Mark Byrnes is a 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.