Public transit has always been a hot topic among Torontonians, and continues to attract constant attention with concerns of service improvements, new vehicles, and—of course—new routes. While the future of Toronto's transit system is under constant scrutiny, however, it's easy to overlook its history. SkyriseCities' 'Once upon a Tram' offers insight into the origins of Toronto's modern transit system, with an overview of some of the historical developments that have shaped how we commute in our city today. Providing a detailed look at the onetime Yonge Street streetcar, our sister site looks at the history of Toronto transit in greater depth:

"Yonge Street, looking North from King, Toronto, Canada," postcard c. 1910, public domain archival image

Toronto's Yonge Street has long been synonymous with Canada's largest city, and the so-called "longest street in the world" has been a symbol of the city's youthful exuberance since Toronto's earliest days. The downtown stretch today is a mishmash of past, present, and future visions of the city. From the quickly disappearing Victorian storefronts, to the latest condo construction, downtown Yonge Street has been the site of a seemingly never-ending series of Canadian firsts. Over the years, the street has claimed ownership of Canada's first department store, first urban shopping mall, and first subway, to name but a few. What may be less obvious today, given the proliferation of streetcar lines that exist in the city (albeit far fewer than there once were), is that Yonge Street was also the site of Canada's first streetcar line. The opening of the Toronto Street Railway on September 11, 1861, marked an important first step in the nation's transit history, quite literally laying the tracks for the future of public transportation in the city for the next 150 years. This edition of Once Upon a Tram will take a look back at the fascinating history of the Yonge Streetcar Line, and its enduring legacy that can be appreciated more than a century and a half after its debut.
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