Toronto streetcar system

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Toronto streetcar system
CLRV 4067 (12774408023).jpg
Locale Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Transit type Streetcar
Number of lines 11[1]
Number of stations 685 stops,[2] including 8 shared with the subway (all others but one are street-level stops)
Daily ridership 291,000 (avg. weekday,
Q2 2014)[3]
Annual ridership 100,037,500 (2013)[4]
Began operation 1861 (electric lines since 1892)[1]
Operator(s) Toronto Transit Commission
Character Street running
System length 82 km (51 mi)[1][2]
Track gauge 4 ft 10 78 in (1,495 mm) Toronto gauge
Minimum radius of curvature 36 ft 0 in (10,973 mm)[5]
Electrification Overhead lines, 600 V DC

The Toronto streetcar system comprises eleven streetcar routes in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), and is the largest such system in the Americas in terms of ridership, number of cars, and track length. The network is concentrated primarily in downtown and in proximity to the city's waterfront. Much of the streetcar route network dates back to the 19th century. Most of Toronto's streetcar routes operate on street trackage shared with car traffic, and streetcars stop on demand at frequent stops like buses. Some routes operate wholly or partly within their own rights-of-way, and stop on demand at frequent stops.

There are underground connections between streetcars and the subway at St. Clair West, Spadina, and Union stations, and streetcars enter St. Clair, Dundas West, Bathurst, Broadview, and Main Street stations at street level. At these stations, no proof of payment is required to transfer to or from the subway, as the streetcars stop within the stations' fare-paid areas. At the eight downtown stations, excepting Union, from Queen's Park to College on Line 1 Yonge–University, streetcars stop on the street outside the station entrances, and proof of payment is required to transfer to or from the subway.

Toronto’s streetcars provide most of the downtown core’s surface transit service. Four of the TTC's five most heavily used surface routes are streetcar routes. In 2013, ridership on the streetcar system totalled more than 100 million.[4]


Early history (1861–1945)[edit]

Streetcars at Bay and Queen in 1923
This Peter Witt streetcar, preserved at the Halton County Radial Railway, has been restored into the TTC’s original 1921 livery.

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 Easton's 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 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 did force the TRC to build new cars, but they were of old design. When the TRC franchise ended in 1921, the Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) 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 1925, routes were operated on behalf of the Township of York (as Township of York Railway), but the TTC was contracted to operate them.

Abandonment plans (1945–1989)[edit]

Track and trolley coach overhead plan of Toronto in October, 1965. The map features detailed plans of Danforth, St.Clair, Lansdowne, Russell and Roncesvalles carhouses, Eglinton Garage and Hillcrest Complex.

After the Second World War, many cities across North America and Europe[6] 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.

PCC #4500 operating on the 509 Harbourfront Line.

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".[7] 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 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.[8]

The TTC then maintained most of its existing network, purchasing new custom-designed Canadian Light Rail Vehicles (CLRV) and Articulated Light Rail Vehicles (ALRV). It also continued to rebuild and maintain the existing fleet of PCC (Presidents' Conference Committee) streetcars until they were no longer roadworthy.

The busiest north-south and east-west routes were replaced respectively by Line 1 Yonge–University and Bloor–Danforth subway lines, and the northernmost streetcar lines, including the North Yonge and Oakwood routes, were replaced by trolley buses (and later by diesel buses).

Two other 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, and the Mount Pleasant route was removed because of complaints from drivers that streetcars slowed their cars down and because the track was aging and would have needed to be replaced.[citation needed]

Scarborough RT (1985–present)[edit]

Main article: Line 3 Scarborough

Line 3 Scarborough (formerly known as Scarborough rapid-transit (RT) line was proposed to be operated with streetcars on a private right-of-way, but the plans were changed when the Ontario government persuaded the TTC and the borough of Scarborough to buy its Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS) rapid transit trains instead. Another proposed streetcar/rapid transit line from Kipling station was abandoned, but the ghost platform at the bus level is a hint of a streetcar line.

Expansion period (1989–2000)[edit]

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 Queen's 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 Toronto's Chinatown and the western boundary of University of Toronto's main campus. The tracks along Queen's 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.

21st century (2001–present)[edit]

The new Flexity Outlook low-floor streetcars began to enter service on August 31, 2014. Car 4400 is seen on route 510 Spadina in September.

By 2003, two-thirds of the city's 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 10–15 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.[9] [10]

Route 512 St. Clair was rebuilt to restore a separated right-of-way similar to that of the route 510 on Spadina Avenue, to increase service reliability and was completed on June 30, 2010.[11]

On December 19, 2010, 504 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.[12][13]

In April 2012, construction began on the 700-metre (2,300 ft) Cherry Street streetcar line, which will run in a dedicated right-of-way on Sumach and Cherry Streets from King Street to the railway corridor south of Mill Street, serving West Don Lands and the Distillery District.[14][15][16]

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.[17]

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 created Sunday stops in the 1920s along its streetcar routes to help worshippers get to church on Sunday.[18]


On December 16, 2010, the TTC suffered its worst accident since the Russell Hill subway crash in 1995. Up to 17 people, including four schoolchildren, were sent to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries after a 505 Dundas streetcar heading eastbound collided with a Greyhound Canada bus at River Street.[19]


The current TTC streetcar network, in relation to the subway; all eleven regular routes appear red.

As of 2013, the TTC operates 304.6 kilometres (189.3 mi)[2] of routes on 82 kilometres (51 mi) streetcar network (double or single track) throughout Toronto.[1][2] There are 11 regular streetcar routes:[2]

Name Length Notes
501 Queen 24.4324.43 km (15.18 mi) Part of Blue Night Network as 301 Queen
502 Downtowner 09.389.38 km (5.83 mi)
503 Kingston Road 08.978.97 km (5.57 mi) Rush hour service only
504 King 13.9713.97 km (8.68 mi) Includes Cherry Street streetcar line, part of the Blue Night Network service as 304 King since September 6, 2015.
505 Dundas 10.7410.74 km (6.67 mi)
506 Carlton 14.8214.82 km (9.21 mi) Part of Blue Night Network as 306 Carlton
508 Lake Shore 09.409.40 km (5.84 mi) Rush hour service only
509 Harbourfront 04.654.65 km (2.89 mi) Route operates on a dedicated right-of-way
510 Spadina 06.176.17 km (3.83 mi) Route operates on a dedicated right-of-way, part of the Blue Night Network service as 317 Spadina since September 6, 2015.
511 Bathurst 06.476.47 km (4.02 mi)
512 St. Clair 07.017.01 km (4.36 mi) Route reconstructed to a dedicated right-of-way (completed on June 30, 2010)

Route numbers[edit]

The TTC has used route numbers in the 500 series for streetcar routes since 1980; before then, streetcar routes were not numbered, but the destination signs on the then-new CLRVs were not large enough to display both the route name and destination, according to the TTC.[citation needed] The only exceptions to this numbering scheme are the four streetcar-operated 300-series Blue Night Network routes as of September 6, 2015.

The one 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 rapid transit routes. In 1996, the TTC overhauled its rapid transit route numbers and stopped trying to market the Harbourfront route as 'rapid transit' changing the number to 510; the tracks were later extended in two directions to form the 510 Spadina and 509 Harbourfront routes.[20]

During times when streetcar service on all or a portion of a route has been replaced temporarily by buses (e.g., for track reconstruction, major fire, special event), the replacement bus service is typically identified by the same route number as the corresponding streetcar line.

Dedicated rights-of-way[edit]

Queens Quay streetcar station

The majority of streetcar routes operate in mixed traffic, generally reflecting the original track configurations dating from 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 system's 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 track also operate in tunnel (to connect with Spadina, Union, and St. Clair West subway stations). 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[21] — 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 summer 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 the summer of 2007 from Dufferin Street to Caledonia Road. Service resumed utilizing 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 Caledonia 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.[22][23]

In 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 Queen's Wharf Lighthouse.[24]

Future expansion[edit]

Transit City[edit]

Main article: Transit City

The City of Toronto's and the TTC’s Transit City report[25] 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 that are proceeding are to be included in the rapid transit part of the network.

Other proposals[edit]

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

Discontinued streetcar routes[edit]

Toronto Street Railway[edit]

Routes marked to City were operating on May 20, 1891, when the Toronto Street Railway Company's franchise expired and operations were taken over by the City of Toronto.[28]

Route Started Ended Notes
Bathurst 00 Sep 1889 7 Dec 1889 to "Seaton Village"
Bloor 29 May 1891 to City
Brockton 4 Sep 1883 00 May 1884 from "Queen & Brockton"; to "Queen & Brockton"
Carlton & College 2 Aug 1886 to City
Church 18 Aug 1881 to City
Danforth 8 Jul 1889 to City
Davenport 18 Aug 1890 to City from "Seaton Village"
Dovercourt via McCaul 24 Sep 1888 to City from "McCaul & College"
Front & McCaul 22 Oct 1883 28 Jun 1884 to "McCaul & College"
Front & Parliament 25 Nov 1878 25 Jul 1881 to "Parliament" and "Winchester"
High Park via Queen 00 Apr 1887 to City by this date; from "Queen & Parkdale"
King 21 Sep 1874 to City longest continuously operated route in Toronto
King via Strachan 2 Sep 1879 19 Sep 1890 during Toronto Industrial Exhibition only; to "King"
Kingston Rd. 9 Jun 1875 00 Apr 1887 Kingston Road Tramway Co.; by this date; part to "Woodbine"
Lee 15 Jul 1889 to City
McCaul & College 30 Jun 1884 22 Sep 1888 from "Front & McCaul"; to "Dovercourt via McCaul"
McCaul & College 15 Jul 1889 to City from "Dovercourt via McCaul"
Metropolitan 26 Jan 1885 to City Metropolitan Street Railway
Parliament 26 Jul 1881 to City from "Front & Parliament"
Queen 2 Feb 1861 7 Dec 1881 to "Queen & Brockton"
Queen 4 Sep 1883 00 May 1884 from "Queen & Brockton"; to "Queen & Brockton"
Queen & Brockton 8 Dec 1881 3 Sep 1883 from "Queen"; to "Queen & Brockton"
Queen & Brockton 00 May 1884 to City from "Brockton" and "Queen"
Queen & Parkdale 2 Sep 1879 00 Apr 1887 ended by spring 1887; to "High Park via Queen"
Queen East 11 May 1885 to City from "Sherbourne"
Seaton Village 27 Jul 1885 to City from "Spadina & Bathurst"
Sherbourne 1 Dec 1874 to City may have begun a day or two earlier
Spadina 00 Jun 1879 to City
Spadina & Bathurst 30 Jun 1884 25 Jul 1885 from "Spadina"; to "Seaton Village"
Toronto Industrial Exhibition 13 Sep 1883 19 Sep 1890 first electric route; operated by steam during the 1891 season
Winchester 26 Jul 1881 to City from "Front & Parliament"
Woodbine 21 May 1887 to City from "Kingston Rd."
Yonge 9 Nov 1861 to City first rail transit route in Toronto

Toronto Railway Company[edit]

Routes marked to TTC were operating on September 21, 1921, when the Toronto Railway Company's operations were taken over by the Toronto Transportation Commission.[29]

Route Started Ended Notes
Arthur 1902-02-12 12 Feb 1902 1909-00-00 1909 merged with "Dundas"
Ashbridge 1917-11-05 5 Nov 1917 to TTC replaced by bus service in the 1920s.[30]
Avenue Road 1895-19-02 2 Sep 1895 to TTC
Bathurst 1885-07-27 27 Jul 1885 to TTC
Belt Line 1891-11-16 16 Nov 1891 to TTC
Bloor 1889-00-00 1889 to TTC
Broadview 1892-10-00 Oct 1892 to TTC
Brockton 1882-00-00 1882 1893-10-09 9 Oct 1893 renamed "Dundas"
Carlton 1886-08-00 Aug 1886 to TTC
Church 1881-00-00 1881 to TTC
College 1893-11-00 Nov 1893 to TTC
Danforth 1889-05-00 May 1889 1892-10-00 Oct 1892 renamed "Broadview"
Davenport 1892-12-00 Dec 1892 1891-11-00 Nov 1891 replaced by "Bathurst", "Parliament" and "Winchester"
Dovercourt 1888-11-00 Nov 1888 to TTC
Dufferin 1889-00-00 1889 1891-09-30 30 Sep 1891 merged with "Danforth"
Dundas 1893-10-09 9 Oct 1893 to TTC
Dupont 1906-08-29 29 Aug 1906 to TTC
Harbord 1911-08-29 29 Aug 1911 to TTC
High Park 1886-00-00 1886 1905-00-00 1905
King 1874-00-00 1874 to TTC
Lee Avenue 1889-0--00 1889 1893-05-15 15 May 1893 merged into "King"
McCaul 1883-10-00 Oct 1883 1896-01-01 1 Jan 1896 replaced by "Bloor"
Parkdale 1880-00-00 1880 1886-00-00 1886 renamed "High Park"
Parliament 1881-00-00 1881 1918-03-04 4 Mar 1918 merged into "Queen"
Queen 1861-12-02 2 Dec 1861 to TTC
Queen East 1882-00-00 1882 1891-10-16 16 Oct 1891 merged with "Danforth"
Roncesvalles 1909-00-00 1909 1911-12-20 20 Dec 1911 replaced by "Queen"
Seaton Village 1885-07-27 27 Jul 1885 1891-10-23 23 Oct 1891 replaced by "Davenport", "Parliament" and "Winchester"
Sherbourne 1874-11-00 Nov 1874 1891-11-16 16 Nov 1891 merged into "Belt Line"
Spadina 1878-00-00 1878 1891-11-16 16 Nov 1891 merged into "Belt Line"
Winchester 1874-11-00 Nov 1874 to TTC
Woodbine 1887-05-00 May 1887 1893-04-04 4 Apr 1893 replaced by "King"
Yonge 1861-09-11 11 Sep 1861 to TTC
York 1891-10-00 1891-12-31 in operation in October 1891 and discontinued prior to 31 December 1891

Toronto Civic Railways[edit]

All routes transferred to the Toronto Transportation Commission.[31]

Route Started Ended Notes
Bloor 1914-11-04 4 Nov 1914 to TTC TCR and TRC Bloor routes merge into Broadview route and later replaced by Bloor–Danforth subway 1966
Danforth 1913-10-30 30 Oct 1913 to TTC Same name, merged with Bloor route and finally replaced by Bloor-Danforth subway 1966
Gerrard 1912-12-18 18 Dec 1912 to TTC Merger as Gerrard-Main route and later merged in Carlton route (now 506 Carlton)
Lansdowne 1917-01-16 16 Jan 1917 to TTC Two streetcar routes: Lansdowne (replaced by trolleybus route 1942) and Lansdowne North (replaced by Lansdowne North bus 1925); now part of 47 Lansdowne bus route
St. Clair 1913-08-25 25 Aug 1913 to TTC Same route as St. Clair route (now 512 St. Clair)

Toronto Transportation Commission/Toronto Transit Commission[edit]

Route Began Ended Number Notes
Belt Line 1891 1923
Bloor 1890 1966 Ran MU cars 1950 to 1966 and then replaced by Line 2 Bloor–Danforth subway
Coxwell 1921 1966 replaced by 22 Coxwell bus
Dundas Exhibition 1980 1986 522 also operated during the 1995 season and the 2013 Canadian National Exhibition
Dupont/Bay 1926 1963 replaced by 6 Bay bus
Earlscourt 1954 1976 merged into 512 St. Clair; assigned number 512L
Fort 1931 1966 merged into 511 Bathurst
Harbord 1911 1966 replaced by 72 Pape and 94 Wellesley buses
Harbourfront 1990 2000 604 renumbered 509 Harbourfront
King Exhibition 1980 2000 521 reinstated in 2013, and operating as 521 Exhibition East
Long Branch 1928 1995 507 merged in 501 Queen
Oakwood 1922 1960 replaced by 63 Ossington trolleycoach
Parliament 1910 1966 replaced by 65 Parliament bus
Spadina 1923 1948 replaced by the 77 Spadina bus; which was replaced by the 510 Spadina streetcar in 1997
Winchester 1910 1924 replaced by Yonge and Parliament streetcars
Mount Pleasant 1975 1976 split from 512 St. Clair; replaced by 74 Mt. Pleasant trolleycoach
Rogers Road 1922 1974 replaced by 63F Ossington via Rogers trolleycoach
Yonge 1873 1954 replaced by Yonge subway, Downtown bus, and Yonge trolleycoach

Rolling stock[edit]

Hundreds of cars were acquired from the TTCs predecessor companies, including the Toronto Railway Company, Toronto Civic Railways, Toronto & York Radial Railway and Toronto Suburban Railway. The current rolling stock is composed of 248 vehicles.

Streetcars purchased by the TTC[edit]

Note that not all numbers within a series were used.

Fleet numbers Type In service Notes
Peter Witt 1921–1954 "large" Witts; even numbers only
2700–2898 Peter Witt 1922–1965 "small" Witts; even numbers only
2301–2419 2-door trailer 1921–1938 odd numbers only
2701-3029 3-door trailer 1923–1954 "Harvey" trailers; odd numbers only
PCC 1938–1971 air-electric
PCC 1947–1995 all-electric
4000–4199 CLRV 1977–current will be phased out as Flexity Outlooks start entering service in 2014
4200–4251 ALRV 1987–current articulated; will be phased out when Flexity Outlook (Toronto LRT car) start entering service in 2014
4900 ALRV 1982–1983 prototype; never owned by TTC but by UTDC; used on TTC test runs and returned (later scrapped); painted with similar TTC scheme
4400–4411 Flexity 2014–current 2013, testing; 2014, revenue service

Winter operational issues[edit]

The fleet of CLRV and ALRV has experienced operational issues during extreme cold temperatures in early 2015 as doors and brakes fail as moisture in the pneumatic lines freezes.[32] As a result, the TTC will often substitute buses during extreme cold conditions to prevent cars from blocking roads or getting into accidents when brakes fail to deploy.[citation needed] The problem will be resolved with the new Flexity cars which use electronic braking and door operations.[32]

Track gauge[edit]

Track gauge
By transport mode
Tram · Rapid transit
Miniature · Scale model
By size (list)
Graphic list of track gauges

  Fifteen inch 381 mm (15 in)

  Two foot,
600 mm
597 mm
600 mm
603 mm
610 mm
(1 ft 11 12 in)
(1 ft 11 58 in)
(1 ft 11 34 in)
(2 ft)
  750 mm,
Two foot six inch,
800 mm
750 mm
760 mm
762 mm
800 mm
(2 ft 5 12 in)
(2 ft 5 1516 in)
(2 ft 6 in)
(2 ft 7 12 in)
  Swedish three foot,
900 mm,
Three foot
891 mm
900 mm
914 mm
(2 ft11 332 in)
(2 ft 11 716)
(3 ft)
  Metre 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in)
  Three foot six inch,
Cape, CAP, Kyōki
1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in)
  Four foot six inch 1,372 mm (4 ft 6 in)

  Standard 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)

Five foot
1,520 mm
1,524 mm
(4 ft 11 2732 in)
(5 ft)
  Irish 1,600 mm (5 ft 3 in)
  Iberian 1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in)
  Indian 1,676 mm (5 ft 6 in)
  Six foot 1,829 mm (6 ft)
  Brunel 2,140 mm (7 ft 14 in)
Change of gauge
Break-of-gauge · Dual gauge ·
Conversion (list· Bogie exchange · Variable gauge
By location
North America · South America · Europe
World map, rail gauge by region
Streetcar track reconstruction at Bathurst Street and Queen Street in 2007.

The tracks of Toronto's streetcars and subways are built to the unique track gauge of 4 ft 10 78 in (1,495 mm), 2 38 in (60 mm) wider than the usual standard gauge of 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm), which Line 3 Scarborough uses.[33] According to Steve Munro, an expert on the history of Toronto area transit, 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.[34]

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, as was common practice in Hamilton, Ontario (until the 1950s) and in many US cities, such as New York City and Syracuse, New York.[33]

Standard gauge rails 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.

The unique gauge has remained to this day since converting all tracks and vehicles would be expensive and would lack any real benefit anyway. Some proposals for the city's subway system involved using streetcars in the tunnels, possibly having some routes run partially in tunnels and partially on city streets, so the same gauge was used, but the idea was ultimately dropped in the case of dedicated rapid-transit trains. The use of standard-gauge tracks on the Scarborough RT makes it impossible for there to be any track connection between it and the other lines, and so when RT vehicles need anything more than basic service (which is carried out in the RT's own McCowan Yard), they are carried by truck to the Greenwood subway yards.[35]

The proposed Finch West, Sheppard East and Eglinton LRT lines will be constructed to standard gauge. The projects are receiving a large part of their funding from the Ontario provincial transit authority Metrolinx and, to ensure a better price for purchasing vehicles, it wants to have a degree of commonality with other similar projects within Ontario.[35]


Track map of TTC network containing loops, stops, subway and GO Transit stations

Dedicated station[edit]

Queens Quay is the one standalone underground station that exclusively serves streetcars. It is located in the tunnel, shared by the 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina routes, between Queens Quay West and Union subway station.


A Peter Witt car on tour service, decorated for Dominion Day, at McCaul Loop in 1975

Since all of Toronto's 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.


Streetcars inside Roncesvalles Carhouse

Toronto's streetcars are housed and maintained at various carhouses or "streetcar barns":

Facility details
 Yard   Location   Year Open   Notes 
Hillcrest Complex Davenport Road and Bathurst Street 1924 Newly built by TTC on former site of farm and later Toronto Driving Club track; services streetcars and buses, repair facilities
Roncesvalles Carhouse Queen Street West and Roncesvalles Avenue 1895 (for TRC); rebuilt 1921 (by TTC) Property acquired Toronto Railway Company, but new carbarn built in 1921 with indoor inspection and repair facility and outdoor streetcar storage tracks
Russell (Connaught Avenue) Carhouse Connaught Avenue and Queen Street East 1913 (by TRC and 1916 carhouse added); 1924 (rebuilt by TTC) Built for the Toronto Railway Company as paint shop and 1916 carhouse built to replace King carhouse lost to a fire in 1916; acquired by the TTC in 1921 and rebuilt in 1924 with indoor maintenance facility and outdoor streetcar storage tracks
Leslie Barns Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard East - southeast corner expected 2015 carhouse opened November 2015 and receiving some of Flexity fleet (100 of the 204 cars)[36] It will be fully opened by early 2016.

Inactive carhouses once part of the TTC's streetcar operations:

Facility details
 Yard   Location   Year Open   Year Closed   Notes 
Danforth Carhouse Danforth Avenue and Coxwell Avenue 1915; 1921-22 (additions by TTC) 2002 built for the Toronto Civic Railways in 1915 and additional indoor storage added by TTC in 1921-22; re-purposed as bus garage in 1967; closed in 1921 but still used by TTC for storage and office space
Dundas Carhouse [1] Dundas Street West and Howard Park Avenue 1907 1936 Original acquired from TRC (built in 1907), but carhouse was demolished in 1921 but retained for storage for 60 cars; wye and runaround loop since disappeared and area re-developed with cars moving to Roncesvalles
Eglinton Carhouse Eglinton Avenue West and Yonge Street 1922 2002; demolished Built to replace TRC Yorkville Carhouse and retired as carhouse in 1948 to become bus garage until 2002; most of facility now demolished and remainder used as temporary bus terminal
Harbour Yard Lakeshore Boulevard between Bay and York Streets 1951 1954 Built as temporary outdoor storage space for Peter Witt cars after Eglinton Carhouse closed to streetcars; tracks removed 1954; now site of parking lot and office towers
Lansdowne Carhouse Lansdowne Avenue and Paton Avenue 1911 1996; demolished 2003 Built for the Toronto Railway Company and acquired by TTC in 1921; became a trolley bus garage in 1947 and streetcar storage ended 1967; abandoned after 1996 and demolished 2003
St. Clair (Wychwood) Carhouse Wychwood south of St. Clair Avenue West 1914 1978 Built for the Toronto Civic Railways in 1914 and expanded 1916. Acquired by TTC in 1921 with renovations and renamed as Wychwood Barns; closed in 1978 after cars moved to Roncesvalles but continued to be used for storage until the 1990s; tracks removed and restored as community centre.
Yorkville Carhouse Between Scollard Street and Yorkville Avenue west of Yonge Street 1861 1922 Built in 1861 for Toronto Street Railway and acquired by TRC in 1891, the two storey carhouse was closed by TTC in 1922; later demolished and now site of condo and Townhall Square Park

Source: The TTC's Active Carhouses

A new carhouse is to be constructed for housing and maintaining the new Bombardier Flexity Outlook vehicles; the existing facilities will not accommodate the differences in length and configuration of the different generations of vehicle. A preliminary report recommends a vacant lot at the southeast corner of Leslie Street and Lake Shore Boulevard.[37]

Operator training[edit]

The TTC's LRV training simulator, located at the Hillcrest Complex.

A mockup of a CLRV used to train new streetcar operators is located at Hillcrest.[38] The training simulator consists of an operator cab, front steps and part of the front of a streetcar.

In September 2014, Chris Bateman, writing in the Toronto Life magazine, described being allowed to try out the new simulator designed for the Flexity vehicles.[38] It provides an accurate mockup of the driver's cab of the Flexity vehicle, with a wrap-around computer screen that provides a convincing simulcra of Toronto streets. Like an aircraft cockpit simulator, this Flexity simulator provides realistic tactile feedback to the driver-trainee. The trainer can alter the simulated weather, the track friction, and can introduce more simulated vehicles on the simulated roadway, and even have badly behaved pedestrians and vehicles unpredictably block the Flexity's path.

Bateman wrote that the analogue simulator for the CLRVs was being retired.[38]

Operators also train with a real streetcar. Front and rear rollsigns on the vehicle identify it as a training car.


Given that the TTC's streetcar rolling stock has been ageing, many parts used by the rolling stock are no longer available. The system has a blacksmith who crafts parts and tools used to maintain the fleet.[39] With the introduction of the new Flexity LRVs, this job may become obsolete.

See also[edit]


Inline citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Toronto's Streetcar Network - Past to Present - History". 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-26. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "2013 TTC Operating Statistics". Toronto Transit Commission. 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-04. 
  3. ^ "Transit Ridership Report Second Quarter 2014" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association (APTA) (via: ). August 27, 2014. p. 34. Retrieved 2014-10-04. 
  4. ^ a b "Public Transportation Ridership Report Fourth Quarter 2013" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association (APTA) (via: ). February 26, 2014. p. 31. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 
  5. ^ The Canadian Light Rail Vehicles - Transit Toronto
  6. ^ Costa, Alvaro; Fernandes, Ruben (February 2012). "Urban public transport in Europe: Technology diffusion and market organisation". Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice 46 (2): 269–284. doi:10.1016/j.tra.2011.09.002. Retrieved 13 February 2015. 
  7. ^ William Bragg (November 13, 1967). "Our Streetcars are Near the End of the Line". Toronto Star. p. 7. 
  8. ^ Craig Cal. "'Streetcars for Toronto' – 35th Anniversary" Spacing December 1, 2007.
  9. ^ Steve Munro (2009-10-25). "Streetcar Track Replacement Plan 2010-2014". Steve Munro. Retrieved 2009-10-25. 
  10. ^ Gay Abbate (2003-07-14). "State of tracks forces streetcars to crawl". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2003-07-14. 
  11. ^ Lloyd Alter (2013-11-25). "Streetcars save cities: A look at 100 years of a Toronto streetcar line". TreeHugger. Archived from the original on 2013-11-25. Retrieved 2013-11-25. A hundred years ago, a new streetcar line was installed on St. Clair Avenue in Toronto in a dedicated right-of-way. In 1928 they got rid of the right-of-way to make more room for cars; In 2006 they rebuilt it again, putting the right of way back. 
  12. ^ "Lanes, tracks and bikes". Roncesvalles Village BIA. 
  13. ^ Steve Munro (2010-12-19). "Parliament and Roncesvalles 2010 Track Work". Steve Munro. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  14. ^ Tess Kalinowski (2007-12-11). "Transit-first street plan hailed". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2012-07-19. Unlike Toronto's other streetcar routes, which traditionally run in mixed traffic and board passengers from platforms in the middle of the road, the Cherry St. plan calls for putting all the transit on the east side of the street, running in two directions, with a tree-lined platform separating it from other traffic.  "Two figures incorrect in Cherry St. transit plan". Toronto Star. 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2012-07-19. The transitway envisioned for this section is 700 metres. 
  15. ^ "STREETCARS ON CHERRY STREET AND SUMACH STREET SERVING THE WEST DON LANDS DEVELOPMENT" (PDF). Toronto Transit Commission. 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2012-07-20. 
  16. ^ Adrian Morrow (2012-05-25). "A tiny perfect streetcar line is being laid along Cherry Street". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2012-07-19. There’s a new streetcar line under construction in Toronto, the first in more than a decade and a surprising development during the tenure of a mayor who is outspokenly opposed to light rail. 
  17. ^ Steve Munro (2014-10-12). "Streetcars Return to Queens Quay". Steve Munro. Retrieved 2014-10-12. 
  18. ^ Eric Andrew-Gee, reporter (2015-05-07). "Sunday streetcar stops near churches to be shuttered in June". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  19. ^ Schoolchildren returning from field trip hurt in streetcar crash: report
  20. ^ Bow, James (2006-11-10). "Route 509 - The New Harbourfront Streetcar". Transit Toronto. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  21. ^ Route 512 - The St Clair Streetcar
  22. ^
  23. ^ Kalinowski, Tess (30 June 2010). "Finally, St. Clair streetcar fully restored". The Star (Toronto). 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Transit City". City of Toronto. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  26. ^ a b "Waterfront Transit "Reset"" (PDF). City of Toronto. October 9, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-06. 
  27. ^ "Port Lands + South of Eastern - Transportation + Servicing" (PDF). Waterfront Toronto. November 11, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-20. 
  28. ^ John F. Bromley (25 October 2001). "Toronto Street Railway Routes". Transit Canada. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  29. ^ Pursley, Louis H. (1958). Street Railways of Toronto: 1861–1921. Los Angeles: Interurbans Press. pp. 39–45. 
  30. ^ James Bow (2012-04-03). "The Ashbridge Streetcar (Deceased)". Transit Toronto. Retrieved 2012-07-19. 
  31. ^ "The Toronto Civic Railways", UCRS Bulletin (Toronto: Upper Canada Railway Society) (26): 1–2 
  32. ^ a b
  33. ^ a b Tess Kalinowski (2010-01-06). "Transit City measures up to international standard". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2013-08-06. TTC gauge is `English carriage gauge' and was used in Toronto well before the TTC was formed," explains transit blogger Steve Munro. "There were two purposes: One was to make it impossible for the steam railways to use city tracks and the other (alleged) was to allow carriages and wagons to drive on the tracks when roads were impassable due to mud. 
  34. ^ "FAQ - STREETCARS", Transit Toronto, 3 January 2003
  35. ^ a b "Transit City measures up to international standard". Toronto Star. January 6, 2010. Retrieved 2014-10-04. 
  36. ^ "Ashbridges Bay Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) Maintenance and Storage Facility". Toronto Transit Commission. May 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2011. 
  37. ^
  38. ^ a b c Chris Bateman (2014-09-29). "The TTC’s new life-sized streetcar simulator is not a toy—but it looks like one". Toronto Life. Archived from the original on 2014-09-30. Halfway down a long corridor inside the TTC’s Hillcrest facility, on Bathurst Street, there’s a room marked "streetcar simulator." Inside is a state-of-the-art training device on which the next generation of TTC streetcar drivers will earn their wheels. 
  39. ^

Other references[edit]

External links[edit]