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How the TTC used to deal with overcrowding

Posted by Chris Bateman / January 28, 2013

TTC staggered hoursIn light of this week's TTC stroller debate, here's a look back at how the Commission used to deal with overcrowding on its streetcars and busses; simply carrying fewer people. By encouraging companies to stagger work hours, the TTC spread the 5:00 rush over a longer period when jam-packed vehicles and surface gridlock were daily occurrences.

In the mid 40s, the same art department that urged riders to have exact fare and to scolded those that didn't shuffle to the back of the streetcar during peak times, also produced billboards asking workers talk to their employers about starting and finishing earlier or later. The concept was sold as a way to get more free time during regular daylight hours, either in the morning or late afternoon.

TTC staggered hoursIn 1941, riders made 25 million more trips than the year before, an increase of 15%. This sudden spike was likely a consequence of gasoline and rubber rationing for private car owners, something the TTC itself had to overcome. Speaking to the Toronto Star in January of that year, general manager Henry Patten said the ultimate goal of Toronto's transit provider was to provide the best possible service for "the many thousands of workers engaged in the war industries of Toronto."toronto staggered hoursThe city's traffic conference and works committee suggested downtown offices and factories choose from an 8:30 - 4:30, 9:00 - 5:00, or 9:30 - 5:30 workday and in 1942 the TTC itself adopted the scheme for its office staff. Toronto Hydro and a large munitions plant that employed more than 6,000 workers were also notable early starters. Staggered hours schemes were also adopted in Ottawa and Montreal around the same time.

The long lost Queen Street subway, designed to be an underground streetcar route fed by the Dundas, Danforth, and Queen cars, was another way the TTC and the provincial government hoped to solve the choking traffic. Despite the on-going war, or perhaps because of it, these bumper years eventually spurred the construction of the Yonge line and drove new investment in Toronto transit.

Let's hope today's overcrowding will eventually lead to a better TTC, too.TTC staggered hours

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Photos: City of Toronto Archives.



iSkyscraper / January 28, 2013 at 09:10 am
It's pretty fantastic that in Toronto you can still, sometimes, say "car" as a shorthand for "streetcar". Not as prevalent as when these posters were made, of course, but a meaning that has completely disappeared elsewhere.
iurbanplanner / January 28, 2013 at 09:40 am
"the fifth winter of war". that's some rhetorical flourish there. the best we seem to manage in 2012 is "subways, subways, subways".
Skye / January 28, 2013 at 10:10 am
That gives some context around the "Sinking Ship" ad from the TTC Etiquette series (linked above). Rather than the TTC saying "you could have it worse, so don't complain", it's a reminder that in wartime everyone has to make sacrifices. Also, obviously, that there were greater sacrifices than having to wait for an uncrowded streetcar.
the lemur replying to a comment from Skye / January 28, 2013 at 10:27 am
It was also a time when, war or no war, you could actually ask people to be considerate and understanding and to think of the greater good and actually expect them to think about it, at least.
K-Borg / January 28, 2013 at 11:17 am
I want a Victory Garden!
Me replying to a comment from the lemur / January 28, 2013 at 12:20 pm
When people still had manners and were considerate and not self centred animals as they are now.
Alex replying to a comment from Me / January 28, 2013 at 01:29 pm
Yes, the 50s was a golden age where everyone was perfectly behaved and cared about each other. That's why there was a war where thousands died in concentration camps. Because people were just more considerate then. Honestly, why does everyone think people were somehow magically better in the past? People have actually been getting better in terms of their attitudes toward each other over time. I sure wouldn't have wanted to be anyone except a white male in the 50s, otherwise life would have sucked.
Me / January 28, 2013 at 01:44 pm
The 50's? try even just 10 years ago. people have NO respect os consideration any more. Most likely they spend so much time "social networking" that they can no longer function in the real world.
Vic / January 28, 2013 at 02:12 pm
"There is no surplus of manpower, or of women" !!
Skye / January 28, 2013 at 02:20 pm
It's a bit simplistic to say "people had better manners back then!" If they did, then why did the TTC need to run etiquette ads back then?
the lemur replying to a comment from Alex / January 28, 2013 at 02:45 pm
These ads are from the '40s - not that people were perfectly behaved then either, but they were not easy times and people were at least aware of the sacrifices, however small, that they would have to make even though the war was far away from them. That people died in concentration camps during WW2 had nothing to do with a lack of 'consideration' or standards of behaviour and everything to do with an army driven by a political movement that aimed to dehumanize people even more than war usually does. (You may also want to look into when the first concentration camps were created, and by whom - they are not a 20th-century phenomenon).

Ads from the '50s would have addressed a more complacent, prosperous audience that had forgotten some elements of polite interaction - not one facing the effects of wartime shortages.
Really? replying to a comment from Alex / January 28, 2013 at 03:42 pm
You might want to recheck your history timelines. WWII was not in the 1950's.
Alex replying to a comment from Really? / January 28, 2013 at 04:58 pm
Just saying the 50's because it's the one that comes up the most often when people lament about "the good ol' days".

To "the lemur": The fact that they were successful in dehumanizing a people just shows that people were not generally "better" back then. It shows that people were much more open to prejudice and discrimination back then (I'd like to think the same level of discrimination couldn't happen now in the Western world, though I don't know if I'm being overly optimistic). We talk about how easy it is for politicians to manipulate people and divide us now, but that has been true for all of history.

Just saying that it's very frustrating to hear people talk about society going down the drain, when it is actually much better now than it has ever been before. The only difference is that there are more people, so it is more crowded all the time rather than just in extreme times like in the 40's.
vampchick21 / January 28, 2013 at 05:23 pm
I hate people, you are all rude!
TJ / January 28, 2013 at 09:33 pm
Errr.....hello, this isn't 1941, it's 2013, with over 6 million in the GTA, to hell with excessive manners, in a city this size it's every man for himself, no one else gives a crap, so honestly, why should I? I refuse to be pushed around by anyone, and god help anyone that tries! It's a moot point to me, I drive to work, I'm in my own space without having to be shoved into a packed train or street car with the rest of the cattle! Being miserable, and treating anyone who gets in your way like dirt, is every Torontonians god given right! Remember, TTC really mean Take The Car! Enjoy your smelly, disease ridden boiling hot and over crowded public transit, I'll stick with my car thank you very much!
the lemur replying to a comment from Alex / January 28, 2013 at 10:49 pm
No, people weren't inherently better (or worse) at any particular time in the past. That's not what these ads were appealing to. To say that the people who were receptive to the TTC's appeal for understanding during unusual circumstances created by war were somehow no better than those who were responsible for millions being killed in concentration camps or no better than those who allowed it to happen is a stretch to say the least.

We do still have that same level of discrimination in this world, just in different forms, and genocide still occurs.

These ads and the response to them at the time have nothing to do with politeness or the inherent good or bad nature of people now or then. It was just the TTC telling people that things were going to be difficult and very different because of the war effort. I don't know what level of understanding that campaign met with but it's difficult to imagine people being sufficiently community-minded now to think they even have a part in it.
AnchezSanchez / January 29, 2013 at 12:22 am
I brought up an idea I'd had to a mate of mine who works for the city the other night - Toronto should offer small tax breaks to companies who encourage employees to work from home one day a week, or offer 4x10hr days as an option. Obviously not available in all roles but imagine if even 7-8% of commuters were off the road on any given day, I think it'd make a hell of a difference.
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