes, 510 Spadina became the first wheelchair-accessible streetcar route using mainly Flexity streetcars. However, CLRV and ALRV streetcars were used, in some cases, as a backup plan in the event there were not enough Flexity streetcars.

On June 19, 2016, the TTC launched the 514 Cherry streetcar route to supplement 504 King service along King Street between Dufferin and Sumach streets. The new route operated every 15 minutes or better and initially used some and later only the Commissions new accessible Flexity streetcars. The eastern end of the 514 route ran on a newly constructed branch, originally named the Cherry Street streetcar line, which is located in a reserved side-of-street right-of-way.

On September 12, 2017, 509 Harbourfront became the first streetcar route in Toronto to operate Flexity streetcars with electrical pickup by pantograph instead of trolley pole. That November, the King Street Transit Priority Corridor, a transit mall, was established along King Street between Bathurst and Jarvis streets.

On October 7, 2018, the 514 Cherry route was permanently cancelled. The service it provided was replaced by the 504 King, which was divided into two overlapping branches, each to one of the termini Dufferin Gate Loop and Distillery Loop of the former 514 route. That December, the TTC eliminated single-fare payments by credit and debit cards on the Flexity streetcars due to reliability issues with the fare vending machines.

On September 2, 2019, the TTC retired the last of its ALRV streetcars. The next day, due to the construction work at the Queen, Kingston Road, Eastern Avenue intersection, the TTC eliminated the 502 Downtowner service indefinitely. Concordantly, the 503 Kingston Rd service, which used to operate during rush hours only, was upgraded to operate during all daytime hours Monday through Friday. This change also affected the 501 Queen service, with buses replacing streetcars east of Queen street and Greenwood Avenue. The construction projects ended that November. While the 501 Queen resumed full streetcar service, the 502 remained eliminated and the consolidation of Kingston Road service into the 503 Kingston Rd route remained in effect.

On December 29, 2019, the TTC retired the last of its high-floor streetcars, the CLRVs. The final day for the CLRVs included a ceremonial farewell voyage along Queen Street, although the TTC plans to retain two CLRVs in Toronto for special events and charters. Since the retirement of the CLRVs, all TTC bus and streetcar routes are served by accessible low-floor vehicles.


1.5. History Incidents

On December 16, 2010, the TTC suffered its worst accident since the Russell Hill subway crash in 1995. Up to 17 people were sent to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries after a 505 Dundas streetcar heading eastbound collided with a Greyhound bus at Dundas and River Streets.


2. Routes

Based on 2013 statistics, the TTC operated 304.6 kilometres 189.3 mi of routes on 82 kilometres 51 mi streetcar network double or single track throughout Toronto. There are 10 regular streetcar routes on the TTC network.

Due to a shortage of streetcars, as well as various construction projects, some streetcar routes are temporarily supplemented or replaced – partly or entirely – with buses. Some routes operate wholly or partly within their own rights-of-way and stop on demand at frequent stops.


2.1. Routes Route numbers

Until 1980, streetcar routes had names but not numbers. When the CLRVs were introduced, the TTC assigned route numbers in the 500 series. CLRVs have a single front rollsign showing various combinations of route number and destination, while PCC streetcars showed a route identifier route name until the 1980s and later route number and destination on two separate front rollsigns. The digital destination signs on the new Flexity Outlook streetcars show route number, route name and destination. Before 2018, streetcar-replacement bus services indicated route number and destination but not route name, like the CLRVs.

The four streetcar-operated Blue Night Network routes have been assigned 300-series route numbers. The other exception to the 500 series numbering was the Harbourfront LRT streetcar. When introduced in 1990, this route was numbered 604, which was intended to group it with the old numbering scheme for Toronto subway routes. In 1996, the TTC overhauled its rapid transit route numbers and stopped trying to market the Harbourfront route as "rapid transit". The number was changed to 510. The tracks were later extended in two directions to form the 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront routes.

During times when streetcar service on all or a portion of a route has been replaced temporarily by buses, the replacement bus service is typically identified by the same route number as the corresponding streetcar line.


2.2. Routes Dedicated rights-of-way and transit malls

The majority of streetcar routes in Toronto operate in mixed traffic, generally reflecting the original track configurations of the streetcar system, a system that dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, newer trackage has largely been established within dedicated rights-of-way, in order to allow streetcars to operate with fewer disruptions due to delays caused by automobile traffic. Most of the systems dedicated rights-of-way operate within the median of existing streets, separated from general traffic by raised curbs and controlled by specialized traffic signals at intersections. Queen streetcars have operated on such a right-of-way along the Queensway between Humber and Sunnyside loops since 1957. Since the 1990s, dedicated rights-of-way have been opened downtown along Queens Quay, Spadina Avenue, St. Clair Avenue West, and Fleet Street.

Short sections of the track also operate in a tunnel. The most significant section of underground streetcar trackage is a tunnel underneath Bay Street connecting Queens Quay with Union Station; this section, which is approximately 700 m 2.300 ft long, includes one intermediate underground station at Bay Street and Queens Quay.

During the late 2000s, the TTC reinstated a separated right-of-way - removed between 1928 and 1935 - on St. Clair Avenue, for the entire 512 St. Clair route. A court decision obtained by local merchants in October 2005 had brought construction to a halt and put the project in doubt; the judicial panel then recused themselves, and the delay for a new decision adversely affected the construction schedule. A new judicial panel decided in February 2006 in favour of the city, and construction resumed in mid-2006. One-third of the St. Clair right-of-way was completed by the end of 2006 and streetcars began using it on February 18, 2007. The portion finished was from St. Clair station Yonge Street to Vaughan Road. The second phase started construction in mid-2007 from Dufferin Street to Caledonia Road. Service resumed using the second and third phases on December 20, 2009 extending streetcar service from St. Clair to Earlscourt Loop located just south and west of Lansdowne Avenue. The fourth and final phase from Earlscourt Loop to Gunns Loop just west of Keele Street is completed and full streetcar service over the entire route was finally restored on June 30, 2010.

Between September 2007 and March 2008, the tracks on Fleet Street between Bathurst Street and the Exhibition Loop were converted to a dedicated right-of-way and opened for the 511 Bathurst and the 509 Harbourfront streetcars. Streetcar track and overhead power line were also installed at the Fleet loop, which is located at the Queens Wharf Lighthouse.

The eastern portion of the 504A King route runs on a side-of-street right-of-way. It was constructed starting in 2012 to support redevelopment in the West Don Lands and the Distillery District, former industrial areas.

As part of the King Street Pilot Project, a temporary transit mall was set up along King Street for a one-year trial period starting in mid-November 2017. Although not a dedicated right-of-way, the transit mall achieves the goal of preventing road traffic from impeding streetcar service. Road traffic is discouraged from using the mall by being forced to leave the mall via a right turn at most signalized intersections. This project has since been extended and made permanent under the name King Street Transit Priority Corridor.


2.3. Routes Track switches

At every facing switch, a "stop, check, go" process is used as part of a passenger safety procedure. Each streetcar operator, upon arriving at a facing switch-point, is to stop short of the switch, point with their finger toward the switchs position to confirm that the switch is aligned properly for the streetcars intended movement, and then proceed.


2.4. Routes Near future

As of December 2019, the TTC is considering changes to several streetcar routes by 2022. These ideas are not firm plans and some assume approval to purchase additional streetcars, which would also end bus replacement along streetcar routes. The ideas are:

  • 501B from Long Branch Loop to a new Riverside Loop, to be constructed along Broadview Avenue just north of Queen Street East
  • Splitting 501 Queen into two overlapping branches
  • 501A from Neville Park Loop to Sunnyside Loop
  • 503 Kingston Road to be extended west to Dufferin Gate Loop
  • 504B to be extended west to Humber Loop and later to a proposed Park Lawn Loop
  • 502 Downtowner to be definitively cancelled

2.5. Routes Transit City

The City of Torontos and the TTCs Transit City report released on March 16, 2007, proposed creating new light rail lines. These are mainly separate from the streetcar network as the track gauge and vehicle specifications are quite different. Much of the original proposal has since been cancelled, and those light-rail lines that are proceeding are classified as part of the Toronto subway system. Examples of former Transit City lines that survive include Line 5 Eglinton, which will open in 2021, and Line 6 Finch West, which will open in 2023.


2.6. Routes Other proposals

The following are proposals to expand the streetcar system that were under consideration in 2015:

  • The Waterfront West LRT would run from Long Branch Loop along Lake Shore Boulevard and the Queensway to Colbourne Lodge Drive and then adjacent to the Lake Shore Boulevard to Exhibition Loop and onto Union subway station via Queens Quay. This line originated from the Transit City proposals. It was shelved in 2013 but recommended for reconsideration in 2015 by city staff. In 2017, the TTC revised the proposal as summarized here.
  • Waterfront Toronto is recommending the creation or extension of three streetcar lines in the Port Lands. Both the Cherry Street streetcar line and East Bayfront LRT would be extended to Queens Quay and Parliament Street. From there, one line would run south on Cherry Street to the Ship Channel and another east along Commissioners Street to Leslie Street. Another line would be built along an extended Broadview Avenue south from Queen Street to Commissioners Street.
  • The East Bayfront LRT is planned to run along Queens Quay East from Union station to complement the 509 Harbourfront line.


2.7. Routes Toronto Street Railway

Routes with "Transferred to City" in the "Ended" column were operating on May 20, 1891, when the Toronto Street Railway Companys franchise expired and had their operations taken over by the City of Toronto.


2.8. Routes Toronto Railway Company

Routes marked to TTC were operating on September 21, 1921, when the Toronto Railway Companys operations were taken over by the Toronto Transportation Commission.


2.9. Routes Toronto Civic Railways

All routes transferred to the Toronto Transportation Commission.


3.1. Rolling stock Streetcars acquired by the TTC

When the TTC was created in 1921, it acquired hundreds of cars from its two predecessor companies: the Toronto Railway Company and the Toronto Civic Railways. In 1927, the TTC acquired the radial cars of the former Toronto & York Radial Railway when it took over operation of that system from the Hydro-Electric Railways.

In the 1920s, the TTC purchased new Peter Witt streetcars, and they remained in use into the 1960s. In 1938, the TTC started to operate its first Presidents Conference Cars PCC, eventually operating more than any other city in North America. In 1979, the Canadian Light Rail Vehicles entered revenue service, followed by their longer, articulated variants, the ALRVs, in 1988. The last of the PCC vehicles were retired from full-time revenue service in the 1990s.

On August 31, 2014, the TTC started operating its first Bombardier Flexity Outlook vehicles. As more of these new vehicles arrived and entered service, older CLRV and ALRV vehicles were gradually retired from service.

The following table summarizes streetcars purchased by the TTC since 1921. The main article has more details on rosters, including streetcars inherited from the Toronto Railway Company and the Toronto Civic Railways which are not summarized here.


3.2. Rolling stock Streetcar shortage 2016–present

Since 2016, the TTC has faced a streetcar shortage because of:

  • Delays in the delivery of the new Flexity streetcars
  • The declining reliability and retirement of the aging CLRV/ALRV fleet
  • A 20 percent increase in streetcar ridership since 2008

In January 2017, the TTC claimed that delays in delivery of the new Flexity Outlook streetcars had resulted in both streetcar and bus shortages. Because the CLRV/ALRV streetcars required extra maintenance, only 170 of the 200 CLRVs and ALRVs could be put into service. This shortage led to the replacement of streetcars by buses on some routes, which in turn led to a reduction of service on some bus routes.

To address the streetcar shortage, as well as construction projects, the TTC has used bus substitution at various times on routes 503 Kingston Rd, 505 Dundas, 506 Carlton and 511 Bathurst. The first bus substitution due to the streetcar shortage occurred for the 502 Downtowner route on October 11, 2016.

On February 19, 2018, the TTC replaced the CLRV streetcars on routes 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton with buses and reassigned those streetcars to other routes, such as 504 King and 511 Bathurst, to handle crowding from increased ridership. Ridership on the 504 King increased by 25 percent after the implementation of the King Street Transit Priority Corridor through downtown King Street.

The streetcar fleet capacity had not grown for almost three decades after the CLRVs and ALRVs were added. After delivery of the last of the initial 204 Flexity cars ordered, the TTC planned to purchase another 60 cars; however, the TTC estimated that would only satisfy demand until 2023 instead of 2027 as originally planned. Bombardier may end up being the chosen supplier for additional Flexity cars solely because, if the TTC went with another supplier, a prototype modified for Torontos track characteristics would not be ready until 2023, with first delivery in 2024 or 2025.


4. Electrical pickup

The older CLRV and ALRV streetcars have only a trolley pole. New Flexity Outlook streetcars are delivered with both a pantograph as well as a trolley pole. All streetcars in service had been using the trolley pole until September 12, 2017, when 509 Harbourfront became the first route to use the pantograph.

With the introduction of the new Flexity streetcars, the TTC plans to convert the entire system to be pantograph-compatible. The new streetcars need 50% more electrical current than the older streetcars, and use of the trolley pole limits the amount of electricity the new cars can draw from the overhead wire, resulting in reduced performance. One consequence of trolley pole use on the Flexity streetcars is that air conditioning does not function in summer.

Since 2008, the TTC has been converting the streetcar overhead wire to be compatible for pantograph electrical pickup as well as for trolley poles. The overhead over the Fleet Street tracks was the first to be so converted. The new overhead uses different hangers so that pantographs do not strike supporting crosswires. It also uses a different gauge of wire to handle the higher electrical demands of Flexity Outlook streetcars.

During a rainy period in February 2018, the TTC received an incentive to expedite the conversion of the electrical overhead for pantograph use by the Flexity streetcars. On February 20, 2018, Flexity streetcars using trolley poles were pulling down some of the overhead. In Toronto, the tip of the trolley pole has a shoe with a carbon insert to collect current. The carbon insert also lowers the trolley shoe so that it does not strike hangers that are not yet pantograph-compatible. During wet weather, these carbon inserts wear out faster, needing replacement after a day or two for older streetcars. However, because the Flexity streetcars draw more current than older streetcars, their carbon inserts wore out faster in less than eight hours in the wet weather. There was also an issue with the quality of carbon the TTC purchased. With pantographs, this would be less of a problem as the pantograph blades have a larger contact area than a trolley shoe to absorb wear. Because of this incident, the TTC decided it should accelerate the conversion of overhead for pantograph use.

The first three routes to operate with pantographs were 509 Harbourfront on September 12, 2017, 510 Spadina on May 14, 2018, and 512 St. Clair on October 1, 2018. Work to make the entire streetcar system pantograph-compatible is expected to be completed in 2020.


5.1. Winter operational issues Extreme cold weather

The fleet of CLRV and ALRV streetcars experienced several operational issues during extreme cold temperatures during late 2013 and early 2014, late 2014 and early 2015, late 2017 and early 2018, and late 2018 and early 2019, as doors and brakes failed as moisture in the pneumatic lines froze. Moisture also caused track sanders to fail. Buses were used to replace streetcars unfit for service, some of which had failed while in service. The new Flexity cars, which use electronic braking and door operations, were unaffected by the weather. During an extreme cold snap between January 20 and 22, 2019, none of the CLRV/ALRV streetcars were in service due to the high risk of breakdowns in the cold weather. Instead, Flexity streetcars, along with buses, were used to provide service. The remaining ALRVs stayed out of service for the rest of that winter season.


5.2. Winter operational issues Freezing rain

The streetcar overhead is vulnerable during freezing rain storms. During such storms, the TTC applies anti-freeze to the overhead wire to prevent ice from interrupting electrical contact. In addition, the TTC attaches "sliders" to trolley poles on every fifth streetcar to knock ice off the overhead wire. The TTC places overhead crews on standby at various locations around the streetcar network to address problems of power loss or overhead wires coming down.

The anti-freeze used on the overheard wire is also applied to streetcar switches on the network. In addition, the TTC runs "storm cars" on all routes to prevent any ice build-up on switches that the anti-freeze could not prevent.

These measures are applied only during freezing rain. However, during the ice storm of April 14–16, 2018, the TTC also used bus substitution on portions of the streetcar network outside the downtown area in order to concentrate streetcars and emergency crews into a smaller area.


6. Track gauge

The tracks of Torontos streetcars and subways are built to the unique track gauge of 4 ft 10 7 ⁄ 8 in 1.495 mm, 2 3 ⁄ 8 in 60 mm wider than the usual 4 ft 8 1 ⁄ 2 in 1.435 mm standard gauge, which Line 3 Scarborough uses. The unique gauge has remained to this day because the integrated nature of the streetcar network makes it impossible to replace the gauge on part of the network without closing the entire network, which would be unacceptable given the extent of the system and its importance to transportation in Toronto. Though often colloquially called the Toronto gauge, according to Steve Munro, TTC gauge is "English carriage gauge".

That the gauge of the said railways shall be such that the ordinary vehicles now in use may travel on the said tracks, and that it shall and may be lawful to and for all and every person and persons whatsoever to travel upon and use the said tracks with their vehicles loaded or empty, when and so often as they may please, provided they do not impede or interfere with the cars of the party of the second part Toronto Street Railway, running thereon, and subject at all times to the right of the said party of the second part, his executors, and administrators and assigns to keep the said tracks with his and their cars, when meeting or overtaking any other vehicle thereon.

As wagons were normally built at standard gauge, the streetcar rails were selected to be slightly wider, allowing the wagons to ride on the inside sections of the rail, and the streetcars on the outside. The Williams Omnibus Bus Line changed the gauge of their buses in 1861 to fit this gauge. At the time, track for horsecars was not our modern T rail, but wide and flat, with a raised section on the outside of the rail.

According to the TTC, the City of Toronto feared that the street railway franchise operator, first in 1861, the Toronto Street Railway, then in 1891, the Toronto Railway Company, and in 1921, the TTC, would allow the operation of steam locomotives and freight trains through city streets, was common practice in Hamilton, Ontario until the 1950s and in many US cities, such as New York City and Syracuse, New York.

Standard gauge tracks in the streets would have allowed this, but steam railway equipment could not follow the abrupt curves in the streetcar network. Opposition to freight operation in city streets precluded interchange even with adjacent radial lines even after the lines changed to TTC gauge. Electric railway freight cars could negotiate street curves, but freight operations to downtown were still not allowed until the final few years of radial operation by the TTC.

Some proposals for the citys subway system involved using streetcars in the tunnels, possibly having some routes run partially in tunnels and partially on city streets, so the Toronto subway was built using the same gauge as streetcars, although ultimately, streetcars were never used as part of the subway system.

Besides the Toronto streetcar and subway systems, the Halton County Radial Railway uses the Toronto gauge of 4 ft 10 7 ⁄ 8 in 1.495 mm for its museum streetcar line.


6.1. Track gauge Pre-TTC

Before TTC ownership, however, the streetcar gauge was either 4 ft 10 3 ⁄ 4 in 1.492 mm or 4 ft 11 in 1.499 mm, depending on the historical source, instead of todays 4 ft 10 7 ⁄ 8 in 1.495 mm.

According to Raymond L. Kennedy said: "The street railways were built to the horse car gauge of 4 feet 10 and 3/4 inches. The TTC changed this to 4 10 7/8 and is still in use today even on the subway." James V. Salmon said the "city gauge" was 4 ft 10 3⁄4 in. Both these sources were describing a former streetcar junction at the intersection of Dundas and Keele Streets laid entirely to Toronto streetcar gauge until August 1912. The junction was used by both the Toronto Suburban Railway and the Toronto Railway Company.

However, Ken Heard, Consultant Museologist, Canadian Museums Association, was reported to say: "One of the terms of these agreements was that the track gauge was to accommodate wagons. As horse car rail was step rail, the horse cars, equipped with iron wheels with flanges on the inside, ran on the outer, or upper step of the rail. Wagon wheels naturally did not have a flange. They were made of wood, with an iron tire. Wagons would use the inner, or lower step of the rail. The upper step of the rail guided the wagons on the track. In order to accommodate this arrangement, the track gauge had to be 4 feet, 11 inches. As the streets themselves were not paved, this arrangement permitted wagons carrying heavy loads a stable roadbed." In support of Heards statement about the pre-TTC gauge, the Charter of the Toronto Railway Company said "the gauge of system 4 ft. 11 in. is to be maintained on main lines and extensions thereof".


7. Properties

Dedicated station

Queens Quay is the one standalone underground station that does not connect to the subway. It is located in the tunnel, shared by the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina routes, between Queens Quay West and Union subway station.


Since all of Torontos current streetcars are single-ended, turning loops are provided at the normal endpoints of each route and at likely intermediate turnback locations. A routing on-street around one or more city blocks may serve as a loop, but most loops on the system are wholly or partly off-street. Many of these are also interchange points with subway or bus services.


Torontos streetcars are housed and maintained at various carhouses or "streetcar barns":

Inactive carhouses once part of the TTCs streetcar operations:

Source: The TTCs Active Carhouses


8. Advertising

Pattison Outdoor Advertising is responsible for posters outside and inside the streetcars, as well as outside and inside the buses and the subway system.

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  • is an underground streetcar station of the Toronto streetcar system in Toronto Ontario, Canada. It is the only underground streetcar station that is not
  • The PCC Presidents Conference Committee is a streetcar tram design that was first built in the United States in the 1930s. The design proved successful
  • during overnight periods is a streetcar route in Toronto Ontario, Canada, operated by the Toronto Transit Commission. Streetcar service on Spadina Avenue

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