The moribund architecture of this stop—which largely follows the familiar Bloor-Danforth line template—is amply compensated for by the satisfying visual experience of crossing a hundred feet above the Don Valley on the Prince Edward Viaduct, just west of the station. A single visit reveals how the affiliated street got its name: when your train bursts forth from the tunnel, look up from your newspaper, and take in the lovely, broad view:

In recounting the history of the viaduct, Torontonians love to wax lyrical about the foresight of Works Commissioner Roly Harris, who in the years leading up to 1916, championed a design by Edmund W. Burke for the bridge across the valley that included a deck level for a future rail link.

Harris’ efforts eventually saved the TTC a little over $2.5 million, because a separate bridge did not have to be constructed to carry the Bloor-Danforth subway, fifty years after his advocacy (of course, this hagiographic account conveniently omits the funds wasted on concurrently building the never-used—but still extant—decking for the Bloor East/Rosedale Valley section.).

Bus platform and canopy at the TTC's Broadview subway station
Classic TTC bus bay canopy

Broadview serves as the north-eastern terminus for the 504 and 505 streetcar lines, and is a bustling (and regrettably cramped) gateway to the Greektown community along the Danforth. An interminably lengthy, but necessary renovation to the station during the mid-2000s added an expanded streetcar platform, a slightly increased interior concourse, elevators, and an alternate stairwell connection from the subway level to the streetcar and bus bays. The station is still too small.

Streetcar platform canopies at Broadview station
The newfangled canopies for the expanded streetcar platforms.

Like Christie, Broadview features an oddity that puzzles many first-time users: an escalator that requires climbing a few steps to use it.

The steps are necessitated by the need for space for the escalator mechanicals.
Q: Should you take the stairs, or the escalator? A: Why not both?

Broadview opened on February 25, 1966 as part of the original Bloor-Danforth subway. In 2010 a city parkette was created north of the station, from a parcel of land declared surplus to the TTC’s operating requirements (similar to the Budd Sugarman park at Rosedale). On a fresh spring morning, the parkette can be quite relaxing.

Indulge yourself—take the subway to Broadview, and relish a few moments of child-like joy as you cross the bridge. Don’t forget to sit by the window.

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past:


More about Broadview

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Broadview

My next stop: Queen’s Park
Previous station: Bay Lower

Alphabetical Station Selector

Bay Lower

Like most Torontonians (and local politicians), I harbour a fiercely delusional belief as to my own instinctual expertise in urban architecture, transit modalities, and civil engineering, particularly as they relate to the subway. Notwithstanding my lack of formal education, training, or professional experience in those areas, my Dunning-Kruger-esque opinions on rapid transit rarely abate.

Case in point: Who among us has not declared, “What a farce!” while transferring at Bloor-Yonge, or enduring the madness of St. George? The chaotic crowds, the squeeze of a couple thousand passengers milling in different directions—you don’t need a Master’s degree in Planning to conclude that these two choke-points frequently operate beyond their desired capacity.

Yet long before the Bloor-Danforth and University routes were ever constructed, transportation engineering luminary Norman D. Wilson foresaw the overcrowding mess. What’s more, he presciently designed a solution—the infrastructure for which the TTC actually built and which still exists, but which we only partially use today.

Wilson’s controversial approach was known as interlining, and Bay Lower—the ‘secret’ platform beneath Bay—holds the key to understanding how his thwarted scheme was supposed to work.

Bay Lower subway platform
The cliché Bay Lower platform photograph that every visitor takes: also the backdrop for a plethora of movies and television shows.

The commemorative plaque hanging in the mezzanine at St. George alludes to Wilson’s intention: it proudly announces the opening of the “University Section of the Bloor-Danforth-University Subway”. In Wilson’s startling vision of commuting flexibility, there was no need to change trains when travelling between the suburbs and downtown: every station would be accessible from every other station, with a single ride—as long as you boarded the correct train.

1966 TTC subway map showing interlining
Feb. 1966 TTC pocket map depicting the Integrated Subway Service trial. Bay station was a key nexus point, an inverted mirror of St. George.

At his recommendation*, backed by the Metropolitan Toronto Planning Board and a 1958 order of Metro Council under the obstreperous Frederick Gardiner for an ‘integrated’ subway (and in spite of TTC staff objections), a contentious and costly wye track structure was built that connects Bay with St. George, Bloor-Yonge, and Museum.

From the day after the official opening of Bay on February 25, 1966, through to September 3, 1966, trains running from the termini at Keele and Woodbine alternated between: running crosstown along the Bloor-Danforth route; and looping through downtown to wind up at Eglinton (the rectangular ceiling ‘Next Train’ destination flip signs found in many stations are a quaint legacy of this.) Imagine a world where you could skip the transfer at Bloor-Yonge...

A 2nd station platform, officially known as Bay Lower (though often casually referenced as ‘Lower Bay’), allowed passengers at Bay to access downtown-loop trains. This platform is located (surprise) directly beneath the current station: Bay is really a double-decker.

Unfortunately, various intractable issues arose from the setup. It produced confusion for passengers who wanted to travel east from Bay station, as a Woodbine-bound train might arrive on either the upper or lower levels (a similar conundrum existed at St. George, for people heading west). This induced rushing behaviours by passengers who would wait mid-stairwell for the next train.

Meanwhile, a significant faction within the TTC’s operational staff lacked confidence that integrated service could succeed. They felt it was too finicky to handle the hiccups and snags of real-time operations. Delays around the evening rush hour were common; a single stalled train could easily jam up the entire network. Lastly, it incurred awkward crew scheduling problems due to constraints in the TTC’s labour contracts.

After a six month trial, the TTC switched over on September 4, 1966 to the simpler segregated lines with which we are familiar—ostensibly for another six month trial to gather contrasting data. That 2nd experiment never quite ended: Citing a ridership origin-destination survey (that some suggest was deliberately interpreted to produce a particular outcome), the TTC ditched Bay Lower for general revenue service and stuck with segregated lines. The stairwells leading down to the platform were closed off to the public and tiled over (and St. George became the terminal again for the University line).

Bay Lower Station Identification tiling
Station identification tiling at Bay Lower: same as upstairs, just dirtier.

Cross-corridor at Bay Lower station
Cross-corridor between platform sides at Bay Lower

Bay Lower nevertheless remained an active, powered facility, used for staff and emergency services training, shuttling trains between the now-separate lines, maintenance runs, and installations for test equipment and station finishes. The platform has witnessed frequent rental for Hollywood film shoots, music videos, and TV commercials. Whenever you catch a subway scene in the movies, take a closer look: you might be seeing Bay Lower!

Bay Lower sports the same tiling colour plan as the upper level, and its station identification tiling is the same. Although not technically a separate station from Bay, Bay Lower can be regarded as a University-line platform—a mirror of St. George (except at the latter, the University-line platform is on the upper level).

Bay Lower platform view
The platform at Bay Lower is distinguished by its high ceilings. Shown here, the west end ‘hall’.

Wilson’s interlining solution (and its failure) had lasting ramifications that were central to the clumsy manner in which our city’s rapid transit network subsequently developed. Like heads of the Lernaean Hydra, proposals to re-implement interlining have periodically sprung forth anew. In the early 1970s, the torrid battle over the Spadina extension alignment partially hinged over the wye and its proper use. The influential activist Jane Jacobs forcefully argued (to no avail) that the misrouting and connection of the Spadina line with the University segment was a strategic error that would ring the death knell for Wilson’s dream:
We should be completely clear in our understanding that a straight-through run from Downsview down the University line is at the price of never being able to achieve a straight-through downtown run from either the east or the west of the Bloor line. - Jacobs, in The Globe and Mail, February 1, 1972
Indeed, the far-flung location of the Lowther platform of Spadina station can be somewhat understood as the TTC’s desire to maintain flexibility for an interlining revival, in case it was decided to run the Spadina line as an independent route (the Lowther station would have been the southern terminal station). In the mid-1990s, interlining was proposed for special trains departing from Kennedy and Kipling; the idea was later quietly shelved. Lastly, 2014 saw an independent engineer’s proposal (never taken seriously by the TTC), to reactivate Bay Lower during rush hour, with northbound University trains short turning at Bay, in order to reduce headways and to relieve congestion south of Bloor.

In recent years, the general public has eagerly taken advantage of any opportunity to see Bay Lower. The TTC diverted trains through Bay Lower to Museum during structural repairs to the main tunnel roof, from February 24 to March 11, 2007, and during the 2010 Victoria Day long weekend, and again May 14-15, 2011 during track switch replacement. The platform has also been occasionally accessible during Doors Open, Nuit Blanche and a few private events in the late 2000s. If you’re heading west from Bloor-Yonge on a T1 train, ride the first car and look through the front window to the left to catch a glimpse of this now-restricted facility.

In hindsight, Jacob’s lament has proven correct: the melding of the Spadina-University route renders interlining too complicated logistically, to be implemented on anything other than an exceptional basis. Bay Lower serves as a haunting, vestigial reminder of ‘what might have been’—something to consider the next time you’re caught in the crowd at Bloor-Yonge.

* see Wilson’s Report to the Toronto Transit Commission on Bloor-University rapid transit subway, Jan. 1957, City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 2221, File 12.

Photo Gallery

Thanks to Spacing magazine and TTC spokesman Brad Ross, I was able to photograph Bay Lower on the evening of November 15, 2015. Tour the platform with me, and view captioned historical images from its past:

Bay Lower station photo gallery

Bay Lower isn’t really a separate station from Bay, nor does it have its own transfer machine, so I didn’t take a transfer. This post is out of order from my actual chronology of visits, but in my opinion pairing Bay Lower with its upstairs sibling is not unreasonable.

More about Bay Lower

Map | Wikipedia: Bay Lower

Bonus links: many articles have been written online regarding Bay Lower and the interlining experiment; here are the informative ones:

Bonus videos: 
Behind the Scenes at Bay & Queen Stations (TTC)

A Trip Through Lower Bay Station (Torontoist)

And: A look at the TTC’s Lost Subway Stations (Global TV; awkward to embed so here’s the link)

My next stop: Broadview
Previous station: Bay

Alphabetical Station Selector


Familiar story time. A few years back, I took the subway to work, just like every other day, and I must have gotten distracted. Maybe I was half-asleep, or deep into a book—or perhaps I was preoccupied with ogling someone from the opposite gender. At any rate, somewhere along the line, I left my cellphone on the train. Disaster!

Thus began a particular rite of passage (undertaken by countless travelers over the years) that is linked intimately with Bay station. You know the one: losing something on the TTC... and then trying to get it back.

The TTC's Lost Articles Office, located inside Bay subway station
Some 200 items a day wind up at the TTC’s Lost Articles Office [since moved to a different spot in the station]

Flustered and panicky, I contacted the TTC’s Lost Articles Office—tucked away in the mezzanine at Bay—to report my calamity.

The Office is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday, not counting statutory holidays. Should you have the misfortune of forgetting something on the transit, I recommend calling ahead, to save yourself a potentially fruitless trek. With so many millions of rides taking place, the system accumulates hundreds of lost items daily, ranging from the mundane to the peculiar. Reportedly between a third to half of the errant items are eventually picked up; unclaimed flotsam is unceremoniously sold off via Police Auctions Canada.

After a few days of plaintively checking in, I learned that a kindly Good Samaritan had turned in my wandering phone. I then paid a visit to the Office, where I was reunited with my misplaced device. Hooray!

[minor update: in 2020, the Lost Articles Office was moved to a new spot in the station’s north east corner. No more yellow door!]

Bay station corridor
The corridor of hopes and dreams

Bay station opened on February 22, 1966, as a central part of the Bloor-Danforth-University line. The station was originally going to be named Yorkville, after the adjoining neighbourhood; this nomenclature quirkily persists as a subtitle in the station identification tiling.

Tiling at Bay station
The Pulse at Bay station. I’m not clear on the origins of this decorative outburst, a departure from the classic Bloor-line styling.

In 2008 the Cumberland St. entrance to Bay was replaced at the behest of the Yorkville BIA, which felt that the posh Village of Yorkville Park deserved an updated structure to serve it. A commemorative plaque directly outside this entrance references Budd Sugarman, the ‘Mayor of Yorkville’, who also has a park named for him on the surplus TTC lands south of Rosedale station.

Cumberland St. entrance to the TTC's Bay station
The renovated Cumberland St. entrance to Bay

Bay Lower

You didn’t think I was going to skip it, did you?

No examination of Bay is complete without a traipse through Bay Lower, the “abandoned” platform underneath the main operating level. While Bay Lower isn’t a discrete station, the platform is generally not accessible to the public. Accordingly I have filtered out my extended musings on that part of the facility, and its historical role in our rapid transit network, into the next article.

Here are a couple of photos as a teaser...

Bay station platform
Beyond these unassuming platform-level doors lies Toronto's worst kept secret...

Peek down to the Bay Lower subway platform at Bay station
Sneak Peek into the mysteries of Bay Lower

And no, the elevator (installed in 2020) doesn’t go down to Bay Lower. 

Stay tuned!

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past:
(hint: turn on the captions)

Bay station photo gallery

Bay street was so-named in 1797 as it connected Lot (Queen) St. to a small bay in York’s harbour. Bonus points if you mentally pronounce it ‘BAE STATION’ in the Sony commercial voice. Double bonus points if you’re Danish and amused right now.

Bay station transfer
Bay station transfer

More about Bay

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Bay

My next stop: Bay Lower
Previous station: Christie

Alphabetical Station Selector


Popular Toronto folklore holds that Christie St. is named after William Mellis Christie, the 19th century baker and founder of the Mr. Christie brand of cookies and biscuits.

What a terrific, fanciful story.

However—despite what you may have been taught in school, or read in Wikipedia—recent historical research suggests that the biscuitmaker may not have been the origin of the street name, after all. In 1823, Col. Samuel Smith sold Lot 27 in the 2nd Concession to merchant Peter McDougall, whose wife was named Christy. York land registry documents indicate that Christie St. was named after her, by 1835—over a decade before W.M. Christie’s arrival in Canada.*

The TTC's Christie subway station
I still want some cookies!!

Christie station (whichever Christie it’s named for) is like a battered old cotton t-shirt that went out of fashion a long time ago, and when your girlfriend sees you wearing it she cringes, and tells you to put something else on. But it’s super comfortable, so you keep wearing it anyway when she’s not around. Hey, it fits!

Christie station escalator with stairs
Why does this escalator have stairs? The answer revealed...

You may have noticed that Christie has an escalator with stairs leading up to it. What’s the cause of this strange setup?

At Christie, the escalator was a retrofit, installed well after the construction of the station. The device’s base is located above the track ceiling below. There physically isn’t enough room for the mechanical equipment at the base of the escalator, for it to extend all the way down to the floor of the mezzanine level.

Similar escalators with steps may be found at Broadview and at King.

Christie station platform with TTC worker.
Note the different strap-line colours: burgundy on one section; green on another

The other talking-point with regards to Christie has to do with the two different strap-line colours visible at the platform level. The burgundy (red/brown) tiles were installed after a massive train fire on October 15, 1976 damaged many of the wall surfaces throughout the building. The TTC did not have enough of the matching green tiling for the replacement repairs, and selected a different colour to finish the job. The yellow mezzanine tiling (to the right of the escalator) is another mismatch from the fire’s aftermath.

The fire—which was actually started much further west of the station—gutted three aluminium train cars and sent ten passengers and employees to hospital. Two TTC operators wound up crawling half a mile through blinding smoke on their hands and knees, back down the tunnel to Ossington!

As a result of the fire, the Ontario Fire Marshal made a series of recommendations regarding fire prevention. By 1980 the TTC had implemented all of the recommendations, including the installation of fire retardant Neoprene seat cushions in all subway cars, and the installation of a subway dry-drop standpipe system for fire-fighting purposes.

Christie station was originally called Willowvale in early TTC planning documents, after the adjoining park (commonly known as ‘Christie Pits’). The station opened on February 25, 1966, as part of the Bloor-Danforth-University line.

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past (including superb photos and news coverage from the 1976 fire) (hint: turn on the captions):

Photo gallery of Christie subway station in Toronto

Transfer for Christie subway station
Christie station transfer

More about Christie

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: Christie

* If you believe adamantly that Christie St. was named for Mr. Christie, don’t fret; 99% of Toronto is with you. But it’s not what the records appear to indicate. See Stephanie Lever’s Before the Barns article in The York Pioneer 2014, Vol. 109, and for the original source see the York County Land Registry Office Records Abstract Index Books, City of Toronto and surrounding areas, ca. 1800-1958, at the Ontario Archives. The microfilm number is GSU197276. I would welcome additional input (with citations) on this subject from other historians, so we can settle this once and for all.

My next stop: Bay
Previous station: St. Clair West

Alphabetical Station Selector

St. Clair West

Detractors often knock St. Clair West for its visual clumsiness, relative to the showy flair of the other Spadina-line subway stops.

This dismissive attitude is superficially understandable, but glosses over some critical background nuance: the station (along with Wilson) is the admittedly-contentious capstone achievement of the TTC’s Herta Freyberg, the woman whose impactful 30+ year career at the Commission helped shape the look and feel of Toronto’s subway stations. For that reason alone, I urge you to reconsider this station’s architectural significance—if not necessarily its aesthetic appeal.

Station identification at St. Clair West station.
Bar-code tiling and a lovely stone bench: the Freyberg touch

I know what you’re thinking. Who the heck is Herta Freyberg!?

I’m glad you asked. Freyberg was a key—albeit heretofore unsung—TTC architect, following the more famous trio of John B. Parkin, Alvan ‘Shy’ Mathers, and Arthur Keith (the first two were retained as external architects, while Keith, Freyberg’s longtime boss and predecessor, was a TTC employee).

Streetcar ramp at St. Clair West station.
The 800-foot streetcar ramps at St. Clair West provoked a flurry of local protest

In his unpublished memoirs, Canada’s First Subway, W. H. Paterson (TTC General Manager for Subway Construction) recalls meeting Freyberg:
One day a Miss Freyberg came in to see me. [...] She had received her training in Czechoslovakia. She showed me some samples of her work. I was impressed with her work and her as a person. She was employed. I got some flack from my staff about hiring a woman!
At that time I was trying to determine the best office procedure to design stations. [...] In her first two weeks Miss Freyberg spotted a structural error in one of the designs and sent it back for correction. This bit of news flew through the whole department. The structural design men were embarrassed and apologetic. Herta was welcomed into the club, and gained the respect of all of us. She went on to do good design work under John Parkin and Art Keith, and finally took over full responsibility for the architectural design section, and later the St. Clair Station of the Spadina Line.
In regards to Freyberg’s design for St. Clair West, Paterson comments,
Over the years I have seen many stations in Europe, U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, South America, Japan and China and nowhere have I seen as good an example of intermodal transfer design as in that station. If there is a better one, it has been built since I retired. 
Freyberg’s complex layout, necessitated by the situational geography of the Nordheimer ravine, as well as by the requirement for integrated bus and streetcar platforms, has, in the present day, challenged efforts to make the station accessible [see update at end of post]. Four decades later, it’s easy to criticize. But at the time of its construction, St. Clair West represented state-of-the-art, internationally-informed thinking in terms of efficient passenger flow betwixt multiple transit modes. Her expansive design immediately stirred up controversy—neighbourhood residents and the local alderman vigorously challenged the location and placement of the lengthy streetcar ramps and various exits, forcing several alternate proposals to be presented—but the TTC overrode the objections, and more or less went ahead with Freyberg’s original vision.  

St. Clair West streetcar platform.
St. Clair West’s integrated underground streetcar and bus platform: an ambitious intermodal transfer design, supposedly modelled after one in Brussels

Like all the Spadina line stations when they opened, St. Clair West features prominent artwork on display. Gordon Rayner’s abstract mural Tempo stuns bleary-eyed commuters into submission, with its dazzlingly bright enamel colours and angles. Try to avert your eyes if you’re hung over!

Gordon Rayner's enamel mural Tempo at St. Clair West station
The zesty lines of Gordon Rayner’s mural, Tempo

The station is also distinguished by its bar-code decorative tiling, and by the energetic, orange-lit panels at the south end of the subway platform.

Personally, I believe the central concourse staircase is an overlooked Modernist jewel (it’s mostly the lighting, I guess) with no need for any adornment. Let’s see what happens with the incoming snail art—perhaps I’ll grow to love them... 

Central staircase between the streetcar and bus platforms, and the lower mezzanine level at St. Clair West
The impeccably stylish central staircase (as yet untrammeled
by Weppler & Mahovsky’s bronzed gastropods)

Emergency service entrance for St. Clair West station.
The forlorn emergency service entrance fronting onto the Nordheimer Ravine (since updated with a lovely mural)

Due to lower ridership north of the station, and to provide more frequent service to the south, half of the northbound trains during the morning rush hour are short-turned at St. Clair West. This long-familiar practice may change when the TYSSE line begins service.

The opening ceremonies for the Spadina line were held at St. Clair West on January 27, 1978, with Ontario Premier William Davis presiding—you can find the commemorative plaque for the line on the mezzanine level.

I’m not arguing that St. Clair West is a fantastic perfection. It has numerous flaws and oddities (though the useless elevator at the Heath St. entrance can’t be blamed on Freyberg; that was a subsequent add-on. And the bare ‘rock gardens’ are a grating reminder of TTC neglect or indifference.). What I’m suggesting is, Freyberg’s quiet but pervasive contributing imprint on TTC stations built in the 60s and 70s elevates the historical significance of St. Clair West. Whether you like the station or not, St. Clair West embodies her characteristic ‘TTC functional’ brand of architecture, and therefore demands re-interpretation—and even wry appreciation.

Update: Since the original writing of this post, St. Clair West has received some substantial alterations, mostly relating to its Easier Access project, adding new elevators to the station.

To accommodate the lifts from the subway platforms, a pair of ungainly bridge extensions were constructed. The blue tiling clashes so badly, my brain refuses to process it negatively. It’s as if the colouring was chosen deliberately to accentuate the carbuncular, bolted-on nature of the extensions—and believe it or not, I like the result! It’s ugly somehow in the exact spirit of the station. 

Two distinctly blue bridge extensions provide access to the newly installed elevators

Tucked into the project budget was a commission for new station artwork. Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky’s The Commuters was inflicted upon the central concourse staircase leading to the bus platform level. Consisting of 42 bronzed snails meandering around on the walls of the staircase, this mischievous piece both amuses, and appalls me with its surrealist violation of the pristine lines of the staircase. I hate what it does, but I respect it for doing so, if that makes any sense.

Invasion of the snails!

Lastly, the downtrodden emergency service exit to the ravine has been transformed by a contextually satisfying mural from Paula Gonzalez-Ossa, that looks spectacular at certain times of the day. If only we could use this exit!

Gonzalez-Ossa’s mural honours 13 original trees and 19 medicinal plants native to the area.


This post is dedicated to Herta Freyberg [in case you hadn’t noticed!]. In the traditionally male-dominated, boys-club world of the post-50’s TTC management ranks, Freyberg was one of the most senior-level, substantive women employed at the Commission for many years. Leafing through archival issues of The Coupler (the TTC’s internal magazine), one can readily chart her steady rise, from an initial posting as an architectural draftsman in 1948, to an appointment onto the modestly-named but influential Subway Sign Committee, and upwards through several successive promotions, eventually culminating in her leadership of the TTC’s Architectural section.

Herta Freyberg, TTC Architect in front of a model of Finch station.
Herta Freyberg, shown here in 1971 posing in front of a model of Finch Station.

The October 1971 Coupler tersely captioned the above photo:
“Many of the stations and other structures on the Yonge, University and Bloor-Danforth lines are proof of her architectural talents.”
Here’s to you, Herta, and to all the other unheralded architects on your team!

Photo Gallery

Tour the station, and view captioned historical images from its past:
(hint: turn on the captions)

Photo gallery of St. Clair West subway station

Transfer for the TTC's St. Clair West subway station
St. Clair West station transfer

More about St. Clair West

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: St. Clair West

My next stop: Christie
Previous station: St Clair

Alphabetical Station Selector