TTC 1980s

10 signs you rode the TTC in the 1980s

The TTC can be a storehouse of nostalgia for people who grew up in Toronto. Given that this particular brand of longing isn't necessarily related to happy memories so much as past experiences that at one point became familiar to us, things like red subway cars, Vitrolite tiles, and the rubbery smell of an old TTC bus can invoke strong feelings despite their relative banality.

Here are 10 signs you rode the TTC in the 1980s.

1. You still remember the lights going out on the old Gloucester Trains. The last G-series trains were scrapped in the fall of 1990, which means '80s kids still have vivid memories of their bright red exterior and the propensity for the lights to go out mid-tunnel, casting the train in blackness.

arc en ciel yorkdale station

2. You recall a dazzling light display at Yorkdale Station in the form of Michael Hayden's Arc en Ciel, a multi-coloured neon installation that lit up each time a train entered the station. Minor water damage led the TTC to dismantle it in the 1990s.

3. The last stop on the Spadina Line was Wilson. Downsview Station didn't open until 1996. Can you imagine what the commute to York was like back then, having to take a bus from Wilson? Shudder.

H6 subway car

4. Most subway cars featured a private seat behind the driver's booth. You won't find these amazing seats on the TTC's current fleet of subway cars no matter what the model, but back when the the H-series cars were on the rails one could always dream of snoozing without the possibility of awkward human contact.

5. You remember the black bench seats on the old Fishbowl buses. In fact, you remember a whole lot of these fishbowl buses in general. They ruled the road. But the early ones had that awful black seating with red/pink trim that smelled a bit like tar on a hot day.

spadina station moving walkway

6. Spadina Station had an airport-like moving sidewalk. Oh the fun one could get up to riding a bike along this thing. Constantly on the fritz and not widely used, the 150 metre walkway was the only one of its kind on the TTC. It was removed in 2004, though the "Please Hold Handrail" signs remain.

7. ALRV streetcars were new and exciting. While a prototype double streetcar (or Articulated Light Rail Vehicle) hit the streets in Toronto in 1982 shortly after the CLRV streetcars arrived en masse, it wasn't until 1987 that the main fleet was delivered. While these rail warriors seem like relics now, they were a welcome sight given that the ancient PCCs were still riding the rails in the 1970s (and beyond).

8. Spoons' Romantic Traffic made the subway seem cool for once. It's one of the all time best Toronto music videos and somehow managed to allow people to imagine commuting on the TTC as something more than a perfunctory exercise. Sure, the hairstyles look hilarious, but these subway scenes are the stuff of instant nostalgia.

9. Vitrolite tile could still be spotted at many downtown subway stations. Notice something about the appearance of Bloor Station in the video above? Yeah, it was still outfitted in the old bathroom-style tiles. By the end of the decade, almost all of the original interiors had been replaced with the designs we encounter now.

10. You know why it is that there's a song called Spadina Bus. The quirkiest Toronto anthem of all time is strange for a few reasons, one of which is the fact that buses no longer operate on Spadina Avenue. But they did in 1986 when the eponymous ditty was released! Between 1948 and 1997 Spadina was serviced by buses, which allowed the Shuffle Demons to immortalize the 77 route in 1986.

What did I miss? Add your memories of riding the TTC in the 1980s via the comments.

Photos by Charles A. Bray, Chris Bateman, and Ben Mark Holzberg.


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