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Spadina

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Text by James Bow

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Spadina station has grown considerably since it first opened, more than fifty years ago. It was launched as a local neighbourhood station in a sleepy part of the city, and it has transformed with the area and the city into a major transportation hub serving one of the most heavily used streetcar routes, and two subway routes.

Walmer Station

When the first designs of Spadina station appeared, it wasn’t even called Spadina. Instead, the first maps of the proposed BLOOR-DANFORTH subway showed a station in the area named Walmer instead, after the residential street located one block west of Spadina, running north from Bloor Street. Spadina Avenue was a major commercial street, boasting streetcar service along its length until 1948, but most of the ridership and commercial development south of Bloor.

Spadina Avenue itself ended at Bloor, and a more residential Spadina Road took over for a run from Bloor to Davenport. Even though the station name was soon changed to Spadina, suggesting some redesigning had occurred, only a pair of modest entrances were to be installed. Even though the 77 SPADINA was running past the station, there would be no bus loop within the station, and transfers would be required to change from bus to subway and vice versa.

A Second Subway

The first major change to Spadina station would occur over ten years after its opening, with the construction and launch of the SPADINA SUBWAY. The new line started from the UNIVERSITY SUBWAY platform and curved west and north to Spadina Avenue south of Lowther Avenue, before continuing its journey beneath the Nordheimer Ravine, Cedarvale Park and the median of the Spadina Expressway (today known as Allen Road) to Wilson Avenue. A station was planned just north of the Lowther/Spadina intersection, and it would likely have been another local neighbourhood, called “Lowther”, until the TTC decided to link the station with Spadina station further south and uniting the two stations under one name.

The reason for this change was because the UNIVERSITY SUBWAY was not operating after 9:30 p.m. on weekdays and Saturdays, or at all on Sundays and holidays, due to the line’s low ridership. The ridership of the SPADINA SUBWAY line was a big question mark, and if the line didn’t increase the UNIVERSITY line’s ridership enough to justify late evening and Sunday operation, there was a possibility that the SPADINA line might be operated separate from the YONGE SUBWAY at those times. A double crossover was installed north of Spadina station’s new north and southbound platforms for Wilson-Spadina operation, and an over 200 meter-long tunnel built to allow passengers to connect with the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway.

One wonders why SPADINA trains couldn’t continue to St. George, allowing transfers there. Yes, the curves and the interline track connections west of St. George station made installing a crossover impractical, but a crossover already existed east of St. George station. Changing ends there might be more complicated than at other TTC terminal stations, but not impossible.

Competing Architectural Aesthetics

Whatever the case, the question became academic, as the SPADINA SUBWAY increased ridership on the UNIVERSITY line that late evening and Sunday closures were never considered, and the SPADINA line never operated separately from the YONGE subway. The design change, however, did contribute to one of the station’s best-known features: a long moving walkway set up along the pedestrian tunnel easing the over 200 metre-long walk. Unfortunately the length of the walkway meant that it became difficult to maintain. By the late 1990s, breakdowns were common, and in the era of limited budgets, the TTC decided that the moving sidewalk was too expensive to maintain or replace. It was shut down for good and ultimately removed in 2004.

The SPADINA subway meant other changes for Spadina station. The original east-side entrance was removed, and a bus loop and terminal building was built in its place, acting as the main entrance to the station. The 77 SPADINA route was split to operate out of this terminal, with a new 103 SPADINA NORTH route established to handle bus service north of the station.

The new bus terminal, located across the street from the old west-side entrance to the station, highlight the different architectural aesthetics of 1966 and 1978. Whereas the older entrance is a metal and glass box, with clear modernist lines, the 1978 entrance and bus terminal features a pseudo-mansard roof and brick arches, with dark colours and little obvious signage. This difference is mirrored by the older and newer platforms, with the BLOOR-DANFORTH platforms showing the straight lines, lighter colours and simple tile patterns of the other stations on the line, while the SPADINA platforms have a unique tile pattern and darker colours and station signage. The stations of the SPADINA subway were built more in the style of the Montreal Metro, with each station having unique architecture and seventies-modern flourishes.

At the north end of the SPADINA SUBWAY platforms, a remarkable engineering and preservation project was incorporated into the new station entrance. A house at 85 Spadina Road, built in 1899 by architect Robert Ogilvie for lawyer Norman B. Gash, was listed as a heritage property by the City of Toronto when plans to build new Spadina station moved forward in 1974. The property had been slated for demolition as part of the proposed Spadina Expressway. Though the Spadina Expressway project had been cancelled in 1971, the Metropolitan government and the TTC acquired the building to demolish it for a station entrance. Protests from local residents forced the TTC to change its plans, repurposing the old building itself as the entrance.

The new Spadina station platforms were built during a period when the TTC incorporated more artwork into its new stations. A large mural called “Morning Glory” was commissioned. Made by Louis de Niverville, this enamel piece is found on the street level of the northern entrance to Spadina station, inside the old Gash house. A second piece, a quilt featuring caribou on tundra called “Barren Ground Caribou” by Joyce Wieland, can be found on the concourse level below.

But the original Spadina platforms are not without their own flourishes. Minimalist bus and subway designs were sandblasted next to the “SPADINA” station name on the tiles on the BLOOR-DANFORTH platform. These were installed in 1978, commemorating the opening of the new bus terminal at the station, and are the only such embellishment found on the station walls of the original BLOOR-DANFORTH subway stations, until renovations changed the appearance of Dufferin and Pape stations decades later.

Streetcars Arrive

When the SPADINA SUBWAY platforms opened on January 28, 1978, plans were underway to restore streetcar service to Spadina Avenue. The TTC acknowledged this by installing signs pointing to the connecting tunnel advertising “TO STREETCARS”, but it was a bit premature. Plans stalled through the 1980s and construction only began in the early 1990s. Patience was eventually rewarded, however, with the launch of the 510 SPADINA route in July 27, 1997.

The new streetcar route brought about another major change to Spadina station. An underground loop was built, which streetcars entered from Spadina Avenue just north of Sussex Avenue. The loading platform was built along what had been the southern wall of the concourse level, between the bus terminal and the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway platforms. Yet another style of station signage and tiling was used here.

But the streetcars also changed Spadina station in other ways. As an interchange station, it had always stood in the shadow of the more heavily used St. George and Bloor-Yonge stations. The new streetcars added crowds. Spadina station was becoming a major transportation hub serving not just the Annex neighbourhood, but the University of Toronto and, further south, Chinatown.

The construction related to the 510 SPADINA streetcar allowed the TTC to install elevators making the BLOOR-DANFORTH platforms of Spadina station wheelchair accessible, but this change didn’t include the SPADINA subway platforms. The configuration of the station there makes the installation of elevators problematic. No elevators have been installed at the Lowther Avenue entrance.

The last major change to Spadina station added a third entrance, this one located at the western end of the BLOOR-DANFORTH platforms, updating the station to current fire codes (although without elevators, making the entrance inaccessible to wheelchairs). The stairs from the west end of these platforms leads to a glass and metal automatic entrance building located on the east side of Walmer Road. Construction on this entrance began in 1998, and proved more difficult to complete than expected. After more than eighteen months, during which time local residents complained of excessive noise and disruption, the new entrance building opened to the public in late March 2000.

A Patchwork Quilt

The changes to Spadina station make it one of the largest on the TTC network by area. From the Walmer Road entrance through the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway platforms, the connecting tunnel, the SPADINA SUBWAY platforms and to the Lowther exit, it’s possible to walk over half a kilometre through the fare-paid area of the station. The many changes that have occurred to the station throughout its fifty year history has produced a patchwork quilt of architectural styles and configurations. The station is partly accessible, and in many ways an accidental interchange. However, the crowds show how important the station is, both for the local neighbourhood and the wider network.


Service Notes (as of January 3, 2016):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 1 Yonge - University - Spadina
    2 Bloor - Danforth
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train Northbound: 6:12 a.m. weekdays, 6:20 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:21 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Southbound: 6:00 a.m. weekdays, 5:59 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:59 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Eastbound: 6:01 a.m. weekdays, 6:08 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:23 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Westbound: 5:58 a.m. weekdays, 6:03 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:12 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train Northbound: 1:51 a.m.
    Last Train Southbound: 1:35 a.m.
    Last Train Eastbound: 1:51 a.m.
    Last Train Westbound: 1:55 a.m.
  • Address: 6 Spadina Road
  • Opened: February 25, 1966
  • Wheelchair Accessible Since: 1997 (Bloor-Danforth platform only; people with accessibility needs transferring to the Spadina subway should do so at St. George station)
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 13,670 (Yonge-University), 35,120 (Bloor-Danforth) (2013)
  • Entrances:
    • Spadina Road, east side entrance, accessible, located on Spadina Road 60 metres north of Bloor Street.
    • Spadina Road, west side entrance, automatic, non-accessible, located on Spadina Road, 55 metres north of Bloor Street.
    • Walmer Road, automatic, non-accessible, leading to Bloor-Danforth subway platforms, located on east side of Walmer Road, 60 metres north of Bloor Street.
    • 85 Spadina Road, automatic, non-accessible, leading to Spadina subway platforms, located on the east side of Spadina road, 149 metres north of Lowther Avenue.
    • Kendal Avenue, automatic, non-accessible, staircase leading from sidewalk on north side of Kendal Avenue at Spadina Road leading to Spadina subway platforms.
  • Elevators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • Concourse to eastbound Bloor-Danforth subway platform
    • Concourse to westbound Bloor-Danforth subway platform
    • Street level to Concourse (Spadina Road, east side entrance)
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • Southbound Platform To South Concourse Spadina (YUS) (Up At All Times)
    • Southbound Platform To South Concourse Of Spadina (YUS) (Down At All Times)
    • Northbound Platform To South Concourse Of Spadina (YUS) (Up At All Times)
    • Northbound Platform To South Concourse Of Spadina (YUS) (Down At All Times)
    • Concourse To Street - West Side Of Spadina (Up At All Times)
    • Eastbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • Westbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • Concourse To Bus Bay (Down At All Times)
    • Concourse To Bus Bay (Up At All Times)
  • Forms of fare payment include Presto, credit or debit
  • Cellular and wi-fi enabled
  • Pass Vending Machine available.
  • Side platforms (both lines)
  • Token vending machines

TTC Surface Connections:

Former TTC Surface Connections:


Spadina Station Image Archive


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