Canadian Streetcar Systems- Toronto

Toronto

Toronto Transit Commission

Began Operation: 1861

Route Miles: 57

Stops: Many

Org: Transit Agency

Schedule: Daily

Photo: John Smatlak

Toronto, Canada is home to North America’s largest streetcar system. Toronto is one of the “legacy” systems that bucked the trend of other US and Canadian cities, and retained an extensive streetcar network. In 1989 they began expanding the streetcar system, a process which has continued into the present day. The system is well covered on other websites, but we’ve included a basic introduction here to encourage you to learn more.

The system is operated by the Toronto Transit Commission, a public entity that assumed operation of the city’s transit services beginning in 1921, taking over from the existing municipal and private operators. As of 2008, the system included 139 bus routes, 11 streetcar routes, 3 subway lines and one rapid transit line. Streetcars serve on some of the heaviest surface routes, using a mix of dedicated rights-of-way and traditional mixed traffic running (with efforts underway to increase the amount of dedicated rights-of-way). TTC is also undergoing a major expansion, with the addition of light rail service as part of the “Transit City” plan.

Streetcar service is provided with a fleet of 248 vehicles built between 1978 and 1984. The 196 single-unit “Canadian LRVs” (CLRV) replaced the predecessor PCC streetcar which had served for more than forty years. The 52 “Articulated LRVs” (ALRVs) are a substantially larger vehicle but are built along the same basic concepts and equipment. Toronto also retains three heritage trolleys, two PCCs and a 1921 “Peter Witt” style car. System operating voltage is 600V DC, and like Philadelphia in the United States, Toronto continues to use trolley poles for current collection. All streetcar track is broad gauge 4 feet 10-7/8 inches.

TTC is now in the process of procuring a large new fleet of modern, accessible streetcars to replace the vast majority of its existing fleet. 204 new 100% low-floor cars will begin arriving in 2012, supplied by Bombardier Transportation. A rendering of the new vehicle appears below. Click here for more information on the new fleet.

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August
2012- the APTA Streetcar Subcommittee visits Harvey Shops,
with the 1921 heritage car and the mockup for the new
low-floor fleet.
An
ALRV turning onto Broadview
The
Roncesvalles line is being upgraded with
“bulb-out” platforms that share space with the
bike path
           
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Classic
streetcar scenes at the corner of Bathurst and King. The
trackwork arrangement that completely interconnects the
crossing of two double-track lines is called a “grand
union”, allowing cars to move between the two lines in
any direction. Once a common piece of streetcar infrastructure
in cities throughout the world, only a handful remain.

Cyclists,
autos and streetcars all compete for space on the Bathurst
St. bridge.

          
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On
Queen at Yonge

Single-ended
streetcars mean turning loops at the end of each line. Here
an ALRV snakes around the Neville Park loop.

Pulling
out onto the street from the Dundas terminal

           
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Streetcars
are woven into the fabric of Toronto’s neighborhoods, which
retain an amazing amount of small-business retail
establishments along the primary commercial streets. Here
streetcars pass a corner grocery at Broadview and Gerrard.

Downtown
also hosts a small railway
museum
, co-located in an a restored roundhouse along
with a restaurant and a furniture store. Urban development
envelops the scene, and may ultimately push out the museum.

          
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The
area around the Yonge & Dundas subway station has
developed into a lively night spot

Operator’s
position on a CLRV- note foot control, as on the predecessor
PCC cars. The new fleet will provide operators with an
enclosed cab.

One
of the challenges of on-street operation- an improperly
parked delivery truck results in mere inches of
clearance 

          
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CLRV
Passing the famed Maple Leaf Gardens

Much
of the system retains the traditional method for streetcar
boarding; passengers simply walk from the curb to the
vehicle.

Some lines use
“island” platforms between lanes of traffic
           
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In
addition to operation in mixed traffic, some lines make
extensive use of exclusive lanes to help service speed and
reliability
 Chinatown
scenes along Spadina Avenue 
       
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Passengers
arrive and depart inside a pre-paid fare area at the east
end of the St. Clair line

Re-opened
in 2009, the 512 St. Clair West line represents TTC’s latest
effort to upgrade the traditional streetcar line. The line
utilizes reserved right-of-way with traffic priority and new
platforms. The overhead trolley wire was also upgraded with
stylized support structures as part of the effort to improve
aesthetics.

       
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This
underground transit center links the 512 line with a subway
station and several bus routes.  
New
street lighting and other streetscape improvements were also
incorporated.
A
pair of photos illustrating the left turn phase, permitting turning
cars to cross the right-of-way in a controlled fashion.
 
 
       
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Along
College Street In Little Italy

Streetcars
roll by outside the restaurant window

Passengers
board on College Street

Route
504 crossing York
Street
         
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The
beautiful “Old City Hall” building in downtown Toronto
The
ALRV is a 76-foot articulated car 

Night
scene downtown with one of the heritage PCCs

       
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Scenes
along Spadina Avenue
       
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Where
the streetcar routes cross each other, they remain connected
together in traditional fashion. These connections permit
detours around line blockages. The car in the right-hand
photo is detouring around a track construction project.

Bicycles
and streetcars share the road on Queen
Street

Car
4070 passes the Canadian Westinghouse Building on King
Street.

       
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Turning
off Spadina onto Queen’s Quay along the waterfront. An
historic sailing ship is docked in the background.

This
man-made “water cut” brought the water in closer to the
land, enhancing public access to the waterfront while
providing more room for a smallcraft harbor. The iconic CN
Tower is in the background.

       
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Segregated
right-of-way along Queen’s Quay. This style of median is
“mountable” for use by emergency vehicles.

Waterfront
intermodal; water taxis meet streetcars.

Additions
to the streetcar system since 1989 have included a short
underground section to connect with the subway system
downtown. 

Car
4012 has just gone through a loop, “short turning”
on route 504 

       
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TTC
retains three heritage cars, including this 1923 “Peter
Witt” type car. It  was brought out for an
inspection trip by APTA’s Streetcar & Heritage Trolley
Subcommittee during the 2007 Rail Transit Conference
 
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Two
PCC cars are also part of the heritage fleet. These scenes
are also from the APTA 2007 Rail Transit Conference. TTC
makes the heritage cars available to the public for
charters.

A
visit to the Halton
County Radial Railway
museum outside Toronto offers the
visitor a whole world of Toronto transit history
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Interior
views of a CLRV
           
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Scenes
at the corner of Spadina and King
The
appearance of the streetcar right-of-way on Spadina has been
further enhanced with landscaping
Dog-friendly
transit!

 

 John Smatlak Photos