A major problem with streetcars - they cannot get around something blocking the tracks. Here, sixteen streetcars wait in a row on Carlton Street because of an accident across the tracks at Jarvis Street in 1958

A 1986 letter from the General Manager of the TTC supporting the retention of streetcars in the same year as the approval of the 'Network 2011' subway expansion plan. This letter clearly admits that 'light rail transit' proposed for Toronto is just streetcars operating on their own rights-of-way

‘Transit City’  Light Rail Transit (2003-2010, 2012+)

After the election of David Miller as mayor in 2003, subway construction, approved in 1985 with the construction of the Sheppard Subway, stopped. A new ‘light rail transit’ plan was drawn up called ‘Transit City’ which was promoted as light rail transit, but it was actually just streetcars running on their own dedicated rights-of-way in the middle of streets, similar to the one reinstated on St. Clair Avenue West. These would be built along Sheppard Avenue East, Finch Avenue West, Eglinton Avenue, Lake Shore Boulevard West, Jane Street, Don Mills Road and parts of Kingston Road and Morningside Avenue. Only the central part of Eglinton would be tunneled.

Construction began on the Sheppard route in 2009. In 2010, $4 Billion of funding for ‘Transit City’ was delayed by the Provincial Government due to budget difficulties and some of the routes were cut due to rising construction costs of the plan. This brought progress on the plan to a halt to the delight of its growing number of opponents who pushed for a return to subway construction.

Rob Ford was elected mayor of Toronto in October 2010 with a promise to cancel 'Transit City' light rail and return to subway construction. He called an immediate halt to the light rail plan upon assuming office in December 2010 and gained Provincial support for subway construction, starting with completion of the Sheppard Subway. Mayor Ford had also promised to phase out Toronto's streetcar system and replace it with buses, but he began to rethink this as it faced opposition from downtown Councillors and residents.

Until the 1980's, Toronto also had trolleybuses, which were buses which ran on overhead wires similar to streetcars, but by being on wheels instead of tracks, they could get around obstacles, unlike streetcars which would get stuck if the tracks were blocked. Trolleybuses ran on Bay Street

‘Network 2011’ Subway Plan (1985)

"Network 2011: A Rapid Transit Plan for Metropolitan Toronto" was a consolidation of three separate rapid transit feasibility studies undertaken at the request of the then Metropolitan Council.

Based on the results of the Accelerated Rapid Transit Study (ARTS) completed in 1982, Metropolitan Council in June 1983, directed that detailed rapid transit feasibility studies be undertaken for the Sheppard/Finch corridor, the Downtown Relief Line and the Eglinton Avenue West corridor. These studies, the Sheppard/Finch Rapid Transit Corridor (SFRT) Study, the Downtown Rapid Transit (DRT) Study and the Eglinton West Rapid Transit (EWRT) Study each recommended that rapid transit was justified in their respective corridors. The SFRT study was conducted, initially, as part of a broader North Metro Rapid Transit Corridor study which was initiated as part of the Province's GO-ALRT programme.

Upon completion of the above studies, a Systems Priority Study was initiated to examine the results of the three rapid transit studies and to establish priorities for their implementation. The specific objectives of the SystemsPriority Study were to:

Review the recommendations of the three Metro/T.T.C. Feasibility Studies and establish the relative need for implementation of all three projects;

Develop a number of affordable alternative implementation scenarios for developing the proposed expanded rapid transit network;

Assess the alternative scenarios on the basis of how they respond to future transportation needs and strategic development objectives;

Develop concurrent implementation details for the three corridors to resolve near term operational problems in corridors for which rapid transit is postponed until later in the implementation programme.

The results of this study were reported in Network 2011: A Rapid Transit Plan for Metropolitan Toronto. 

The Network 2011 report included an assessment of the results of the individual feasibility studies from a network perspective and proposed a staged programme for the implementation of the recommended rapid transit network for Metropolitan Toronto to the year 2011.

The Network 2011 Report proposed a 28 year rapid transit construction programme in five stages of 5-6 years each. After the initiation of Stage 1, the programme provides for a review of each subsequent stage. At such times, Metro and T.T.C. staff are to re-assess the balance of the programme using more current information and recommend to Council future action for the next stage. The five stages of the programme as proposed in 1985 were:

Stage 1   1989-1993            Sheppard Subway - Yonge to Victoria Park
Stage 2   1994-1998            Downtown Relief Line
Stage 3   1999-2003            Eglinton West express bus facility
Stage 4   2004-2009            Sheppard Subway-Victoria Park to Scarborough City Centre and
                                              Yonge to Downsview
                                              Spadina Subway extension to Sheppard Avenue
Stage 5   2010-2014            Eglinton West upgrading to subway

The more long-term strategy included extending the Bloor-Danforth Subway west to Sherway Gardens, extending the Scarborough Rapid Transit line to Malvern and eventually extending the Sheppard Subway further west.


(a)      The construction of the Harbourfront/Spadina LRT has been assumed in the period 1987-1988. The Harbourfront/Spadina LRT, which is an expansion of the downtown transit distribution network, has not beenevaluated as part of the Systems Priority Study.

(b)      Depends on level of demand established by Mississauga busway.

The above recommended programme requires an average expenditure of $95­$100 million (1985 $) per year, 25% of which would be funded by Metropolitan Toronto. A recent report by the Metropolitan Chief Administrative Officer has confirmed that Metropolitan Toronto can afford the Network 2011 programme as well as other transit replacements and refurbishments, and various road improvements recommended in recent studies for Metro.

The Network 2011 report also outlines the benefits to be achieved as a result of the implementation of this programme and the rationale for the priority recommendations and sets out detailed proposals for interim measures to maintain acceptable transit service levels until the recommended rapid transit projects can be completed.

Submission to the Economic Development and Planning, and Transportation Committees

The Network 2011 Report, along with eight background reports on the individual rapid transit studies, was submitted to a joint meeting of the Economic Development and Planning Committee and Transportation Committee held on May 29, 1985.

The Committees received the reports and directed that these reports be circulated to Area Municipalities, the Toronto Transit Commission

By 2009, all that ever materialized of the ‘Network 2011’ subway expansion programme was a short stretch of the Sheppard Subway from Yonge to Don Mills, falling far short of the extensive network that was supposed to be completed BY 2011.

The restored dedicated right-of-way for streetcars on St. Clair Avenue West. This has made traffic worse by taking away road space and has driven away many businesses because traffic cannot get across the barrier in the centre of the road. It only improved transit service on St. Clair by a few minutes at a cost of over $100 million. Yet the City of Toronto plans to expand this to other streets in an initiative called 'Transit City".

Kingston Road

The earliest ancestor of the Kingston Road streetcar was a suburban service begun by the Toronto and Scarboro Electric Railway Light and Power Company, incorporated on August 18, 1892. Operated by a board of directors including some prestigious members of Toronto society, cars began trundling up a single track on the north side of Kingston Road from Queen to Blantyre Avenue on July 1, 1893. At this time, East Toronto, as the area was formally known, was fairly well built up, and prospects looked good for the new company. Branches opened, extending service south on the west side of Blantyre to Queen Street that same year(for summers only) and up Walter and Main Streets to Gerrard in 1894. The combination of an unlucky accident, and competition from the Toronto Railway Company's new line along Queen Street brought hard times to the company. In 1898, management fought back by extending service further east, into the rural reaches of Scarborough, and abandoning the Blantyre track. By July 12, 1901, cars had reached Midland Avenue (location of the Half Way House, a historic building now residing at the Black Creek Pioneer Village) and on August 24, 1906, the line reached its easternmost terminus at West Hill, near today's Fairwood Crescent. Despite the fact by this time, the line was owned by the same people who ran the Toronto Railway Company, the Kingston Road route remained a sleepy suburban line. Competition from the Toronto Civic Railway cars on Gerrard brought about the demise of the branch along Walter, Lyall, Kimberly and Gerrard Streets. When the City of Toronto acquired direct control over its streetcars with the Toronto Transportation Commission, the city extended its authority over the portion of Kingston Road between Queen Street and Victoria Park. The old Scarboro track was removed from Queen to Victoria Park and a set of double tracks laid down in its place and a new loop was constructed between Victoria Park and Bingham Avenue.On January 12, 1927, the Commission acquired the operations of the Toronto and York radial lines (which included the Mimico route, the services on North Yonge, and the Scarboro route) and set about incorporating these lines into its system. A connection was made at Victoria Park to the Scarboro line. On January 27, 1928, a year later, the Scarboro route was cut back again, this time to to Birchmount Avenue, where the TTC laid double tracks to a new loop. On November 18, 1928, the TTC ran city cars to Birchmount Loop at 12 minute intervals; the remains of the Scarborough line maintained 30 minute headways, using some of the oldest cars on the system. Never very strong, the depression was the last straw for the Scarboro line, and streetcars stopped running along Kingston Road in 1936. 

Service on Kingston Road west of Birchmount Avenue remained strong, however, even though Scarborough residents had to pay a second fare to continue their ride past Victoria Park Avenue. At this time, service was being handled by the Queen Streetcar, operating first from Roncesvalles, and then from a new loop on McCaul Street (making the Queen Streetcar of 1928 look very much like the Downtowner Streetcar of today). Service on Queen Street to Neville Park was handled by the Beach Streetcar. This arrangement continued until August 2, 1937, when the truncated Lake Shore line was merged into the Beach route, producing a line running from Neville Park to Sunnyside Loop which the TTC renamed Queen. The old Queen car finally became known as the Kingston Road Streetcar. The Beach name lingered until 1948 on a rush-hour tripper service along Queen and King to loop via Church, Wellington and York; after 1948, this service was handed to the Kingston Road tripper, along with the remains of the old Dovercourt tripper route. The western terminus of the Kingston Road streetcar would shift from that time into the 1970s, with tripper cars using the downtown loop of Church, Wellington and York, Dufferin Loop at the CNE and Roncesvalles Carhouse before settling back into its downtown terminus. The biggest change to the McCaul branch of the Kingston Road streetcar came on April 2, 1973, when the service was extended from McCaul farther west along Queen and then north on Bathurst to Bathurst Station. Renamed 'Downtowner' to promote its new direct-downtown service from the Bloor-Danforth subway, this operation didn't catch on. On September 4, 1974, the Bathurst Station branch of the Downtowner car was cut back to rush-hours only, with base service returning to McCaul Loop. When McCaul Loop was rebuilt between 1976 and 1978 with the construction of the Village by the Grange, base service was temporarily extended to Wolesley Loop just north of Queen and Bathurst, but returned to McCaul Loop when it reopened. All Downtowner service was cut back to McCaul Loop on March 9, 1984, although the line retained the name given to it when service was extended. From the beginning of TTC service on Kingston Road, the downtown connection only took place during the rush hours and midday on the weekdays. For evenings, weekends and nights, Coxwell cars were extended along Kingston Road to Bingham and, later, Birchmount loops. Among the streetcar casualties resulting from the opening of the Bloor-Danforth Subway in 1966 was the Coxwell Streetcar. When streetcar service on Coxwell disappeared, the TTC experimented with using every second Queen car to maintain streetcar service on Kingston Road during evenings and weekends. During that period, night service was basically eliminated, save for a single streetcar departing from Bingham Loop for Long Branch every Sunday morning at 1:02 AM. As night services went, this was probably the most infrequent with one car appearing every 168 hours. The Queen-Bingham experiment was not successful, failing to meet the travel patterns of Kingston Road residents and contributing to the instability of Queen car scheduling during evenings and weekends. The Queen car returned to its normal route on May 22, 1966, and the Coxwell bus was extended over the old Kingston Road-Coxwell route to Bingham Loop, with night service reinstated. During the experiment, however, the Bingham-Long Branch service was the longest single streetcar trip in Toronto, at 15.8 miles. This arrangement exists to this day, handled by the 22 Coxwell bus. The 1950s and the 1960s further reduced streetcar service on Kingston Road as the Bloor-Danforth Subway was being built further east. 

On July 1, 1954, the TTC implemented a new fare structure and, with it, streetcar service was cut back from Birchmount Loop to Victoria Park. Frequencies continued to drop on the Kingston Road streetcars, despite various experiments such as the extension of the regular route to Bathurst Station and the renaming of the line 'Downtowner'. Somehow, however, the Kingston Road Streetcars managed to hang on, and they are still operating. A 2003 plan to reinstate streetcar service on Kingston Road from Victoria Park Avenue east to Birchmount Road was rejected by an environmental assessment due to the road being too narrow for it.

Back in 1952, the TTC was about to open its first subway line and was contemplating the future of the streetcar system.  Options included rehabilitation of its Peter Witt car fleet as well as the acquisition of more PCC cars. By that time, new PCCs would be expensive as the market for them had more or less disappeared thanks to the onslaught of bus conversions in North America.  However, many used fleets, some quite new, were on the market and Toronto was quick to snap them up.

A report to the transit commission dated June 3, 1952, was written by W.E.P. Duncan, Operations Manager, and it recommends among other things the acquisition of used streetcars from Cleveland and Birmingham.

This report is also interesting for what it tells us of demands on various major routes and the number of streetcars assigned to each line.  The Bloor route, carrying 9,000 per peak hour/direction, would require 174 cars.  Today’s network requires 192 cars in total, of which 38 are ALRVs.  Demands have changed quite a lot.

The report includes strong language about the retention of streetcars, not a common approach in the 1950’s.

There is obvious justification for the abandonment of streetcars in the larger communities due to the congestion which they cause.  In fact it is hardly too much to say that the results which have occurred in Toronto leaves to question the reason why streetcars have been retained. Many of the arguments are purely emotional stating that streetcars are part of our heritage. There is definitely no room for romanticism when dealing with traffic gridlock.

The abandonment of the streetcars in many cities has had nothing to do with declining transit service. This is due to funding cutbacks The position in which these utilities have now found themselves is a far from a happy one.  Fares have steadily and substantially increased, the quality of the service given, on the whole, has not been maintained, and the fare increases have not brought a satisfactory financial result.  Short-haul riding, which is the lifeblood of practically all transit properties, has dropped to a minimum and the Companies are left with the unprofitable long hauls.  Deterioration of service has also lessened the public demand for public passenger transportation.  The result is that the gross revenues of the properties considered, if they have increased to any substantial degree, have not increased anything like the ratio of the fare increases, and in most cases have barely served to keep pace with the rising cost of labour and material.  It is difficult to see any future for most large American properties unless public financial aid comes to their support.

These facts being as they are, Toronto should consider carefully whether policies which have brought these unfortunate results are policies which should be continued in this city.  Gridlock cannot continue and transit vehicles need to get around accidents. Streetcars were taken out because they cause gridlock, a situation which plagues Toronto today. They should at least be replaced by trolleybuses, which are similar to streetcars, but run on wheels instead of tracks.

Why were streetcars to be phased out in Toronto?

First, the importance of the short-haul rider.  These are the cheapest to serve.  In the flat-fare environment of the 1950’s, they would also yield the greatest revenue per passenger and were most sensitive to quality of service.  We know this today — people love the ability to jump on a vehicle for a short trip provided that they don’t have to wait very long for it.  If they can walk faster, they do, but deeply resent the poor service. It was agreed that with the construction of two downtown subways (Bloor and Queen) there would no longer be a need for streetcars (which would have been replaced by buses, so there would still be some surface transit). Streetcars cannot maneuver around accidents and tracks have to be replaced every 30 years which is costly.

Why were streetcars retained in Toronto?

The attitude that motorists should not be catered to as fellow users of the road.  Transit should not adjust to accommodate them, but should address them as rivals.  In today’s context, this churns up the “war on the car” rhetoric, and transit and bicycles are given precedence. Community activists wanting to preserve the past won over progress to faster and more efficient transportation. With the retention of streetcars, the Queen Subway was never built.

The plan set out in the report set the stage for the eventual elimination of streetcars by 1980 on the assumption that the major routes would be replaced by at least one of the Bloor or Queen subways, even though the latter would be initially operated with streetcars underground.  This leads directly to the suburban rapid transit plan of 1969.

Streetcar Track Abandonment Programme (1966)

Streetcar service in Toronto was to be abandoned by 1980 in conjunction with construction of the Bloor-Danforth and Queen Subway lines. The Bloor-Danforth line opened between Keele and Woodbine in 1966 and was extended to Islington and Warden in 1968 (extensions to Kipling and Kennedy opened in 1980). Subsequently, some streetcars were taken out of service at this time because the new subway would take the capacity previously carried by the streetcars. The Queen Subway would eliminate the remaining streetcars when it was due to open in 1980.

By letter of June 13, 1966, Toronto City Council requested information as to how long the Commission's streetcar service was to be retained in the downtown area and asked for plans showing active and emergency streetcar track allowances, indicating dates of abandonment.

The Commission considered this request at its meeting on June 1st and instructed that the track abandonment programme previously drawn up by management be forwarded to the City. It was agreed, however, that the City should be advised that the programme was tentative and contingent upon many factors such as the completion of a Queen Street Subway.

In reviewing the former streetcar route and track abandonment programmes, prior to forwarding to the City, it was evident that certain modifications should be made at that time in the light of current knowledge.

This matter was therefore being brought back to the Commission for approval prior to submission to the City, because the information will, no doubt, also be required in association with certain plans being prepared to create a one-way street system in the downtown Toronto area; which if adopted, could have serious effects on surface public transportation.

Appendices "A" and "B" attached together with Planning Department Drawing Numbers 6829, and 6830, submitted herewith, indicate respectively that revised tentative streetcar route and track eliminations based essentially on the original programme. It was seen that it was assumed that all streetcars on the surface would be eliminated by 1980, but only if a full Queen Street subway was in operation by that time.

It was believed that great pressure would be exerted in the coming years to adopt an expanded one-way street system in the City of Toronto (downtown) to include many major arteries. A large number of cities on the North American continent already have such a system in effect and they undoubtedly speed up traffic generally. However, in most cases, the detrimental effect on public transit riding has not been fully appreciated. The operation of streetcars on main streets makes their conversion to one-way traffic almost impossible and because of this, continual pressures were anticipated for the elimination of streetcars as soon as possible.

It was recommended that the Commission approve the revised tentative streetcar route and track abandonment programmes as detailed above and forward copies to the City of Toronto, while advising the city of the tentative nature of such programmes which were contingent upon numerous factors and particularly the construction of a Queen Street Subway.

Click on this link to see the planned schedule for elimination of streetcar routes between 1966 and 1980.

In 1972, this streetcar abandonment programme was cancelled and the remainder of the route were retained with the Rogers Road streetcar being the last part of this plan to be implemented in 1975.  However, Rogers Road was not the last streetcar route to be abandoned.

In 1975 or so, the TTC broke off the portion of the St. Clair Streetcar route east of St. Clair Station and renamed it “Mt Pleasant”. This route really didn’t have much to do with the western half of St. Clair, and so it made sense to make it independent. However, after only a year of operation, it was abandoned and converted to bus operation temporarily before trolley bus service could be installed. The problem was that the line needed to be rebuilt, and so too did the roadway. From here, politics had a part to play. Despite the fact that the local residents preferred streetcar operation to its alternatives, the Metro Roads Department still managed to effectively veto the TTC’s desire to keep the line open. Fortunately, this was the last portion of revenue streetcar trackage to be abandoned on the system.

The next of the three routes to fall was “Earlscourt”, a strange route, overlapping St. Clair, with a full service schedule of its own. Sometimes, Earlscourt would run from Eglinton and Mt. Pleasant while St. Clair would run to St. Clair Station only, and sometimes this arrangement was reversed. Where the route got its name was the fact that it always used as its western terminus, Earlscourt Loop. The loop was (and is) located at the corner of St Clair and Lansdowne Avenues, in the neighbourhood of Earlscourt. By 1978, Earlscourt had become a rush-hour branch of the St. Clair route, operating between Lansdowne Avenue and St. Clair West Station. When the new CLRVs did away with route names and replaced them with route numbers, the TTC decided that Earlscourt didn’t merit its own route number, and merged it under the 512 designation used by St. Clair cars (certain PCC rollsigns had “512L” for the Earlscourt service). Separate Earlscourt transfers disappeared, replaced by standard St. Clair transfers. Today, the only remnant of the once mighty Earlscourt route is a short-turn service at Lansdowne operating during the morning rush-hours only.

Then there was 522 Dundas Exhibition, the special service operating along Dundas Street, Roncesvalles, King and Dufferin to the western gates of the CNE. First the route was replaced by an express bus and renumbered 93, and then this disappeared altogether. Changing travel patterns spelt the end of this route; it was gone before the 1990s rolled around, although it made a brief reappearance due to bus shortages in 1995.

Finally, there was 507 Long Branch, operating along Lakeshore Boulevard from Humber Loop to Long Branch Loop. In 1995, the route was merged into the 501 Queen operations, producing a long route running from the Mississauga border in the west to the border of the old City of Scarborough to the east. The old interchange between the two routes at Humber was a bit of an anachronism, anyway, since most people leaving 507 at this point were doing so to board 501 cars. The arrangement had its roots in the early 1920s when the TTC interchanged with the Mimico line of the Toronto & York Radial Railway, and was maintained due to the TTC’s zone fare system, forcing passengers had to pay a second fare in order to continue their trip in one direction or the other. This system was abandoned in the early 1970s, but the interchange remained in place for another twenty-four years.

The next abandonment was 521 King Exhibition, running from a loop of Richmond, Victoria and Queen, down Church, along King and then down Bathurst and Fleet to the Exhibition, operating whenever the Canadian National Exhibition is open and for special events including the Molson Indy. The route was rendered obsolete when the new 509 Harbourfront service opened on Saturday, July 23, 2000, to provide a link between Union Station and the Exhibition.

Construction of the Queen Subway was subsequently cancelled in 1974. After that, the remaining streetcar routes were retained. The fleet of streetcars, then using PCC cars dating from the 1940’s, was replaced by a new fleet in 1979, currently still being used. This fleet is now thirty years old and has reached the end of its life. It is now scheduled for replacement with new low-level LRV (light rail vehicle) streetcars from Bombardier at a cost of over $200 million. Streetcar tracks have to continuously be maintained and rebuilt every thirty years, raising maintenance costs even more. Streetcars are contributing to today’s growing traffic congestion in downtown Toronto. Traffic has to stop behind them and if they break down, service is interrupted as another streetcar cannot get around the broken-down vehicle. Passengers also have to cross traffic lanes to the middle of the road to board the streetcars which can be dangerous. Buses can pull over to the curb and passengers can embark without this danger. Traffic also does not need to stop as it can pass the bus in the lane towards the centre of the road. The rising cost of track maintenance is also eliminated. The track abandonment programme adopted in 1966 should be resumed and completed by 2015 to be replaced by trolleybuses on all previous streetcar routes and construction of the Downtown Relief Subway line. We cannot afford to make decisions based on nostalgia for streetcars, but we must be practical as to the best way to move people.

In 2009, The City of Toronto planned to replace its now 30-year old streetcar fleet with new low-floor light rail vehicles from Bombardier. These would operate on both the existing streetcar lines and on the new 'Transit City' streetcar LRT lines if they would be built. These new streetcars would be in operation by 2011. However, funding cutbacks meant that this may be delayed until 2013.​

ALRV streetcars introduced 1979.

Dedicated rights-of-way

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 and former Long Branch cars have operated on such a right-of-way along the Queens way between Humber and Sunnyside loops since 1957. More recently, dedicated rights-of-way have been opened downtown along Queen's Quay, Spadina AvenueSt. 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 0.7 km long, includes one intermediate underground station at Bay Street and Queens Quay.

The TTC is reinstating a separated right-of-way — removed between 1928 and 1935 — on St. Clair Avenue, from Yonge Street to just past Keele Street. 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 St.) 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 20th 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 St.) is scheduled to be completed in summer 2010.

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 lighthouse

Future expansion (“Transit City”)

The City of Toronto's and the TTC’s Transit City report released on March 16, 2007, proposes creating new Light Rail Transit (LRT) lines and Rights-of-Way (ROW) including:

Don Mills LRT (along Don Mills Road from Steeles Avenue to Overlea Boulevard, and continuing to Pape Station along a possible alignment of Overlea Boulevard from Don Mills Road to Millwood Road , continuing adjacent to the Leaside Bridge from Overlea Boulevard to Pape Avenue and along Pape Avenue from Millwood Road to Danforth Avenue)

Eglinton Crosstown LRT (along Eglinton Avenue from Toronto Pearson International Airport to Kennedy Station, with underground operation from approximately Keele Street to approximately Leslie Street)  

Etobicoke-Finch West LRT (along Finch Avenue West from Yonge Street to Highway 27) 

Jane LRT (along Jane Street from Bloor Street to Steeles Avenue and continuing along Steeles Avenue from Jane Street to Steeles West on the Spadina extension. This line also includes a stub extension of the St. Clair ROW from Gunns Loop to Jane Street) 

Scarborough Malvern LRT (along Eglinton Avenue from Kennedy Station to Kingston Road, continuing along Kingston Road from Eglinton Avenue to Morningside Avenue and along Morningside Avenue from Kingston Road to Finch Avenue)

Sheppard East LRT (along Sheppard Avenue from Don Mills station to Morningside Avenue, with a connection to an extended Scarborough RT near Markham Road)

Waterfront West LRT
 (along Lakeshore Boulevard from Long Branch Loop to near the South Kingsway, continuing along the Queensway to King Street, and adjacent to the Gardiner Expressway to Exhibition Loop; from Exhibition it will continue to Union station in either its own as yet to be determined alignment, or in the Harbourfront West LRT alignment) 

The Ontario government has in its MoveOntario 2020 plan, proposed funding approximately 2/3 of the $5.5 billion of the seven Transit City lines, with the expectation that the federal government would fund the remaining 1/3.

Additional proposals include:  

Extending 512 St. Clair to Jane subway station 

A streetcar in 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  

A route eastward along Queen's Quay, into new developments on the port lands  

A route westward from the Bay Street streetcar tunnel along Bremner Boulevard and Fort York Boulevard to Bathurst Street 

A route running east along Finch Avenue from Yonge Street to Don Mills Road, then turning south along Don Mills Road and continuing to Sheppard Avenue at Don Mills subway station, linking the Etobicoke-Finch West LRT and the Sheppard East LRT.  It is still to be decided if the Sheppard East route will be built as an extension of the Sheppard Subway.

Abandoned streetcar routes

507 Long Branch (1928–1995 – merged with 501 Queen in 1995)
512L Earlscourt (1954 - 1976)
521 King Exhibition (1980–2000)
522 Dundas Exhibition (1980–1986), also operated for a single year in 1995
604 Harbourfront LRT (1990–2000 – forms part of the present 509 Harbourfront and 510 Spadina routes)Belt Line (1891–1923 – original and Tour Tram along Spadina and Sherbourne )
Bloor, including Danforth Tripper (1890–1966) (replaced by the Bloor-Danfroth subway line)
Coxwell (1921–1966)
Dupont/Bay (single line 1926–1963)
Fort (1931–1966 merged with 511 Bathurst)
Harbord (1911–1966) 
Oakwood (1922–1960)
Parliament (1910–1966); one small section forms part of the present 506 Carlton
Winchester (1910–1924) 
Mount Pleasant (1975–1976); split from 512 St. Clair 
Rogers Road (1922–1974)
Yonge (1873–1954) (replaced by the Yonge subway line) 

Toronto Street Railway routes 

St Lawrence Hall-Yorkville (1873–1891) 
Yonge (1873–1891) 
Queen (1873–1891) 
Front (1873–1891) 
Sherbourne (1873–1891) 
Carlton (1873–1891) 
St Lawrence Market-Woodbine (1873–1891) 
Dovercourt-McCaul (1873–1891) 
North Toronto-Union Station (1873–1891) 
King (1873–1891)
Bloor (1873–1891) 
Spadina (1873–1891)

Toronto Railway routes

Queen-High Park (1891–1921) 
Church (1891–1921) 
Carlton-College (1891–1921) 
Yonge (1891–1921) 
Belt Line (1891–1921) 
Bloor-McCaul (1891–1921) 
Avenue Road (1891–1921) 
Dundas (1891–1921) 
College-Yonge (1891–1921) 
Bathurst (1891–1921) 
Wincester (1891–1921) 
Parliament (1891–1921) 
Broadview (1891–1921)

Toronto Civic Railway routes

Danforth Division (1913–1921) 
Gerrard (1912–1921) 
Bloor West Division (1915–1921) 
St. Clair Division (1913–1921) 
Lansdowne (1917–1921) 


Note: Hundreds of cars were acquired from the TTCs predecessor companies, the Toronto Railway, and Toronto Civic Railways, among others. The current fleet operates with 248 vehicles.

Abandonment of Streetcars in Toronto

Have you noticed that Toronto is one of the few cities operating streetcars in North America? 

For the longest while, Toronto was the only city in Canada to have streetcars — Montreal and Ottawa abandoned theirs in 1959. Until 1972, Toronto was keeping up with progress and following other cities by abandoning streetcars in mixed traffic for subways and buses. Since 1972, Toronto has been looking backwards with a romantic attraction to a Victorian form of transportation - streetcars

St. Clair

The St. Clair streetcar and its Bathurst and Bay companions would use no less than three different western loops, all in close proximity to each other. Keele Loop, just north of the Keele Street, St Clair Avenue intersection, saw most of the service, but many cars travelled north on Keele Street and onto Weston Road, to Northlands Loop at the Toronto City Limits. Starting September 1, 1943, rush hour service continued further north on Weston Road, to Avon Loop, at Rogers Road; this service continued until February 25, 1966, almost two decades after the Weston streetcar was abandoned in 1948.

In 1928, the TTC began to remove the central private right-of-way, replacing it with paved trackage instead. The first section to go was between Bathurst Street and Dufferin. In 1929, the section between Dufferin and Lansdowne was paved over. Lansdowne to Caledonia went in 1931, while the last section, between Bathurst and Yonge, fell in 1935. The TTC would later come to regret this decision; in 1974, the TTC attempted to keep the automobiles off the streetcar tracks by painting yellow stripes across them. Continued problems with congestion would lead the TTC to invest millions in reinstating a private right-of-way starting in 2005.

Some people blame a conspiracy of the car companies, while others refer to it as a reality of the transit picture of the time, but the fact was, from the 1930s until the 1960s, it was fashionable for cities to abandon their streetcar lines. Cities such as Halifax(1948), Hamilton(1953), Vancouver(1950s), Edmonton(1950s) or Omaha NE(1953), it was all the same: those cities still operating streetcars in the 1960s (Toronto, Pittsburgh, St Louis, to name a few) weren’t doing so because of any sense of urban forethought, but rather because they were slow in embracing what was seen as the progressive trend.

It was always the TTC’s intention, from the 1950s onward, to abandon its streetcar fleet. The opening of the Yonge Subway in 1954 resulted in the abandonment of a large portion of Toronto’s streetcar system. Abandonments continued as more subway extensions opened. This would have continued, the TTC thought, until 1980, when the last streetcar routes would fall concurrent with the opening of the Queen Subway. A plan was approved in 1966 that all of sthe existing streetcar routes in Toronto would be abolished and replaced with buses concurrently with the construction of the Bloor and Queen Subway lines between 1966 and 1980.

Enter the Streetcars For Toronto Committee. This community activist group, disturbed at the prospect of Toronto losing its system of streetcars, lobbied the TTC to rethink its policy. It worked. In 1972, the TTC proclaimed that it had abandoned its streetcar abandonment policy, and was even looking at reinstating lines (the proposal for a Spadina Streetcar was first floated in 1973). Rogers Road would be the last streetcar route to fall under this policy.

So, why was Rogers Road abandoned? Well, when the TTC made the decision to stop its streetcar abandonment program, it was making a bold but backwards move, so much so that they found that there wasn’t a streetcar-construction industry prepared for it. No one in North America was making streetcars in the 1970s, so although the TTC had the free world’s largest fleet of PCCs (745, with 205 of them obtained second-hand), they wouldn’t last forever, and if the TTC was serious about maintaining its fleet, a builder for a new generation of streetcars had to be found. The Ontario Government of Bill Davis, which had stopped construction of expressways in Toronto, was sympathetic to the TTC’s plans, and had its crown corporation, the Urban Transit Development Corporation (UTDC), work with a Swiss manufacturer in designing the CLRV, the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle. The first of this new generation arrived on Toronto’s streets in 1978. That still left a gap of seven years with which to use an aging fleet. As a result, the TTC also embarked on an extensive rebuilding program and, in order to maintain enough streetcars for the rest of the system, a route had to be abandoned. With the Borough of York requesting extension of Rogers Road service to Jane, and with the line in need of repairs anyway, the decision was a no brainer. “Rogers Road” fell to an extension of the Ossington trolley bus in 1974.

A right-of-way for streetcars on St. Clair is hardly a radical idea: after all, streetcar-only tracks ran here until the 1930s, when automobiles gained the upper hand. The same existed on Spadina Avenue, when it was removed and replaced by a bus, but then reinstated in the 1990’s.

When the Yonge subway opened in 1954, the Bay steetcar ended, and its service on St. Clair was replaced by two routes both connecting to the subway at Yonge.  The new Earlscourt route operated east from Lansdowne, and during peak periods, the Rogers Road car also operated east from Oakwood.  The combined service of the three routes was one car every minute at Yonge.

By 1972, the St. Clair streetcar line would be abolished due to the TTC’s plan to gradually eliminate streetcar service in Toronto.  A Queen Street subway would suck most of the east-west demand off of the downtown network, and the St. Clair line would become a trolleybus route using vehicles displaced from the Yonge trolleybus (Eglinton to Glen Echo) when the subway opened to York Mills.  The new service would be nowhere near as good as the one it replaced because the TTC didn’t have enough trolleybuses to run the St. Clair line with adequate capacity. After World War II , in keeping with the trend in many other developed nations worldwide, the TTC began plans to eliminate all streetcar routes, in part because subway development would eliminate the need for them. At the time of major curtailments in streetcar service in 1966 coinciding with the opening of the Bloor–Danforth subway, the TTC foresaw the end of streetcars by 1980. This policy of eliminating streetcar routes was dropped in 1972 in the face of opposition by activists called ‘Streetcars for Toronto’ who succeeded in persuading the TTC to keep streetcars over buses on heavily travelled main routes.

PCC streetcars introduced in the 1940’s

Streetcars and LRT

Toronto’s Streetcars

This Peter Witt streetcar, preserved at the Halton County Radial Railway, has been restored into the TTC’s original 1921 livery.

From 1921 as the Toronto Transportation Commission, the TTC began as solely a streetcar operator, with the bulk of the routes acquired from the private Toronto Railway Company 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.

Long Term Transit Plan
In February, 2016, Toronto's Chief Planner came up with a long-term transit plan for the city which was basically a revival of David Miller's 2007 'Transit City' plan with light rail everywhere including Jane Street, Lake Shore Boulevard West, Eglinton Avenue West and now a new one on Steeles Avenue East. It was to be built within the next 15 years. Funding it would be an issue. With the resignation of the Chief Planner in September 2017, these plans would now be in doubt.

The Ontario Government elected in 2018 decided to take over Toronto's subway system and promised to build the original three-stop Bloor-Danforth Subway extension (known as the 'Scarborough Subway'), linking to an extended Sheppard Subway. The proposed Sheppard East LRT would now revert back to the original Sheppard Subway plan from Yonge going east to the Scarborough Town Centre in the longer term. The only light rail plans would be completion of the Eglinton-Crosstown LRT and extensions of it east across Scarborough and west across Etobicoke (now going underground) and a Finch West LRT.

The plan for a streetcar subway along Queen Street in 1911

Subway Referendum 1946

On January 1, 1946 the following question appeared on Toronto's municipal ballot: "Are you in favour of the Toronto Transportation Commission proceeding with the proposed rapid transit system provided the Dominion government assumes one-fifth of the cost and provided that the cost to the ratepayers is limited to such amounts as the City Council may agree are necessary for the replacement and improvement of city services."

The proposal called for the federal government to pay for 20% of the cost, and for TTC revenues to pay for the rest. City taxpayers were to be almost totally off the hook, except in cases where the city moved and improved pipes and reinstalled roads. The proposal was ratified by a vote of 69,935 to 8,630. Toronto city council approved construction of the Yonge Street subway line on April 26, 1946. Toronto would finally have its subway.

TTC Official Opening Datesit 

Yonge Subway (Union Station to Eglinton Station) - March 30, 1954 
University Subway (Union Station to St George Station) - February 28, 1963
Bloor-Danforth Subway (Keele Station to Woodbine Station) - February 25, 1966
Bloor-Danforth Subway extensions to Islington and Warden Stations - May 10, 1968
Yonge Subway extension to York Mills Station - March 30, 1973
Yonge Subway extension to Finch Station - March 29, 1974
Spadina Subway (St George Station to Wilson Station) - January 27, 1978
Bloor-Danforth Subway extensions to Kipling & Kennedy Stations - November 21, 1980
Scarborough RT (Kennedy Station to McCowan Station) - March 22, 1985
North York Centre Station - June 18, 1987
Harbourfront streetcar (Union Station to Queens Quay & Spadina) - June 22, 1990
Spadina Subway extension to Downsview Station - March 31, 1996
Spadina streetcar (Spadina Station to Union Station) - July 27, 1997
Harbourfront streetcar extension to Exhibition - July 21, 2000
Sheppard Subway (Sheppard-Yonge Station to Don Mills Station) - November 22, 2002
St. Clair dedicated streetcar (St. Clair Station to Bathurst) – 2007

In 2009, construction of the Spadina Subway extension from Downsview to Vaughan began and is expected to open in 2017.

Intermediate Capacity Transit (1972)

On November 22, 1972, the Provincial Government announced an urban transportation policy for the Province of Ontario indicating a "shift in emphasis from urban expressways to a variety of transportation facilities, which will put people first" (this was announced soon after the cancellation of construction of the Allen Expressway in June 1971 and completely ignores the fact that people drive cars). To implement this policy, a six point programme was proposed. One major feature was the development at Provincial expense of a prototype and operating demonstration of a new form of intermediate capacity transit system. A subsidy programme of 75% to assist municipalities in applying the system to meet their needs was also announced.

Within Metropolitan Toronto, Provincial planners identified five routes for possible application of the new mode. It was suggested that access routes already existing in the city such as railway lines, hydro rights-of-way and roadway medians could be used to accommodate the system. Provincial plans at that time called for building a demonstration track and vehicles for a two-mile (3 km) route at the CNE. Testing of the system was scheduled for late 1974, with 1977 being the target date for completing construction and acquiring equip­ment for the first urban route.

In the light of these developments, the Metropolitan Toronto Transportation Plan Review had been requested by the Joint Technical Transportation Planning Committee to report on the possible initial application of this new technology in a transportation corridor within Metropolitan Toronto. Due to existing service deficiencies and increasing travel demand to the downtown and its related employment opportunities, the corridor should be core oriented. This corridor should also be capable of accommodating a new mode line which may be operated independently of the overall intermediate capacity transit system. This should not, however, preclude the possibility of integrating the new mode with the existingsubway system. Although the feasibility of integration between the proposed intermediate capacity and existing rapid transit systems was not in this report a criterion for corridor selection, this possibility would be investigated in later phases of the study.


The last streetcar on Yonge Street just before the initial opening of the Yonge Subway in 1954. Note how crowded it was. This is why a subway was needed

The dedicated streetcar right-of-way on St Clair Avenue West in 1924 (left) and in 2010 after being reinstated (right). The right-of-way was taken out in the 1930's and restored 70 years later - a return to the past

Subway Referendum 1911

Horatio C. Hocken, made the underground issue the main plank of his campaign to become Toronto's mayor in 1910. On the same ballot, voters were asked: "Are you in favour of the City of Toronto applying to the legislature for power to construct and operate a municipal system of subway and surface street railway, subject to the approval of qualified ratepayers?" The results of the vote, which was held on January 1st, 1910 (at the time, and until the middle part of the century, municipal elections and associated referendums were held every year, on New Year's Day), were favourable, with voters supporting the proposal by a count of 19,268 to 10,697. However, the mayoralty was won not by Hocken but by George R. Geary, who had opposed subways due to their expense. The City continued to look into the subway question and issue reports. In 1910, an American engineer named James Forgie of the Jacobs & Davies company of New York City was consulted by the City of Toronto to make a report on a possible underground/surface transit system. His report was submitted to council on September 1, 1910, and recommended a $23 million, 11.6 mile long network featuring three lines extending from the intersection of Front and Yonge streets. One line would run northeasterly to Broadview and Danforth, while a second would run northwesterly to Keele and Bloor, both beneath new arterial roads. The third line would extend up Bay and Yonge Streets to St. Clair Avenue. 

The 1910 plan was followed up by another report by E.L. Cousins, the Assistant City Engineer. His report, submitted on November 20, 1911, noted that the northeasterly and northwesterly lines could not be constructed without the corresponding roads. As these roads themselves might not be feasible, he suggested an alternate plan with a north-south subway line similar to the Forgie proposal, and two east-west lines, one following Queen Street from High Park to Woodbine Avenue and another following Bloor Street from High Park to Broadview. The two lines could be connected at both ends, forming a large loop. It is possible that it was on the basis of this proposal that the designer of the Prince Edward Viaduct, Thomas Taylor, had a lower deck built into his Bloor Street Bridge over the Don Valley to accommodate underground streetcars. In the fall of 1911, the City of Toronto decided to press forward with subway development and called for tenders for the construction of cement tubes designed to house a three-mile subway running from Bay and Front to St. Clair Avenue. The lowest bid was $2.6 million; adding in the cost of track, signals, electrical power, and cars would probably have doubled the cost. The approach was strikingly similar to the decision in 1996 to complete the Sheppard subway tunnels but not lay down any tracks. But whereas the Sheppard subway was eventually built, in 1911 the strategy failed. 

The expenditure was put to the voters on January 1, 1912 and this time voters were not so willing to embrace the subway. Weary of the taxes required to pay for other infrastructure projects, and with four of the city's five newspapers solidly against the project, voters turned down the proposal by a vote of 11,291 to 8,486. Hocken had been returned to the Board of Control on January 1, 1911, and was chief magistrate in 1912. Despite being defeated on the issue in 1910, he continued to advocate subway construction until the 1912 referendum. After the referendum defeat, he did not raise the issue further.

Early Streetcars circa 1923

New streetcars from Bombardier destined for Toronto streets by 2013

Transit Rebellion

In February 2012, a rebellion by some councillors, particularly those in Downtown Toronto, led by TTC Chair Councillor Karen Stintz against Mayor Ford’s new ‘Transportation City’ transit plan of underground transit called for a special meeting of Toronto Council to discuss transit. They brought forward two options to spend the $8.4 billion allocated by the Province for transit – on the new plan for a continuation of the Sheppard Subway and a completely underground Eglinton-Crosstown-Scarborough LRT or to bring back the 2009 ‘Transit City’ ground-level LRT plan, still championed by particularly downtown councillors.

Councillors slammed the brakes on Mayor Ford’s $8.4 billion transit plan and voted to revive most of the Transit City plan the mayor derailed on his first day in office. Led by Stintz, councillors voted 25 to 18 during a special council meeting on transit for three light rail lines from the former Transit City plan including the Eglinton Crosstown LRT (which would be at street-level in Scarborough), the Finch West LRT and the Scarborough RT converted to an LRT.

The fate of transit on Sheppard remained up in the air despite the vote. Councillors also approved creating an expert panel on Sheppard transit that would be tasked with determining “the most effective means of delivering rapid transit to the greater number of riders with the funds currently allocated.” This meant that the extension of the Sheppard Subway would require further study, but was still an option.

Mayor Ford tried unsuccessfully to get councillors to put the vote off by referring the item to the city manager for a one month review by an expert fact-finding panel. Councillors rejected that option in a 24 to 19 vote. The Mayor vowed that he would continue to lobby the Province to stick to the subway and underground transit plan as agreed.

After a bitter two-day debate, on March 22, 2012, City Council accepted the recommendations of the expert panel on Sheppard and endorsed construction of the Sheppard LRT. This signalled the end of further subway construction in Toronto, apart from the Spadina Subway extension already under construction. This left disgruntled and angry subway supporters particularly in Scarborough and North York feeling angry and betrayed. Mayor Ford vowed to continue to fight on for subways.

The argument put forward by most councillors was that there were $8.4 billion of Provincial funding available and councillors wanted to get the most amount of transit across the city built with this money. Toronto’s transit future now lay with light rail transit (LRT) along major arterial roads as the revived ‘Transit City’ plan became official policy, endorsed by Council. The Sheppard East, Finch West and Eglinton-Crosstown-Scarborough (construction already started) light rail transit lines would now go ahead. 

In 2013, Council decided to extend the Bloor-Danforth Subway to Sheppard Avenue East along Eglinton Avenue East, Danforth Road and McCowan Road, so the Scarborough RT would be closed down. The Eglinton-Crosstown LRT would now lose its Scarborough leg and terminate at Kennedy Station.

Construction of the tunnelled section of the Eglinton-Crosstown line between Black Creek and Laird was well underway by 2012 and would become the first of Toronto's new LRT lines to become reality.

In January 2016, it was announced that the Scarborough-Malvern LRT along Eglinton Avenue, Kingston Road and Morningside Avenue would be revived to give eastern Scarborough more rail transit. It would now be an eastern extension of the Eglinton-Crosstown line, known as Crosstown East, instead of being a separate line. It would be paid for by eliminating stations on the proposed extension of the Bloor-Danforth Subway line. 

The Finch West LRT was also given approval with construction to start by 2017 and stretch from the Spadina Subway extension to Highway 27. The Sheppard East LRT line was postponed into the future due to massive local opposition.

A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto

The Intermediate Capacity Transit Plan adopted by the Provincial Government in 1972, which would have consisted of mini-trains similar to the Scarborough Rapid Transit, included routes remarkably similar to today’s ‘Transit City’ streetcar LRT plan (Finch, Eglinton-Crosstown, Jane, Don Mills and Scarborough-Malvern). The Downtown ‘U’ line was first proposed then. This shows that ‘Transit City’ is not a new plan, but a revival of a nearly 40-year old Provincial plan based on 1972 population capacities which are not applicable today. The TTC rejected this in favour of full-scale subways by 1985 due to population and development increases. The current ‘Transit City’ streetcar LRT plan is actually a step backwards to 1972.​

After World War II, in keeping with the trend in many other developed nations worldwide, the TTC began plans to eliminate all streetcar routes, in part because subway development was thought to eliminate the need for them. At the time of major curtailments in streetcar service in 1966 coinciding with the opening of the Bloor–Danforth subway, the TTC foresaw the end of streetcars by 1980. This policy of eliminating streetcar routes was dropped in 1972 in the face of widespread community opposition by citizens' groups who succeeded in persuading the TTC of the advantages of streetcars over buses on heavily travelled main routes. The fear amongst supporters of streetcar system was the eventual shift to bus-based transit (the Great American streetcar scandal).

The TTC then maintained most of their existing network, purchasing new custom-designed CLRV and ALRV streetcars. They also continued to rebuild and maintain the existing fleet of PCC streetcars until they were longer road worthy.

The previous policy of eliminating streetcars and using buses for new routes (added as the city developed northward) accounts for the concentration of streetcar lines within five kilometres of the waterfront. The busiest north-south and east-west routes were replaced respectively by the Yonge–University–Spadina 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 owing to complaints from drivers that streetcars slowed their cars down, and because the track was aging and needed to be replaced.

Expansion period (1989-2000)

The TTC returned to building new streetcar routes in 1989. The first new line was a short one 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 originally designated 604 Harbourfront, but was later renumbered 510 to fit with the numbering scheme of the other streetcar routes. This route was later 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. This new streetcar service, renamed the 510 Spadina, replaced the former route 77 Spadina bus, and since 1997 has provided the main north-south transit service through Toronto's Chinatown. 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 newly refurbished Exhibition Loop at the Exhibition grounds.

Scarborough RT

The Scarborough RT line was originally proposed to operate with streetcars on a private right-of-way, but the plans were changed when the Ontario government convinced the TTC and the borough of Scarborough to use its then-new 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.

Current and future expansion (2007-)

Route 512 St. Clair has been rebuilt to have a separated right-of-way similar to that of the route 510 on Spadina Avenue, to increase service reliability.


A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto

Map of Toronto's streetcar network today. The current TTC streetcar network, in relation to the subway; all eleven regular routes appear red. 

The TTC operates 304.3 kilometres (189.1 mi) of routes on 75 kilometres (47 mi) streetcar network (double or single track) throughout Toronto. There are currently 11 streetcar routes:

Number  Name                Length (km)      Notes

501        Queen                24.42                 Part of Blue Night Network as 301 Queen
502        Downtowner        9.38
503        Kingston Road      8.97               Rush Hour service only
504        King                    13.97
505        Dundas               10.74 
506        Carlton               14.83
508        Lake Shore          9.40
509        Harbourfront        4.65
510        Spadina                6.17
511        Bathurst               6.47
512        St. Clair                7.01

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 new CLRVs were not large enough to display both the route name and destination, according to the TTC. The only exceptions to this numbering scheme are the two streetcar operated 300-series Blue Night Network routes.

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 subway/RT 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.

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.