Transit Toronto is sponsored by bus tracker and next vehicle arrivals. TransSee features include vehicle tracking by route or fleet number, schedule adherence, off route vehicles and more advanced features. Works on all mobile devices and on any browser.
Supports Toronto area agencies TTC, GO trains, MiWay, YRT, HSR and GRT, as well as NY MTA, LA metro, SF MUNI, Boston MBTA, and (new) Barrie.

Ghosts of Toronto's public transit

A single train from Woodbine to Union and an underground ‘subway’ along congested Queen Street are just a couple of the TTC’s ideas that wilted

Liz Clayton National Post Saturday, November 23, 2002

CREDIT: Carlo Allegri, National Post

As the unveiling of a shiny new subway draws near, it’s easy to forget the countless other transit ideas that, for one reason or another, never quite made the cut. Many of us pass daily within a few feet of hidden artifacts of the TTC’s long history — abandoned subway stations, forgotten streetcar tunnels and the beginnings of subway lines that never were.

What else is hiding down there? Well, plenty.

Picture it: According to the sign above the platform, you have two options — Downtown or Eastbound. You’re at the intersection of Bay and Bloor. It’s 1966 and you’re standing on the platform at Bay station. Bay Lower, that is.

Abandoned but for TTC training exercises and film shoots, Bay Lower sits quietly beneath its bustling big brother. Untouched by the general public for more than 30 years, it’s likely Keanu Reeves (Johnny Mnemonic) and Mira Sorvino (Mimic) have spent more time in our city’s coolest underground hideout than you ever will.

Dirty, chipping and most of all empty, Bay Lower is a bizarre reminder of a time when our two-line subway system used to be one. When the Bloor-Danforth line opened in 1966, it was fully integrated with the Yonge-University subway. It was possible then to get on a train at Woodbine and end up at Union — without changing trains. (Technically, that’s still possible, but good luck finding a subway driver you can talk into it.)

Aside from being baffling to the rider (do I want to catch an eastbound train from Bay Lower or Bay Upper?), the arrangement was logistically flawed. One train could delay the entire line, causing headaches from St. George to Eglinton, Woodbine to Keele. So, a mere six months after it opened, Bay Lower was closed to regular use, and the city’s east-west and north-south trains decided they might get along better if they had a little more independence.

Bay Lower is perhaps the most storied of Toronto’s “secret” transit locales, but it is by no means the only interesting hidden spot in our city’s vast underground labyrinth.

Do you sense the ghost of a station at Queen and Yonge? It’s there, in the form of a dirty, roughed in cavern that constituted the beginnings (and also the end) of the Queen Street subway line.

The cavern underneath Queen station barely merits the name “Lower Queen” — it’s less a station than a hole. And unlike its upstairs neighbour, the downstairs Queen was intended to carry only streetcars, not subway trains.

Lower Queen was roughed in during the construction of the Yonge line in 1952, with the intention of running a tunnel between McCaul and Sherbourne streets to alleviate the downtown gridlock along Queen that we still see today. Unfortunately, the plan was never pursued and the “station” today is relegated to being a home for elevator machinery.

The TTC keeps a few secrets at ground level as well. Both Keele and Woodbine stations house abandoned streetcar connection platforms.

When it opened in 1966, the Bloor-Danforth line ran only between Keele and Woodbine stations, and each had built-in connections to the existing streetcar lines. At each terminus, streetcars continued along Bloor and Danforth to Jane and Luttrel, respectively. (Some of us may remember having to change for the streetcar and then for the bus to complete that long journey home from downtown to Scarborough.)

The streetcar connection tunnels at Keele and Woodbine are extant, though blocked off to public access — which is a shame, as a fair amount of work went into these tunnels, which were only in use for two years. At Keele, a modern (for 1966) inclined moving sidewalk was built to ferry passengers from the elevated subway platform down to the grade-level streetcar platform. The moving sidewalk and platform are still intact, as are the pedestrian tunnels in Woodbine station — now partially converted into a staff break room.

As to what else may be hidden down there, only the rodents know for sure.

Copyright 2002 National Post