Even as long ago as 1910, traffic congestion was a problem in Toronto. City Council hired an American firm of traffic consultants, Jacobs and Davies, to examine the situation. In their report of August 25, 1910, the consultants promoted subway construction, urging Toronto to join the ranks of London, Boston, and New York: cities that already had established subways.

One of Jacobs and Davies’ proposals was for a Yonge subway line from Union Station to St. Clair Avenue, along with a double-decked viaduct across the Don Valley to accommodate both vehicle and subway traffic across Bloor and Danforth. Interestingly, a more ambitious second proposal would have seen a Yonge line with two additional lines radiating from Queen Street to the north-west and north-east corners of the city.

City politician Horatio Hocken was a subway booster, running for mayor in 1911 on a platform to build a new underground transportation network. Unfortunately for Hocken, the newspapers of the day did not support subway construction, pointing out that the City did not have the money to pay for it. Hocken lost his bid for mayor, and the dream of a subway for Toronto was shelved for decades.


Map of Toronto showing in red the route of the Yonge Street subway from Union Station to Eglinton Station.
Figure no. 12 of Jacobs & Davies Report on Transit to the Corporation of the City of Toronto
August 25, 1910
Series 60, Item 22, Figure 12.


Map of Toronto showing in red a subway line up Yonge Street, and also two other lines going diagonally north-west and north-east out of the city core.
Figure no. 13 of Jacobs & Davies Report on Transit to the Corporation of the City of Toronto
August 25, 1910
Series 60, Item 22, Figure 13.


By 1942, the TTC also began to champion for the development of subway service. The newly established Rapid Transit Department worked together with consultant Norman D. Wilson and the firm of De Leuw, Cather & Co. to undertake studies and develop plans. In their report, Rapid Transit for Toronto, published in 1945, the Commission advocated for “a substantial improvement in the speed and comfort of the ride furnished, and this cannot be given upon thoroughfares crowded with other traffic.” With the end of the Second World War in sight, the TTC anticipated an explosion in growth that demanded an audacious transportation plan to help the city realize its potential. The people of Toronto were asked for their support, and in a January 1, 1946 plebiscite, they gave their overwhelming approval to the TTC’s plan.
A bumper-to-bumper line of streetcars and motor cars on a city street.
Total traffic gridlock on Yonge Street is evident in this image looking north from Granby Street. Yonge service was operated for many years by two-car streetcar trains, with Peter Witt cars hauling unpowered trailers. Three staff were required to operate these trains.
November 18, 1941
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 15073.


Two illustrations showing old and new transit and traffic on Yonge Street. The text reads, "1861 horse cars, 1892 electric cars, 1945 rapid transit."
Window displays underscored the TTC’s argument that downtown streets designed for horse-drawn vehicles could no longer support the transportation demands of 1945 or the future. This illustration, like many of the era, was done by prominent Toronto artist and cartoonist Jimmy Frise.
September 5, 1945
Fonds 16, Series 71, Item 15239.


There are certain interesting similarities between the 1945 plan and one of the schemes proposed by Jacobs and Davies. The Rapid Transit plan included a Yonge subway line running between Union Station and Eglinton Avenue, as well as an underground section along Queen Street between Trinity Park and Logan Avenue. From these termini, surface routes would radiate to the east and west along Queen Street, as well as to the north-east and north-west boundaries of the city to serve the burgeoning suburbs. Despite its popularity, this plan was found to be too expensive when anticipated federal funding fell through. The plan was scaled back to a single line along Yonge Street.


Map of Toronto showing planned rapid transit lines along Yonge Street to North York, and east and west along Queen Street. There are also smaller diagonal lines going from downtown to Weston and the Danforth.
Map included in Rapid Transit for Toronto: A Statement of Policy, by the Toronto Transportation Commission
Fonds 16, Series 836, Subseries 2, File 51, Item 1.