Time to admit it: I’ve been avoiding Scarborough. “It’s soooo far away!”

What a blinkered downtown Torontonian attitude. Subconsciously I think I was secretly resentful of the lengthy trek out to the terminus station of the SRT line. But with a third of the network under my belt, it was well past time for me to head east.

McCowan station Pedestrian Way entrance
McCowan station Pedway entrance

I hadn’t ridden the SRT for over a decade, and I’d mostly forgotten what any of the stations looked like, let alone McCowan. Whatever your opinion is with respect to a ‘Scarborough subway’, I urge you to take the SRT out to McCowan at least once while you still can. The trip will spark a glimmer of understanding—and hopefully empathy—regarding the deep-seated cynicism felt by so many Scarberians in regards to transit.

Scarborough RT train at McCowan station
Scarborough’s ICTS Mark I in full glory at McCowan

There’s a fleeting moment, when you stand on the platform at Kennedy station for the very first time, and the RT glides in, where everything looks perfect and you think to yourself, “how adorable, this is how they imagined the future of rapid transit in 1985.”

But then you step inside the train. It’s a lot smaller than you thought it would be. Cramped—toylike even. The doors close. The wonder dissipates and the disenchantment sets in amidst the incredible grinding, rattling, clanking, whirring, and shaking. 1985’s vision seems to have gone astray.

Disjointed stairwell
A cacophony of conflicting lines

Eventually, after a few fitful stops you arrive at your destination, feeling like you’ve been riding inside a juddering washing machine on rails for twenty minutes. You’re alone because everyone got off at the previous stop, Scarborough Centre. And what you see at the end of the line does not impress.

McCowan feels like a make-shift facility that was designed in a hurry, slapped together on a flinty budget. The platform itself is tolerably utilitarian, but the rest of the dead-end station is an incohesive jumble of useless spaces and confusing angles.

Interior waiting space at McCowan
The bizarrely-shaped concrete and glass waiting area 

Occasionally you glimpse hints of design, but not enough to make any sense. The rarely-used 2nd platform on the south side is a visual metaphor for the problematic Scarborough RT line: we built this infrastructure with high hopes and dreams, but failed to work out the system’s practicality in advance. 35 years later, retro nostalgia aside, it’s obvious there was a strategic error in judgment and execution.

Unused platform and bench at McCowan station
X marks the spot. The spot you don’t get to use.

The bonus is that the terminal station isn’t even close to anything, except Scarborough Centre! Unless you count the mirrored towers of Consilium Place, renowned as the GTA’s #1 avian birdstrike killing-zone. Seriously—the best thing to visit at McCowan is the lilting covered pedestrian walkway, just north of the station, along Progress Avenue.

The shimmering curve of the McCowan walkway: a favourite subject for local Instagrammers.

McCowan opened on March 22, 1985. The name refers to Ruan McCowan, a Scottish family patriarch who settled near the Scarborough Bluffs in 1833. The ultimate fate of McCowan is unclear in the context of future Scarborough transit developments, but I’m glad I had the chance to visit. 

[Update: it’s doomed.]

Photo Gallery

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

Photo gallery for McCowan station

McCowan station transfer

More about McCowan

TTC Station info | Map | Wikipedia: McCowan

My next stop: Bayview
Previous station: King

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