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St. George

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St. George station, located just north of Varsity Stadium at the University of Waterloo at the east end of the Annex neighbourhood may seem an unassuming station based on its location. However, with at least 136,200 passengers using this station during an average weekday, it is the second most travelled subway station on Toronto’s network, after Bloor-Yonge. When it started service on February 28, 1963, it was the terminus of the Toronto subway network, and remained the terminus of the YONGE-UNIVERSITY line until 1978. It operated in the shadow of the Bloor-Yonge interchange for a few years after that before increasing ridership throughout the network put more pressure on the station as an alternate way to travel downtown.

A Brief History of the Surrounding Lands

The lands around St. George Street were probably surveyed soon after the City of Toronto was incorporated in 1834. The University of Toronto was officially established in 1827, when a royal charter was granted to Kings College, and property granted north and west of what is today the College Street/Elizabeth Street intersection. This land was preserved for the College’s use west to a set of lots on the east side of a street stretching north from today’s College.

By 1857, this street was known as St. Georges Street. It was likely named after Laurent Quetton St. George (born Laurent Quet), a Frenchman born in 1771 who fought for the King of France during the French Revolution and fled to England in 1971. He tried to continue the fight against the revolutionaries there, but failed and, in 1796, anglicized his name. In 1798, the British government granted the French loyalists land in York County in Upper Canada as part of a plan to create a colony loyal to the French King. Quetton St. George accepted a parcel of this land and emigrated. The colony collapsed by 1802 when the French colonists found Canada’s winters too cold, but Quetton stayed. He became a merchant and, in 1807 built the first brick house in Toronto, located on King Street.

Quetton stayed in York until 1815. When Napoleon fell to defeat at the Battle of Waterloo and with the French monarchy restored, Quetton St. George decided to return home. He sold his business and his home to his friends Dr. William Baldwin, John Baldwin, and Jules Quesnel. Dr. William Baldwin stayed in Quetton’s house for a time, and remembered his friendship. It was Dr. William Baldwin who decided to name St. Georges Street so after his friend. The “s” at the end of Georges faded away with time. As for Quetton St. George’s brick house, it unfortunately was not maintained for a period at the end of the 19th century, and was unceremoniously demolished in 1904.

The Rise of Bloor

St. George Street was eventually extended north of Bloor to Dupont, but it remained a largely residential street. Canada’s first purpose-built apartment building (as opposed to boarding house) was built on the corner of St. George and Harbord around 1911. Eventually, the street became increasingly under the influence of the University of Toronto as it grew and expanded west. The street itself never saw a streetcar, and its only bus service was the premium Gray Coach lines HILL COACH.

Bloor Street, on the other hand, was transforming into a major crosstown thoroughfare. The first horsecars began operating in 1890 on a line between Sherbourne and Clinton streets. In September 1891, the Toronto Railway Company inaugurated the BELT LINE service, operating in both directions in a loop via Bloor, Sherbourne, King and Spadina. Electrification in the area took place in the mid 1890s. The BELT LINE cars replaced by crosstown BLOOR service on July 1, 1923. Ridership increased steadily, especially following the Second World War, as Toronto’s suburbs grew, and more traffic came downtown via Bloor Street and Danforth Avenues.

The University of Toronto continued to grow, and started using the lands south of Bloor Street near Bedford Avenue (one block east of St. George) for athletic events. In 1911, the University of Toronto built Varsity Stadium, as the permanent home of the university’s football club. It also became the home of the Toronto Argonauts, until 1959. At its peak, it seated 27,425 spectators for the 1956 Gray Cup final between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Montreal Alouettes.

Other than the stadium, however, there was little to mark this spot as a terminal. That changed in June 1953 when the TTC built Bedford Loop, taking streetcars north on Bedford Avenue and west and south on private right-of-way. At the time, the TTC was operating a number of tripper services on Bloor Street, especially from the east end (including the DANFORTH TRIPPER), but anticipated that, with the opening of the YONGE SUBWAY. To facilitate transfers at Bloor station, the TTC built a transferway in the middle of the road so that passengers could get off the streetcars and proceed directly downstairs to board the subway without showing a transfer. While this made things more convenient for passengers coming from the east end, there was no easy place to turn these streetcars around to make a return journey. Bedford Loop was built as the most convenient spot for DANFORTH TRIPPER cars to turn around.

Subway Plans

After the YONGE SUBWAY opened, the TTC and the City of Toronto considered where next to build. The City of Toronto favoured pursuing a crosstown line paralleling Queen Street, but the TTC noticed ridership increasing more quickly on the BLOOR and DANFORTH streetcars, and suggested an alignment paralleling those avenues instead. The line would be linked to the south end of the YONGE line by the UNIVERSITY subway, using an underground wye near the Avenue Road/Bloor intersection to allow for integrated operation.

Under this arrangement, the TTC planned for stops at the three entrances to the wye. At the south end, a stop was placed near Charles Street to serve the Royal Ontario Museum. At the east end, stop was placed beneath Bay Street. At the west end, the most convenient place to put a stop was between Bedford Avenue and St. George street. Bay and St. George stations were two-level stations designed to allow transfers between passengers wanting to go crosstown on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, or those heading downtown on the YONGE-UNVIERSITY subway.

Although interlined operation was planned, the layout of the stations was not designed to facilitate easy cross-platform transfers, as though segregated operation between BLOOR-DANFORTH and YONGE-UNIVERSITY (possibly with an extension to the north) was favoured, but initial plans called for the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway to open in phases, due to a lack of capital funds. The first phase of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway would have seen trains operate between St. George and Greenwood stations in 1966, with St. George operating as the western terminus of both the BLOOR-DANFORTH and YONGE-UNIVERSITY lines. The rest of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, from St. George west to Keele and Greenwood east to Woodbine, would open in 1969. The ability to use St. George station as a terminal for both the UNIVERSITY and DANFORTH subways is reflected in the double crossovers installed on both track levels east of the station. (Click here to read more about the TTC’s aborted plans for integrated operation of the BLOOR-DANFORTH and YONGE-UNIVERSITY subways)

Fortunately, Metropolitan Toronto and the province of Ontario intervened, granting the TTC additional subsidies to open the Keele-to-Woodbine section of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway to open in one go, and further extensions to Islington and Warden to open in 1968. In the meantime, the UNIVERSITY subway opened between Union and St. George stations on February 26, 1963 to considerable fanfare. Ontario premier John Robarts was on hand to flip the ceremonial switch to allow the ceremonial first train to enter St. George station.

ttc-st-george-bedford-transfer-1980s.jpg

A “ST.GEORGE BEDFORD” transfer, issued at the station in the late 1980s.

Station Features

Although built as part of the UNIVERSITY subway, St. George station takes more of its architectural cues from the BLOOR-DANFORTH stations that opened after it, three years later. The UNIVERSITY subway stations south of Bloor were built under different and, at times, more challenging conditions. Their architecture either recalls that of the YONGE subway (where St. Andrew and Osgoode stations used Vitrolite tiles), or the unique features of their area (the tube-stations of Queen’s Park and St. Andrew). St. George is the only station on the University subway line to feature a substantial exterior, with not one but two station entrances. The entrance at St. George Street is considerably larger than the one at Bedford Avenue, with a curved canopy and a curved entranceway to match. The lines are crisp and modern, and the large glass doors let in a considerable amount of light. On the Bedford side, the station entrance is smaller, but attached to a two-bay bus terminal, which served the extension of the 4 ANNETTE trolley bus.

Although St. George station opened with its Bedford Road entrance right next to the loading platform at Bedford Loop, and while BLOOR STREETCARS looped through this loop at frequent intervals, Bedford Loop was never incorporated into the fare-paid zone of St. George station. Unlike passengers on the 4 ANNETTE trolley bus, passengers had to show a paper transfer in order to switch between subway and streetcar, even as the TTC launched a BLOOR WEST TRIPPER service, mimicking the DANFORTH service looping through Bedford Loop, but coming in from the west. This was almost certainly because the TTC felt it made no sense to build a direct connection between the BLOOR car and the UNIVERSITY subway given that the BLOOR streetcar would be replaced in three year’s time (although this did not stop the TTC from building temporary transfer facilities for the streetcar shuttles at Keele and Woodbine subway stations). Both Bedford and St. George entrances featured collectors’ booths, and both were staffed initially. Gradually, though, the Bedford entrance has supplanted St. George as the main entrance to the station, and St. George is now considered only an automatic entrance.

Along with Museum, St. George station was the first to use ceramic tiles on its walls rather than Vitrolite (or, in the case of Queen’s Park and St. Patrick, enamelled metal). This was the unofficial launch of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway’s two-tone colour tile pattern motif. St. George station features green background tiles with a darker green trim, a pattern later duplicated by Woodbine station.

St. George station served as the end of the subway until the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway opened. Then, for three months, it was an intermediate stop for trains heading to Keele, Woodbine or Eglinton stations. Then, when integrated operation ended, it became a terminal station again for trains on the YONGE-UNIVERSITY line. Ridership was initially low, as most passengers on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway preferred to transfer to the YONGE line at Bloor station. On June 23, 1969, the TTC discontinued service between Union station and St. George after 9:45 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and all day on Sundays and holidays, rerouting the 5 AVENUE ROAD bus through St. George’s bus terminal to provide a link for passengers heading south on University. This arrangement remained in place until 1978, when the SPADINA subway opened for service.

By then, ridership on the YONGE subway was growing, and the interchange at Bloor-Yonge was getting crowded. By the early 1980s, the TTC foresaw that St. George would soon be at capacity also as a relief station for people avoiding Yonge line crowding, and calls began for a Downtown Relief subway. As none was built, St. George’s ridership continued to climb, until it became the second most frequently used station on the network.

Changes Since the Opening

St. George station has seen some renovations since it opened in 1963. Over and above routine maintenance, half of its bus terminal is now shuttered due to lack of use, but both bays are kept in good condition should one have to be shut down for repairs. Currently only the 26 DUPONT bus uses the station. The TTC also enhanced the station’s connection with the University of Toronto when the U of T expanded the building at 252 Bloor Street West for the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. An automatic entrance was built into the Bedford Avenue concourse from the basement of the building. The station was also rendered accessible for wheelchairs on July 27, 1999, with two elevators installed, one from the Bedford entrance to the concourse level, and another from the southern bus bay to both subway platforms. This change required the TTC to shorten the northern bus bay, as the elevator shaft was placed in what used to be the bus roadway of the southern bus bay, forcing the bus roadway to curve into where a portion of the northern bus bay had been.

In 1993, St. George station, along with Bay and Spadina stations, were used as part of a wayfinding signage experiment, with new signs designed by Paul Authur installed throughout the stations. The signage used coloured strips to denote routes (green for the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, and yellow for YONGE-UNIVERSITY-SPADINA), and special iconography specific to the station. St. George was given the image of a dragon on the TTC shield, referencing the old legend of St. George and the dragon, even though that wasn’t what St. George Street was named after. Although Paul Arthur’s planned redesign of the subway way finding system was never fully implemented, some of his work remained in place in St. George station until 2014 when another wayfinding project began. In 2016, following the successful use of enamelled metal wall coverings on St. Andrew and York Mills stations, an enamelled metal panel was installed on one of the platform walls, mimicking St. George’s green and darker green tile scheme, suggesting the renovation that is to come.

Although St. George station serves the University of Toronto, most passengers don’t spend a lot of time at St. George station. Varsity Stadium was closed down in 2001 and demolished for a smaller facility. The neighbourhoods and surrounding stores contribute a level of foot traffic akin to neighbourhood stations like High Park or Sherbourne. Most passengers getting off at St. George station change ascend or descend a flight of stairs and board another train. With train service on both lines operating every five minutes or better, the station moves a lot of people throughout the day, and can handle the traffic better than, say, Union station. There are no plans to substantially renovate St. George station. It already has two exits, and while it might be tempting to add additional platforms, the TTC hopes that the Downtown relief line can take care of any capacity issues over the long term.


Service Notes (as of November 26, 2017):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 1 Yonge - University - Spadina
    2 Bloor - Danforth
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train Vaughan: 6:11 a.m. weekdays, 6:17 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:22 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Union/Finch: 5:53 a.m. weekdays, 5:58 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:58 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Kennedy: 6:02 a.m. weekdays, 6:09 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:24 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Kipling: 5:57 a.m. weekdays, 6:02 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:11 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train Vaughan: 2:00 a.m. weekdays, 1:56 a.m. weekends and holidays.
    Last Train Union/Finch: 1:36 a.m. weekdays, 1:37 a.m. weekends and holidays.
    Last Train Kennedy: 1:52 a.m.
    Last Train Kipling: 1:54 a.m.
  • Address: 139 St. George Street
  • Opened: February 28, 1963
  • Wheelchair Accessible Since: July 27, 1999
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 136,200 (Yonge University), 128,980 (Bloor-Danforth) (2015)
    134,890 (Yonge-University), 141,370 (Bloor-Danforth) (2014)
    124,020 (Yonge-University), 129,440 (Bloor-Danforth) (2013)
    128,000 (Yonge-University), 138,770 (Bloor-Danforth) (2012)
    120,480 (Yonge-University), 126,510 (Bloor-Danforth) (2011)
    119,820 (Yonge-University), 119,840 (Bloor-Danforth) (2010)
    121,060 (Yonge-University), 121,940 (Bloor-Danforth) (2009)
    112,710 (Yonge-University), 116,840 (Bloor-Danforth) (2008)
  • Entrances:
    • Bedford Road accessible entrance, located on Bedford Road, 68 metres north of Bloor Street West.
    • 252 Bloor Street West automatic entrance, located in the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education building. (No exit after 6:00 pm; closed evenings and weekends)
    • St. George Street automatic entrance, located on St. George Street, 64 metres north of Bloor Street West.
  • Elevators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • Bus level to Bloor-Danforth & Yonge-University-Spadina subway platform levels
    • Street to Concourse
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • East End - Bedford Road - Upper Platform To Concourse (Up at all times)
    • West End - St. George Street - Upper Platform To Street Level (Up at all times)
    • East End - Bedford Road - Upper Platform To Concourse (Up 6am-10am on weekdays, down after 10 am weekdays and all day weekends and holidays)
    • West End - Lower to Upper level platforms (Up at all times)* Wheelchair Accessible Since:
  • Forms of fare payment include credit or debit
  • Pass Vending Machine available.
  • Centre platform (both levels)
  • Token vending machine

TTC Surface Connections:

Former TTC Surface Connections:


St. George Station Image Archive


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