Rapid Transit For Toronto
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 20 Oct 1949, p. 56-66
Tate, H.W., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
The Toronto Transportation Commission. Income and wage figures. The TTC viewed as an industry, a manufacturer of car miles and bus miles. Some statistics of production and employment. Percentage of male employees who are returned veterans. A brief history of the 100 years of public transportation in Toronto. The TTC's takeover of control in 1921, and the beginning of rebuilding the old system. Details of the rebuilding. Consideration of the construction of a Rapid Transit line in 1942. Design work by Canadian engineers. The issue of American contractors. A slide presentation to explain the location of the subway.
Date of Original
20 Oct 1949
Language of Item
Copyright Statement
The speeches are free of charge but please note that the Empire Club of Canada retains copyright. Neither the speeches themselves nor any part of their content may be used for any purpose other than personal interest or research without the explicit permission of the Empire Club of Canada.
Empire Club of Canada
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Fairmont Royal York Hotel

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Toronto, ON, M5J 1E3

Full Text
Chairman: The President, Mr. H. G. Colebrook
Thursday, October 20th, 1949


I assume that I am right in stating that the very large majority of the Citizens of Toronto are proud of our Transportation Commission.

Through the years, they have served the City well and efficiently, resulting in a satisfactory financial position.

They are now embarking on a gigantic new scheme designed to maintain that quality of service which has characterised their past performance.

Your new Secretary suggested to the Speakers' Committee that probably the Members would be interested in a talk on the new Subway and on contacting Mr. Clancy--of their Public Relations--he immediately cooperated fully--and so today we have their genial Assistant General Manager, Mr. Tate, to tell his story.


Mr. President and Gentlemen

Personally I thank the President for his very kind words about our Transportation Commission. They are some of the kindest words I have heard lately, since we started the subway project. I was very much alarmed at being-ordered almost-to speak before this distinguished audience. I was nervous, but having looked around the audience and seen so many of my old friends, some of them fishing partners, I realize it is just an ordinary crowd, so there is nothing to be alarmed about.

I was embarrassed because Mr. Harpham's genial secretary called me up and said the President was a very punctual man, and I had to be on time. I said I had always been punctual, even for my first birthday. She argued with me about that; so I said I was there, I know I was on time.

I have no apologies in speaking on behalf of the Transportation Commission here today. We are a very important utility in this city. Last year, the year 1948, our total income was 25 million dollars; on the City System our income was 20 million dollars. And out of that we paid in wages over 15 million dollars. 62 cents out of every dollar collected on our System goes into wages.

We are an industry, a manufacturer of car miles and bus miles, and unless we produce a commodity, that is a bus mile and a street car mile, or a coach mile, which is attractive to the public, we don't sell our product. We are not like the Eaton Company and the Simpson Company. If they put on a sale and they don't sell those goods that day they can still sell them the next day. We are not in that fortunate position. If we manufacture a car mile or a bus mile today, and it is not used, we lose the money we invested in that operation.

In a year we manufacture some 38 million car, bus and coach miles. We employ over 6,100 people. And we have a very proud record in our male employees, in that over 62% of our male employees are returned veterans of the First or Second World Wars, and you will agree that is a record to be proud of.

One hundred years ago this year, public transportation started in Toronto, by a bus line running on Yonge Street from the old Red Lion Hotel north of Bloor Street, south on Yonge Street and to the St. Lawrence Market.

In 1861 the first street car, horse car system was started in Toronto, and one of the regulations or clauses in the agreement with the Company operating that street car line was that the cars were not to exceed 6 miles an hour. That was 1861. In 1949, on Yonge Street we are not exceeding six miles an hour in the rush hour. We are still living up to the regulations of 1861. In fact, during the rush hour in the winter we don't make six miles an hour. I have started level with the street car at Front and Yonge, and paced that car up as far as College, and once or twice I have caught a car that I started with at Front Street, at Bloor. Now that is not modern, attractive transportation.

In 1921 the Toronto Transportation Commission took over the operation and control, complete control, of the public transportation system in Toronto. They acquired the old Toronto Railway Company, and they took over the Civic Railways, and full power was given to the Transportation Commission to operate the system. It had to be self-supporting. Not a penny must go out of your taxes toward the operation of the railway or towards the debt charges. I say that without fear of contradiction from the City Treasurer on my left.

Starting in the fall of 1921, the Commission started to rebuild the old system. It was in a fearfully run-down condition, so run-down, in fact, that it was a sort of saying that the street cars only stayed on the track because of the pressure of the trolley wheel on the trolley wire.

One of the first lines to be rebuilt was Yonge Street, and in 1921 Yonge Street was rebuilt from Front Street to Woodlawn Avenue. I was a junior engineer at that time and had a small part in the reconstruction of Yonge Street.

The next year it was rebuilt from just south of St. Clair Avenue--the old Metropolitan radial was torn up and double-tracked to the City Limits. I am rather proud even of the small part I can claim in rebuilding Yonge Street, because the contractor is complaining very bitterly today of the strength of the concrete he has to break up in building the subway.

Anyway, when we rebuilt Yonge Street in 1921 North Toronto north of St. Clair had a population of about 12,000 people. And there were in the City of Toronto at that time about 32,000 automobiles. Today North Toronto has a population of over 80,000 people, Forest Hill has expanded and there is York Township, Leaside, Fast York, and North York to the north; so that double track running up Yonge Street from the Union Station to the City Limits has to serve a population of well over 100,000 people-an impossible job for that double track.

Since it has been constructed that track has carried an enormous amount of traffic, weighing about 8 million tons a year, so that those rails which were laid in 1921 have had to bear the burden of 8 million tons of traffic a year. As I said, I helped to build that track when I was considerably younger, and the track and I have aged at the same time. It has got smooth on top, its joints are wearing away, and it is more or less a skeleton of its old self.

If we wished to continue surface transportation on Yonge Street, we would have had to rebuild it almost immediately, and to rebuild Yonge Street to the City Limits, all the special track work at the various intersections, to pit on new cars, and to remodel it up to date, would cost the Commission nearly 10 million dollars. And we would perpetuate for another quarter of a century slow and unattractive transportation.

The Commission, realizing that in 1942, advised City Council that as a post-war project and to relieve unemployment, they would construct a Rapid Transit line, first up Yonge Street--under it part of the way--and secondly, another east and west subway running from Trinity Park easterly 'to the C.N.R. east of Broadview.

We started in a very small way to study a Rapid Transit project. We just had one engineer and an assistant at first, but gradually the work of designing the subway grew, and today we have about 80 engineers and designers on the job, and before the subway is complete that number will probably be trebled or quadrupled. When they were building the Chicago subway a few years ago--it is about the same length as our proposed subway--they had something over 600 engineers on the job, but we don't expect to increase our number much beyond 200 or 250.

Most of the work, practically all of it, of designing the subway has been done by Canadian engineers. We first called in as Consultants Mr. Norman D. Wilson, who is a graduate of Toronto University, then Professor Legget was consulted on the soil conditions, Mr. Mathers and Mr. Parkin as Architects, and finally we brought into the picture Messrs. DeLeuw, Cather & Co. of Chicago to help us design the project, so that no criticism can be levelled at the Commission for not employing Canadian technical advice.

There is some criticism of letting the contract to a syndicate composed of three-fourths American contractors. When we first called for tenders, seven contractors bid for the job, and the tender was awarded to the lowest bidders for the sum of approximately $10 million. We have been criticized for not awarding the contract to an all-Canadian contractor. The nearest all-Canadian contractor's bid on the whole job was well over 60 % higher than the lowest bid; so it would have meant we would have had to pay some $16 million for what we are now paying $10 million.

Further, 40% of the job will go in labour, which is practically all Canadian labour. It would have gone to them whether it is a Canadian or American contractor. 45% of the cost goes into materials, of which 50% is labour--that regardless of what contractor obtains the job, that money would have been spent in Canada--and the United States if necessary. The balance of 15% of the 100% of the job is divided into insurance, taxes and contractor's profit, so that the American interest--3/4ths of the successful tenderer's, will just get three-fourths of the contractor's profit. And as a number of their principals are in Canada a lot of the time, they have to spend money in Canada, so it would appear if they are successful in their work and make a profit, which I hope they will, that a comparatively small amount will leave the country.

Now I would like to use the lantern, Mr. President, and go over the slides very quickly and explain the location of the subway.

Slides followed, of which the speaker spoke as follows:

These slides are historical. There is Yonge Street north from King, 1879.

There is a corner of King and Yonge, and here is Michie's-1900.

Here is a picture of the good old days when the Toronto Railway Company gave you six tickets for a quarter. You got properly air-conditioned in travelling.

Another slide (historical).

Another slide, in which the speaker drew attention to the styles of the early days.

That is the type of street car equipment the Commission took over from the Toronto Railway Company--1891-1921.

That is the heavy Witt car now in service on Yonge Street, which the Commission purchased in 1922. It is obsolete compared with our modern car, and therefore if we continued our surface transportation, we would have to replace it.

This is a new P.C.C. street car. We will have by the end of November 489 of these new streamlined cars. When we purchased the first car in 1938 we paid approximately $23,000 a-piece. The latest car you now see operating on Bloor Street costs $40,000 a-piece.

This is Yonge Street at the City Limits in 1922, when the Commission replaced the old Metropolitan carline and extended the double track City System up to the City Limits. You are looking south on Yonge Street. There is the corner of Duplex and Eglinton Avenues in 1922.

That is Eglinton and Duplex--the street car division car house under construction in 1922. If you look west you will see there is practically not a house in sight. Now this is the reason that we can not give you good service on Yonge Street. In the maximum hour between 5 and 6 o'clock we have to carry between 13,000 and 14,000 people north on Yonge Street, the heaviest travelled street car line in North America. In fact, we carry on Yonge Street in the rush hour more people than are carried in the maximum hour on one of the Boston subway systems operated by surface car.

This is a chart showing the flow of traffic from the downtown area in Toronto in the maximum 3 hours. The chart is drawn to scale. You can see by the width of the flow diagram the volume of traffic being carried up Yonge Street, and how heavy this traffic is compared with the other north and south or the east and west lines.

Here is our proposal. The Yonge Street subway starts at the Union Station, goes under Front Street to Yonge, curves under the Bank of Montreal buildings. It then carries north to College, where it switches over to the east and parallels Yonge Street about 175 feet east, and continues on the eastern side of Yonge Street to St. Clair, then it goes on the west side of Yonge Street and continues on the west side of Yonge Street as far as Eglinton. The subway is a structure underground to a point north of Severn Street, where it comes out in the open and stays in the open to Pleasant Boulevard, and then goes underground and stays underground, passing under the Muir Memorial Gardens, comes out at this point and stays in the open until it reaches Berwick Avenue. It then goes underground until it reaches the northerly terminal at Eglinton where there will be a subway terminal and a terminal for all the surface lines coming from the east and west.

The Eglinton terminal is so designed, in case we find it necessary to extend the subway line further north, that it can be done without destroying any of the structure which will be built now. Furthermore, at the south end, at the Union Station, the tunnel is so designed that if we wish to extend it westerly and up University Avenue, no part of the structure will be destroyed.

This is only a sort of cartoon, but it gives you some idea of the quantities and the size of this project. To carry away the excavation requires a train of 400 miles in length. A train 50 miles long would be required to carry sand and gravel, to bring in the backfill, a train 150 miles long. To bring in the steel and cement and lumber requires a train of 17 miles. So you can see that the construction of this work will give a great deal of work to industries in Ontario surrounding Toronto, and wider areas than that; it is not just a local project.

The subway is a box structure. It is built of reinforced concrete. In between stations it is 32'6" in width by a little more than 18' in depth, and at stations 52 feet wide by about 19'3". There are two separate tunnels for the north and southbound traffic. At the station there are no columns on the platform at all, so there is uninterrupted movement on the platforms. The station platforms are designed to be 500 feet in length to accommodate a 10 car train of 45 foot cars.

Now this is how our engineers thought that the subway would be built, and actually it is being built along these lines. On either side you will notice these two upright columns--those soldier piles or big steel members that you see being driven on either side of Yonge Street with so much noise.

Those piles are 12" H members weighing about 65 pounds to the foot, and are driven approximately 8 feet below the bottom of the subway structure. Downtown, south of Adelaide Street, they are driven to rock. They are driven by that pile driver which gives about 145 blows to the minute. In the centre of that picture you will see a red oval-shaped object. That is the main sewer on Yonge Street. To allow us to take that sewer out, the City built a new sewer down Victoria Street, so we can remove that sewer. We have yet to arrange with the City as to what price we will have to pay for that sewer, for they say it is only seventy years old, and a sewer, like wine, improves with age.

The soldier pile driven, and a cross-beam has been erected from top to top of those piles, and the ground excavated underneath.

Now a temporary roadway has been laid on that beam, street car traffic has returned to surface, and the contractor will carry on work underneath. All the public utility facilities have been suspended to the lower part of that cross-beam.

There you have a truss to support the roadway, and digging out the temporary piles in the centre, and the excavations will be carried down.

Now the excavation has been carried down to the bottom; planks have been placed between the soldier piles so as to hold up the side of the excavation. Now they have built the structures of the subway. Here is the centre wall and the side walls and the platform on the side. The subway has been completed, the ground backfilled, the public utilities replaced, and the street repaved, and no sign of the old street car tracks. We are now coming to up-to-date pictures. The opening ceremony of the driving of the first pile on Yonge Street, just south of Wellington.

Here is the pile being driven, with the Lt.-Governor in attendance.

There is a clam shell bucket right opposite our head office, so that we are suffering along with all the other residents on Yonge Street.

There is a pile driver at work on Front Street. You are looking at the Royal York Hotel.

There is the backhoe excavating after the street surface has been removed.

There is a pile driver at work, and you can see the kind of helmets all workmen have to wear, crash helmets, to protect themselves.

There is the excavation, and as our right-of-way curves under the Bank of Montreal, you can see the curve going to the westerly side of Yonge Street. Here are soldier piles being driven. Here is the planking to support the excavation.

Here are the cross-beams being placed to support the temporary roadway. Those beams are only in temporarily and when the structure has been completed and backfill replaced, those beams will be removed and salvaged.

Here are shown three of these cross-beams, and then to support the temporary roadway they are using Douglas fir 12" x 12" sections, and those will be spiked together and traffic run over them.

This shows it a little more completed, and a space is left in the centre of the temporary pavement to accommodate the street car tracks which will be temporarily relaid. These cross pieces of steel placed there in between the cross-beams which, by the way, are 36" in depth, are located where the four rails of the temporary track run. They will be under each of the rails.

Now we have been somewhat criticized for not rushing the work and carrying on 24 hours a day. These are the various public utilities underneath the city pavement, and the various utilities say it is not possible to do a lot of their work of handling these cables during the night.

There it shows again some of the obstructions underneath, some of the city pavement we are running into. Fortunately we are not in as bad a condition as this street in New York where there was a subway under construction. That shows you how fully occupied the street is underneath the pavement.

That is not a very clear scene, but that is one of the transfer stations between the surface point and the subway at Wellesley.

There is the transfer station at Bloor Street and Yonge. To get that transfer station we have to widen Bloor Street at Yonge, so that passengers can leave the Bloor street cars and walk down to the subway station underneath.

That is the Eglinton Station. Into that station will come the surface operations. There will be no street cars from the City Limits any more, but into that station will come buses from Forest Hill, Leaside, East York, North York and the townships to the north. They will all come into that surface station, and passengers will be able to walk down directly into the subway terminal.

This is a model of a mezzanine station we constructed in our building so as to study the layout of a mezzanine station. It is built to full size, the half of a station, so that the lighting, ticket collecting and concessions could be studied by all the officials.

This is just a sort of little preview of what Yonge St. may look like when the street car tracks are removed. That is a street in Boston. The car tracks were removed. The street was not widened, but it gives you the appearance of having doubled in width.

This shows you the interest taken in our project by one of the big stores uptown. I am afraid, Mr. President, it is Eaton's. It is the Sidewalk Superintendents' group, and all those figures you see on the screen are models showing up the various products of the Eaton Co.

That is a view of another window.

Mr. Tate concluded, saying, "Gentlemen, I hurried through this, Mr. President, because you told me I had to get through by 1.30 or as soon as possible thereafter. It has been a very short story of our subway, and I hope I have covered most of the principal points.

Thank you very much indeed."

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Rapid Transit For Toronto

The Toronto Transportation Commission. Income and wage figures. The TTC viewed as an industry, a manufacturer of car miles and bus miles. Some statistics of production and employment. Percentage of male employees who are returned veterans. A brief history of the 100 years of public transportation in Toronto. The TTC's takeover of control in 1921, and the beginning of rebuilding the old system. Details of the rebuilding. Consideration of the construction of a Rapid Transit line in 1942. Design work by Canadian engineers. The issue of American contractors. A slide presentation to explain the location of the subway.