Saturday, June 14, 2014

Toronto's TTC streetcars — then and now

TORONTO - Several weeks ago the suits at the TTC invited a bunch of us media (not medium) types to go for a ride on their new Bombardier modified Flexity model streetcar.

While most of the ladies and gentlemen on board the new car raved about any number of things, because of my interest in history I couldn’t help but wonder whether the newspaper and broadcasting people (television didn’t come to our city for another 14 years) of 1938, the year the Presidents’ Conference Committee “Streamliner” (PCC) was introduced to Torontonians, recorded a similar “Wow”, “Holy Cow” and “What a vehicle!!”?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any specific comments about the new vehicle in any of the Toronto papers. And who knows what the on-air people might have said.

The closest I could come to statements praising the “state of the art” PCC were contained in an ad placed by the TTC. It trumpeted the numerous improvements the new cars had over the existing Peter Witt and “ancient” wooden vehicles in the fleet.

Everything from “a swift, smooth, noiseless ride, “steps inside the front door spaced for safety and just the right height”, “form-fitting seats”, and “airy in the summer, electrically heated and ventilated in the winter.” The PCC is “designed to give you the best transportation service money can buy.”

And speaking of money, the initial PCC order was for 140 vehicles at a cost of $3 million or $21,500 per car. And the new Bombardier vehicle? Two hundred and four vehicles will cost $1.2 billion or nearly $6 million per vehicle. Impossible to compare costs but just for fun, a bottle of Coca Cola in 1938 was a nickel; a copy of the Telegram newspaper 3 cents.
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