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Useful Notes / Toronto Subway

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The first subway in Canada (opened in 1954), the Toronto Subway is one of the most heavily used on the North American continent. Operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (who also operates Toronto's streetcar and bus systems), the system covers 69 stations with about 68 kilometers of track.

The lines of the system are as follows:

  • Line 1 Yonge-University: Shaped like a U and coloured yellow on the system map, the Yonge-University Line is the oldest in the system (with the Eglington-Union stretch opening in 1954) as well as the most heavily used. An extension into the suburb of Vaughan was opened at the end of 2017 after significant delays. Since 2011, it has been run with the rather marvelous Toronto Rocket rolling stock. It is also the first part of the system to receive underground Wi-Fi and cell phone service. Still often referred to by locals as the "Yonge-University-Spadina line".

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  • Line 2 Bloor-Danforth: Covering an east-west axis about 2 to 3 kilometers inland from Lake Ontario, the Bloor-Danforth line is the second oldest, second buisiest and second longest in the system. Coloured green on the system map. The first portions of it opened in 1966 after being in the planning stages for several years. Every now and then there's talk of extending it west to Mississauga, but as of 2013, its extension was going to be the replacement of...

  • Line 3 Scarborough: Unlike the other currently built lines, the Scarborough Line is an above-ground light rail system rather than a true heavy-rail subway. It was opened in 1986 and runs through the district of (you guessed it) Scarborough. The line, unlike the rest of the system, uses different rolling stock, different track gauge and different means of propulsion. Coloured blue on the map. It was originally going to be a streetcar line, but politics turned it into what it is today. Still often referred to by locals by its original name: "Scarborough RT" (Rapid Transit). As noted, in September 2013, Toronto City Council under Mayor Rob Ford (yes that Rob Ford) voted to replace it with an extension to the Bloor-Danforth Line. However in 2015, after concerns were raised by the City Planner about how well a new subway would work in conjunction with new mayor John Tory's "Smart Track" surface rail plan, the plan was again changed to extending the Bloor Line by one stop and building an eastern extension to the Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown currently under construction (see below).

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  • Line 4 Sheppard: The newest line in the system (opened in 2003), the Sheppard Line services the growing Sheppard Avenue corridor in North York. The shortest and least used line in the system, it is sometimes derisively referred to as the "Sheppard Stubway" or "subway to nowhere". There aren't many interesting things to say about this line, though, besides the fact that it is close to fully underground and features several optical illusion artworks at its stations. Coloured purple on the system map.

  • Line 5 Eglinton Crosstown: Currently under construction and expected to open in the early 2020s, the Eglinton Crosstown line will run east-west through the northern part of Toronto. Like the Scarborough line it will be a light rail system rather than a true subway, though it will run underground for approximately half of its length.

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  • One additional underground station is Queen's Quay, used by streetcars of the Harbourfront and Spadina light rail lines. Aside from Queen's Quay and a turnaround loop at Union Station, these lines operate at street level.

Interesting facts about the subway include:

  • All lines (except for the aforementioned Scarborough RT) are not standard gauge (4 foot 8 1/2 inches) — rather, they are slightly wider (4 foot 10 7/8 inches). This is because the subway tracks were designed to match the gauge of Toronto's streetcar system (and part of Toronto's subway system was originally planned to be serviced by existing streetcars). The reason for the non-standard gauge for Toronto's streetcars appears to be that the city wanted to make it impossible for the streetcar tracks to be used for freight cars, and excluded them through the use of a wider gauge. Historic Toronto transit equipment must be re-gauged if it is to operate elsewhere.
  • The system only has one abandoned station, which is actually just part of a station. The abandoned station is the lower level of Bay on the Bloor-Danforth Line, which was only in service for a few months as part of a unique (but ineffecient) service plan to have all stops served by at least two lines. The station does often appear in film, though, as it commonly doubles for a New York subway station.
    • There is another Toronto subway station with an extra level that was never used. When the Queen Street subway station was built, it was originally planned to interchange with an underground streetcar line that would be built along Queen Street downtown, and the station for this line was “roughed in” below the existing Queen Street station on the Yonge line. The subterranean streetcar line was never built, and thus the lower level has never been occupied.
  • The system has it's own font, which is called... wait for it.... Toronto Subway. It is used in several stations and, as of 2013, the TTC has begun to use it on all new signs and construction.
  • When the Prince Edward Viaduct was built across the Don Valley in the 1910s, the designer included a lower deck on the bridge in anticipation of a hypothetical future subway, an expensive and controversial move at the time. This ended up saving millions of dollars when the Bloor-Danforth line was built in the 60s, as they could build the subway on the existing lower deck instead of having to build a new bridge or route the line around the valley.

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