streetcar art toronto

Artists are turning an old TTC streetcar into a vibrant neon masterpiece

Bombardier is finally coming close to fulfilling the rest of Toronto's order for 204 new Flexity Outlook streetcars, marking the end of an era for our beloved old cherry-red CLRVs.

By the end of 2019, every one of the city's older "legacy streetcars" will have been replaced by new, more reliable Flexity Outlook vehicles.

It's great news for transit riders who've been suffering in recent years from frequent short turns, weather-related mechanical problems and severe overcrowding on the CLRVs — most of which were launched in the late 1970s and are meant to have been retired by now.

Still, it'll be a sad day when the streetcar style Toronto has known and loved for nearly 40 years is officially wiped from the TTC's fleet.

In celebration of their existence and impact on Toronto's visual identity, a group of artists have been working all year to transform at least one of these old streetcars into a work of public art.

Their colourful, one-of-a-kind streetcar will be unveiled to the public on Wednesday at the TTC's Hillcrest Yard before it's put into limited service on the 506 Carlton, 501 Queen and 511 Bathurst lines.

"Born in Switzerland, raised in Thunder Bay, made famous right here in Toronto. The Canadian Light Rail Vehicle is an icon — as much a symbol of the city as the CN Tower," reads a description of the citizen-funded project, which has been dubbed "A Streetcar Named Toronto."

"Since 1979, they’ve played an outsized role in our urban existence. Whether it was riding to a job interview, a first date, or just watching them go by, our lives as Torontonians are fused with our CLRVs," it continues.

"A Streetcar Named Toronto is an art project and urban exploration that asks the question 'What do these streetcars mean to us?' It’s our chance to answer that question and, in doing, say a proper goodbye."

The project team secured the use of an old Canadian Light Rail Vehicle in early 2019, and, after launching a design competition that attracted more than 80 submissions, chose five talented artists to work their magic.

Jacquie Comrie, aka "the Queen of Colour," was selected to paint the exterior of the streetcar, while acclaimed Canadian street artist Chris Perez has taken on the rear ceiling and floor.

Nicole Beno, Ryan Van Der Hout and Suanne McGregor have redesigned the car's interior ceiling, advertising spaces and textiles and lighting, respectively.

Sadly, the streetcar won't be around for long after it is reborn as public art this week.

TTC officials told The Star that it's destined for scrap metal upon retirement at the end of 2019, just like the rest of Toronto's old CLRVs.

Until then, it will run on the 506 Carlton line during the week, be put into service on the 501 Queen line during weekends, and will run all night long on the 511 Bathurst line for Toronto's Nuit Blanche this October 5.

Grab those Instas while you can.

Lead photo by

A Streetcar Named Toronto

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