How about solving traffic jams with trolley buses?

Frank Touby –111

This might seem Grinch-like, but since we have a new mayor, some new councillors and a new year, perhaps it’s time to have a new TTC. How about one (hear us out) with no streetcars?
Yes, it’s radical and the streetcars are an emblem of Toronto. Why they’re as iconic in our city as…well…as traffic jams.

In fact, those iconic streetcars are in large part what help create our equally iconic traffic jams.

Now on the good side of streetcars are these features:

• Many people absolutely love them, especially the images of the original, cute Presidential Commission Coaches (PCC) that are no longer running
• The new ones give an ultra-smooth ride, eventually getting you to your destination
• They use electricity which mainly only pollutes the environment in Pickering and mainly just with tritium in Lake Ontario and nuclear waste, not carbon, stored on-site in swimming pools
• The new ultra-modern streetcars like you see on Queens Quay—if you can get there past the seemingly perpetual road-construction disaster—are really sleek looking and you can picture them lined up behind each other on, say, King Street.

Four or five in a row waiting for the same traffic signal can be quite a colourful (red) spectacle
Back in the 1970s it was somewhat different on Toronto streets. TTC transit was very often by trolley bus.

They were electric and they could move in the middle lane and pull over into the curb lane to service passengers.

They didn’t line up in a parade like rail-bound streetcars because a disabled trolley bus could be pushed over to the side and disconnected from the overhead wires to let the rest of them pass through.

One other nice thing about them: They ran on the regular roadway and didn’t require ultra-expensive concrete beds that need to be dug up and replaced every number of years, further clogging vehicular traffic.

That may be a boon (or boondoggle?) for contractors and concrete companies, but it’s an ongoing nightmare for the rest of us.

The trollies vanished from our streets and were shipped to Argentina.

So we’re still stuck with these new state-of-the-art traffic-constipating vehicles that Toronto, a city in denial about its ongoing war on the car despite its unsynchronized traffic lights, has spent your money to acquire.

Perhaps some smaller cities elsewhere could find a use for them without creating traffic jams. And if it’s electricity we’re hooked on, how about a return to the trolley bus?

One comment

  1. While I appreciate the attention to the transit issues I can’t agree with this. The authors didn’t mention the most important difference between streetcars and trolley buses – capacity. This is the most distinctive feature of streetcars (not just their loveliness as it comes from the article). New light-rail vehicle (more appropriate term) can carry as many as 300 riders as opposed to 80-100 riders in the trolley bus. That is why light-rail vehicles are designed to handle heavy passenger flows whereas trolley buses and buses usually operate on less busy routes (not just in Toronto, but across the world to). They are not interchangeable.

    To me the article looks like a comparison apples with oranges. It would make more sense to discuss the conversion of some of the bus routes into trolley bus routes and the ways how we can improve the service on streetcar lines (more private right-of-ways combined with bike lanes?). I think we all have to change our attitude to public transit and don’t take this issue lightly. It is pretty much the same complex area as, say, surgery, where hell of the knowledge and expertise is needed before jumping into conclusions. This article, unfortunately, is quite opposite to this approach.