Sunday, July 17, 2016

Toronto Transit Debates of the Past

Alfred St Germain’s 1898 proposal for a new Toronto-Richmond Hill “express” connection was to feature the Toronto designed and built electric-powered 25-passenger “Autocar”. Interestingly, the word Autocar was one of several terms suggested by inventors of the day to describe what we know today simply as the car or automobile.

St. Germain (1827-1909) had great plans to provide a form of “rapid” passenger transportation between Toronto and Richmond Hill.

Unfortunately, his dream to have a fleet of autocars replace the “erratic and ill-managed” Metropolitan Radial Railway (that operated electric streetcars that would eventually connect the city with communities as far north as Keswick near Lake Simcoe) failed to materialize. One of the reasons was that just as many of today’s “all electric” vehicles have a limited range, so too would St. Germain’s Autocars. It would be necessary to stop and recharge. Obviously this would be time consuming. Meanwhile the north Yonge streetcars were constantly powered through overhead wires.

Steep hills, like the one north of Thornhill, was also a problem especially when the Autocar carried a heavy passenger and freight load. St. Germain lived on a large piece of property on Yonge St. north of Toronto. When subdivided one of the new streets carried his surname (St. Germain) while another (Old Orchard Grove) recognizes the large orchard that surrounded his residence.

OK, here’s my question, how many of you are tired of the on again, off again, on again, off again discussion about the construction of the Bloor-Danforth (Line 2) subway extension into Scarborough, something that is apparently on again?

I have a newspaper report dated June 29, 1977 that confirms that council had given its approval to go ahead with the construction of a $108.7 million light rail to connect the future site of today’s Scarborough Town Centre with the eastern (Kennedy) station of the TTC’s Bloor – Danforth subway, and to have it open sometime in 1980. Am I missing something?

Actually, what prompts this “after the fact” column (in case you hadn’t heard that the $3 billion connection got the go ahead last Thursday with the Town Centre extension opening scheduled to take place in 2025 — Yikes, I’ll be in my 80s while that little kid over there playing Pokemon will be a teenager) is a proposal to build another subway.

This new project will be a 7.4-km, $4 billion five station line connecting the TTC’s existing Finch station on the Yonge line (Line 1) with the Richmond Hill Centre (near Yonge and Hwy 7).

Let’s see, 48 years to build that extension into Scarborough? The Richmond Hill extension better have a waiting room with really comfortable chairs.
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