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Coxwell

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Text by James Bow

Coxwell station serves a moderately dense neighbourhood of single-family detached homes in southern East York and stores and businesses on Danforth Avenue. In 2015, an average of 15,260 passengers passed through the station on an average weekday, comparable to Woodbine’s ridership of 13,570. Coxwell station’s buses take passengers along Coxwell Avenue, serving the businesses in the commercial area south of Danforth Avenue, not to mention the patients of Eastern General Hospital and the businesses on O’Connor Drive and St. Clair Avenue East, but Coxwell station is not a major regional hub. Its influence does not extend north of Eglinton or east of Warden.

But while Coxwell’s architecture and footprint might be modest, this belies the considerable influence the Coxwell and Danforth area have had on the history of public transportation in Toronto.

Early History

In the late 19th century, save for a small stretch of land south of Queen Street, the eastern boundary of the City of Toronto was Greenwood Avenue, with the area between it and Woodbine Avenue rural farmland. A Charles Coxwell Small, born 1800, grew up to be a clerk in the King’s Bench Division of the Supreme Court, and also made his fortune buying up property. By the middle part of the 19th century, he owned a plot of land running north from Lake Ontario bounded by Woodbine and the Danforth. He built a modest access road along the west side of his property which became Coxwell Avenue, named in his honour.

There were two streams on the property, filling a 12-metre-deep, u-shaped pond called, appropriately, “Small’s Pond”. The water supply allowed Coxwell Small to raise cattle, operate a tannery and a sawmill. Small’s Pond is one of Toronto’s many lost waterways. After Small’s death in 1864, the pond became polluted and choked with weeds. A child drowned there in 1911, and two more had to be rescued a year later. Eventually, in 1935, the pond was drained and filled in as a health measure. Orchard Park marks its place today.

Coxwell Avenue itself grew in importance when the City of Toronto annexed the territory between Greenwood Avenue and Victoria Park, including the village of East Toronto and the unincorporated community of Little Norway, in 1909. Save for Woodbine, Coxwell was one of the only streets offering an uninterrupted run between Queen Street and the Danforth, as the area’s topology made this difficult for other contenders to get around the ravines cutting back from the old Lake Iroquois shoreline around Kingston Road. When the City of Toronto established the Toronto Civic Railway to extend service into this area after the Toronto Railway Company refused to do so, the first line built was along Gerrard Street, from Greenwood east along Gerrard, north along Coxwell and east along Gerrard to Main Street in East Toronto.

Gerrard’s jog via Coxwell was caused by the area’s complicated topography, and by the presence of developed land to the east, including the graveyard of St. John’s Anglican Church in the old village of Little Norway. Gerrard Street initially ended at Coxwell, so to extend it around these obstacles, and provide access to a residential neighbourhood emerging near the Grand Trunk rail station at Main Street, a new “upper” Gerrard Street was built 300 meters to the north, following the height of the land. The Toronto Civic Railway’s GERRARD line opened for business on December 18, 1912, bringing transit service to Coxwell Avenue for the first time.

In 1913, the City of Toronto built an underpass that took Coxwell Avenue beneath the Grand Trunk Railway tracks north of Gerrard Street, allowing for an unobstructed run to Danforth Avenue. At the same time, the Toronto Civic Railway was building a streetcar line on Danforth Avenue from Broadview east to Luttrell, and to connect and service both lines, a single track was extended up Coxwell between Upper Gerrard and the Danforth. This allowed for the construction of the Hanson Street supply yard on Coxwell and Danforth Carhouse at the southeast corner of Danforth and Coxwell, to serve both the GERRARD and DANFORTH lines. In spite of the tracks, passenger service was not offered on this portion of Coxwell Avenue, and would not until the Toronto Transportation Commission took over Toronto’s streetcar services in September 1921.

The TTC Takes Over

Soon after the TTC took over, crews set to work extending double tracks along Coxwell south from Lower Gerrard to Queen, and to double the single track from upper Gerrard to the Danforth. On October 2, 1921, the COXWELL streetcar was born, operating from a crossover at Queen and Coxwell to the Danforth carhouse.

Danforth carhouse became one of the largest operating divisions on the TTC, with dozens of streetcars serving the BLOOR, DANFORTH, CARLTON and HARBORD routes, to name just a few. It ensured that the intersection of Danforth and Coxwell was always bustling, as streetcars pulled into and out of service. At the same time, development brought jobs, which brought more development, and the area was soon filled out with stores along the Danforth, and with residential houses in the streets surrounding the intersection.

Development soon spilled over Toronto’s boundary just north of Danforth Avenue, into East York Township, and it wasn’t long before people saw the need and opportunity for improved public transit. John Hollinger launched the first Hollinger Bus Lines route in June 1921, running from the intersection of Woodbine and the Danforth via north on Woodbine to O’Connor Drive. On December 16, 1931, Hollinger launched the COXWELL-MAIN bus, running Danforth and Coxwell Avenue via north on Coxwell, east on Sammon, north on Woodbine and east on Lumsden to Main.

As services grew, Hollinger saw the need to build a bus terminal northeast of the Coxwell/Danforth intersection and augmented his business with a terminal building containing a restaurant called the Terminal Grill. This building still exists, and the restaurant inside it (now occupying all of the space) is called the Bus Terminal Grill. Hollinger’s buses accessed the bus terminal from the north via Strathcona Boulevard, rather than from the south, a practise taken up by the TTC when it built Coxwell subway station’s entrance at the same site.

The Subway Comes Through

When the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto was formed in 1954, uniting Toronto with its surrounding villages and townships under a regional government, the Toronto Transportation Commission was renamed the Toronto Transit Commission, and given the responsibility of operating all transit service within Metro’s boundaries. The independent operationsof Hollinger Bus Lines and Danforth Bus Lines were bought out, giving the TTC control over the bus terminal’s land. The TTC routed its new O’CONNOR and MORTIMER buses into the facility while Coxwell streetcars continued to board passengers at a small waiting room in the northwest corner of Danforth Carhouse, one block to the south. The MORTIMER bus left on May 20, 1961, extending east beyond Coxwell, but the O’CONNOR bus continued on.

Meanwhile, the TTC was considering construction of an east-west subway line. In the late 1950s, even as TTC and Metro planners and municipal politicians debated the merits of a Queen versus a Bloor-Danforth subway, both plans called for a stop near the Coxwell/Danforth intersection. Strathmore Boulevard, located one block north of Danforth Avenue, was seen as a good place to build the line without disrupting traffic on the Danforth, and the old Hollinger Bus Terminal lands were an obvious place to put the station. Eventually the Bloor-Danforth plan won out, and work began on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway between Keele and Woodbine stations. Hollinger Loop was shut down and Coxwell station’s entrance and bus terminal built in its place.

Coxwell station opened to the public on February 26, 1966, serving the 70 O’CONNOR and 22 COXWELL. There was never any plan to extend the COXWELL streetcar into the station, as the TTC planned to abandon all streetcar service in Toronto by 1980, and was shutting down streetcar operations at Danforth carhouse, turning it into a bus garage. The Danforth-Coxwell streetcar loop remained for CARLTON short-turns, while the Queen-Coxwell loop was decommissioned, although the TTC did an about face when it re-opened Queen-Coxwell loop for CARLTON short turns after it decided it would abandon streetcar tracks on Coxwell north from Upper Gerrard.

Coxwell opened as a modest station, serving its immediate neighbourhood, Coxwell Avenue south to the Beaches, as well as eastern East York and the industrial lands around Bermondsey and O’Connor. Buses from farther north in Metro tended to come south via Victoria Park and Don Mills and were routed either through Woodbine station (via the DANFORTH streetcar shuttle still operating from the end of the subway to Luttrell loop) and Pape station. On May 10, 1968, when the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway was extended east to Warden Avenue, the buses on Bermondsey were rerouted to Woodbine station, while O’Connor buses were extended east along St. Clair Avenue East to Warden station.

However, Danforth garage still had considerable influence on the station. Administratively, it was connected to Greenwood yard and is often the site of crew changes. Even as Danforth garage aged, and eventually ceased to be an operating bus garage, the facility continues to be the home of Danforth Subway Operations staff, including drivers, managers and supervisors for both the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway and the SCARBOROUGH RT, as well as clerks and administrative staff. A report on the status of Danforth garage, commissioned in September 2016, suggested that any change to the status of Danforth garage, might disrupt these subway workers, requiring them to move to a new building either built or leased somewhere along the line.

Architectural Features and Modernization

Coxwell station follows the modernist architectural style of the rest of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway that opened in February 1966. The platforms are utilitarian, and coxwell maintains the original tile patterns of the line, with white base tiles and a blue trim tile. The main station building and its only entrance is also a bus terminal, featuring the standard large windows with a metal and veneer strip at waist height. The station maintained its appearance with little more than minor cosmetic changes for the following 48 years.

In the autumn of 2014, the TTC started work renovating and upgrading the station, with an eye to making it accessible to the mobility impaired. Elevators would be installed to connect the eastbound and westbound platforms to the mezzanine level and the street. Three automatic sliding doors were added, one at the station entrance, and two leading to the bus bays. Presto automatic fare gates were also installed in 2017. In addition to this work, the TTC installed improved signage and wayfinding and new security cameras. The bus loop was repaved, the station power upgraded, enhanced lighting installed in the bus loop, and new fencing and landscape installed in the terminal area as part of the station’s state of good repair.

The work required the TTC to shut down the bus terminal for a lengthy period in 2015 and 2016, with riders required to transfer to buses on Coxwell Avenue. To accommodate this disruption, buses on the 22 COXWELL and 70 O’CONNOR buses were interlined, allowing some a one-seat trip across Danforth Avenue. The TTC also worked with the local community to try and minimize disruption, staging construction and working to maintain traffic on Strathmore Boulevard. The bus terminal re-opened for service on May 7, 2017, and the interlining of 22 COXWELL and 70 O’CONNOR came to an end.

In spite of these renovations, Coxwell station was not part of the second exit program currently underway with Woodbine and Greenwood stations. This matter will likely be revisited at a later date.

As part of the station renovations, the TTC commissioned a public artwork for the station entitled Forwards and Backwards by Jennifer Davis and Jon Sasaki. This piece, which reflective chrome curtains along the wall reflecting and distorting passengers as they pass, will be housed in the mezzanine level of the station. In making its choice, the public jury said that Forwards and Backwards “skillfully summed up the character of the neighborhood — hopeful, dramatic, playful and exciting — without anchoring it specifically to any one cultural group or historic era.”

The Future

The only other change proposed for Coxwell station was considered in 1997, as the TTC dealt with a streetcar surplus and rising ridership numbers that their bus fleet couldn’t handle. The TTC released its Conversion to Streetcars Report, which suggested the creation of the 509 HARBOURFRONT, but also looked for bus routes that could be quickly, easily and inexpensively converted to streetcar operation. The 22 COXWELL bus rated highly, as only one kilometre of new track would have to be laid (from Upper Gerrard north). However, the TTC decided against recommending this proposal as the 22 COXWELL bus did not have the ridership to justify such a conversion, and the TTC felt that an expensive new terminal would have to be built for the streetcar (probably on land found on the TTC’s Danforth Garage, with a passageway to the station’s mezzanine level.

Coxwell will continue to see respectable crowds as a neighbourhood station on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line. Its reach out into Toronto may be limited, but it provides an important connection to the area, and its modest nature belies its importance to the operating of Toronto’s subway network.

Trivia

  • On December 22, 2016, this station, along with Leslie, was the last to receive PRESTO card readers, making the whole of the Toronto subway network accessible to PRESTO card users.

Service Notes (as of August 1, 2017):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 2 Bloor - Danforth
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Kipling: 5:48 a.m. weekdays, 5:59 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:08 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train to Kennedy: 5:47 a.m. weekdays, 5:48 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:08 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Kipling: 1:41 a.m.
    Last Train to Kennedy: 2:04 a.m.
  • Address: 355 Strathmore Boulevard
  • Opened: February 26, 1966
  • Wheelchair Accessible Since: Autumn 2017 (projected)
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 15,260 (2015), 16,980 (2014), 17,760 (2013), 16,730 (2012), 16,670 (2011), 15,620 (2010), 16,700 (2009), 17,900 (2008), 16,590 (2007)
  • Entrances: 1
    • Located on the south side of Strathmore Boulevard, 55 metres east of Coxwell, with a fare control area leading directly to the bus terminal, and stairs and escalators leading from there down to a mezzanine level, with further stairs and escalators leading to the station platforms.
  • Elevators(click here for maintenance schedule):
    • None available until renovations complete (Autumn 2017)
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • South Side - Concourse To Street Level (Up At All Times)
    • South Side - East End - Eastbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • North Side - East End - Westbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
  • Parking: None
  • 2 Side platforms

TTC Surface Connections:

Former TTC Surface Connections

Publication Archive


Coxwell Station Image Archive


References

  • Bateman, Chris. “5 Lost Rivers That Run under Toronto.” BlogTO. N.p., Feb. 2014.
  • Hood, J. William. The Toronto Civic Railways: An Illustrated History. Toronto, Ont.: Upper Canada Railway Society, 1986.

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