1915 plan visionary then and now

The plan below, drawn up 100 years ago, was shown this year to several different organizations, including the Board of Trade.

There were three people who proposed this idea originally. They were R.C. Harris, works commissioner (and a Beacher, by the way), Toronto Harbour Board engineer E.L. Cousins, and F. A. Gaby, chief engineer for the Provincial Hydro-Electric Power Commission. They presented this plan, which in my opinion was a great move in the transportation movement. Gaby, Cousins and Harris envisioned this plan with the population growth of the city in mind. They certainly were visionaries then, and that’s what we need now.

This plan from 1915 illustrates a history of uncompleted transit ideas in Toronto. A proposal for a subway running across the entire waterfront would have ended in the east by turning north up Coxwell, leading to Danforth.
This plan from 1915 illustrates a history of uncompleted transit ideas in Toronto. A proposal for a subway running across the entire waterfront would have ended in the east by turning north up Coxwell, leading to Danforth.

Starting in the western part of the city near the Humber River, we have the start of a combination elevated and subway system that would traverse the then-waterfront to the eastern end at Coxwell Avenue, then go northbound along Coxwell to the Danforth.

Along the waterfront they would have had to dig underground for a few kilometres due to the population density, which is higher in the same areas as today. You have to remember though, the waterfront was not the same as today, so there would be a lot of leeway in construction.

Looking at this plan we see that when it meets the downtown area it turns into a square meeting Yonge Street and the surrounding heart of the city. The plan shows a subway coming down from the northern boundary of the city at the time to meet the elevated subway near the waterfront. This junction downtown would eliminate a lot of congestion then and now, and this system would be phenomenal. The elevated section of course would be on land and some over water including the Ashbridges Bay area. There would be an awful lot of obstructions and difficulties to be overcome, but at that time that was the transit dream.

One must remember in the diagram the elevated transit system would go up Coxwell Avenue and intersect with the Danforth. This, however, was several years before the bridge across the Don River to connect Sherbourne to Broadview. This was also before the TTC came into existence in the early 1920s.

I guess it’s all right to speculate what might have been done 100 years ago and what could be done now in engineering plans for transit, but this plan speaks for itself.

The ‘three wise men’ as I call them took into account many aspects of the city: where the population was and would be, where the industrial sites would be located, how the waterfront might be used, and an entire myriad of complications. These could be overcome because the three different authorities were in agreement. The only issue was the civic, provincial, and federal governments, just like today.

The cost of the project in those days was less than $20 million. How much time, money, and energy would that have saved?

One thing is for certain: that plan 100 years ago would certainly be an asset today. Planners, politicians, and pundits, take note!


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