Toronto's glacial transit expansion passed a major milestone late last week: for the first time in more than a decade, the TTC released an updated version of its subway map. Though it makes assumptions about the Finch and Sheppard LRTs, the updated design includes the Spadina extension and Eglinton-Crosstown for the first time, which feels very exciting indeed and is a perfect excuse to take a peek in the archives.
The Toronto subway map might not be as iconic as London's or as
comprehensive as New York City's but it has its own charms. From day
one, the TTC has (mostly) stuck to its policy of naming its stations
after roads, excluding "avenue," "road," and other suffixes, or
landmarks artfully distilled into a single word: "Museum," "Osgoode,"
(Trivia lovers: Main Street is the only station named for a road to
retain its suffix. The change was made during construction of the
Bloor-Danforth line for clarity, lest some hapless soul think it was the
nexus of the subway system. Also, St. Patrick station could have become
a neat bookend for Museum station: the TTC briefly toyed with renaming
the stop "Art Gallery" in the late 70s.)
The first Toronto subway map, shown at the top of the page, borrowed heavily from London Underground,
mimicking its style and famous Johnston font. The creator of the famous
lettering, the eponymous Edward Johnston, taught Eric Gill, whose own
iconic Gill Sans typeface is often confused for the (officially) unnamed
In 1963, with the arrival of the University line, Toronto's first
subway expansion, the map was altered and the famous U shape was born,
making St. George briefly a terminal station. Things really began to
catch fire three years later, in 1966, when the original Bloor-Danforth
line brought the first east-west addition to the Toronto subway.
The Bloor-Danforth line wasn't always marked in green. Early on-board subway maps used red for the Yonge-University line - matching the original red Gloucester trains - from Eglinton to St. George and yellow for subway from Keele to Woodbine, the original kick-off points.
Bloor-Danforth line appears to have gone green with its first
expansion, which took trains to Islington and Warden - into Etobicoke
and Scarborough - in 1968.
By this time the TTC subway had settled on the now-familiar black
background design for its rapid transit map. A minor tweak a short time
later would remove the gentle curve north after Main Street station in
favour of an angular hockey stick sweep.
rapid pace of transit expansion continued in the The 1970s. The
Yonge-University line was extended to York Mills, then Finch, and the
Spadina line opened in 1978, the legacy of a bitter and protracted battle against running a highway from Eglinton down Spadina Avenue.
Minor additions to the subway map appeared with the addition of
Kipling and Kennedy stations in 1981, bringing the Bloor-Danforth line
to its present state. Plans to run the west end of the track down to Sherway Gardens and possibly to Mississauga would later fizzle.
first new splash of colour to the two-toned map came with the
Scarborough RT in 1985, which heralded a slowing of Toronto's once
frenetic rapid transit building. Over the next 18 years - more than the
time it had taken to dig out tracks under University Avenue and complete
and expand the Bloor-Danforth line - the TTC would add only two more
stations, North York Centre in 1987 and Downsview in 1996, which
resulted in only minor tweaks to the wayfinding material.
(More trivia: North York Centre station is something of an oddity
because it was installed between Finch and Sheppard long after the line
had opened. The unusually thick support columns between the north and
southbound tracks hint at the station's origins as a section of
most recent map addition came in 2002 with the controversial Sheppard
line. Originally intended to bridge the gap between Sheppard and
Downsview (the latter built partially in anticipation of the new subway)
and continue east to Scarborough Centre, the line was eventually
completed to an abbreviated design with the support of PC premier Mike
Harris and Toronto mayor Mel Lastman.
Ridership on Sheppard is still drastically lower - less than 10% of the rest of the system.
now we move into a new era, one with numbered lines and a rainbow of
underground transit. Assuming the new map is built as currently planned
(insert lengthy caveats here) the TTC will find itself in charge of 41
new stops - an increase of 65% - within the next decade.
Here's to more rapid transit joining the TTC's 59-year-old map very soon.
It's tempting to picture the Queen subway line, first proposed in 1942,
as a missed chance to anticipate the need for a Downtown Relief Line
but it was only ever seriously considered as an alternative to the
Bloor-Danforth subway. Had it been built as originally conceived, the
line would have been designed with streetcars in mind and had stops at
City Hall, Grange Park, Spadina, Bathurst, Trinity Park, and Dundas
West. Some drawings show it running at grade.
As it happens, City Hall station was roughed in beneath Queen station
as a cost-saving exercise but never completed (the shell is behind an
anonymous silver door in the walkway between the north and southbound
tracks.) When Osgoode station was built in the 1960s, utilities and
sewers were diverted to make adding a Queen tunnel easier, but that's as
far as the line ever went.
It's no secret that there is a bona fide abandoned platform beneath Bay station.
Lower Bay, as it's come to be known, was built along with a complex
(and very expensive) track intersection north of Museum with the idea of
running trains directly downtown via Union station from the
In fact, that's how the subway ran for about six months in 1966: a
passenger waiting at any station could catch a train to any other
station without having to change. The system had its downsides, however,
particularly for users of Bay station, and was permanently nixed a
short time later. Lower Bay is now a film set and occasional relief
route during construction.
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