|Globe and Mail, July 26, 1997. Click on image for larger version.|
It’s possible opponents of the line forgot that Spadina had a long history of streetcar service, complete with a right-of-way down its spine, that operated from 1892 to 1948. Its demise came when streetcar service was “temporarily” suspended to conserve power amid postwar electrical shortages, though some city councillors were inclined to scrap it during proposals to widen Spadina Avenue. Apart from a stretch of track utilized by the Harbord streetcar until 1966, regular and trolley buses became the means of transit for the next half-century.
When the TTC scrapped its plan to eliminate all streetcar service in the early 1970s, it was amenable to a proposal from transit activists Streetcars for Toronto to restore cars to Spadina. Noise concerns from residents and the provincial government’s preference for investing in new forms of transit equipment (think Scarborough RT) resulted in the idea being shelved. A decade later, a revised TTC proposal, in partnership with a Harbourfront line, was backed by the Star. A May 1983 editorial declared that a streetcar separated from traffic would be speedier than the “buses which now have to pick their way through Spadina’s horrendous congestion.”
|Toronto Star, March 29, 1992.|
An endless series of public consultations and holdups followed that produced a series of compromises before the line was finally green-lit in 1992. Major concessions included reducing sidewalk loss, installing trees, lowering the barrier/raising the tracks so that vehicles could turn left anywhere along the street, and only enforcing the right-of-way during rush hours.
|Toronto Star, July 21, 1997. Click on image for larger version.|
One compromise opponents insisted on proved disastrous. During the line’s first year there were 160 collisions between streetcars and other vehicles. Most of the accidents happened when cars tried to turn left at non-signalled intersections. Globe and Mail columnist John Barber awarded the “biggest bonehead award” to a driver who turned into the side of a streetcar that had just stopped beside him. The driver told the streetcar operator, “I didn’t see you.”
The long-contested barriers were installed.
Additional material from the October 4, 1985 and September 4, 1997 editions of the Globe and Mail, and the May 13, 1983, June 4, 1986, July 21, 1997, July 28, 1997, August 10, 1997, and July 14, 1998 editions of the Toronto Star.