Text by James Bow.
The Initial Proposals (See also Early History)
As the city of Toronto developed, it took on the shape of an upside-down “T” on the shores of Lake Ontario. Development spread north along Yonge Street and east and west along the Lake. Yonge Street was, almost from the beginning, the city’s north-south axis. The city’s prominent east-west street was less clearly defined throughout Toronto’s history but, by the 1940s, Queen Street arguably held that title.
Although the subway proposals of 1909-1912 mentioned a number of alignments for a possible east-west route, the north-south line was generally given more attention. By the 1940s, however, the city had grown and the country was at war. The number of commuters was straining the capacity of a number of routes, and it became clear that only a subway would provide an effective long-term solution to the problem. Again, the initial proposals focused heaviliy on a north-south line, but the plans for an east-west companion were much more detailed.
In 1942, the TTC submitted a subway plan calling for two streetcar subways, one running beneath Yonge and Bay Streets from St. Clair to Union Station and another operating beneath Queen and Adelaide Streets from Strachan to Logan. The Yonge/Bay streetcar subway would channel streetcars from the northern suburbs downtown, while the Queen/Adelaide subway would take streetcars off King and Queen streets for a ride unobstructed by automobiles. The City was not satisfied with this plan, however, and sent it back to the TTC for reconsideration.
In 1945, the TTC came up with a new plan, this time with a “rapid transit subway” beneath Yonge Street and a more modest streetcar subway along Queen. The Queen streetcar subway would operate to the north of Queen Street from Trinity Park to McCaul, then beneath Queen Street from McCaul to Mutual, and then north of Queen Street in an open cut from Mutual to St. Paul. The line would become elevated from St. Paul to Boulton and would parallel the CN railway tracks to Gerrard and Carlaw. A ramp at Boulton Avenue would branch off the subway and take Queen and Kingston Road cars back to Queen Street.
There would have been 13 stations on the Queen line: Trinity Park, Bathurst, Spadina, Grange, York, City Hall (referring to what is today Old City Hall), Yonge, Church, Sherbourne, Parliament, Don, Broadview, and Logan. Queen cars would use the length of the subway as part of their run from Neville to Humber, while other routes (including Dundas, Kingston Road, Bloor and Danforth trippers) would be diverted into the subway for trips downtown. Two underground loops would turn these cars around, with cars from the west turning at Church Street and cars from the east turning at Simcoe.
This proposal was submitted to Toronto ratepayers for a vote on January 1, 1946 and approved by a wide margin. The proposal was conditional on a 20% subsidy of costs by the federal government, but a subsidy deal fell through when Ottawa and the province of Ontario could not agree on the details for a post-war employment program. Toronto and the TTC responded to this by scaling back the subway project, temporarily shelving the Queen line and focusing on the Yonge line instead. Construction began on the Yonge subway in 1949 with a streetcar-subway station roughed in beneath Queen station on the Yonge line. After the Yonge subway opened in 1954, attention turned to the east-west line, but things had changed since 1946.
For one thing, streetcars had fallen out of favour as a rapid transit medium, and the City of Toronto’s plans for a Queen subway now called for heavy-rail equipment to be used. For another, the TTC was having second thoughts about locating the cross-town line along Queen.
Queen versus Bloor
Politically, the City of Toronto wanted a subway on Queen Street. Queen was the main east-west street running through the downtown, and on that basis the east-west subway had to go there. However, the TTC’s figures showed that ridership on the Bloor streetcar line was increasing rapidly, to almost 9000 passengers per direction per hour. Automobile traffic on Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue was increasing as well, pushing the multiple-unit PCCs to their limits, just as Yonge’s Witt trailer trains had been when the decision had been made to build the first subway beneath them.
Until the 1940s, the city had been developing along major streetcar routes, producing the upside-down “T” pattern of development. When the Second World War ended, this changed. The automobile enabled the growth of low-density developments far from the streetcar lines. The upside-down “T” disappeared (although Toronto’s city limits did not change) as Toronto sprawled east, west and north into the townships of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough. For Etobicoke residents, both Bloor and Queen Streets (the latter accessed via Lakeshore Boulevard and, after 1958, the Queensway) were major thoroughfares connecting commuters to downtown Toronto. The Gardiner Expressway, opened in 1957, continued this pull of commuters to the south of Bloor Street.
To the east, however, the shoreline of Lake Ontario angled northeast, cutting Queen Street off from any eastward expansion. Kingston Road, paralleling the shoreline, channelled eastern commuters west for most of the century, but Danforth Road soon became a more convenient access route as Scarborough’s suburbs built north. Danforth Road cut through the centre of Scarborough, and channelled commuters southwest onto Danforth Avenue and Bloor Street. By the mid-1950s, several bus routes were connecting with Bloor Streetcars at Luttrell Loop, compared to just one meeting the Kingston Road streetcar at Bingham Loop.
So, the TTC felt it had no choice but to build the cross-town subway along the Bloor-Danforth corridor. But this change in plan was controversial. The City of Toronto, backed by the towns of Long Branch, New Toronto and Mimico, continued to push for a Queen subway. At one point, the Metropolitan Toronto planning board proposed a ‘flying U’ compromise, running from Keele along Bloor, Grace, Queen, Pape, and Danforth Avenue to Woodbine. Dundas would have had four subway stops in total had this route been built, and the TTC were hard pressed to name them. From west to east, these stations would have been named ‘Vincent’ (now Dundas West), Bellwoods Park, Dundas and Dagmar.
Eventually the TTC proposal won out. Although I have not been able to find out how the TTC convinced the City of Toronto to accept its proposal, I speculate that the fact that the TTC was still financially independent helped. The Yonge subway had been built almost entirely from farebox revenues, and it looked as though the cross-town subway was going to be built from farebox revenues as well. Since the TTC did not require subsidy from Metropolitan Toronto, they may have been shielded from political pressure. This situation did not remain, however, as declining ridership and the cost of serving the low-density suburbs pushed the TTC into deficit, but even as the City was providing subsidy for the construction of the University subway, there was no pressure to move the Bloor line back onto Queen.
Approval, Design and Construction
Metro Council approved the Bloor subway project at its January 1958 meeting. This was followed by approval from the Ontario Municipal Board in September 1958 and a final approval of financing arrangements by Metro council in April 1959. On November 16, 1959, Leslie Frost, the Prime Minister of Ontario, operated a power shovel to signal the start of construction on the University line, the first phase of the project. The total cost of construction, including the University subway, was estimated to be $200 million.
The Bloor-Danforth subway was to be built in three phases. The first, the University line, would extend the Yonge subway north on University Avenue, beneath Queen’s Park, past the Royal Ontario Museum before it curved west to St. George Street. Phase two would open the Bloor-Danforth line from St. George east to Greenwood. Phase three, to be opened in 1969, would move the termini two stations east to Woodbine and eight stations west to Keele.
The Bloor-Danforth subway was to be connected to the University subway through a large double-track wye starting north of Museum station, with tracks branching east and west. The western branch would pass through the upper level of the double-decked St. George station while the eastern branch would pass through the lower deck of Bay station. These tracks would then connect with the Bloor tracks west of St. George and east of Bay.
It is not known, when the plan was to build the Bloor-Danforth subway in three phases, whether the St. George to Greenwood section would have initially operated as a separate line, or interlined with the Yonge and University subways. The province made this question academic in the early 1960s when they advanced the TTC $60 million to complete the Keele to Woodbine section of the Bloor-Danforth subway in one go.
During the early part of construction, maps show certain stations bearing different names than what exist today. Initially, Dundas West station was known as Vincent, Spadina station was referred to as Walmer and the station at Bay Street was listed as Yorkville. In the case of Dundas West, ‘Vincent’ was an attempt to pick a name that didn’t duplicate Dundas station on the Yonge line. The custom of using “alternative” names to avoid duplication of station names was begun with the University subway. Vincent is the name of a short street near the station that hosted Vincent Loop, the western terminus for most King cars. ‘Vincent’ was eventually used, but to name the yard between Dundas West and Keele stations (which people commonly refer to as ‘Keele Yard’).
Yorkville was named after the neighbourhood instead of the street - in the end, “Bay” appeared on the station walls, with “Yorkville” used as a subtitle. There was a convention that “alternative” named stations like Queen’s Park, St. Patrick, Osgoode and St. Andrew on the University subway, be accompanied by the actual cross street name as a subtitle. Yorkville was the reverse of this convention and, after it, the practice has not been done again. The initial naming of Spadina as Walmer suggests that a design change went into the station soon after construction on the line began. When the Bloor subway opened, Spadina station had no exits onto Walmer Road. It finally got one on January 24, 2001, when a new exit opened off of the western end of the Bloor-Danforth platform after two years of construction.
The Bloor subway passes beneath the Yonge line, at the north end of Bloor station, and a new Yonge station was built to connect with it. The transferway between the Bloor streetcar and the Yonge subway was abandoned and demolished. Today, the only evidence that a transferway existed here is the curve in the sidewalk on Bloor Street East. The Bloor-Yonge station complex would prove to be the primary transfer point between the two subway lines, handling as many as a million commuters daily.
Metropolitan Toronto purchased and expropriated more than 800 properties, about 70% of which were residential. The TTC was responsible for clearing the right of way. The Bloor subway was built over eight miles, almost entirely north of Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue. In most places west of Main Street, the line is offset just far enough to run behind the buildings on the north side of Bloor or Danforth; often there is a chain of parking lots over the subway (as there also is over the Yonge subway between College and Bloor stations). To this day, all stations on the line are north of Bloor or Danforth except Kipling and Sherbourne, which are south of Bloor; the only area where the line actually runs under Bloor is the Prince Edward Viaduct.
Cut and cover construction was used throughout the route, with the exception of 2250 feet of tunnel between Yonge and Sherbourne stations, 1842 feet of tunnel between Lansdowne and Dundas West and the surface/elevated construction around Keele. There is also a short section (under 100 feet) of what looks like bored tunnel some distance west of Ossington station. Here, the two tracks don’t spread apart as normal for twin tubes, so there is a common straight centre wall in the otherwise round tunnels on that short section.
Bridges on the line include a 552-foot covered concrete bridge spanning the Rosedale Ravine, east of Sherbourne station. The subway also rises onto an embankment (with bridges over cross streets and a longer bridge over the TTC parking lot east of Keele Station) to cross a dip in the land past Dundas West station. As a result of this, Keele station became Toronto’s first elevated subway station with the street entrance and transfer facilities built below the subway platforms.
In terms of crossing the Don Valley, the TTC was fortunate to benefit from the foresight of a designer from the 1910s. Crossing the wide and deep Don Valley would have required an expensive bridge if it weren’t for Edmund Burke (architect) and Thomas Taylor (construction engineer) and their Prince Edward Viaduct. Spurred by the buzz around subway development in 1911, consulting engineers Jacob and Davies recommended to Burke and Thomas that a subway might run along Bloor Street in the future and the viaduct should have a provision for such a line. As a result, Thomas designed into the framework of his Bloor Street Bridge over the Don Valley a lower deck that could be used by subway trains crossing the valley. Underground streetcars were probably envisioned, but fortunately the designers did not stint on clearance. The Viaduct comprises three parts: two bridges and an embankment. On the west, the Rosedale section is 565 feet long and takes Bloor Street over the Rosedale Ravine. In the middle, the Bloor section travels along an embankment until it reaches the Don Valley, which is spanned by the 1620 foot Don section. The lower deck was available on both the Rosedale section and the Don section.
This proved a godsend to the TTC, as the only major change required (other than laying down reinforced concrete on the deck to house the trackbed) was at the west end of the Viaduct. Bloor Street’s bridge over the Rosedale Ravine, which is also part of the Viaduct, was also built with provision for a lower deck but this was unsuitable for the subway’s alignment. The sharp curve in Bloor Street at Parliament just west of the bridge would have been hard for subway cars to negotiate. As a result, the subway diverged from Bloor at Castle Frank, through Castle Frank station and onto the TTC’s own bridge over the Rosedale Ravine. This paled in comparison to what it would have cost to build a completely new bridge across the Don River for the subway.
To reduce noise, the TTC sprayed the lower portion of the tunnel walls and the exposed surfaces under the edge of platforms with asbestos fibre - a move they regretted years later when the problems of asbestos became widely known. In total, 9.5 route miles of track were laid, in addition to almost ten track miles within Greenwood and Vincent yards. These two yards were installed on the line to provide additional storage capacity, now that the size of the TTC’s subway fleet had exceeded Davisville’s ability to handle. Greenwood also featured a new maintenance centre that allowed repairs to subway trains to occur on the system itself, instead of requiring special shipments to Hillcrest Shops.
Scissors crossovers were placed to the east of Keele and to the west of Woodbine, as well as to the east of St. George. The St. George scissors crossover may be a leftover of the plan to open the Bloor-Danforth subway initially from St. George to Greenwood, but no scissors crossover exists at Greenwood. Between Greenwood and Donlands, a grade-separated double track wye was built to connect the line with Greenwood yards. There were also centre tracks placed between Christie and Ossington and between Broadview and Chester.
Additional subway entrances were provided at Keele, Lansdowne, Ossington, Bathurst, Bay and Sherbourne stations. These unattended secondary entrances featured full height automatic turnstiles which allowed access to the subway by adult token only. At the time, similar entrances were in place at Eglinton and St. George stations. Provisions were made for these entrances to be manned at certain times of the day. Initially only Keele and Bathurst’s secondary entrances were manned, the former during rush hours and the latter on afternoons from Monday through Saturday.
The Bloor-Danforth Subway Opens
The opening of the Bloor-Danforth subway doubled the number of stations on the Toronto subway network and resulted in the largest cutback of Toronto’s streetcar network since the Yonge line opened in 1954. The Bloor streetcar was reduced to a Bloor shuttle running from Keele station to Jane Loop and a Danforth shuttle running from Woodbine station to meet Scarborough buses at Luttrell Loop. The Harbord streetcar vanished, with different parts of its route replaced by extensions of existing services (such as the Dundas streetcar and the new Pape bus), or not replaced at all (such as the Dovercourt and Davenport segments). The Coxwell and Parliament streetcars were bussed, and the Bathurst streetcar was merged with Fort with services on Adelaide and on Bathurst north of Bloor abandoned. All of this was part of the TTC’s streetcar abandonment policy, which foresaw the replacement of all streetcar service by subways or buses by 1980.
The Bloor and Danforth streetcar shuttles had to be routed into Keele and Woodbine stations through new tracks installed before the subway opened. At Woodbine, Danforth streetcars turned right at a new T-intersection at Danforth and Cedarvale, turning into the station’s bus platforms at Strathmore Boulevard. The remains of these tracks can still be seen just outside of the Woodbine bus terminal.
At Keele, the temporary streetcar loop was separate from the station’s bus loop; a retirement home now occupies the site. Streetcar passengers entered the station just inside the fare barrier of the Indian Grove / Indian Road / car park automatic entrance; from here a moving ramp led to one of the subway platforms. According to the March 1966 UCRS Newsletter, this conveyor belt was 4 feet wide and 100 feet long, rising 20 feet at a 12-degree angle and capable of carrying 7200 persons per hour at a speed of 90 feet per minute. Woodbine passengers had no such sidewalk, transferring from the temporary streetcar platform to the mezzanine level of the station via a special tunnel.
It is interesting that much was made of this new moving sidewalk, with the TTC promoting it in their flyers, but it was shut down and walled off when the subway was extended to Islington in 1968. You can spot the newer sections of wall, although they use the same tiles as the existing walls, because the curved tiles that had been at the top and sides of the openings remain. On what is now the eastbound platform, look at the wall about 100 feet from its eastern end; down below, by the base of the stairs connecting the platform to the secondary exit, look at the wall beside the base of the stairs. At this latter location, you will also see the locked door that leads to the former rampway. The moving sidewalk mechanism remains inside, untouched since 1968. Similarly, Woodbine’s tunnel was bricked off and is currently used for storage and staff lounge space.
The Wye and Lower Bay
For the first six months of operation, the Bloor-Danforth subway was integrated with trains on the Yonge-University line. Every second train departing from Eglinton ran through to Keele and then to Woodbine, or from Woodbine and then to Keele, before returning to Eglinton via the wye north of Museum station. This meant that passengers could ride downtown or cross-town from any station on the Bloor-Danforth subway without changing trains, and that passengers on the Yonge-University line could ride direct to any station on the Bloor-Danforth subway. To handle this, the TTC installed automatic destination signs at all stations and installed an Identra coil on each train.
An Identra coil is a metal loop about a foot across sticking out of the front right upper corner of the train. It features a small key-operated control with about 10 positions, adjusting the position of a magnet. In the approaches of all stations, black plates almost 2 feet square are set up to detect the coil as it passes. This sends a signal to the destination indicator boxes in the station ahead. The boxes sound a gong roughly ten seconds before the train arrives and the destination of the next train is displayed. The original Solari boxes used flipping-leaf technology (with a big leaf for the whole word, not independent letters) and showed KEELE, WOODBINE, or DOWNTOWN (not EGLINTON) for normal trains. The first boxes were installed at all southbound Yonge platforms, all northbound University platforms from Union to Museum, all eastbound platforms from Keele to Spadina, and all westbound platforms from Woodbine to Yonge. On the southbound Yonge platforms from Eglinton to Dundas, these boxes had the words “VIA DOWNTOWN” beneath the display.
As early as March 1966, however, some were expressing concern about the feasibility of interlining. Indeed, the UCRS Newsletter reported that “under actual service conditions it may result in unavoidable slowdowns at the junction of the two lines; a breakdown or delay on one route will affect the entire system. Further, high operating costs may outweigh the advantages of the direct ride to downtown.”
A further problem existed at Bay and St. George, due to the design of these stations. To accommodate the wye, St. George and Bay stations were built with two levels. On one, outbound University trains went to one of the two termini of the Bloor-Danforth subway, while the other platform hosted inbound University trains taking passengers downtown. On the other level of the stations, Bloor trains operated eastbound and westbound to either the Keele or Woodbine terminals. For St. George station, the University platforms were located on the upper level, while Bloor trains passed underneath. For Bay station, this arrangement was reversed. Passengers heading east from St. George, west from Bay, or downtown from either station had dedicated platforms for their respective destinations.
But westbound passengers at St. George, or eastbound ones at Bay, might find the next train on either of two platforms — on different levels. This inefficient arrangement suggests that the TTC was not wholly behind interlining. Other subway systems, Montreal for instance, have twisted their tunnels to bring one track of a line over the other. When these double-decked tracks enter the transfer station, across the platforms are the double-decked tracks from the other line, reducing the need to go up or down a level in order to transfer to the other line. If the TTC had gone this route, trains to Keele at St. George and Woodbine at Bay would be on the same level, and passengers wouldn’t have to wait between levels in order to be sure to catch the first train to their destination. With St. George as a terminus, however, the twisted arrangement would be the inefficient one: in this case, it would be passengers going downtown who would have to choose between two levels.
After six months, the TTC ran the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University subways separately for a trial period, and ran a survey to establish which type of operation was more convenient for passengers. The TTC claimed that, while a small number benefitted more from segregated operation than integrated operation, it was all the same to the overwhelming majority of riders (you can find additional commentary on the TTC’s survey here). On the grounds that segregated lines were easier to operate, the TTC decided to keep the two lines separate. Yonge-University trains terminated at the upper level of St. George station (until the Spadina subway opened in 1978), and the lower level of Bay was closed.
Thus the Gloucesters were permanently confined to the Yonge-University subway, after operating on the Bloor-Danforth line for its first six months. They would only appear during movements to Greenwood Yard when Davisville was too full to handle them. They were a very rare sight indeed on the Bloor line after Wilson Yard opened in 1978. The removal of the slower Gloucesters from scheduled service on the Bloor-Danforth line allowed the TTC to speed up service (as the newer cars could travel at higher speeds than the Gloucesters) and reduce running times. As a result, the TTC ended up with an extra 58 cars and were able to operate the extensions of the Bloor-Danforth subway without expanding the subway fleet. This speedup ended in 1981 when the TTC ordered all trains operated at “low rate” in order to save money.
Even though integrated operation was dropped, the TTC continued to make use of its destination indicator boxes. These were set to show KEELE, WOODBINE and ST. GEORGE at first but later proved useful for alerting passengers to short turning trains when the Yonge line was extended beyond Eglinton, and the Spadina line was added to the system. Boxes had to be moved to other platforms or new ones added when the services were put into place. Eventually new boxes using flip-dot or LED technology were also added, especially when the Spadina line was built. However, these boxes have fallen into disuse.
Extending Eastward and Westward
The decision to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway west to Islington and east to Warden was made while work was still going on the first section of the Bloor-Danforth line. Now that the goals set down by the 1946 referendum on subway construction were being largely achieved, Metro Council was deeply divided over what the next steps should be to improve public transit throughout the city. The City of Toronto councillors returned to the proposal for a subway under Queen Street, while the suburban councillors demanded improved bus services to their areas and the elimination of the zone fare system instead.
In order to “maintain an uninterrupted program of subway construction”, Metro Chairman Frederick Gardiner discovered that it was not only sensible, but politically easier to extend the established subway lines into the suburbs than it was to get Metro Council to agree on the location of a new line. Extending the established lines was cheaper than building from scratch, and it fulfilled some of the suburban municipalities’ demands for improved transit service.
The Province of Ontario assisted with a grant of an additional $10 million to Metro Toronto in 1965. Work on the extensions began on March 1, 1965. Initially, the two westernmost stations were planned to be placed at Prince Edward (five blocks east of Royal York) and Montgomery (two blocks west of Royal York) instead of at Royal York and Islington as is now the case. As work on the Keele-to-Woodbine section continued, the decision was made to move these two stations to their current locations, as Royal York and Islington were far more major suburban thoroughfares than Prince Edward or Montgomery. Prince Edward and Montgomery Road did serve the east and west ends of the Kingsway shopping district, but it is possible that the TTC felt that a single station at Royal York (particularly one with two entrances) could serve this business district just as effectively.
West of Keele, the subway dove underground and surfaced again past High Park, as it dealt with the hilly terrain in old West Toronto. It dove underground again before reaching Runnymede station and continued west to Jane. After Jane, the tunnel was curved to parallel Bloor Street and, after some distance, emerging onto a bridge over the Humber River, passing through the Borough of York and entering the Borough of Etobicoke at Old Mill station. A scissors crossover was installed east of Jane station, to allow for short turns in case anything happened to the Humber River bridge.
Old Mill station was the first station in the system to be partially elevated and partially underground. Built immediately to the west of the bridge over the Humber River (the combined length of bridge including the elevated part of the station is 800 feet), it stuck out of the side of the valley. The underground portion was built to the same design as the other stations on the Bloor-Danforth subway, following the same tile patterns. The above-ground sections featured glass walls providing excellent views of the valley.
After going through tunnel again, past Royal York, the line re-emerged onto the surface in order to cross Mimico Creek over a 310-foot-long bridge. The line dove underground again on the approach to Islington, with a centre track between the two service tracks existing half-in and half-out of this final section of tunnel, producing a unique triple portal on the subway. After a scissors crossover, the western extension terminated at Islington station.
To the east, the Danforth extension continued underground past Woodbine station and Main Street station. , emerging above ground near Victoria Park and the Taylor Creek ravine. Victoria Park was elevated, with the street exits and bus terminal located below platform level. East of Victoria Park, the line ran at grade through Warden Woods and the Taylor Creek ravine to Warden station, adjacent to the CN Geco subdivision spur and the abandoned right-of-way of the Canadian Northern. Warden station also had street exits and a bus terminal below platform level. To the west of the station was a scissors crossover and, added at a later date, a spur running next to the CN railway tracks. This spur was intended for the delivery of equipment by CN rail, but it was rarely used, with more convenient railway tracks located near Greenwood Yard and Hillcrest shops.
The first subway extensions outside of the City of Toronto proper were celebrated with great ceremony and pomp. The opening ceremonies started first at Warden station in Scarborough and then Islington station in Etobicoke. The mayors of Etobicoke and Scarborough each drove subway trains through paper barriers announcing the subway’s arrival into their boroughs.
When the Bloor-Danforth extensions opened on May 11, 1968, more streetcar cutbacks occurred, though not as extensive as what took place in 1966. The portion of the Dundas streetcar operating north of Dundas West station was replaced by the Junction trolley bus while the Bloor and Danforth shuttle streetcars were also replaced, finishing the last remnants of the once great Bloor streetcar. Other than these streetcar routes, the 1968 subway extensions did not come as close to duplicating or intersecting the old streetcar network as the first segment of the Bloor-Danforth subway had done.
In 1968 Metropolitan Toronto still had a two-zone fare system. The inverted “T” shape of the City of Toronto, plus just enough of the suburbs to make a smooth, roughly semicircular shape, formed Zone 1; everywhere else was Zone 2. So the subway crossed the zone boundary at Jane and Main Street stations. But applying the zonal fare system to the subway would have been inconvenient. Either passengers would all have had to carry some sort of ticket while riding, or Zone 2 stations would have to use a payment-on-exit system, which would also have constrained the fare structure.
Instead the TTC elected to make the entire subway, even the parts in Etobicoke and Scarborough, part of Zone 1. Passengers living near a suburban subway station and riding downtown would pay only the Zone 1 fare, but those transferring from suburban buses would have to pay for both zones.
Since the area inside the subway fare barrier was in Zone 1, but the stations’ bus terminals were in Zone 2, the bus terminal had to be outside the barrier in each station. (At the boundary stations, Jane and Main Street, Zone 2 buses and Zone 1 buses or streetcars came together. Rather than the complexity of separate terminals, a single terminal outside of the station’s fare-paid zone was used in each case.) At Royal York and at Main Street stations, the fare booths were placed on the mezzanine level between the bus terminal and the subway platforms. When the zone fare system was eliminated, the TTC moved these fare booths into the bus terminal, between the main entrance and the westernmost bus bay doors. This is why the mezzanine levels of Royal York and Main Street stations are especially long.
Islington had more difficulty in expanding its fare paid zone to include its bus terminals, primarily because the TTC did not want to move the collector booths from their original location. The fare barriers were forced to meander in order to separate passengers entering from the street exits from the bus terminals. This was solved when the entire fare area was reconfigured and the collector booths moved during renovations in 1996. In the case of Old Mill station, buses turned around right outside the main entrance to the station, making the expansion of the fare zone to cover the bus stop impossible. A similar problem occurred at Jane station, with the bus terminal and the street entrance being too close to each other to easily separate. To the east, Victoria Park and Warden stations were quickly converted to include their bus terminals in their fare paid zones.
The Queen Subway’s Last Gasps
After the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway, a Queen line remained the City of Toronto’s choice as the next rapid transit priority. Maps in the late 1960s show a proposed line running south from Greenwood or Donlands station to Queen Street and west along Queen to Roncesvalles. At this time, the Queen subway proposal competed with a proposal to run a subway line up the median of the Spadina Expressway. This option was favoured by most of the suburban municipalities, especially the village of Forest Hill and the townships of York and North York. Again, the matter was put off by extending another of the established subway lines, in this case Yonge north of Eglinton. The debate raged on while construction crews brought that subway from Eglinton to Finch.
Proponents of Spadina criticized the Queen subway for providing rapid transit to an area that was already effectively served by the Bloor subway. Spadina, these supporters argued, brought rapid transit closer to underserviced north-western Metro. Proponents of the Queen line criticized that the Spadina line was unlikely to attract as many riders, separated from stores, offices and apartments by expressway lanes on either side.
The issue was settled after 1967. In that year, the Ontario government completed a review of Metropolitan Toronto and ordered that it be restructured. The thirteen member municipalities were consolidated down to six, with Long Branch, Mimico and New Toronto merging into Etobicoke, Weston merging into York, Leaside merging into East York and Swansea and Forest Hill merging into Toronto.
The restructuring also redistributed Metro Council seats to each member municipality according to their percentage of population within Metro. The suburban municipalities had grown considerably since 1954, such that their combined populations were larger than that of the City of Toronto. As a result, the suburban municipalities received a majority of Metro Council seats. The Spadina subway was quickly chosen as the TTC’s next priority for subway construction. The Queen line was left to languish. Queen remained on the books as the priority that would follow after Spadina’s opening. In the late 1960s, an opening date for Queen was set at 1980, at which time the remainder of Toronto’s streetcar network would be abandoned.
The Final Bloor-Danforth Extensions and the Death of the Queen Subway
But the political will to build the Queen subway faded after 1972. The high costs of subway construction were making the TTC and Metropolitan Toronto reconsider the merits of new subways. As the Spadina subway reached its last phases of construction, the decision was made to extend the Bloor-Danforth subway one station east from Warden to Kennedy and one station west from Islington to Kipling. This $110 million expansion ($71.4 million for Kennedy, $38.6 million for Kipling) was touted as the last subway extensions to be built for some time. From this point on, the TTC claimed, the LRTs would extend rapid transit service into the suburbs.
The extension to Kennedy took the subway deeper into Scarborough, and shortened the commuting time for a number of the residents of this borough. Although the extension followed the underused railway that paralleled the tracks southwest of Warden station, complaints from local residents and problems crossing railway spur lines forced the TTC to build the extension underground, in a cut-and-cover tunnel that was longer than the entire University subway. An emergency exit was placed at Birchmount Road, halfway through the tunnel, but no provisions were made for a possible station there.
At Kennedy, a large complex was built, with four levels. At the bottom were the station platforms themselves, followed by a large mezzanine level with underground connections to street exits serving Eglinton Avenue, the nearby neighbourhoods, and the commuter parking lots (585 spaces and a Kiss ‘N’ Ride facility). Above the mezzanine, at the surface, was a large bus terminal. Above the bus terminal was an elevated station designed for the proposed Scarborough LRT.
At the west end, the extension to Kipling took the Bloor-Danforth subway west into a low density industrial area. Emerging from a tunnel by the CP main line and crossing Bloor Street over a new bridge, the extension parallels the railway tracks and terminates just west of the Kipling Avenue bridge. Kipling was the first station to have the tracks at ground level (not counting the ones in the Allen Road median where the local ground level is depressed). The station’s only entrance is at the end farthest from Kipling Avenue itself: passages below track level run to the commuter parking lots, the GO Train station (opened in 1981), and Aukland Drive at St. Albans Road. Buses climb a ramp from that intersection to reach a terminal located above the subway platforms, and exit by another ramp onto St. Albans.
As an extension, Kennedy was significantly more useful than Kipling. Although a number of west-end buses were rerouted to Kipling, Mississauga buses continued to use Islington and Islington continues to benefit from a substantial traffic of local area, walk-in riders. Plans exist for a regional bus terminal at Kipling, but Mississauga refuses to help fund the project, and dislikes the location of Kipling station as too far south for its Burnhamthorpe and Malton buses to access easily. Plans to increase development around Kipling station and the Six Points intersection are stalled due to opposition from the residents living in the area north of of Bloor Street.
While Kipling provides a direct connection with the Milton GO line, such a connection was possible at Islington as well, although it would have been via a long walkway, or via a new entrance built into the western end of Islington station. There are some who believe that the Kipling extension was designed to placate Etobicoke when the decision was made to take the subway further into Scarborough. However, the TTC were also considering building a new and larger subway yard on land the commission had acquired west of Kipling station. A tunnel-like enclosure and track allowance on the north side of the station is a provision for a track running into this yard. Kipling also has ample parking, with space enough for over 1300 vehicles.
Like Kennedy station, provision was made for a connection with a suburban LRT network. The bus bays occupy only the northern side of the upper level. Along the southern side, a glass wall reveals an empty track bed running along the roof above the southern service track. This area was to be the loading platform for a possible Etobicoke LRT, possibly running from Kipling station to Pearson Airport. This proposal never materialized.
Kipling and Kennedy stations opened to the public on November 22, 1980. The day before, a special train of H-5 cars (5807-5806-5791-5790-5804-5805) left Davisville Station at 12:40 p.m. and proceeded through Lower Bay station to Warden where Scarborough Mayor Gus Harris and Ontario Minister of Community and Commercial Relations Frank Drea were waiting. At 1:30 p.m. the two men flipped a switch to work a ceremonial signal to clear the train to Kennedy station where speeches were given and a commemorative plaque unveiled. The train then left Kennedy at 2:20 and ran to Islington, stopping only at Warden and Yonge (the latter unscheduled, to let one rider off). At Islington, the same signal ceremony was performed by Etobicoke Mayor Dennis Flynn followed by a short run to Kipling. Once speeches were completed here, the special train departed Kipling to enter regular service at Islington around 4:10 p.m.
With the opening of Kipling and Kennedy stations, subway construction came to a halt. It was the first time since 1959 that work was not continuing on a subway somewhere in Metropolitan Toronto. Kipling and Kennedy stations would be the last new subway stations to open on the system until North York Centre opened in 1987, and the last extensions to open until the Spadina line was pushed north to Downsview in 1996. The search was on for a cheaper rapid transit technology to serve the lower density suburbs, and this was the final blow to the Queen subway. As Toronto’s downtown expanded, the costs of a Queen subway increased rapidly and, by the time the 1970s drew to a close, it was not considered a serious priority.
There were faint echoes of the Queen subway during the 1980s. As Metropolitan Toronto put together its Network 2011 proposal for rapid transit expansion, congestion at the Bloor/Yonge transfer point led to the proposal for a Downtown Relief Line running from Pape station to Union station via the CN railway tracks. When concerns over conflicts between the subway and the railway were raised, suggestions came forward to bring the line downtown via either Queen or King Streets. However, as the province delayed in approving the Network 2011 plan, the political will backing the Downtown Relief Line evaporated. Modifications to Bloor/Yonge station reduced the need for the line and, when the province began approving portions of the Network 2011 proposal, the Downtown Relief Line was nowhere to be seen.
The Future of the Bloor-Danforth Line
The prospects for expanding the Bloor-Danforth subway are limited. To the east, the Scarborough RT provides the link between the eastern terminal and the Scarborough City Centre, effectively blocking the line in that direction. No such block exists to the west, but densities drop off dramatically and the area becomes more industrial and suburban. When Metropolitan Toronto approved the Network 2011 plan, the proposal called for a subway along Eglinton West to the Mississauga border. The Bloor-Danforth subway was not touched. It was only after the Network 2011 plan failed that the most recent proposals to extend the Bloor subway started to appear. In the Liberal government’s ‘Let’s Move’ plan of 1989, one of the proposals called for an extension of the subway west from Kipling, via the CP railway tracks and then underground, to Sherway Gardens mall at the edge of the city.
The ultimate goal of some planners is to take the subway further west into Mississauga, but this runs into political problems. Mississauga has been lukewarm to the proposal to extend the subway to the Dixie GO station (in the centre of yet another low density industrial area) and refuses to consider paying for it. Even the extension to Sherway has its critics. While this mall may be one of the largest trip generators west of Kipling station, TTC traffic between Kipling station and this mall is light, with the Shorncliffe bus providing the most direct service between Sherway and the end of the subway at twenty minute intervals during the midday. An extension to the airport from Kipling has also been considered, but the high costs and the low density neighbourhoods along the route do not lend it much support. It is far more likely that we will see the Yonge or Spadina subways extended north than see the Bloor-Danforth subway extended east or west.
Most recently, in 2008, area councillor Peter Milczyn asked TTC staff to study the potential costs of extending the subway west from Kipling, not to Sherway, but to the intersection of East Mall and Dundas, near Cloverdale Mall, possibly to support higher density development in the area. Although much of the route could be built on the surface paralleling the Canadian Pacific tracks, the report looked at an alignment that would have put the tracks in a tunnel for most of the route, which significantly increased the costs of the proposed extension. The idea has not been raised again since.
In some ways, the Bloor-Danforth subway line finds itself suffering from the same human geography issues that made the Queen subway obsolete. Running through the south of the amalgamated city of Toronto, it is too far away from neighbourhoods in the north of the city to make it especially convenient for true cross-town travel. This is one of the reasons the Sheppard subway is being built, and why the Eglinton West subway was proposed. This fact is acknowledged by the northeasterly turn the Bloor subway makes on its way to central Scarborough, and by the U-shaped route extending into the northeastern and northwestern suburbs the final maps of the Queen subway and the Downtown Relief line show. To the west, the location of the Bloor-Danforth subway leaves northern Etobicoke underserved, but there is no Etobicoke RT to finish the trip up Highway 427. The bulk of development in the Region of Peel to the west is also well north of Bloor Street.
Still, there is no denying that the Bloor-Danforth subway has been a success. It is a major transit corridor used by the citizens of central and southern Etobicoke, Mississauga and much of Scarborough to get downtown. It travels through moderate to high-density neighbourhoods that also help to keep the ridership numbers up. It is doubtful that the Bloor-Danforth line could have been this successful, if it had been built still further north. Unlike the rest of the Toronto subway network, the Bloor-Danforth line may have been built in just the right location and to just the right length.
As for the Queen subway, it may yet come full circle. Congestion along the line continues to increase, making many at the TTC wish that they could put those streetcars underground.
2 Bloor-Danforth Subway Image Archive
Next see the North Yonge extensions.
Thanks to Mark Brader and Scott Haskill for correcting this web page and offering additional information.
- Bloor-Danforth Subway Extensions to Kennedy and Kipling, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), November 1980.
- Bromley, John F., and Jack May, Fifty Years of Progressive Transit, Electric Railroaders’ Association, New York (New York), 1978.
- Brown, James A. and Brian West, ‘All about the Bloor-Danforth Subway’ UCRS Newsletter, March 1966, p50-56, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario), 1966.
- Progress Report No 5: Bloor-Danforth-University Subway, Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), July 1964.