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Toronto Streetcar System

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A TTC streetcar in downtown Toronto.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) in Toronto, Canada, operates eleven streetcar (tram) routes that are altogether 305.8 km long. Because the TTC has maintained a large portion of its pre-World War II streetcar system, the streetcars operate in pre-war style, spending most of their time in mixed traffic, and stopping at frequent request stops like buses rather than having established stations. On the Queensway, Spadina Avenue and Queen's Quay, however, the streetcars have a separated right-of-way in the road median, and on Bay Street between Front Street and Queen's Quay streetcars operate underground. Despite objections from local merchants, the TTC plans to construct a separated right-of-way on St. Clair Avenue West, from Yonge Street to just past Keele Street, to be completed by 2007. There are underground connections to the subway at Union, Spadina, and St. Clair West stations.

The TTC maintained a policy to eliminate all streetcar routes duting the 1960 and 1970s, in part because subway development was thought to eliminate the need for them. The TTC returned to building new streetcar routes in the 1990s, however, when a new streetcar line was built along the Spadina route, which opened in 1997. In 2000, it extended the Harbourfront route, and further extensions of the Harbourfront and St. Clair routes are being considered.

The previous policy of eliminating streetcars accounts for the concentration of streetcar lines within 5 km of the waterfront. As the city developed northward, transit service was provided by extension of bus routes rather than of streetcar routes. Later the subway was extended north with bus routes feeding it. The Oakwood route, which operated north of St. Clair, was eliminated in accordance with this policy and replaced by an extension of a trolley bus line (since converted to diesel).

Two other lines that operated north of St. Clair were abandoned for other reasons: the Rogers Road route to free up streetcars for expanded service on other routes, and the Mount Pleasant route ostensibly because of traffic problems it created.

Retention of streetcars was in large part due to resistance by citizens' groups who succeeded in persuading the TTC of the advantages of streetcars over buses on heavily-travelled main routes. Buses carry fewer passengers, and because of their lack of permanence, they do not have as much of an effect on land use.

A proposed streetcar RT line from Kipling station was abandoned, but the ghost platform at the bus level is a hint of a streetcar line.


In the 1970s, when most North American cities were phasing out their streetcar fleets, Toronto was one of the few North American cities buying new streecars, along with Boston and Philadelphia. Consequently, the TTC but could no longer find mass-market streetcars as in earlier years, and so the two models of streetcars the TTC uses for revenue service today were designed specifically for Toronto and remain unique to the city. The CLRV (Canadian Light Rail Vehicle, ordered 1977) and the double-length ALRV (Articulated Light Rail Vehicle, ordered 1983) were designed by the Urban Transportation Development Corporation (UTDC, an Ontario Crown corporation). The cars were built by Swiss Industrial Company (SIG – Schweizerische Industrie Gesellschaft) and Hawker-Siddeley Canada Limited in Thunder Bay, with a propulsion system by Brush of England and trucks MAN of Germany.

The CLRVs and ALRVs retain many features of traditional streetcar design; they collect their power by trolley pole rather than pantograph, and are unidirectional, with a cab at only one end and doors on only one side, requiring track loops in order to turn around. They also have high floors, accessed by stairs at each door rather than from a level platform, and so are not wheelchair-accessible and cannot be made so.

Plans to sell the CLRV to other cities that retained streetcar services proved unsuccessful. Until the mid-1990s, the TTC also operated PCC streetcars in regular service; it retains two such cars for private charters.

The tracks of the streetcars and subways (apart from the Scarborough RT) are built to the unique gauge of 1.495 m (4 feet 10 7/8 inches), slightly wider than the usual standard of 1.435 m (4 feet 8 1/2 inches). There are arguments over the reason for this. One popular belief is that the City of Toronto feared that the Toronto Railway Company, which held the franchise to run streetcars before the TTC was created, would allow Canadian Pacific Railway to operate steam locomotives through city streets. The more practical reason is that early tracks were used to pull wagons smoothly in the days before paved roads, and that they fit a different gauge.

Because of the cost of converting all the tracks and vehicles (and the lack of any real benefit in doing so), the unique gauge has remained to this day. Some proposals for the city's subway system involved using streetcars in the tunnels, and possibly having some routes run partially in tunnels and partially on city streets, so the same gauge was used, though the idea was ultimately dropped in favour 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.

List of past and present Toronto streetcars:

  • Birney Car – ex-TRC
  • Canadian Car and Foundry/Brill Peter Witts – Large with trailers
  • Canadian Car and Foundry/Ottawa Car Company Peter Witts – Small Witts
  • St. Louis Car Company and CCF President Conference Committee Car A1
  • St. Louis Car Company PCC A2–8
  • St. Louis Car Company PCC A9–10 – ex-Cincinnati
  • St. Louis Car Company PCC A11 – ex-Cleveland
  • St. Louis Car Company PCC A12 – ex-Louisville
  • St. Louis Car Company PCC A13 – ex-Brimingham
  • St. Louis Car Company PCC A14 – ex-Kansas City
  • St. Louis Car Company PCC A15 – A8 rebuilds
  • SIG/UTDC Canadian Light Rail Vehicle (CLRV) L1 and L2
  • Urban Transportation Development Corporation Articulated Light Rail Vehicle (ALRV) L3
  • W30-W31 Rail Grinder – ex-PCC streetcar (retired)
  • W28 Rail Grinder – ex-TRC Preston car (retired)


Streetcar routes still in operation:

  • 501 – Queen
  • 502 – Downtowner
  • 503 – Kingston Road Tripper
  • 504 – King
  • 505 – Dundas
  • 506 – Carlton
  • 508 – Lake Shore
  • 509 – Harbourfront
  • 510 – Spadina
  • 511 – Bathurst/Exhibition
  • 512 – St Clair

Abandoned streetcar routes:

  • 507 – Long Branch
  • 512L – Earlscourt
  • 521 – King Exhibition
  • 522 – Dundas Exhibition
  • 604 – Harbourfront
  • Belt Line (original and Tour Tram)
  • Bloor (including Danforth Tripper)
  • Coxwell
  • Dupont (including Bay)
  • Fort (see 511 Bathurst)
  • Harbord
  • Oakwood
  • Parliament
  • Mount Pleasant
  • Rogers Road


Loops used by the TTC (some are no longer used or have been disposed of):

  • Avon Loop (Weston Road and Rogers Road)
  • Bathurst Station Loop
  • Bedford (Bedford and Yonge)
  • Bicknell Loop (Rogers Road and Bicknell Avenue) – now belongs to the City of Toronto
  • Bingham Loop (Queen)
  • Birchmount Loop (Birchmount and Kingston)
  • Broadview Station Loop
  • Caledonia Loop (St Clair and Station St)
  • Charlotte (King and Spadina)
  • Christie Loop (Dupont and Christie)
  • Danforth Loop (Danforth and Coxwell)
  • Dundas St West Station Loop
  • Dufferin Loop
  • Earlscourt Loop (Lansdowne and St Clair)
  • Eglinton Loop: Eglinton and Mount Pleasant – later trolley bus loop
  • Erindale Loop (Broadview Station)
  • Exhibition Loop
  • Ferry Loop (Bay Street and Lakeshore Blvd West)
  • Fleet Loop (Fleet Street and Lakeshore Blvd West)
  • Gilbert Loop (Oakwood)
  • Gunn's Loop (Keele and St Clair) – formerly Maybank
  • High Park Loop (Parkside and Howard Park)
  • Hillside Wye -Hillside and Lakeshore
  • Humber Loop
  • Hillcrest Loop
  • Jane Loop
  • Keele Loop (Keele St north of St Clair)
  • Kipling Loop
  • Long Branch Loop
  • Lawton Loop (Yonge and St Clair)
  • Lipton Loop (Lipton and Pape)
  • Main Station Loop
  • McCaul Loop (McCaul and Queen)
  • Mutual Loop (Mutual and Queen)
  • Moore Park Loop (Mount Pleasant and St Clair) – now parkette
  • Neville Park Loop
  • New Toronto Loop – now Kipling Loop
  • Oakwood Loop (Oakwood and St Clair)
  • Parliament Loop (King)
  • Preston Loop (Dovercourt and St Clair)
  • Queen-Coxwell Loop
  • Queen's Quay Loop
  • Roncesvalles Carhouse
  • Royce Loop (Lansdowne and Dupont)
  • Russell Carhouse Loop
  • Runnymede Loop (Dundas and Runnymede)
  • Spadina Loop
  • St Clair Carhouse Loop
  • St Clair Station Loop
  • St Clair West Station Loop
  • St Clarens Loop (St Clarens and Harbord)
  • Sunnyside Loop (Sunnyside and Roncesvalles)
  • Townsley Loop (St Clair and Lansdowne)
  • Terauley (Bay)
  • City Hall (Bay and Albert)
  • Vaughan Loop (Vaughan and Bathurst)
  • Viaduct Loop (Bloor and Parliament)
  • Vincent Loop (across from Dundas West Station)
  • Wolseley Loop (Queen and Bathurst)
  • Woodbine Loop (Woodbine and Queen)

Source: Toronto Streetcar Track Map


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

  • Hillcrest Shops
  • Roncesvalles Carhouse
  • Russell (Connaught) Carhouse

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

  • Danforth Carhouse
  • Eglinton Carhouse
  • Lansdowne Carhouse
  • St. Clair (Wychwood) Carhouse

Source: The TTC's Active Carhouses

See also


Local and Regional Rail Transport in Canada
Rapid Transit Systems: Montreal Metro | Toronto Subway and RT | Vancouver SkyTrain
Light Railways: C-Train (Calgary) | Edmonton Light Rail | O-Train (Ottawa) | Toronto Streetcars
Commuter Railways: GO Train (Toronto) | AMT Commuter Trains (Montreal) | West Coast Express (Vancouver)

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