T. T. C.
PHILIP A. NOVIKOFF
The story of a CIVIC enterprise which has won the reputation of being the "best street railway system on the continent"
HIGH up in the tower of Toronto’s City Hall, old Big Ben booms out five p.m. In hundreds of downtown offices weary stenographers stow away their typewriters, powder-puff their noses and rush to washrooms to rid their nimble fingers of carbon stains. Tired-eyed accountants slap shut their ledgers. Grey-haired executives dismiss their private secretaries with a perfunctory “We’ll finish this tomorrow'.”
The working force of a great metropolis is through for the day, and is getting ready to go home.
A relatively small percentage of the scurrying human throng will ride home in their own automobiles. A still smaller proportion will walk. The vast majority will take the street car. And there’s a five-billion-to-one chance that they’ll get home alive, for the Toronto Transportation Commission has never had a passenger fatality since it took over the responsibility of conveying human life.
This is only one of the things that has given the T.T.C. the reputation among civic transportation experts which has resulted in its being characterized as the “Dest street railway system in North America.” One authority has stated that the description applies specifically to operating efficiency, cheapness of fares, quality of equipment and service, safety, and the fact that although the system is owned by the city it hasn’t cost the city’s taxpayers a single cent for the nineteen years of its existence.
What’s more, it is one of the few street railways in Canada making money while modernizing itself to the limit. In 1939 a surplus of almost $45,000 showed on its books—a profit that doesn’t belong to any private shareholders, but to the public.
To most who read the T.T.C.’s financial report last year, the $45,000 was the end of the story. Suppose we throw' the gears of time into reverse—to the year 1849—and go back to the beginning. It is a story that tells how a trolley wire helped build a city of almost one million population.
Mr. Williams’ Buses
npORONTO in 1849 w'as slowly dragging itself out of its “muddy York” stage. It boasted some 24,000 inhabitants. There were only two ways of getting about—walking or horse and buggy. If you didn’t have the money to own a horse, you walked. Most of the people walked.
At 140 Yonge St.—the main street of the town—lived a cabinetmaker, H. B. Williams by name. He saw the possibilities of making some extra money by giving pedestrians a ride and charging them for it. So he built four horse-drawn omnibuses in his cabinet shop. They carried six passengers, had removable windows and leather curtains for bad weather. With these he established a tenminute service between St. Lawrence Market, via King and Yonge streets, and the Red Lion Hotel, Yorkville, at Bloor Street—then in the suburbs. A single fare was sixpence.
When the weather w'as good, the pedestrians continued to walk. But when it rained or snowed, they crowded into the buses. Then the streets became too muddy for walking. And because the weather was nearly always bad in the winter, spring and fall months, the buses made money.
Williams built four larger omnibuses that carried ten passengers. He extended his routes to serve all the outlying districts. Suburban properties, once shunned by homebuilders because they were too far from the heart of the city, soared in value. The city’s population soared too— from 24,000 to 45,000 by 1861. The assessment roll
increased from $600,000 to more than a million and a half dollars. At least some of the credit for this can go to a cabinetmaker who took a gamble.
News trickled through to Toronto that in New York, Boston and Philadelphia, street railways were operating successfully. Alexander Easton, promoter of these railways in the U.S.A., came to Toronto and, on March 26, 1861 obtained a thirty-year franchise from the city to operate a street railway within its limits. Two months later the Toronto Street Railway Company was formed.
Enter the Horse Car
UNDER the terms of the agreement there was to be a street car service on Yonge Street from King to Bloor; west on Queen Street to the insane asylum, and on King from the Don River to Bathurst Street. Furthermore, it was laid down that the cars were not to exceed a speed of six miles an hour; that a headway (time between cars) of not more than thirty minutes must be maintained; that cars were to run sixteen hours a day during summer months and fourteen hours during winter. No transfers were issued. A five-cent fare was collected on each route.
Williams’ omnibus company put up a courageous fight against the onslaught of this modernized competition. The running gear of the buses was altered so that the wheels could run smoothly along the Toronto Street Railway’s horse car rails. Williams was fully within his rights to use the competitor’s rails as his vehicles were free wheeling and could go anywhere. But the end of the bus outfit came when the new company bought it out in 1862.
Toronto’s first horse cars had wooden bodies sixteen feet long, open platforms in front and rear, and drop windows for ventilation. In the winter, passengers froze by slow degrees. The only warmth came from a deep layer of pea straw scattered on the floor. On one-horse cars the fare box hung inside the front door, but as the passengers could enter by front or rear, many fares remained uncollected.
Although the cars had the right-of-way, there were constant delays in the service caused by other traffic drawn from the rutty roadway to the smooth surface of the rails. If a fire broke out anywhere along the route, the drivers would obligingly pull the car off the tracks to the side of the road while the fire engines clanged past. If a snowstorm filled up the tracks, it was necessary for the company to provide sleighs to haul the public to work. It was a great day for Toronto when the first snow sweeper was brought into service.
But the contrivance wasn’t able to sweep away the pile of debts the railway company accumulated. In 1870 the firm went into bankruptcy. In 1873 William Kiely, in company with his brother George, obtained a new act of incorporation under the old name—the Toronto Street Railway Company. They assumed the old company’s obligations and continued to operate until the expiration of the franchise in 1891.
The horse car played a stellar role in the expansion of Toronto. During the first thirty years of its operation, the size of the city increased from nine square miles to seventeen square miles, its population from 45,000 to 170,000, and its assessment roll from $1,500,000 to $145,000,000!
In 1861, the street railway had started with six miles of track, 11 cars, 70 horses, and a number of sleighs and wagons. On December 31, 1890, at the expiration of the franchise, the company owned 68 miles of track, 264 horse cars, 99 omnibuses, 100 sleighs and 1,372 horses.
In 1861, about 2,000 passengers were carried daily. Thirty years later the daily average was 55.000 passengers!
When the franchise of the Kiely brothers’ company had run out, the city took over the street railway for $1,453,788. But public opinion was not in favor of municipal ownership at that time, so the franchise was granted to a new company headed by William Mackenzie, later Sir William Mackenzie, for the same price the city had paid for it a few months previously. The new company’s agreement extended over a period of thirty years, at the end of which time the city had the right to buy back the property at its actual value.
1891—Dynamo Ousts Horse
THE MOST important feature of the new agreement was that the system would be electrified within three years. A howl of protest went up when this clause became known. Horse fanciers protested against taking the horse out of circulation. Others protested against the debacle electric cars would cause as they rushed along city streets. Anything faster than six miles an hour was considered dangerous.
But nothing could stop the march of progress. On August 15, 1891, the first electric car in Toronto appeared in service on the Church Street line. On August 31. 1894, the last horse car was withdrawn from service on McCaul St. A new era of urban transportation had begun.
The first electric trams were merely the old horse cars powered with an electric motor. They were of both open and closed body types with controls installed on the open front platform where the motorman was protected by the dash and the projecting roof. To save the expense of duplicating electric trucks and control equipment, bodies were interchangeable—open for summer and closed for winter. Later, convertible bodies were built with removable side panels. Stoves were installed in street cars about this time, although the only warm spot in the car was right near the stove.
Many in Toronto have reason to remember the old-time trolleys: humans hanging on as thick as flies to rear and side platforms as the car jolted through congested streets, a grunting conductor trying to collect fares with his “coffeepot” fare box. Occasionally, a passenger or two would be swept to the street when the trolley sideswiped another vehicle. Passenger comfort was about the last thing in the minds of the street railway people in those days.
In December, 1910, an attempt was made to collect fares w'ith a pay-as-you-enter plan. The public protested in no small way. Riots broke out and several street cars were reduced to wreckage. The “coffeepot” system was reinstated.
Between 1891 and 1910 the city’s population increased by 100 per cent. For certain reasons upheld by the courts, the Toronto Street Railway declined to extend its one-fare service beyond the city limits of 1891. This curbed the expansion of the suburban areas. The city’s population crowded itself into the older section, due to lack of transportation farther out. For the same reason, industrial and commercial activities would not go outside of old Toronto.
In 1911, in an endeavor to stimulate the development of the suburbs, the city council began building its own street railway lines to the outlying districts. These were called the Toronto Civic Railways, and nine such lines were built. All charged separate fares—two cents, or six tickets for ten cents. A free transfer was obtainable only between two routes which intersected.
The citizens were by no means satisfied with this. To travel between certain points it often cost them as high as fifteen cents one way. The suburbs still developed slowly. Industrial and commercial activity was still hampered by confinement to the old portion of the city. Instead of proving an advantage, the clutter of separate-fare street railway lines put the brakes on progress.
Faced with civic stagnation, the people of Toronto went to the polls on January 1, 1920, to decide what should be done to unravel the mess their transportation service had got itself into. By a sweeping majority, they voted in favor of the city taking over the Toronto Railway Company at the expiration of its franchise the following year, and placing all the city’s public transportation services under the control of a commission. This commission was to consist of three taxpayers ap-
pointed by the council for a term of three years.
Thus was born the Toronto Transportation Commission—the T.T.C. The council appointed P. W. Ellis, George Wright and Fred Miller as the first commissioners. As general manager, H. H. Couzens, a man of brilliant business and engineering ability who had been brought out from England to organize the Toronto Hydro Electric, was employed. After he had set the machinery of the T.T.C. running in the right direction, he left for Brazil to become general manager of the Brazilian Traction Company. He was later knighted.
The Commission’s first step was to weld all the separate-fare street railway lines operating within the city limits into a single system, by the application of universal fare. On the very first day of the T.T.C.’s administration, passengers who formerly paid two or three fares on a single trip, were charged but one fare, including free transfers. This unification emancipated 100,(XX) daily passengers from multiple fares within the city
Army of Reconstruction
nPHEN began the giant task of reconstruction. And the system certainly needed it. Although the Toronto Street Railway Company was paid $12,(XX),000 for its assets, nearly five million of that amount had to be written off by the T.T.C. as worthless. Most of the suburban lines, for whose franchise $1,500,(XX) was paid, were abandoned.
Workshops and car barns were reequipped. New tracks were laid and old tracks relaid. Streets under reconstruction became a bedlam as an army of 4,(XX) men with steam shovels, pavement breakers, cement mixers, a fleet of more than 100 trucks, work cars and air hammers were unloosed.
The Commission gave itself two years in which to lay down forty-three miles of new tracks, completely reconstruct fiftythree miles and do major repair work on forty-two miles of old track. In addition, eighteen miles of special trackwork had to replace practically all intersections.
The work had to be done in short stretches. There was no thought of slowing up the regular movement of traffic. People had to get downtown—to work, to shop. Temporary single tracks and overhead wires were installed on the roadway beside the sections of right-of-way being built.
The old ninety-pound rails were tom out and scrapped. Pavement was ripped up and removed by endless chains of trucks. Rotting ties were junked. And in the wake of the machines of destruction followed machinery for building. A steady river of concrete flowed into the excavations to form the heavy slab base. On this, new ties were laid for the 122-pound girder-tvpe rails. Rail joints were no longer bolted, but welded into solid ribbons of steel. Then came more concrete to embed the ties and the rail bases, followed by a final layer of surface paving.
The swiftness with which the work moved can be gleaned from the fact that the laying of the Yonge Street line from Front to College, a distance of more than a mile, was completed in twenty-one days without stoppage of traffic. This included the ten days necessary for the concrete to set properly.
While men and machines labored day and night renovating the tracks, the rolling stock was also being brought up to date. Most of the cars that belonged to the Toronto Street Railway were obsolete. The T.T.C. purchased 250 of the latest type steel-bodied street cars. The first of these was placed in service on October 1, 1921. By 1923, out of a total of 1,059 cars, 575 were new ones.
Due to the financial burden imposed on the T.T.C., it was impossible to replace all old cars with new. So 415 were scrapped and the remaining old ones were remodelled. Seating was rearranged to give greater accommodation. Entrances and exits were equipped with pneumaticopening doors. Air brakes were installed.
In two short years a street car system that resembled the Toonerville Trolley of
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comic strip fame, was transformed into a fast, efficient, cheap and comfortable service.
It paid, too. At (lie end of 1922 the annual report showed a gross revenue of more than eleven million dollars for that year. Each year thereafter more money was being made. The peak was reached in 1929 when the annual revenue zoomed up to $14,500,(XX).
By this time a tidy operating reserve fund—$3,200,000 - was accumulated. And a good thing the reserve was there, for after the 1929 earning peak, the annual takings began to slide downhill. The descent was swift. By the end of 1933 it reached a low of $10,300,000. It was the reserve fund that helped the Commission to keep its head above water without grasping at the city’s purse strings. Between 1931 and 1936 inclusive, $1,550,000 —almost half the 1929 surplus—was drawn from this source.
Enter the Automobile
1 I TIE REASONS for the decline of revenue in this period were two: first the automobile and second the depression. In this jjeriod the motor car began to cast an ever-increasing shadow over the street railway system. When they first appeared, the newfangled horseless buggies were considered merely as playthings for the rich. In 1910, Toronto had only 1,677 automobiles. By 1922 it had 37,204. People began saying: “It looks like the end of the old trolley. We’ll all soon be driving a car.”
By 1933 there were 111,(XX) privately owned motor cars in the city. In 1939 the figure stood at about 127,000.
And as motor cars increased in number, street car passenger traffic declined. In the period between 1929 and 1933 the figures dipped down from a high of 207,000,000 revenue passengers per year to
147.500.000. Annual per capita rides reduced from 330 to 230 in the same period. By 1939 the revenue passenger total had climbed back to 154,100,000, but rides per capita remained stationary at the 1933 figure—230. Population was increasing, but the street car riding habit was not.
Comparing the 1939 figures with the
187.000. 000 revenue passengers for the year 1922, when the per capita rides were 354, it is evident to what extent the motor car has affected the street car business.
Nevertheless, the street railway again started making a profit in 1937. Its earnings have risen ever since. In 1939 its gross revenue was $11,230,000.
But the automobile was not solely responsible for the slump after 1929. The great depression struck at a time when the trolley system was just beginning to feel the full brunt of motor car competition. Thousands of workers no longer rode street cars because there was no work to ride to.
With millions of dollars invested in the system, the commissioners asked themselves: “Well, what are we going to do about it?”
Automobile competition of course had had to be faced in some measure from the first year the T.T.C. took over. So the commissioners were not altogether unprepared. They had learned that fighting fire with fire was one way of meeting the situation. In 1921, four double-decked solid-tired motor buses—virtual street cars on wheels—had been placed in districts where traffic wasn’t sufficiently heavy to warrant the extension of rail service. From time to time additional bus routes had been established. In the low-revenue years, five rapidly developing areas in the city were given bus service.
The effects of the extensions have been remarkable. In 1933, the low year, these bus lines carried some 8.700,000 revenue passengers. In 1939 they carried 14,800,000 on the twelve lines now in operation.
Another answer the T.T.C. gave the revenue-shrinking problem was: “We
Wages of salaried employees were slashed. Although wage rates of shop
workers and operators remained the same, man-hours were reduced. A number of men had to be laid off. The chief economy was the introduction of one-man cars on several lines. This necessitated the improvement of rolling stock to enable the quick entrance and exit of passengers. The peak of the headway was also cut down, for the simple reason that there were now fewer passengers to carry, although generally the frequency of service was increased.
While struggling to operate on a paying basis, the T.T.C. continued to improve and modernize the system to the extent of more than $12,000,000 in the ten years between 1930 and 1939. The total cost of rehabilitation since 1921 has been $43,000,(XX). On top of this expenditure more than half of the original capital debt of $42,730,000 has been paid off. At the end of 1939 there remained a little over $20,000,000 in outstanding debentures.
Still more, the half-exhausted reserve fund which was so great an aid during the hard times, has been replenished to the extent of $650,700.
Coach Lines Acquired
TN ITS early years the T.T.C. had also
to meet the competition of the highway motor coach. In 1927, eighteen private interurban bus lines were carrying 3,000,000 passengers yearly into the heart of the city, thus diverting much revenue from the municipally owned system.
So the T.T.C. in order to protect itself, began to buy out the franchise rights of the more important bus routes. In 1925 the T.T.C.’s first fleet of motor coaches was put into service. Chiefly for accounting purposes, the coach operations were segregated from the city service and turned over to a subsidiary organization known as Gray Coach Lines.
The new coach system immediately became popular. The first year of operation showed an annual revenue of $132,000. In 1930 it reached a high of $1,322,000. From then on it began to decrease, for the depression also ate deeply into the motor coach business. In 1933 the revenue had dropped to $883,500. The following year, however, the tide turned. By 1939 revenue had jumped above its former peak to $1,387,600.
One factor causing this increase was the extension of service. Whereas in 1930 Gray Coach lines traversed some 600 miles of roadway, today they traverse more than 1,000 miles, extending service as far north as North Bay. The southern and western limits of the service are Buffalo and London. To cover this extensive network, 163 buses are operated.
At the outset there was bitter complaint in some neighboring municipalities that the Commission’s interurban coach system was nothing more or less than a crafty plot hatched by the Toronto civic fathers to divert out-of-town trade into the city. But the coach has long since earned its place in the general transportation scheme; and there’s no doubt that discontinuance of the Gray Coach services now would result in even louder squawks than those which greeted their inception.
The T.T.C.’s success can in no small way be attributed to the keymen at its helm. Following Sir Herbert Couzens’ departure, the general managership was placed in the hands of the then assistant manager, D. W. Harvey, who previously had had charge of the city-owned Toronto Civic Railways prior to their absorption by the Commission. Under his long and able management the organization really became what it is today. Following his death in 1938, his post was filled by former comptroller, H. C. Patten, who is the keyman today.
When inaugurated, the T.T.C. was vested with considerable power, being placed entirely out of the realm of politics. No matter who held office at City Hall, the Commission was not to be touched.
Strange as it may seem to the cynic, the plan has worked. No charges of political patronage have yet been aimed at the T.T.C. Little interference from the city
council has been encountered and a mutual respect exists between the two bodies today. Every three years the council has the right to voice its disapproval of how things are being run by refusing to reappoint the commissioners. W. C. McBrien, chairman of the present group, has been a commissioner since 1930. The other two, William Croft and W. G. Russell, were chosen in 1939.
Handling a Human Avalanche
THE MOST common criticism of the T.T.C. by John Public is the overcrowding of street cars during rush hours. The reason for the crowding is that the business section of Toronto is congested in a comparatively small area and at the end of the day nearly everyone in the area wants to get out of it at the same time.
The T.T.C. does its level best to get them home in the least possible time. Hundreds of extra cars are shot downtown to take care of the great outflow. At the peak of the rush hour on Bay Street, a main north-south route, there is only forty-five seconds between cars. On Yonge Street, the central north-south route, headway is one minute between two-car trains. Two of the busiest cross-town lines— Bloor and Bathurst—have a rush headway of two minutes.
Modernization of its rolling stock has always been part of the Commission’s policy. A few years ago a group of large street railway companies on the continent, including the T.T.C., spent a million dollars designing a street car that was so radical in construction it caused a sensation in the world of public transport. In 1938 the T.T.C. bought 140 of these superstreamlined trolleys. In 1940, fifty more cars were purchased. An equivalent number of old cars were replaced by these sleek mechanical whippets whose speed, pickup and riding comfort are comparable to an automobile.
In addition to its street car and bus systems theT.T.C. maintains a ferry service to and from the city ’s island summer colony in Toronto Bay.
Toronto street car fares today are:
Adults—Cash, 10 cents, or four tickets for 25 cents;
Children—Cash, 3 cents, or ten tickets for 25 cents;
Students not over sixteen years— seven tickets for 25 cents; Infants—free.
Transfer privileges are free to any line within the city limits.
The average fare is 6.18 cents. The average fare for all comparable cities in North America is 7.93 cents.
Grumblings are often heard from Toronto taxicab drivers because of the business taken away from them by the street car. During a recent cab drivers’ strike, the counsel for the cab companies mentioned in his argument before the board of arbitration that “the T.T.C. gave such good service, it made Toronto one of the worst cities in the Dominion in which to operate taxis.”
The Commission, of course, could feel nothing except flattered by the lawyer’s remark. No doubt other factors enter into the taxicab picture, but it’s really something when a motor transport representative admits that the street car is a menace to the automobile.
Quick Home Dryer
"V yfORE and more are infrared rays 4-Vi. being utilized for finish-drying purposes. These heat rays in suitable reflectors have been utilized for several years to dry very rapidly the lacquers on, for example, automobile bodies. Now small infrared lamps have been given the job of drying many things around the home. At the flick of a switch the housewife may soon turn on lamps to dry the family washing quickly and economically, cook food, or heat a room or an entire house in cold weather.—Scientific American.