Signage at Eglinton Station [Updated Again]

[Updated Monday, July 9 at 10:45 pm]

I have been advised this evening by Adam Giambrone’s office that the Paul Arthur signage will not be removed at St. George Station.  This will not be considered again until this station comes up for modernization, something that is not in the cards for the near future.

The removal had been planned as part of a general cleanup of the station, something that was long overdue. 

[Updated Monday, July 9 at 1:10 pm] 

The proposed work at Eglinton Station does not involve moving the outer walls of the station back two feet.  What is proposed is that safety alcoves 5 x 7 feet will be cut into the walls to provide refuges for workers when trains come through the station.  With some careful placement, the existing signage should not be disturbed at all.

As for other stations, there is a press conference later this week that will cover already approved changes at various locations.

[Original post follows] 

Earlier today, a reader asked me to comment on the proposed redesign of Eglinton Station and the need to preserve original signs.  In writing this, I hope not to engender a slugfest among the design mavens of this town, but we shall see.  Worthwhile comments will be posted, repetitive rants will not.  If you must rant, at least be original about it.

First, it’s worthwhile asking just what we are asked to preserve, and to that end I visited Eglinton Station earlier tonight.  The only original signage still in place is the repeated word “Eglinton” on the station walls in large letters, and along the banner at the top of the wall in a smaller version of the same typeface.

For those who remember the original signs, there were not many, and they disappeared one by one from the station.  They included the “Way Out” signs to Duplex and to Yonge Street (pre Canada Square building) as well as the signs at the washroom entrances.

Completely separate from this debate (and the subject of previous threads here — please don’t post again) is the matter of hand-written signs and tattered, out of date announcements.  That is a different issue affecting the entire system including surface routes.  With luck, nobody will find a service change sign so antique that it qualifies for historic preservation.

I started to make an inventory of TTC signage styles at this station and filled most of one side of a sheet of paper.  I did not include the really small stuff like number plates on doors and escalators.  The list includes:

  • At platform level, many signs in roughly the same style as that found at Bloor Station after the platform widening project.
  • At mezzanine level, and in the temporary bus loop, many signs in the “Sheppard Subway” style.
  • The “Next Station / Northbound to Finch” signs.  These are similar but not identical to the first group as they were installed at a different time.  I have never understood what good a “Next Station” sign is when you cannot see it from inside of the train.
  • The “Next Train” Solari signs used only in a few stations to distinguish short-turn train destinations.
  • The DWA signs including the little “Your Safety Partner” helping hand.
  • The “Danger, Stay Off Tracks” and “Stand Back, Mind the Gap” signs.  Personally, I have always preferred “Trespassers May be Electrocuted” but none of these is at Eglinton.
  • The map boards including a route map, a local area map and a farecard, all in different styles.
  • The transfer machines. 
  • The token machines.
  • The Metropass kiosks which include the slogan “Ride the Rocket”, the only sign in a serif font.  (People who don’t know what a serif is must stay after class for extra study.)
  • The turnstiles.
  • The door handles.
  • The recycling bins.
  • The pictographs on the collector’s booth of “i” (Information) and a symbol that looks like I may have to produce a passport.
  • The No Loitering notices.
  • Directions to the washrooms, some of which have pictographs and some do not.

There’s more, but that’s enough.  Each set of signs probably looked great in its time to whoever dreamt it up.  Well, maybe a few are children only their mothers could love.  The point is that they are all different.

At this point I have not commented on how effective the signs are and I will leave that to the professional critics of such matters.  However, a few points do jump out easily.

The new standard is more generous with information, but can be parsimonious with space.  Eglinton doesn’t have a lot of big walls.  Both size and placement are dictated by available space such as the pillars at mezzanine level.

Some signs, notably the route names at the bus stops, cannot be read easily from a distance.  Yes, there is a map of the station, but some lost soul will probably have walked right by it trying to find their bus.  To be fair to the TTC, this is supposed to be a temporary terminal, but even temporary installations deserve good signs.  It will be “temporary” for years to come.

I will not even mention the advertising, a medium designed to stand out from, not to complement the station itself.  Maybe we could have a rule that all ads at Eglinton, including the TV screens, be in black-and-white in keeping with the station’s colour scheme.

There is a feeling of clutter brought on by the many generations of signs, especially those like the Solari indicators that have not been used for years.

The newest signs are not works of art, they don’t make my heart beat faster with joy, but at least they are fairly consistent.  I can take or leave the coloured stripes (red for surface routes, yellow for the subway), and if the TTC took to calling lines by their colours (as in Boston or Los Angeles) this would make more sense as a design.  In Boston, you take the Blue Line from the Airport and the Red Line to get to Harvard.  The Green Line is a collection of LRT routes running through the oldest subway in North America (1892).

The only thing left to preserve, as I said above, are the station walls at platform level which have the original, much patched vitrolite tiles and the station name in the original Yonge Subway font.

Should we be re-signing the rest of the station to the current standard?  Should we update the current standard and retrofit the entire station?  Should we impose some order on ancilliary signage such as that on fare equipment and booths?

Any major change in signage style costs money.  At the end of the day, how much better will the station be for our effort?  Will someone new decry the chosen design only to start the cycle anew?

Finally, if you thought that the TTC hadn’t cooked up any new designs, look at the St. Clair Project which has its own designs for the transit shelters.  Yet another “standard” that sneaks in the door under cover of a project rather than as part of an overall, unified design.

26 thoughts on “Signage at Eglinton Station [Updated Again]

  1. Actually they are thinking of retiling Eglinton, removing the steel signs from Pape station and getting rid of all the signs placed in St George station in the mid 1990’s as part of a way finding experiment.

    They are also removing the wall on the leeward side of the tracks for safety reasons (it has to be moved back about two feet!). I guess what is trying to be said is that, the tiles and typeface are a part of our history and should be saved instead of being destroyed so easily like the rest of the original Yonge subway line was when it was renovated or even botched up like Queen Station was. That station managed to retain its original form over the years and should be preserved considering it was the first subway line in Canada.

    Steve: According to Joe Clark’s website, the TTC wants to move the outer walls of the station back two feet for improved worker safety. This does not make sense because the clearance is not unlike that found at other side-platform stations including Union. Moving those walls will be very expensive because the existing tunnel wall would have to be demolished, and the excavation would be under an existing building. Worker safety is important, but how often are workers at track level at Eglinton while trains are passing?

    If someone has definitive information on this, please let me know. [Richard White sent another comment stating that his info was from Joe Clark’s site and from a chat with Adam Giambrone.]

    As for the tiles, at last report they were impossible to obtain, and even Eglinton contains replacement tiles salvaged from other stations. If we want to maintain the typeface, that’s easy — just make the new signs the same as the old ones. The problem is that the only “old” signs are the station names at platform level and they are only on the old tiles.

    Pape Station is still in more or less original Bloor-Danforth style. If the decision is to preserve this style, then the new signage needs to be created in the same manner as the old. However, one claim made for the new mixed-case signs is that they are more legible for people with vision problems. Whether this is true or not, the argument will be trotted out. If the debate is between “preservation” and “accessibility”, I know already which one will win. One is a “nice to have” while the other is a “must have”.

    The signs at St. George are an interesting relic of a scheme that, in my opinion, should have stopped where it did. The only differences between what is there today and the original station designs are in the top band on the station wall and the sign at the station entrance. Both bear the “St. George” dragon as a station symbol.

    The bands are coloured to match the lines — Yellow on the Yonge level, Green on the Bloor line. This fits with the colour coding of the subway lines, but that itself is of dubious merit because it has not been exploited. The proposed signage referring to the “Green line” was very short lived along with other signs linked from Joe Clark’s site. I would argue that banding the stations in this manner violates the original design where the top band used the station colours in reverse, and these bands should be removed to restore the station to its original condition.

    The claim was that having a pictograph for each station would simplify wayfinding for those who cannot read the station names. Maybe, but this assumes that we have meaningful symbols for each station and most people know them. If someone asks me where “frog” station is, there’s a good chance I won’t have a clue; conversely, if someone want to get to Old Mill, I am unlikely to know its pictograph.

    St. George was a trial, not an iconic Toronto installation, and it’s “historic” only because the TTC never got around to taking down all of the signs.


  2. What exactly is the Eglinton Station redesign? I haven’t heard anything about this except for the other mention here.

    Steve: This is news to me, and it first appeared on Joe Clark’s website.

    I realize your list isn’t exhaustive, but I’m surprised you didn’t mention the ceiling signs (e.g. the “Exit Eglinton and Yonge” in ). If they’re from the 90’s, somebody did a pretty good job making them look like they belong. I’m guessing they’d be much earlier than that.

    Steve: I lumped these in with the reference to a generic style in signs such as at Bloor-Yonge. All of these date from the construction of the new entrance through the Bank of Montreal.

    In general, this is a tough problem. Consistency (same signage design system-wide) and in-place heritage preservation are both noble design goals; they’re also in conflict. You could never make the Yonge line stations entirely consistent with the Spadina line without weakening the unique original look of one of the lines. It should be an interesting discussion.

    Oh, and there are a couple of “trespassers may be electrocuted” signs above the open cut a few blocks south, around Hillsdale. Sure beats “fine or imprisonment”.

    Steve: My favourite version of those signs were the originals with little lightning bolts. We only warn passengers in stations, but we fry trespassers!


  3. The item in Joe Clark’s post which truly appalled me was the redesign of Museum. Not only is it gimmicky and lame, but I can’t for the life of me figure out what the purpose of it is. And if they want to start moving outer walls, why not start with stations with centre platforms with dangerously narrow sections?

    Steve: The redesign of Museum (along with Osgoode/Opera and St. Patrick/AGO) is the brainchild of a group who organize ways for business who want to “do something” for the city to pool their donations, get a tax receipt and somehow make the city more attractive. The received wisdom is that stations on the University line (the whole subway for that matter) are dead boring, and we need to spruce them up. That’s where the Museum design (and others) came from.

    The TTC is paying 1/3 of the cost because some changes, including a new emergency exit at the south end of the station, are not part of the artistic makeover.

    Maybe in 20 years, the ROM will get Daniel Libeskind to redesign it, but of course we would probably have to close the line for five years while it was under construction, and the resulting space wouldn’t work well as a subway station.

    For more info on the Museum Station scheme, please see my post on the subject from February 2006. The related item on spacing wire no longer has illustrations or working links.

    The Toronto Community Foundation seems to have taken on the subway station project as a sideline to their more widely-focussed charitable works, and I almost wonder whether they were talked into this alliance to provide cover for its proponents. The subway station scheme is not prominent on their website, and the press release announcing it has been taken down.

    When you look at the other work TCF does, this seems an entirely inappropriate use of their funds. Is this just a vanity project for some local architects?

    As for outer walls, yes, I agree. At Union, once the new south platform (northbound to Yonge) is built, the existing (by then “north”) platform will serve only the University line. Stairs and escalators to both the new and old platforms have been designed to improve clearance between the platform edge and the inner station walls.

    Bloor Station has this problem too, and the TTC prepared designs for additional platforms many years ago as part of the reworking of Bloor Station. However, they would be extremely difficult to build because they partly conflict with the Hudson’s Bay building structure and because there is an underground stream (the same one that regularly shorts out the escalator at the west end of Yonge Station). I won’t even talk about the challenge of connecting a new platform to the Yonge line. There is a very long TTC report on this, but it’s not available in electronic format.

    Eglinton is tight in spots, although its passenger load is nowhere near as heavy as at the other locations.


  4. I think the “EXIT EGLINTON AND YONGE” signs seem to date from when the station exits were expanded to the east side of Yonge St. and the Yonge-Eglinton Centre. I don’t know exactly when that was, but the signs look very similar to signs on the North Yonge extension with the raised lettering on the black strips along the ceiling I’d guess the 1972-74 era. The revamped exit at the south end of the platform which leads to the “new” bus terminal at least has new tiles which somewhat resemble the original tiles in terms of the size, but nothing can replicate the appearance of the originals. As the last remaining original Yonge station every effort should be made to keep it looking that way. Even the London Underground balances thoroughly modernizing stations in some cases, and in other cases, totally restoring old tiles and signage where they are salvageable. I can only hope that speaking up about this will result in some stations being preserved as they are.


  5. To me, the signage that started appearing with the North Yonge Extension (meaning that this signage appeared elsewhere as well, for e.g. Victoria Park Station), was the clearest and most streamlined. But, to be fair, I find it hard to believe that Toronto is the only city with Transit Signage problems. I see them here in Ottawa as well.

    The one thing Toronto should do, as I’ve mentioned before, is change the bus/streetcar stops from signs to flags, ALL of which should include the route number. This is as much an issue of energy conservation in the manufacture of smaller signs as it is with clarity of information.


  6. A few points:

    The older signs on YU and BD (in that 50s style font) are much easier to read than the ones in the newer Sheppard style.

    The triangular sign at the St. George entrance is much better than all the others because it has visibility from all angles.

    The old logos where the word “SUBWAY” was part of the crest are much more elegant than the ones now, and the huge ones before that (if anybody remembers them) were even better. The TTC logo by itself means nothing. How are visitors to know that means SUBWAY? It should actually say “BLOOR-DANFORTH SUBWAY – PAPE STATION”.

    As far as station renovations on BD go, does this mean they’re going to retile the walls? Does this mean our BATHROOM subway is coming to an end? I hear they’re replacing all that bathroom tile with stone panels.

    Steve: The report on Pape Station mentions some stone panels, but not a complete replacement.

    When the Bloor-Danforth Subway opened, the TTC was worried that people wouldn’t be able to find the stations that were “hidden” a little north of Bloor. Small pole-mounted signs (about twice the size of a “No Parking” sign) discreetly pointed up various sidestreets to station entrances.


  7. I actually fail to see the need for any up-in-arms reaction to this.

    I agree that the fonts among other design elements should be typical across a line. System-wide typical fonts or designs is arguably a bad idea though, since each line should have different characteristics and that makes it easier to know exactly where in the system you are (especially if you are an infrequent user). The way things are in the current system, with B-D, Yonge, University, Spadina, and SRT having different styles of station (except at St.George, where you need to check the top stripe colour), I think works quite well, even if somewhat subtle in effect.

    Steve: The stripe at St. George is the line colour only on the east end of the two stations, and this is to be removed.

    That said, some stations are obviously dull, and if it is dull, I wouldn’t worry about preserving signage of a dull station. Eglinton isn’t one of the worst offenders, and functionality-wise I rather like Eglinton, but style? It’s not bad, but it’s not something that deserves flattery either. Stations to be emulated for styles would include Eglinton West, St. Clair West, B-D Spadina, Dupont, Queen, King, these are stations that actually make some kind of effort to be at least a little vibrant.

    I think the loss of a font is not much of an issue, really, as long as the functionality of its replacement is equal or superior (and I agree that lower-case after the first letter is more easily recognized, I’ve encountered this topic in lectures when studying architecture, among the subjects included was Universal Design, the shape of a word affects its legibility, making all caps more difficult to read (although perhaps more aesthetically pleasing, I will admit)). It does play a role in the design, but it is the design that should decide the font, not the font that decides the design, and that is what I really think is backwards about this whole subject, especially the view of Joe Clark on this matter (I really don’t think fonts on their own are worth historical preservation, and I consider myself both a designer and transit enthusiast).

    Apparently Dufferin as well as Bloor-Yonge are up for renovations in addition to the ones already mentioned here. Now, I have to wonder, with Bloor-Yonge, do they mean Yonge only, or Bloor as well? ‘Cause Bloor’s current incarnatation is still “young” (but not “Yonge” 😉 ). Steve, I’d be rather interested in seeing a copy of that long report you mentioned on Yonge Station platforms if you could point me in the right direction. Much thanks in advance.

    Steve: What I may do given the interest is to scan in the Yonge Station report into machine-readable text. This will take a while, and I have other topics on which I prefer to concentrate for the next little while. I don’t know of anywhere the report is available online because it was written before the days of online agendas.

    I believe that changes at Dufferin will be triggered by a new development on the northwest corner of the intersection, but this does not mean a complete redesign of the station.

    One note about the old colour bands at the top of station walls: The original blue vitrolite band is still in place at Queen Station.

    Finally, I don’t know how many people remember, but there was a delightful period after the re-tiling of the original Yonge stations when the TD Bank ran a series of “Green Machine Station” ads. Their graphic style echoed the old tiles and lettering, and the effect was as if you were looking through a window in the new walls to see the old ones.


  8. Some of those arrow pointer signs on Bloor still exist today. I think there’s one at Ossington.

    About consistency … when BD opened the TTC replaced all the outdoor logo subway signs on YU to match the newer, smaller (and cheaper) kind on BD. Back then, they wanted to be consistent across the whole system. Why can’t they do that today? I liked the older signs better — they were much larger and had better visibility.

    But even then, people complained about how vague and minimal the signs were. There were no route maps at platform level, which caused a lot of confusion, especially during the integrated trial.

    Even more confusing, a Solari sign that was blank and that would flip to say DOWNTOWN while the incoming train read EGLINTON. When that confused the hell out of everyone, it was changed a couple of months later to “EGLINTON VIA DOWNTOWN”. At Woodbine, the signs were so bad that they had a guy announcing on a speaker all day long … “KEELE – PLATFORM 1”, “DOWNTOWN – PLATFORM 2” over and over.

    I guess the TTC has always “stunk” at signing things right.


  9. I am presently showing two Chinese visitors around the city and today they had a one-day pass so we have spent several hours on the TTC and been hopping on and off trains, streetcars and buses. I asked them for their impressions of the signage as the eyes of a visitor often pick up things that locals ignore or even fail to see.

    They seemed to have no problems with the signage inside most station though they would have liked better directional signs for exits and transfers at Bloor/Yonge – wouldn’t we all.
    Their biggest complaint was identifying subway station entrances. There is a large variety of signage, some signs just say TTC, others say TTC Subway. The new one at Queen and Yonge says TTC Queen and we saw a couple on University just saying Subway. Since we had just eaten a Subway (sandwich) lunch they found this amusing!

    We agreed that signage inside stations could differ as long as it was functional (of course much of it isn’t) but they certainly thought the EXTERNAL signage needed to be standardised!

    Steve: Today, I passed by St. Clair West Station and observed the complete lack of signs directing passengers from the westbound carstop to the station entrance. Even worse, that entrance does have a sign, amid all of the visual clutter in front of Loblaw’s, but it is far too small. TTC entrances need to stand out from what’s around them rather than whispering, and they need to do so with a consistent look at all stations.


  10. As one who has been fortunate enough to visit the London, Washington, and New York subways in the past few weeks, I find this thread of considerable interest.

    It would seem that Toronto’s subway decor and signage suffers from the same neglect and expediency-based patching as many other elements of our city’s infrastructure in the past ~20 years. The lack of a long-term strategic plan for station and signage design is certainly the root cause of much of the confusion in and disappointment with the system as a whole. Without a consistent art design for its station decor and/or its signage, both residents and visitors lose.

    The New York subway for example, is ugly, dirty (but much cleaner than 20 years ago), and its signage is appalling, in terms of consistency, readability, and utility.

    Washington has consistent, consistently open/attractive, and quiet stations, BY DESIGN (for example its recessed concrete walls deaden sound extremely effectively). It signage is appalling in its utility, but not in its graphic design. Don’t get me started on how confusing Washington’s ticket purchasing is (try arriving at Reagan International as a neophyte to the system…).

    I used to live in London before the graphic redesign. Seeing the completed redesign has shown me what both good AND CONSISTENTLY APPLIED design can do. It’s clean, bright, attractive, and the art design allows for stations to retain individuality. It may not be perfect, but it’s streets ahead of TO, NY, and WDC, except that WDC does have an significant edge in its consistent station design (it’s amazing what politics and money can do, when applied well).

    When it was evident in London that change was needed, that change was undertaken in a strategic manner, one that used design to both improve the atmosphere of the system AND to make it easier to navigate, by use of very careful signage design and placement. For example, one element is to ensure that the walls have many signs with the name of the station, and that they are easily visible to both standing and seated passengers (the same is certainly not true of the old or newer Toronto wall signage). Another was to use colour in signage to make things bright, but not get close to garish. Yet another was not only to allow individuality of stations, where possible, but to remove the institutional look from the system. Toronto’s system retains the look of a ’50s civil-servant-run sanatorium, certainly not a look to impress either visitors or residents. Both of these groups have to be impressed, for different reasons.

    The very idea of saving elements of a single station to maintain history seems to place bad (at least, outdated) form before function. When speaking of redesign, we must ensure that it moves to the strategic goal of utility that attracts more users (e.g., beyond strict utility, a feeling of openness and a system easily understood by tourists). I fail to see how keeping any element of the woeful institutional look (save in a museum) moves the TTC toward the goal of having more residents attracted to use it, or more visitors reporting how easy it was to use and how attractive it was. Beyond safety and reliability, we’re talking about putting more bums on seats, here.

    Planning and history have their place, but, to make the system useful AND attractive, the TTC needs a strategic graphic design with sufficient authority to prevent anything (including maintaining ‘historical’ elements) that might detract from the utility built deeply and purposefully into the graphic design. The past should be kept ONLY if it serves the present and the future. Keeping the current walls at Eglinton does not do that.

    It worries me that the conversation, so far, is about preserving elements of something flawed, rather than moving the TTC to something people would want to use because it’s easy to do so and actually quite a pleasant experience (as in London). How else are we to persuade people away from cars?


  11. Just in case people are wondering a news conference is supposed to be held next week regarding the modernization of Pape, Victoria Park, Islington/Kipling, Yonge/Bloor stations.

    Steve: I am trying to find out more info about this as there is nothing posted on the site where TTC media advisories for things like this are filed.

    Please note that Eglinton Station is not in this list.


  12. The London Underground has a long design history. For a while, the London Transport Museum had a whole exhibit on design elements: Beck’s tube map, the Johnston typeface, platform signage, station furniture, etc.

    The consistency of design in London today that Trevor describes is enforced by detailed standards (available online). There’s even a mention that the design standards apply equally to temporary notices! Unfortunately, although the London doc refers to detailed heritage guidelines, those don’t seem to be online.

    It would be great for the TTC to establish standards of a similar calibre that would automatically apply to renos and expansions, but creating such standards could be a pretty major project with a slow payoff.


  13. I recall that the stations on the Sheppard line have a raised plastic band near the platform ceiling that is similar to the colour of the lines on the TTC maps…I’m guessing they are using the plastic band to cover electrical and/or communications cables.

    Is this a plan for all future TTC stations? Or just something unique to the Sheppard line?

    Hopefully the stations on the Spadina extension would actually have wall tiles on all sides of the platforms…..

    Also…will TTC be looking at separate line colours or creating separate route maps for Transit City?



  14. @ moaz:

    I know that Sheppard had a different design firm for each station (for example, Leslie was done by Moriyama and Teshima Architects (the same firm that did the Scarborough Civic Center)), but all the firms were collaborating with each other and coordinating efforts towards a form of “line design” if you will, so Sheppard’s design was the result of the collaboration of those firms that worked on its 5 stations, not a future standard for other TTC stations to come. The TTC does have standards for their specifications, but I am not familiar with their actual design standards if they have any. Specifications generally refer to the quality and strength of materials, warranty, durability, tolerances, accessibiliy, and so forth, specifications don’t deal with the design itself that much, although sometimes colours and textures among other finer details and finishes are included.

    I really wish they would discontinue the use of tiles, I’ve never liked them. I’m sure lots of people think the finished concrete walls of the track wall along Sheppard Line stations is a cheap-out, but I find it a refreshing change. Stations like Kennedy, Kipling, Glencairn, etc., are also refreshing just because they are not so cookie-cutter like the rest, even though they aren’t great either. I happen to absolutely ADORE the use of glass for Old Mill and Eglinton West stations. Eglinton West is also a rarity to feature BRICK among its finishes at platform level. The shape of Eglinton West’s stairways is also kinda funky. The Spadina line did exceptionally well on its underground portion in terms of design (in addition to Eg. West, St. Clair West and Dupont feature well-designed interiors that stand out from the rest of the system… YUS Spadina Station doesn’t though), but its surface/Allen portion is quite drab for station designs despite some interesting qualities on each that make each one of them somewhat unique.

    Line colours for Transit City? Wouldn’t that require the current streetcar routes to be coloured too? We have 11 streetcar lines (as there is no 507) and Transit City will add at least 6 (assuming the WWLRT is a 509 extention). That’s 17 colours, excluding our subways which would be an additional 4 colours… Tokyo’s subway network is building its 13th line, it opens next year, and they are resorting to brown for its line colour since the rainbow has been pretty much used up. Brown? Yuck. No colours for Transit City, please.


  15. Even with London’s universal current standards, there are a few vintage signs around that have not been removed. These are generally in less prominent places, and are usually more generic e.g. “To Platform 1” or “Way Out” signs with distinctive logos or special fabrication. I recall reading in one of their publications that they do make attempts to maintain heritage signage where it is significant and in good condition, e.g. the big next-train destination board at Earls Court, but current standard signs are also in place so that heritage signs are not the only signage.


  16. I have no desire to preserve our subway infrastructure in amber. We know more about accessibility and so on than we used to and it’s good that some things be moved on. However some principles should be observed.

    1. The TTC should have an identifiable, consistent style which is openly decided and published. If chain store coffee outfits can do it, there’s no reason the TTC can’t. There should be a design coordination office where the public can object to deviations and poor temporary signs.

    2. It’s possible to integrate local colour into stations in a planned way without it looking like an overdecorated mess (Museum).

    3. Priority should be given for places like the top/bottom of escalators/stairs so that even a new visitor can make quick decisions rather than be standing in the flow of traffic.

    4. Implementing TTC style will mean the loss of certain historical evolutions. There should be a reasonable effort to either preserve them in, say, a Museum of Toronto (my vote is for Maple Leaf Gardens for that) or “by record” when relocation is unrealistic. Yes, the TTC is a working system but if we can’t spend a few dollars on the history of the city’s backbone we have little chance of preserving the rest of the city.

    5. Responsibility for what is and is not historical should be the call of a separate city agency (City Historian) not the TTC, and that agency should pay for preservation from its own budget so that the cry of “history over passengers” isn’t taken up.


  17. In Los Angeles, the Metrorail (subway and light rail lines) started off with consistent external signage.

    Outside the station entrances were three-sided stainless-steel pylons with the Metro logo (a black M inside a white circle), and each one was color coded, with the white circle replaced with a red circle on the Red Line, green circle on the green line, etc. For a while, there were only two stations where two lines intersected (7th Metro Center, and Rosa Parks), and those had half red, half blue, and half green and half blue circles.

    Then, less than 10 years after introducing the logo (MTA as it is constituted now didn’t exist prior to 1993), they decided they needed a new logo, a white M inside a black circle, with a slice cut through it, sort of so the M looked like a stencil, but I’m sure that wasn’t the desired effect.

    This coincided with the three-sided pylons being replaced with easier-to-miss, two-sided, wedge-shaped pylons. These were taller, and the colors were easier to see as the wedge was colored the same color of line (though on the Gold Line they didn’t quite get it right, resulting in a color reminiscent of baby poop). But the pylon itself could be missed if you were facing the wrong way.

    Anyway, these pylons were not replaced at all stations, including some downtown. This means empty sidewalks where some pylons once stood.

    I’m not sure, but there may be a few stations where the three-sided pylons are still standing. What a mess. The system didn’t exist until 17 years ago, and already, we have plenty of inconsistent signage. Ugh.


  18. A P.S to my earlier posting.

    Today my visitors pointed out that some subway entrances have NO signs. The one they noticed, as it were, is King Station at Yonge. There are entrances on all four corners of King/Yonge, the one on North/East Corner has no sign. They were going to cross the street to a ‘signed entrance’ until I urged them to go into the unsigned “mystery staircase”.


  19. Unsigned entrances – funny thing is that living in Toronto you stop noticing these things. But there are some staircases that are similiar, that are simply entrances to parking garages!

    Once you know Toronto, you’ve got a good idea where to find the Bloor/Danforth station – one block north. But I bet that if you take a complete stranger to the city and dump them at Greenwood and Danforth, that many of them will have asked someone for help, before finding the subway station – which is actually at Linnsmore and Strathmore! Yes, there is a sign at Greenwood and Danforth pointing the direction (if someone hasn’t stolen it recently) – but it’s not very prominent. But I can tell you that when I first came to Toronto – things certainly weren’t clear. (and sometimes still isn’t – there’s nothing more frustrating than climbing down stairs, and going through tunnels to a subway station your not that familiar with, with someone who is somewhat disabled, only to get to the turnstile and find it’s a token-entrance only, and it won’t accept your day pass! Like they can’t put a simple sign to that effect at the street-level entrance?


  20. In response to Mark Dowling who suggested that TTC have a design standard for signs like the London Underground…..They do! TTC has had a design standard for signs that has been in place for at least 10 years. The manual is not unlike the London Underground standard.

    General : The TTC Plant Sign Shop was created just after 1995 and produced a just few signs each year under the direction of the old SIGN Committee (now disbanded). The Plant Sign Shop is a small production shop only and follow the designs and direction of the architectural group of the Engineering and Construction Department. The completed signs are installed by the carpenters.

    Electrical signs are maintained by the electricians while Solari signs are maintained by the signal maintainers. (Nobody has directed the signal maintainers to remove the solari signs)

    As well as the sign design the Engineering and Construction department are responsible for the installation of signs for new lines. They contracted in-house to the TTC Plant Sign Shop for 90% of the Sheppard Line signs.

    The signs at a station like Eglinton have several generations of standards and rebuilds. Some signs at Eglinton were added as one-offs by outside contractors during reconstructions while others were replaced over the years following damage.

    Signs are expensive and a mishmash of signs have apparently been deemed acceptable to help maintain low operating costs. A higher priority for signage would increase operating costs.



  21. David,

    This is further complicated by the one-way exit from King station on the west Yonge sidewalk. Then there is the matter of the parking garage entrances around University and Wellington that look about the same as TTC entrances.

    I like how MapArt has shown the subway stations on the Toronto maps and atlases they produce. They use a simplified TTC logo, the shield the colour of the line, with the station name in the “bar” of the TTC logo, the same purple colour that particular company uses for transit lines.

    I love the old “TTC” font, but it should be used sparingly. A single, easy to read font should be the standard except for such things where the heritage font is used, like the large station names at platform level (and street level signs like you see on the B-D station entrances) and certain promotional uses.


  22. As Nicholas says “funny thing is that living in Toronto you stop noticing these things” which is why it has been so interesting to have visitors who do not read English signage very well and have never been here before. They have not yet noticed the “Exit Only” staircase on Yonge – it fooled me when I first moved here – but they did comment on the “subway-like” parking garage entrances on University south of King. “They look like more secret subway entrances”! Though ALL TTC signage needs work and thought, the point is that it is surely subway entrance signs that should be tackled first and they AT LEAST should be standardised.


  23. Ok , I believe that The TTC should not be concerned with the “Look” of these signs, and rather the placement and efficiency of them. Yes electronic signs and fancy cool looking signs may be a great idea, but what is the purpose of getting these signs on? It is to direct and locate our riders to the area they need to go. I think if they made these signs nice, simple, and big enough so people have a good idea where to go. As a 17 Year old boy living in the beaches, I think that we may need to have street signs so people can follow that, Just like how the city does when it has the H for hospital or the special signs to direct people to see the historic sights. As for inside the station, the TTC has no excuse for the poor quality of a sign. Their goal is to maintain a basic direction for people to follow and a good visible sign to look at. I am glad that they are at least making an effort now to make sure every station is accessible, good looking and up to date.


  24. I think it is strange that bus stops do not say which routes stop at them. Every other Transit system I have seen at least lists the routes that serve each stop.

    Steve: The only case where a stop has route numbers (and sometimes names) occurs where multiple stops serve one location and different routes have different stops. There is an inconsistency about whether the route name is included or only the route number. Examples can be found on Eglinton eastbound from Yonge at Yonge/Holly, Mt. Pleasant and Laird.


  25. On the topic of outdated signage. I noticed at york mills station that they are using a sign from when the walkway was removed at spadina. It states that there is no transfer between the Y-U-S AND B-D Lines. How is that for outdated signage.


  26. Hi Steve – just found your site today, and wanted to take a moment to comment on this point you made: “The “Next Station / Northbound to Finch” signs. These are similar but not identical to the first group as they were installed at a different time. I have never understood what good a “Next Station” sign is when you cannot see it from inside of the train.”

    In terms of position, I have only ever seen them at the bottom of a stairway at the platform level. I believe they’ve been positioned just so, as a wayfinding tool. If a train is not blocking the view to it, I always use it to orient myself to the correct train as it confirms the direction that I want to go.



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