To the members of the Toronto Transit Commission, the city's sprawling subway system is the model of clean safe efficient urban transportation -- with one glaring exception.
It seems the commission members are unhappy with the ragtag band of street musicians panhandling in the subway stations.Not only are they unsightly, but they're often out of tune.
The guardians of the subway trackside troubadours but without much success. After several highly publicized evictions of one singer, the commission has bowed to public pressure in the form of letters to the editior in the city's newspapers and come up with a novel approach to handling the problem.
The commission has set up a board to hold auditions later this month for the would-be subway performers. Members of the principal, a rock radio disc jockey, a former transit commissioner who is president of the metropolitan Toronto Kiwanis Musical Festival, plus two consultants.
So far, about 50 hopefuls have applied for auditions and the right to pay $50 for a center stage spot in one of the subway stations. Auditions will be held in two three-hour shifts, and the winners are to begin the live subway entertainment experiment in mid-September.
Since the subway went into operation in the 1950's, one performer has managed to gain a fair degree of local success -- "subway Elvis," a young man doing his best to emulate his departed namesake.
Transit Commission General Secretary Jim McGuffin says the musicians will be there with violins, flutes, harmonicas and "a lot of guitars." While some of the performers are professional or semi-professional, most of them are unknowns to McGuffin. One enthusiastic applicant plans an unaccompanied singing act.
The modern day North American counterparts of London street buskers recognize the possibilities of cash rewards in providing music and song for those who stand and wait in line. And who knows, if the young person with the guitar at the next station turns out to be another Bob Dylan?