Municipal ownership of public transit is ushered in. It is a decade of rebuilding, modernization and expansion. On September 1, 1921, the Toronto Transportation Commission began serving the citizens of a rapidly growing Toronto. The TTC took over a mix of private and municipal street railways within the city. Adult fares were set at seven cents and tickets were four for 25 cents. Ridership in the TTC’s first full year of service (1922) was 187 million.
The TTC improves productivity, and continues to upgrade and modernize its fleet. However, the decade is marked by a general decline in ridership caused largely by the Great Depression and, to a lesser extent, by the increased use of the private automobile. Buses provide service to new regions as roads are improved. New streamlined Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) streetcars are introduced, and bring a new level of customer experience to the streetcar network. Bus evolution grows rapidly, and by the end of the decade, both transit and interurban buses feature rear engines and larger bodies, which provide increased seating capacity and much-improved passenger comfort.
World War II places great demand on transit. Ridership more than doubles between 1939 and 1945. The Wartime Transit Controller in Ottawa orders the TTC to sell “surplus” streetcars to Halifax, Ottawa, Fort William and Quebec City. Hundreds of TTC employees take leave to join the armed forces, and are replaced, in many cases, by women for the duration of the war. In the late 1940s, the first major streetcar lines are closed due to the wartime toll on rolling stock and tracks and the postwar power shortages that were plaguing southern Ontario at the time. Rapid transit planning begins in earnest.
The TTC streetcar fleet continues to evolve, with older cars retired and replaced with new PCCs, while the TTC buys up large fleets of late model, bargain-priced PCCs. At the same time, Canada’s first subway (Yonge line) begins operation, and starts to reshape the TTC network into the integrated, multi-modal service that we know today. The TTC is restructured (and renamed Toronto Transit Commission) and is given a new mandate under the new Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto.
This is a decade of non-stop subway building and rapid expansion of suburban bus routes. The service improvements made in 1963 are the largest since the 1920s. The University and Bloor-Danforth subway lines, and later the Bloor-Danforth east and west extensions, open for business. In 1963, new, longer, 75-foot (22.8 metre), lightweight aluminum subway cars are introduced. Pioneered by the TTC and Montreal Locomotive Works, they are the first to be built in Canada and quickly become an industry standard.
This is a decade of general ridership growth and service expansion. Subway construction continues. The streetcar and electric trolley bus fleets are renewed. Gray Coach Lines faces major competition on its established services from new GO Transit bus routes. Mounting costs, and zone-fare elimination, force the TTC to seek subsidies to meet operating costs. The first air-conditioned subway trains are introduced. New streetcars begin to arrive as part of the TTC’s commitment to retaining and upgrading the streetcar network.
This is a decade of annual ridership increases, reaching a peak of 463.5 million in 1988. The five-member TTC Commission is made up entirely of Metro Toronto Councillors and lead by Councillor Lois Griffin, the TTC’s first Chairwoman. Subway building stops. New technology and transit innovations gain support. Opened in 1985, the Scarborough RT line sets a number of industry firsts that made it a showcase of new technology. The 6.4-kilometre line is the TTC’s first fully computerized system operating on its own elevated guideway. The TTC is the first Canadian public transit system to use steerable undercarriages, linear induction motors with no moving parts and computer-controlled operation. In 1988, the TTC begins operating new Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV) streetcars to boost service on busy routes and to save operating costs. With its accordion-like centre section, the ALRV is a longer version of the Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) streetcar introduced in 1979. The extra space on the ALRV streetcar allows a greater carrying capacity of 50 per cent over the CLRV. A Back-to-Basics philosophy late in the decade forms the background of TTC decision making. It means refocusing on its central mandate: moving people in Metropolitan Toronto. To this end, the decision was made to sell Gray Coach Lines and all of its subsidiaries.
As the TTC moves in the 1990s, it continues to refocus on its motto of safety, service and courtesy, and to provide a high standard of transit service for Metropolitan Toronto. The decade is a roller-coaster ride for the TTC. The 1990s begins with a ridership of 459 million, which drops to a low of 372 million in 1996 (impact of economic recession), and then rebounds to 392 million by the end of 1999. The TTC loses about $100 million in operating subsidies over eight years, while the number of buses on the road drops by 22 per cent. After a tragic subway accident in 1995 that sees three people lose their lives, attention refocuses on the reorganization of the TTC, and a state-of-good-repair capital program for the entire system. The Commission approves a $96-million rebuild program, which proposes to restore 1,000 ailing buses to first-class condition in five years. In 1990, the TTC opens the Harbourfront streetcar line, the first new streetcar line built in Metropolitan Toronto in 60 years. Operating on its own right-of-way, the line helps to fulfill a long-awaited desire to bring Metro Toronto’s downtown core and the waterfront closer together. In 1997, the TTC opens the Spadina streetcar line, which returns streetcar service to the grand avenue after an absence of more than 30 years. Subway expansion also returns in the 1990s when the Spadina Subway Extension, from Wilson to Downsview (now Sheppard West) stations opens for service in 1996. The TTC made tremendous gains in safety and system reliability through an extensive infrastructure and vehicle state-of-good-repair program. By the end of the decade no other public transit system in North America, other than the TTC, is paying 80 per cent of its operating costs through the farebox, while still meeting the highest transit standards for riders. The TTC also launches itself on the worldwide web with its first internet pages that features fare information, safety and security tips and general facts about the system.
The 21st century begins with a search for secure, long-term capital funding for transit. Government partnership at all levels is required to fund the TTC’s multi-billion-dollar need to replace aging vehicles and infrastructure over the next 10 years. The fully accessible Sheppard Subway opens and accessibility increases throughout the subway system with elevator openings at stations. The TTC officially breaks ground on the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension. The Ridership Growth Strategy – the Commission’s blueprint and funding priorities for growth – is introduced to meet the objectives of the City of Toronto’s new Official Plan. The strategy helps to drive year-over-year increases in ridership by taking more cars off the road and putting more people in buses, streetcars and subway trains, and providing a service that is more convenient, reliable and comfortable. As a result, ridership climbs annually through the decade, to more than 471 million in 2009, and the trend continues well into the next decade. The TTC achieves its all-time daily high ridership of 1.995 million on July 26, 2002 during World Youth Day festivities and Papal visit. In 2003, subway and streetcar service is knocked out for several days as a result of a massive power outage affecting nearly 50 million people across the Eastern Seaboard of North America. The TTC bus fleet kept the city rolling.
This decade is characterized by stops and starts in both the expansion of rapid transit and day-to-day regular service. Despite this uncertainty, the TTC’s renewed focus on the customer helps to keep ridership stable through most of the decade, even in the face of headwinds of continued budgetary pressures and the emergence of new mobility options, such as ride-sharing and the emergence of Transportation Network Companies. Rapid employment and population growth in Toronto, particularly downtown, results in the re-emergence of capacity challenges throughout the network not seen since the previous ridership peak in the 1980s. In 2014, the first of 204 low-floor, accessible and air-conditioned streetcars enters service at Spadina Station on the 510 Spadina line. In 2015, the TTC plays a vital role in keeping Toronto moving during the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. The TTC runs a highly successful transit service to all venues and transit hubs across the city. And more than 1,600 specially trained ambassadors provided high-quality and friendly customer service to hundreds of thousands of riders and visitors from across the Americas and the Caribbean over a remarkable six-week period. In 2017, the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension (Downsview Park to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre) opens for service. It is the first subway extension to cross the municipal boundary of Toronto into a neighbouring region. In 2019, the last CLRV and ALRV streetcars are retired from service. The TTC breaks its all-time highest one-day ridership on June 17, 2019 by carrying 2,153,600 customers during the Toronto Raptors NBA Championship Parade. In 2019, the TTC releases, Making Headway – the TTC Capital Investment Plan (2019-2033), a 15-year look-ahead at the organization’s capital needs. The report identifies a $33.5-billion need for state-of-good-repair and growth investments that the TTC requires over the next 15 years in the areas of subway, streetcar, bus, stations and Wheel-Trans, with the cornerstones of accessibility, sustainability and safety and security.