Ministry of Public and Business Service Delivery
At the turn of the 20th century, approximately 200,000 people lived in Toronto. Within a decade, the population doubled and traffic congestion grew in the downtown core.Around this time, the Toronto Railway Company (the city’s privately-owned transit provider) replaced horse-drawn streetcars with electric trolleys.
Pretoria Day, Yonge Street Toronto, looking north of King Street, June 5, 1901
York Pioneer and Historical Society fonds
F 1143, S 1244
Archives of Ontario, I0006399
Politician Horatio Hocken and others began advocating for a subway in Toronto by 1910.A year later, the City Engineer had plans and specifications prepared for a subway line that would link downtown to the intersection of Yonge Street and St. Clair Avenue. Toronto ratepayers voted down the proposal.
"Gen. Horatio Hocken leading the city volunteers in the fight with the Toronto Street Railway," [between 1905 and 1914]
Newton McConnell fonds
Archives of Ontario, I0006135
"Controller Hocken: Just watch me get in there on the ground floor," [between 1905 and 1914]
Newton McConnell fonds
Archives of Ontario, I0006150
On January 1, 1920, Toronto voters approved the city purchase of both the Toronto Railway Company and another private transit provider, the Toronto & York Radial Railway. The municipally-owned Toronto Transportation Commission (TTC) began operation on September 1, 1921.
The TTC made a proposal to city council recommending two subway lines. One line would run from the area of Yonge and Front Streets north to St. Clair Avenue. The second line would parallel Queen Street running east and west between Trinity Park and Broadview Avenue. Canada’s involvement in World War II meant the subway project was not a high priority at the time.
Over the next few years the project progressed slowly. A small team of TTC staff continued to study the subway project and consultants created preliminary plans and cost estimates. The TTC presented a revised plan to Torontonians after the war concluded in 1945. On January 1, 1946, ratepayers voted in favour of the project by a ratio of nearly 10 to 1.
Construction of the Yonge subway - Canada's first subway - officially began on September 8, 1949.
Building the subway would not be easy. While the TTC made every effort to maintain access to stores and businesses along the route, disruptions were inevitable and traffic congestion on other routes was an ongoing concern.
Further complications emerged when Canada entered the Korean War in 1950, and men and materials were diverted to the war effort.
The Yonge subway opened to much fanfare on March 30, 1954. After more than ten years of planning and four years of construction, a symbolic signal light blinked from red to green and the first train rolled out of Davisville station.
The first stretch of subway line ran 7.4 kilometres between Union Station and Eglinton Station. The first subway fleet comprised of 104 cars produced by the Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company of England.