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Canadian Streetcar Systems- 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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2012- the APTA Streetcar Subcommittee visits Harvey Shops,
with the 1921 heritage car and the mockup for the new
low-floor fleet.
ALRV turning onto Broadview
Roncesvalles line is being upgraded with
“bulb-out” platforms that share space with the
bike path
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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.

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

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Queen at Yonge

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

out onto the street from the Dundas terminal

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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.

also hosts a small railway
, 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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area around the Yonge & Dundas subway station has
developed into a lively night spot

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

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

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Passing the famed Maple Leaf Gardens

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

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

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

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underground transit center links the 512 line with a subway
station and several bus routes.  
street lighting and other streetscape improvements were also
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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College Street In Little Italy

roll by outside the restaurant window

board on College Street

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

scene downtown with one of the heritage PCCs

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along Spadina Avenue
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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.

and streetcars share the road on Queen

4070 passes the Canadian Westinghouse Building on King

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

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

intermodal; water taxis meet streetcars.

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

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

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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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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

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


 John Smatlak Photos 

News / Updates / Links

Official TTC website

Transit Toronto website

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TTC-“Toronto Meet Your New Ride” website

Halton County Radial Railway (the local trolley museum)