On today’s date in 1954, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) opened its Yonge Street subway line—the first of its kind in Canada.
Since the late 18th century, when the area was known as York, Toronto has grown north from the coast of Lake Ontario. The main north-south thoroughfare – a former dirt highway running between Lake Ontario and Holland Marsh – was named Yonge Street after a friend of Governor John Graves Simcoe and eventually connected a number of towns and villages to the provincial capital.
As the city expanded, the first subway proposals suggested running trains beneath Yonge Street; however, after the public rejected the subway in a 1912 referendum, the issue was forgotten for another three decades.
Promising “comfort and speed, modernity and convenience,” Toronto’s Yonge subway was finally built by the publicly owned TTC from 1949-54. According to the City of Toronto website, “it was the beginning of postwar Toronto’s effort to accommodate the demands of the city’s prosperity and its future.”
“It spurred intense new apartment and office construction around major intersections both downtown, and midtown from Bloor Street to Eglinton Avenue. The subway, in effect, shaped modern Toronto.”
On March 30, 1954, then mayor of Toronto Allan Lamport and Ontario Premier Leslie Frost pushed a lever to open Canada’s first subway line during a ceremony at Davisville Station.
Throughout its more than 60 years in service, the TTC has accepted various tokens as fare.
Before the subway line opened its doors on today’s date in 1954, all TTC tokens were issued in brass; however, these brass tokens were soon replaced with light-weight aluminum tokens struck by the Royal Canadian Mint. The new tokens would feature the word “SUBWAY” on both sides, surrounded by the words “TORONTO TRANSIT COMMISSION” on the obverse and “GOOD FOR ONE FARE” on the reverse.
By 1966, another token, this made of brass, was introduced for single sales. The original design was updated to depict the TTC crest on the obverse and the TTC logo on the reverse.
In 1975, new aluminum tokens were again introduced, and these tokens featured a design similar to the 1966 brass tokens. The tokens struck in 1954 and 1975 remained in circulation until February 2007, when the remaining 30 million pieces were withdrawn due to increased counterfeiting.
A year earlier, the TTC issued a replacement for withdrawn tokens. These bi-metallic tokens were heavier and featured more anti-counterfeiting measures. A total of 20 million tokens were ordered in 2006 and again in 2008.
Last June, TTC officials announced tokens and other legacy fare media would be fully phased out by the end of 2019—two years later than planned.