ttc exhibit

Toronto's new exhibit celebrating 100 years of TTC arrives late and very on-brand

Depending on the day or even the weather, the TTC is either regarded as a beloved symbol of Toronto or reviled as the bane of our existence. And though we've all had our fair share of hellish commutes, shuttle buses, and late arrivals, the red livery of the TTC still manages to evoke a sense of comfort and familiarity.

Whether we're loving the TTC or loving to hate the TTC, it's become a big part of many lives in the city over its century of moving Toronto, and the transit network's fandom is celebrated through Doors Open tours and retained heritage streetcars.

Now, transit fans can enjoy a new exhibit celebrating the system's recent Sept. 2021 centennial, dubbed 100 Years of Moving Toronto. It's a sort-of belated birthday present for the TTC, the exhibit having launched in an online-only format last year due to COVID-19 restrictions at the time.

After a long delay (this one not attributed to snow, signal problems or fire at track level) the free-to-attend exhibit, located in the Toronto Archives on Spadina Rd., opened on Tuesday, offering visitors a glimpse into the history of Toronto transit.

"I'm proud that while so much has changed in the last century, one thing that hasn't is how vital public transit is to this city and the 32 billion rides taken on the TTC over the past 100 years," said TTC CEO Rick Leary.

"Although the pandemic has restricted in-person events and forced us to modify how we're marking this milestone, we hope the whole GTA will still join us in celebrating our centenary over the next several months," added Leary.

Visitors will learn about milestones like the consolidation of competing transit systems, expansion in the pre-depression boom years, female transit workers during the Second World War, the rise of the subway system in the 50s, and the subsequent progress made toward diversity and accessibility.

The exhibit also sheds light on important figures in Toronto transit history like Irma James, the first black female streetcar driver, and Lyn Morgan, the first female lead hand.

"There are several things that I love about this exhibit," said Karen Heath, TTC Archivist at the Toronto Archives.

"The fare media section gave us a chance to showcase original pieces of fare media. As a social historian I have a particular interest and passion for the women in WWII section. I liked learning about the many internal discussions that took place about whether women should wear a skirt or pants."

Modern achievements are also covered, such as the construction of the Sheppard subway line and the introduction of low-floor, accessible streetcars.

A wealth of newly-digitized photos provide windows into the past along with historical fares like tokens from the 1950s, paper tickets, and Metropasses from the early 1980s. All of which combine to make this writer feel very old.

The exhibit will be open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but if the Archives is a bit off your beaten path, photography exhibits will be on display at a dozen TTC subway stations until July, including Don Mills, Kennedy, Main Street, Bay, Kipling, Finch, Queen, Union, Dupont, Spadina, St. Clair West and Vaughan Metropolitan Stations.

Lead photo by

City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 76, Item 1


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