Mark Byrnes is a former senior associate editor at CityLab who writes about design and architecture.
The city’s official commission spared no expense on TV ads in the 1980s, but local artists have always done a better job.
Toronto artists have long provided their share of public transit-themed music videos. But in the 1980s, the city’s transit commission had its own golden age of self promotion—a decade of 30-second spots trying to sell Torontonians on leaving their cars at home.
Early on, some TTC spots offered a savings pitch:
Later the focus turned to the TTC as a way to get to all the fun things in the city:
Then it was a system filled with good drivers and cool teens:
And the easiest way to get to dinner or a Maple Leafs game:
The period ended in 1990 with an artfully dark look at life in a city with wind, ice, and terrible drivers. Only a TTC bus driver knows how to stay cool in such a stressful place.
While these official efforts are all great, Toronto’s musicians have always told their own TTC stories best. Tom Connors’s song about a Toronto streetcar driver will never be topped:
The Spadina bus was never cooler than when the Shuffle Demons tried to get on it:
And all parodies of “I Put On For My City” are substandard compared to Randal Paul and Syruslife’s “I Get On The TTC”:
With a nearly $50 million deficit, the TTC has more urgent financial needs than advertising. Regardless of who makes it, another great and unexpected transit video surely awaits.