George Santayana said, "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it", and those interested in current Toronto transit debates should head to the Toronto Archives and the Market Gallery to catch two fascinating exhibitions which provide a vivid look back at over a hundred years of transit planning.

The Archives' exhibition "No Little Plans", curated by Mark Osbaldeston looks at some of the building and transportation plans for Toronto that didn't come to fruition.

transit historyHocken ran for mayor on this platform in 1910. Unfortunately unsuccessfully. Source: Toronto Archives

Although the first subway in Canada didn't emerge until 1954, subways were discussed as early as 1910—plans were even drawn up—and in 1911 the city sought bidders to construct a line north to St Clair, but voters rejected the idea, which would have cost $5.4m.

smarttrack subway One of three subway plans produced for the city of Toronto in 1910 - looks a little relief line-y?

Although it features some interesting early history—for example a picture of the never used "City Hall station" below Queen station—the "Tunnel Vision" exhibition at Market Gallery (upstairs at St Lawrence Market) is more focused on the period from the building of the first line in 1954 onward. 

The never-used Lower Queen or City Hall station designed for E-W trains source: Adam Zhelka

It chronicles the excitement over the opening of "Canada's first rapid transit metropolitan area", and includes such novelties as a guide to using the subway, alongside a collection of historical subway transfers and the official subway map from 1954 to the present.

transit history subwayThe opening of the Yonge line in March 1954 was big news Source: Market Gallery

subway historySo how does this newfangled 'subway' work again?

The exhibition also gives a glimpse of the (ever-changing) future of transit, including a collection of artists' renderings of the stations that will be built on the York Spadina extension. The map produced by the TTC sometime this year purporting to show lines proposed to enter service in 2029 is particularly intriguing for policy buffs - it shows a relief line running along King when the current front-running alignment runs along Queen, an eight stop Scarborough subway (if it is a subway?) and more.

ttc transit futureCould this be Toronto's route network c. 2029? The TTC seems to think so Source: Market Gallery

The exhibition was produced in partnership with the Toronto Transportation Society, and guest curated by the TTS’ Adam Zhelka and Robert Lubinski. It will run until June 11th, and the exhibition at the Toronto Archives (which also contains alternative neighborhood plans and some of the alternative City Hall designs) may close as early as the end of this month (not in August as the website suggests). Go, check them out and let us know what you think in our forums.