The hectic story of Canada’s subway

Until another city builds one, Toronto's subway is the whole country's property. Anybody can ride it, laugh at it, and watch the city fathers fight about it. Even so, it still keeps more people moving far faster

JOHN CLARE July 19 1958

The hectic story of Canada’s subway

Until another city builds one, Toronto's subway is the whole country's property. Anybody can ride it, laugh at it, and watch the city fathers fight about it. Even so, it still keeps more people moving far faster

JOHN CLARE July 19 1958

The hectic story of Canada’s subway

Until another city builds one, Toronto's subway is the whole country's property. Anybody can ride it, laugh at it, and watch the city fathers fight about it. Even so, it still keeps more people moving far faster


The rest of Canada may never come to feel about Toronto the way the Russians feel about Moscow' or the way the French feel about Paris, but ever since the Ontario capital built the nation's first subway there has been a perceptible rise in warmth that has at times looked almost like affection. And now that the city plans to build another one, which will give it three times as much subway as before, the possible returns in neighborly love and prestige—not to mention the convenience of the residents—arc impressive.

The Yonge Street subway, in addition to securing for the citizens a place of unspecified size in the hearts of their countrymen, has probably saved the city from choking to death on its own traffic. Where twelve thousand passengers an hour crept to and from work on the Yonge streetcars, forty thousand an hour can be carried at peak periods on the underground at speeds up to forty-five miles an hour. And where the streetcar ride could take more than an hour, the same ride of 4.6 miles is now made in fifteen and a half minutes at the busiest times by subway, in the old days, only four years ago, 1,300 motorcar riders

could be accommodated in an hour on the street. With the streetcars gone, as many as 2,500 can travel by car in a rush hour.

Motorcar registrations have increased by 130,000 to close to half a million in Metropolitan Toronto since the subway was opened. Traffic experts are convinced that without the relief provided by this relatively short north-south stretch of rapid transit the task of moving the downtown working force to and from the job would have become well nigh impossible.

Bloor Street, the east-west midtown route of the proposed new subway, has been saturated with traffic at rush hours for the last thirty years. It can't get worse. But with an underground providing rapid transit it can get a great deal better even though the removal of the streetcars is sure to attract enough additional motorcars to continue to strain its capacity. Where the streetcars now crawl along at nine miles an hour, carrying more than nine thousand passengers at peak hours, the new subway will whisk forty thousand of them along every hour at speeds up to sixty miles an hour between stations. The run. which streetcars are now scheduled to make in

forty-nine minutes but take much longer to negotiate in heavy traffic, will be made by the subway trains in twenty-three.

Attractive as this speeded-up picture of the future is, it has not allayed all the fears, suspicions and doubts of the twenty-five members of the Metropolitan Council, who represent the City of Toronto and twelve suburban municipalities. For tw'o years they have battled and plotted, mostly over the route of the subway. Even after the project was approved in principle and only the financing was left to be arranged, two members of the council called for a lastminute detailed examination of a device known as a monorail.

The Great Subway Debate had become an old friend to the civic legislators and there seems every reason to believe that it w'ill continue through a scries of crises, climaxes and anti-climaxes right up to the day dignitaries take their places, souvenirprograms rolled up in their hands, for the inaugural run.

The debate over the second subway began to get intense just about the time the first one on Yonge Street had its inauguration in March 1954. continued on page 42

There’s always a show going on in the Toronto subway where fur stoles mingle with sandwich wraps, alert kids with sleepy commuters, and the passenger list hits seventy-five million a year

ÉThe hectic story of Canada’s subway

Continued from page 18

“It’s a hit with refugees from streetcars, small

boys, and visitors from every section of Canada”

The first subway, ever since its opening, has been a hit with refugees from slow crowded streetcars, experts from all over the world, small boys, and visitors from every part of Canada, some of whom display a pride in one city’s possession that, in a way, belongs to the whole country.

The day the subway opened the Montreal Star had this to say: “Montreal

congratulates Toronto honestly and with all its heart. Toronto will not wonder that into our congratulations creeps a little envy. Toronto, we are sure, did not have as many lovely plans for its subway as we have.”

When former Mayor Drapeau of Montreal rode the red cars of the underground, he remarked wistfully that the four-mile tunnel under the mountain, that carries a CNR line from the town of Mount Royal to the Central Station, was perhaps Canada’s first subway. But his heart was not in this disclaimer and he soon joined in the chorus of praise for Toronto's tube.

Elmore Phiipott, writing in the Vancouver Sun. was less gracious. After looking over the new line from Union Station to Eglinton Avenue he found it lacking in public toilets. He wrote: "In London. Paris, New York and presumably even in Moscow you can ride on the underground just as in Toronto. But

only in Toronto do the authorities deny the facts of life. In this respect Toronto clings like a burdock cluster to the type of mind that has come right down from the days of Muddy York.”

Toronto newspapers sprang to the defense of the TTC and explained that the commission had limited such facilities to one, at the northern terminal, because they were gathering places for thieves and perverts. Besides, it was explained, the line is less than five miles long and takes only seventeen minutes to travel.

The Yonge Street line, first suggested by Controller Horatio C. Hocken in 1911 and turned down a year later because it would cost a preposterous five million dollars, took four and a half years and fifty-five millions to build. The 1949 estimate of twenty-six millions was more than doubled because of what the Korean War did to building costs.

Fed by a network of buslines, which link it with the suburbs, it now carries about a quarter million passengers on an average day, including those espaliered against the doors at the ends of the cars at rush hours. Last year more than seventy-five million passengers rode the line.

Among these were youngsters whose idea of a day on the town is to ride the line until they become as much a part of the train as the two-man crew and

until their mothers’ bulletins to come home are relayed to them on the publicaddress system.

Others were convention delegates, identified by the name tags on their lapels, who took a half-hour holiday from passing resolutions just so they could tell the people back home they had ridden on the thing.

Because the subway is the newest in the world, transportation experts from all over the globe have come to see how the Toronto Transit Commission engineers have refined and applied the lessons they learned from the older systems. From Melbourne to Zurich, from Rome to Bombay and from almost every large city in the United States have come queries, usually brought by deputations of technical men, about the subway. Koji Tanaka recently took the guided tour to get some tips for the line he will help build in Osaka, Japan. The men who run London’s tubes were generous with advice and several of them have come to see how it turned out.

Rapid - transit experts in New York were helpful when the plans were being drawn up but could not help being a little patronizing when they compared its length with their 242 miles of subway. However, they’ve been around lately to see how it’s working because they must soon decide whether or not they are going to extend their own system. The TTC is still looking for new ideas, particularly now that it faces the big job of building the ten-mile eastwest Bloor line, which will pass below the existing Yonge Street subway at about the halfway point. Bloor Street is about two miles north of the Union Station. The commission has, among other things, been in touch with the Milan rapid-transit men, who started

their own Metropolitan, as they call their subway, last year.

When the Yonge line was being planned the TTC asked Moscow for advice but the Russians declined to offer any. While they have never sent an official party to inspect the TTC's handiwork, a group of Soviet scientists on their way through Toronto to a meeting in the U. S. last summer took a firm grip on the cameras slung around their necks and boarded a train at the Union Station to take a ride—probably so they too could tell people back home, when they were asked, that they had indeed been on it.

The great majority of riders are, of course, regular users of public transportation who have been rescued from congested bus and streetcar lines or have escaped from the soul-searing routine of driving their own cars to work through traffic jams. About a hundred thousand of them crowd the line on the downtown run every weekday morning and back at the end of the working day. The TTC has had complaints about the service but most riders seem satisfied with it. Older people complain because every station hasn't got an escalator. (The plans for the new route call for more of them.) Some passengers say the steps to the street aren’t wide enough. (The width of the sidewalk determines how wide entrances can be made, say TTC engineers.) Nearly everyone found fault with the two-operation transfer dispensers which are awkward to work. The TTC has designed a new automatic one.

Last Christmas and at Easter, music was piped into the stations through the public-address system. When this was done in Grand Central Station a group led by the late Harold Ross, editor of the New Yorker, protested vigorously

against what they regarded as an unlawful invasion of privacy. The TTC’s submissive clients accepted the music without a whimper loud enough to be heard by the commission.

Most of the passengers' complaints arc about other passengers, who seem to fall into fairly well defined types of undesirables. Here are some of them:

The Sprawler. This rider manages to monopolize twoand even three-place seats by the clever disposition of his brief case, his coat and himself. Likely to look aggrieved if asked to move the hell over.

Horatio Junior. This one is often found in coveys or phalanxes right in front of the door. Acts as though he has taken an oath on a souvenir TTC transfer that none shall pass that wall of more or less living flesh.

The Fancy Dancer. He scorns the grab irons, modern versions of the strap, and balances delicately on the balls of his feet, shifting like a gyro in sympathy with every swerve of the train. So great is his insouciance that he can read a paper at the same time, right up to the moment when the car goes around a curve and he is thrown heavily into the passenger next to him.

The Third Man. This role is sometimes taken by The Fat Lady. They show up when two normal-sized, or even better, two large riders, have taken up their positions at either end of a threeseat bench. If they succeed they will drive the two original squatters out. Otherwise they sit poised on the inadequate space in the middle alternately tossing nasty glances right and left because they can't sit back.

The Sherpa. This one attempts to race up an escalator. Harries passengers who are content to let the lift do the work

and thereby block his progress. Frequently finds himself pondering the question, “Who do you think you’re pushing?”

And then there is the passenger who regards every train as the last. He frequently hurls himself at the dosing doors and sometimes gets nipped by them. All he has to do is pull his arm free because there are soft rubber flanges on the doors to help people like this. However, he seems to like it better when a solicitous passenger, inside the car. pulls the emergency cord and stops the train.

One elderly woman recently brought trains to a halt when she discovered a remote and almost inaccessible power trip operated by a lever and pulled it. She explained that she thought it was a transfer dispenser. One night a thief escaped by riding a bicycle for several stations, after the trains had stopped running. He took with him the loot from one of the station newsstands. Not so lucky was another miscreant who ran into a subway station to escape the police. When they began to pound the stairs after him he ran into a tunnel at about the time a train was approaching from the other direction. He was killed instantly.

One woman threw herself under a train and four cars passed over her. The only injury was to her clothes which were stained by grease. She later drowned herself. This spring a man was trapped on the track and after trying unsuccessfully, with the help of other passengers, to get back on the platform took refuge under a ledge. When a train approached he seemed to panic and threw himself in front of it. He was decapitated.

There has never been a serious acci-

dent on the trains themselves although there have been interruptions in service, once when a ear jumped the track and again when a tornado knocked out the power for an hour. The men who run the trains like them, although the more gregarious ones miss the contact they had with the public when they were driving buses or streetcars. The operators and guards on subway trains work in cubicles locked from the inside.

The building of the Bloor Street subway will clearly doom the streetcar in Toronto and confirm Metropolitan Toronto’s reliance on rapid transit, fed by buslines and augmented by expressways. No streetcars will be manufactured by 1980, transportation experts say.

The new subway seems certain to be built, even if the federal and provincial governments don’t help to pay the two hundred million dollars it will cost. There are members of the Metro council who feel sure Metro can swing it alone with the help of the revenue from a two-mill surtax approved this spring. If the financing can be arranged early this summer actual work could start by winter. The TTC says it would give almost immediate employment to at least 2,500 men.

Plans provide not only for the crosstown tube, but a downtown loop which will consist of an extension of the Yonge route, past the Union Station and up University Avenue to where it meets Bloor.

The construction and design of the new line, with its twenty-five stations, will be much the same as the Yonge subway. The same kind of scratch-resistant, easy-to-clean tile will be used on the walls.

The same cut-and-cover technique, which made a ditch of Yonge Street for months, will be used for the new line but because it lies to the north of the street itself the same loss of business to merchants and inconvenience to everyone should not result. Streetcars will disappear from Bay as well as from Bloor Street.

For months the TTC has had a sign on Bloor Street apologizing for its poor streetcar service and promising an improvement when the rapid transit is built. There have been many times during the strenuous and often bitter subway debate, which has been called the biggest and longest row in Toronto’s stormy political history, that the assumption explicit in the sign was far from warranted. While there has always been a strong thread of support running through the Metro Council’s tangled skein of political manoeuvres, opposition to the subway idea itself has always been present.

Up to the final stages Reeve Marie Curtis, a housewifely politician from suburban lakeshore Long Branch, was still voting against any suggestion of a subway. Mrs. Curtis, who sometimes uses her kitchen the way Bernard Baruch uses a park bench and gets in a few licks of politicking while she gets caught up with her housework on weekends, frequently wondered out loud what there was in all this for her constituents. She thinks there should be a single fare all over the Metro area.

Agitation for the construction of an east-west line increased in 1954 when Allan Lamport, a former mayor of Toronto, was appointed to the transit commission as vice-chairman. He became chairman in 1955.

Lamport warned that something had to be done to provide better crosstown movement if the transit commission was to be responsible for moving people around the city. The TTC spoke of a

“black year” not too far in the future when the city’s traffic might well, so far as it knew, end up in immobile chaos.

A hint of what might happen, even with the help of rapid transit, was given on the Thursday before Christmas of last year. All during that day the Yonge Street subway ran at capacity, something that hadn't been expected to happen for years.

By early 1957 a proposal to build an expressway along Bloor was thrown out as being impractical and the scene was set for the Great Subway Debate. The principal actors were already on stage, and talking; others were in the wings waiting for their cues. Here are the principal players:

Frederick Gardiner, sometimes called the supermayor of Metropolitan Toronto, who acts as chairman, father image, mentor, sergeant-major and advisor to the twenty-four men and women from twelve suburban municipalities plus Toronto City who make up the Metropolitan Council. Gardiner, whose features are so craggy that he makes men like Admiral Bull Halsey look effete, is loved, disliked, feared and respected by his flock. Elected by the council (under the provision of the provincial statute that created Metro) rather than by the electorate, Gardiner has no vote except in case of a deadlock. This leaves him free to instruct, direct and sometimes bully his colleagues.

A lawyer, he is particularly skillful in unraveling a snarled-up debate and laying it out verbally with all the elements tagged for easy recognition. His tongue is quick and sometimes sharp. He is equally quick to apologize when he thinks he has gone too far.

Nathan Phillips, the white-haired mayor of Toronto who has been in city council for more than thirty years. Phillips and Gardiner, when placed at the same head table, have a Buck and Bubbles routine in which they exchange somewhat arch jests about the phenomenon of Toronto having two mayors. Phillips’ punchline is that he is “the mayor of all the people.”

Allan Lamport, TTC chairman, was the first Liberal mayor since William Lyon Mackenzie. Lamport is a round jolly man who looks as though he might have escaped from a Toby jug. His three years as mayor of Toronto were distinguished by his successful advocacy of Sunday sport and Metro. His feuding with Gardiner over the subway route has provided the yeast that almost leavened the long delays. Because Gardiner appeared to be the aggressor in most of their skirmishes Lamport professes to be puzzled by the reports of a vendetta. “Why should I be sore at Gardiner?” he says. “After all, I helped him to get his job with Metro.” Gardiner says: “Why should I be sore at Lampy? After all, I helped him get his job with the TTC. It just happens there are times when I think he is wrong and I tell him so."

The setting against which the biggest scenes of the Great Debate were played was the council room of the new Metro building in downtown Toronto. The chamber itself is a high room, softly but effectively lighted, finished in green with blond wood. The members’ desks are arranged in a big horseshoe.

Despite this flossy evidence* of the modern interior-decorator’s art there is a stubborn informality in the atmosphere. Members visit back and forth with each other or with the reporters as they seek support for a project while debate is in progress. When the proceedings become unbearably turgid a councilor is likely to unfold a newspaper the way the bigleague legislators sometimes do and catch up on what western oils and Pogo have been doing. Even when the Great Debate was at its height not all the seats set aside for the public were taken. So, it was only natural that when the waitresses from a nearby restaurant came around with tea and coffee, halfway through each session, the group of taxpayers in the corner should each be given a cup, too.

One of the high points in the controversy was reached early in the year under the glare of arc lights being used by a camera crew making a movie for television in the Metro Council chamber.

The purpose of the two-day meeting was to choose between the TTC’s T route and the U route sponsored by Murray Jones, the red-haired director of Metro’s planning board. Jones, a New Brunswicker, is one of the few homegrown planners in Canada. He brought with him evidence gathered from statistics winnowed by electronic computers. Jones maintained throughout the hearings that it made much better sense to listen to the whirring of an electronic machine than some old lady waiting for a streetcar, when seeking advice as to where to build a two-hundrcd-million-dollar subway. He had the distinction of introducing the haunting phrase “desire line” into the discussion of the route the subway might, or should, take. A desire line, it developed, is the way people are likely to go to get there.

The TTC’s general manager, W. E. P. Duncan, and the other gray-haired members of the TTC staff, seemed to look at Jones and his young helpers much the same way veteran bush pilots might look at jet jockeys who had just won their wings. The TTC men had a hard time to keep from looking smug when they reminded their listeners that they knew nothing about electronic gadgets; all they knew was how to move people from one place to another.

Jones’ U route followed roughly the same line as the T route at its extremities but at Christie in the west and Pape in the east the line dipped down to Queen Street, deep in downtown Toronto, forming the U from which the proposal got its name.

Abortive suggestions had been made for other alphabetical alternatives including a W route and an O route, which was to follow a great circle course. Mrs. Mary Young, a housewife married to a technical schoolteacher, was at the meeting still hoping to get across her own V route, which would send two underground arms reaching out from the centre of the city to the suburbs in the northeast and the northwest. Mrs. Young, who had become known as The Subway Lady, realized there wasn't much chance for her scheme but she was there just in case.

The train of events that had brought these disputants together got rolling early in 1957 when Lamport, with the help of the TTC staff and consultant Norman Wilson, had produced their so-called T plan. At that time Lamport gleefully talked about the shovels taking their first bite by October.

But Gardiner wanted to have another look before buying.

‘Tm not going to build any monuments to stupidity,” he said, and then asked the Metro planning board to examine the plan. Murray Jones, the director, got his own expert, Walter Blucher of Chicago, and went to work. When the electronic computers stopped whirring, the U route, full of new curves and new controversy, took ^shape on the planners’ drafting boards. By the middle of July it was ready to be unveiled and the battle between Gardiner and Lamport was on.

Supermayor Gardiner said the T line had been “planned in error” and said Expert Blucher agreed with him. TTC Chairman Lamport said this about-face of an old friend of the T plan came as “a considerable shock.” Mayor Phillips interjected the remark that he was "fed up with Gardiner’s delaying tactics’ but it was unlikely he was heard clearly for everyone was watching and listening to the principals.

When Lamport complained about the “cruel delay” Gardiner, who showed a greater inclination to go for the body with his punches, replied, “Lamport with a tin Ilute can make moreTuss and row

than Sousa could with his whole band.”

In late October an attempt was made to break the deadlock by letting the electors decide, but this suggestion was thrown out of Metro Council by a vote of eleven to nine. Finally, it was decided to bring everyone together with their reports, charts, prejudices and proposals and let them plead their cases before the council. The TTC men approached the matter with an air of mild distaste bordering on wistfulness. When the Yonge Street subway was built they didn’t have to ask anyone for the money; they had it in reserve. Now they had to come, maps in hand, to plead before the Metro Council for what they felt was clearly right.

At one time, as he studied the conflicting suggestions, Gardiner toyed with the idea of suggesting that Metro ask a board of three to adjudicate the dilemma. "But then I decided that this was our own problem and it was our responsibility to solve it ourselves,” he said recently.

Now, as the two-day meeting opened, the principals were, at last, face-to-face except for the seating arrangements, which had placed them at an oblique angle to each other like counsel at a trial. Lampy wore a tie in the double blue of the Argonaut Rowing Club and in his lapel a cornflower. Both were flanked by their advisors, whom they consulted frequently as the sessions moved slowly through each day into the night. Gardiner presided with an impartiality and firmness that was granite.

“Stop getting into the act”

The TTC told its story first, using as spokesmen Wilson the planning man, Duncan the practical man and finally Lamport the front man. Apart from suggesting that the machine-made U plan was the result of “fuzzy” thinking they were almost kind to Jones and his young staff, who had to admit they had never so much as taken the tiller of a streetcar.

Only once, to the great disappointment of the gallery which drifted off on the .second day when Jones was on the stand, did the duelists cross swords. When Gardiner asked a question of Wilson, Lamport undertook to supply the answer. “He’s capable of answering the question,” said the supermayor. Lamport rose, his accustomed cheeriness swept away by anger. “I didn’t come here to be insulted,” he said. Gardiner waved him back to his seat with his big hand. “Just stop getting into the act,” he said almost gently, “or we’ll never get anywhere.”

Late in the second night, after Jones had finished his presentation which was accompanied by even bigger and gaudier charts than the TTC’s, the councilors attempted to solve their own indecision about the routes by asking the planners of both factions to meet privately and see if they couldn't agree. This was a little like nominating a man called Sherman for mayor of Atlanta but they began a series of meetings which soon reached the expected impasse.

It was Gardiner, the strong man, who broke the deadlock by going to a meeting of the Metro planning board prepared to get behind the Bloor line of the TTC. He had looked at it from all angles; he had encouraged the sponsor of each proposal to explain and defend his scheme; he himself had spent his Christmas holiday studying the seven reports, weighing fifteen pounds in all, thoroughly. Now his mind was made up and he was prepared to fight and fight hard for the Bloor or T route. With his support the planning board approved the TTC plan.

When the council met, late in February, every member was given a 4,500word brief in which Gardiner had spelled out, with accustomed force and clarity, the arguments for taking immediate action on the subway. The first move was, he said, to ask the province for the right to borrow the hundred and twenty millions which would be Metro’s share. The TTC would pay the rest of the two-hundred-million-dollar tab.

Without this permissive legislation the whole project would be delayed for at least another year, Gardiner explained. At the same time he attempted to quiet the nervous councilors by assuring them this was not a vote to decide on the subway itself.

But they were not reassured. Ford Brand, a Toronto controller with a laborunion background but a manner, when faced with civic expenditure, that suggests a branch-bank manager listening to an old horseplayer’s application for a loan, implored his colleagues to have another long hard look at the price tag. This, he said, would be the biggest item any council would ever buy. Amendments and sub-amendments piled up in confusion until the legislative machinery of the council faltered and threatened to stall.

When one councilor appealed to Gardiner to "bail them out” the supermayor regarded the ruins of his strategy impassively for a moment and then grunted, “Let ’em talk.”

And talk they did. Reeve Vernon Singer of North York walked out, returning from time to time to report on how disgusted he was. "And they say vaudeville is dead,” jeered Alderman Donald Summerville of Toronto.

Late that night they did agree to ask for the right to ask for the money to build a subway. It was clearly understood, of course, that this did not suggest in any way that they were in favor of a subway.

But they were in favor of the subwayeven though it took some of them a while to find out. At a later meeting Ford Brand, who will probably run for mayor this fall, got behind the subway when he seemed to realize that continued opposition to it might hurt his chances. Gardiner made it easy for him to shift his position by backing his suggestion that the cost be split fifty-fifty between Metro and the TTC. This figure was later change ed to fifty five percent for Metro at a meeting with the commission.

Lamport added what was intended to be a calming note when he expressed the opinion that the fare level could be held at twelve and a half cents, still the cheapest subway ride on the continent, for at least five years. The fare has gone up twice, from eight and a third cents to ten cents to twelve and a half cents since the subway began operating. The TTC showed a profit of $1.5 million last year.

Nathan Phillips put aside his opposition to the two-mill surtax, despite his well-known reluctance to take any legislative action that might make the voters annoyed with him. Even though some of them still thought the subway would mean more to Toronto than it would to their constituents, the suburban reeves one by one lent their support, heartened by the belief that when their own pet project came along Fred Gardiner would fight just as hard for it as he had for this one. Mrs. Curtis still voted against it.

And behind their fourteen hours of talk—the sound of democracy, municipal style, in action—could be heard, by some of the listeners, the distant imagined rumble, like an echo from the future, of the first train on the Bloor Street subway line, it