What We Got For Five Million

One of my jobs here seems to be the curmudgeon whose view of the latest great thing isn’t quite as gentle and forgiving as other commentators.  This brings me to Museum Station.  You can see lots of photos over at The Torontoist where many (including me) have commented on various aspects of the station.

For me, one big issue is not just that it’s unfinished, but that in doing so, something is lost of the original design.  Just to refresh everyone’s memory, here is what we were supposed to get.


Note the curving ceiling that hides the plumbing and pulls the rows of columns together in a long gallery.  You won’t see that at Museum Station.  I suspect that the TTC didn’t want yet another specialized ceiling finish that would spend half its time disassembled while work went on above, but we’ve lost something important there.

Another issue is the large patches of painted concrete wall at intervals along the station.  Nothing is shown in the image of what might be there, and one wonders whether this was intended for advertising.

Speaking of advertising, there were ads present at the station until last weekend when their negative impact on the overall design was raised by some of us at Transit Camp to people who are in a position to get things changed.  They were.

The other change is that the old Metron, carefully preserved even though it didn’t work, was in the station right up to the weekend.  Odd how we’ve been told the problem is always with getting electrical work done for Onestop installations.  Funny how in a $5-million project they didn’t put in the conduits and wires for the new video screens.  They’re even shown in the drawing above, but that’s something else you won’t find at Museum.

I was kind of hoping the Metrons would stay as the beginning of a TTC museum of horology.  They could have relocated a few of the old analog clocks from Lower Bay to round out things.

Finally, there is an odd, unintended historic reference in the plaque describing each of the columns.  We learn that the red columns modelled on the Forbidden City would have held up yellow ceilings, a colour only the Emperor was allowed to use.  Yellow, of course, was the old colour of Museum Station, and it’s absent now at platform level.  No Emperors here I guess.

For me, Museum has too much the feel of a half-baked project.  Nice columns, but lots left to be done and nobody stepping up to pay for it.  If all this decor cost us five million, we were ripped off.

27 thoughts on “What We Got For Five Million

  1. You mention the gallery in the middle of the platform and to me that’s the biggest disappointment in the whole redesign: it ignored the thing that makes this station unique.

    There are no other stations downtown, and few system-wide, with such an unobstructed centre platform. The rows of columns — however you cover them — do a great job of creating a separate “room” in the middle of the platform, and because there’s so much open space there your instinct is to move to the centre of the platform as soon as you get off a train. The fancier ceiling would have been better, but even in the plans it didn’t make any sense to have this centre space decorated by the backs of the sculpted columns.

    I haven’t yet seen it unwrapped, but one thing that struck me when I saw it a few weeks ago was that it was too bright. One of things that I remember most about the Louvre station in Paris — which probably inspired TCF’s campaign, at least in part — is that it’s quite dark, with dramatic lighting effects. Here, it’s so bright throughout there’s no opportunity for drama.

    Aside from the high costs, my feeling is that the TTC doesn’t have the design expertise to properly manage a project like this. (An architect becoming famous for being hit-and-miss doesn’t help, and this was the least bizarre of his three station ideas.) Is there a team dedicated to station renos that might get better with practice, or is a different engineer heading up each of Pape, Vic Park, etc.?


  2. Count me in as someone who shares your opinion about the half-baked station with the depressing ceiling, the cheesy ornaments that don’t relate to the rest of the design, or the same-old sketchy mezzanine level that would have been fine with just a cleaning and general maintenance. And the TTC is opening this up to all but six stations in the network, with St. Patrick and Osgoode next? At least when they do install the OneStop screens (if they do), they won’t have to deal with a finished ceiling.

    Another issue is the large patches of painted concrete wall at intervals along the station. Nothing is shown in the image of what might be there, and one wonders whether this was intended for advertising.

    I thought that these might be niches for workers at track level, but if so, they didn’t install the yellow cages.


  3. “If all this decor cost us five million, we were ripped off.” – Amen!

    Do you know how much the ceiling itself would cost?

    Steve: No, I don’t.


  4. I too was quite underwhelmed by the whole thing. The columns look OK, but the rest of the ‘makeover’ looks cheap, and it’s not just the unfinished ceiling and painted concrete walls. At the south end of the station, I noticed that the original subway tiles are still there, but painted over! Yeah, that’s gonna last. This station is going to look horrible once we’ve got a few years of wear and tear (and grime) added to it.


  5. Steve, I’m glad you’re not as supportive of these grand new smart ideas as some would like you to be, and that you have a platform well enough situated that the vexings can penetrate in somewhat.

    Yes, I think we were somewhat ripped off too, the re-design is likely not so great nor enduring, it’s too bad the well-intentioned private money couldn’t have been redirected somewhere else a bit more useful, and I’d prefer the TTC would have spent $5M on a proper corridor study in the West Waterfront south of Queen.

    Steve: Don’t forget that there was also $3-million of public money plus whatever tax write-offs were generated by $2-million worth of private donations funnelled through TCF. My guess is that at least 75% of this “private public partnership” was funded by tax dollars. A classic PPP scam — private sector gets the kudos for being so generous, public sector actually carries the lion’s share of the cost.


  6. What really burns me up is that for all the work done on Museum station, no work was done to install an elevator for the disabled. I can imagine that it will be a challenge to install an elevator(s) at Museum since the wall at the north end of the platform will probably have to be knocked out to make room for it. As far as I am concerned with the Bloor Danforth line, as long as the ceilings are repainted regularly, the stations cleaned properly and as long as all the stations are given elevators, then that would be just fine enough with me. The only stations that I do think need substantial change are St George station on both levels and Yonge station since the existing platforms are simply too narrow (especially since the stations are so busy most of the time).


  7. I agree, the roof looks like crap and i am totally shocked they kept it that way. I honestly thought they would deal with it before they did their grand “re-opening”.

    What is more of an issue however is keeping the original design of most stations since they are unique in their own way. Also, many stations do not even require a re-build necessarily.

    St. Patrick station (and Queens Park) is still one of the coolest looking stations that i have ever seen. The round walls and the whole “tube” feeling is just great. The only thing they could do to enhance it would probably be to open up more columns in the middle so that you can see the other side.

    The Whole Bloor-Danforth and its color pattern is awesome and should not be changed, just maintained. Changing it up will ruin its pattern that currently exists as you travel its length.

    What DOES need change is the Yonge Line from Union to Eglinton. It has no pattern and the stations are over capacity anyways. Start with Dundas….make it larger…..maybe to the scale of Bloor-Danforth.

    How many millions will the TTC spent ruining the Bloor-Danforth when they can put that money for other uses? i have no idea!


  8. A total waste of good money. The ceilings over the tracks and the platform floors were supposed to be redone to look new — didn’t happen. What about the rest of the station above platform level?

    It looked much better before. The NORTHBOUND/SOUTHBOUND etching on the columns is gone now, so when you enter the platform you don’t know which platform is which … smart.

    One more thing, the medium MUSEUM on the walls is too low (should be above center at eye level), and wasn’t the big “MUSEUM” supposed to be backlit?

    Again, total junk.

    PS — I don’t think Lower Bay has any of the old 60s analog clocks left, or the old flip leafs from the 70s that replaced them. Those clocks were always off by hours anyway. Even the old sign pointing down or sideways to the next eastbound train at Bay is long gone. That was a unique sign — St. George had one too.


  9. I guess there’s not gonna be any future opportunities to do some touch ups?

    5 million is a considerable rip-off this poor reno, no doubt.


  10. I have a great idea : what if we used all that money to actually FIX and CLEAN the stations! YEah! Then we wouldn’t have to worry about how “ugly” they might be and how they would look better if they were re-built unmpteen times? What do you mean it’s a silly idea? Don’t we want to attract patrons to the system? Don’t we want to return to the days when stations were spick-and-span. What? We WANT more artwork to HIDE structural problems, etc. (never mind cleaning the art when it gets dirty: remember are-en-ciel?)
    Half-finished stations are WORSE to look at than untouched stations!


  11. I think they should do the same to all stations, have the design of the station resemble the area the station is located in.

    I will use the ttc washrooms an example: we have ttc washrooms in some stations (though we should have them in all stations but that’s for another time).

    We have the washrooms, but we should make them all pretty by cleaning them. We have subways stations, but we should improve them by making them pretty.

    We should be proud of system and city, but when you have part of the roof fall near you (extremely near you), that makes you not be proud. I can’t wait to see museum station.


  12. Let me add to the chorus.

    This is very disappointing.

    Unlike many here, I was and, in theory, remain an advocate for a station renovation program.

    A host of non-aesthetic improvments are needed at many stations, from elevators, to more escalators, to second exits to additional capacity.

    When done in conjunction with the above, I think there is a great opportunity to work on some of the more drab and dull stations to create aesthetic enhancements.

    Not every station can be Downsview; but most could be Bloor (upper platforms).

    A nice choice of tile, ceiling finishes, some properly chosen light fixtures and floor treatments can make all the difference in the world.

    There are higher priorities, but I still think this idea should make the list.

    HOWEVER, not if Museum is an example of what we are going to get.

    Rules for Renos:

    #1 Always deliver the rendering, unless the public demands revisions, in which case deliver the revised rendering!

    #2 Always invest in quality finishes. Cheaping out by painting over existing tile work; by failing to properly co-ordiate station finishes/colours/furniture you ruin the whole point of such a makeover

    #3 Always complete all related works at the same time; it blows my mind that they didn’t proceed with the second exit and the elevator at the same time, it would have saved considerable money and/or freed up additional resources for the project; it would also have saved future rider inconvenience.

    I really don’t understand the budget for this at all. A number of years ago when NYC renovated several stations they spent in the range of $50,000,000 (that’s million) per station. The TTC in the late 80’s spent $11,000,000 on just the upper platform at Bloor (today that would work out to at least $22,000,000).

    And here’s Museum getting $5,000,000 (with the elevators and second exit in one project the could have had over double the budget)

    (shakes head)

    I still want to support ‘station modernization’ but the TTC needs to completely rethink and improve on the way they carry these out.


  13. If we’re talking about stations that need re-doing, how about a solution to the ingress/egress issues at Davisville?

    Never mind the platforms, just getting into and out of the station itself to reach the ticket booth during morning and evening rush hour is a complete joke. ONE set of stairs going down that is about 1.5 bodies wide gets you into the station. ONE escalator going up gets you out (when it’s working). Then on your way in via those stairs, you will cross traffic with those people who are trying to leave the station via the escalator, very inefficient. Yes, yes, I know there is also an elevator but why clog that up for the people who actually need it.

    And I’m a new visitor here so forgive me if this has been talked about already ad nauseum.

    Steve: Davisville has been a mess for quite some time with a now-and-forever renovation. At one point, there was a scheme to tunnel under Yonge Street for a new east side exit connecting into the existing mezzanine, but nothing ever came of that.

    The obvious solution is to demolish the TTC head office and start over.


  14. Miroslav, what exactly should Donlands station look like? The nearby mosque?

    How about Greenwood? The nearby derelict Roxy Theatre?

    What about Chester? A big carrot?

    Steve: This shows the benefit of desiging artworks to fit within the existing station design (nothing can possibly be as bad as some of the advertising) to reflect images past, present or fantastical of the neighbourhood as opposed to a complete reconstruction that may go out of date long before the next station reno.

    A shame that Chester doesn’t have columns — rows of gigantic carrots would certainly be eye catching!


  15. A number of commenters have suggested that what the stations really need is a good cleaning. In fact, there are at least a couple of stations (Coxwell; Main Street) that have recently been cleaned up and the effect has been incredible. As far as I can tell, the only major changes have been a repainting of the ceiling, and either replacement or cleaning of the fluorescent light fixtures running along the platform. But these changes have had an incredible impact. As of yesterday, Main Street still had a section of the platform that hadn’t been completed, allowing for a dramatic “before and after” contrast. It is like the difference between dusk (or overcast conditions) and full daylight.

    This type of a cleaning wouldn’t solve all of the ills of the older stations, but it would still have a huge impact.


  16. Joe Clark:

    Like Steve said, Chester would be so eye catching with giant carrot columns.

    But Donlands and Greenwood are two stations I have not being above them on the street level.

    But like Steve said above the carrot statement, the stations should reflect the neighbourhoods they are in.

    Steve: Donlands and Greenwood are rather plain, uninspiring places at surface level. Just typical Danforth. By the way, Donlands has a PAIR of working Metrons in it.


  17. If you think Museum is bad, wait till you see the TTC’s plans for “Honest Ed’s” station, complete with a combined 6,500 flashing light bulbs on both platforms — and, glass encased exhibits of Honest Ed’s merchandise — Elvis statues and 99c underwear. Can you think of a better theme for Bathurst?

    Since we’re on the subject of Bathurst, if anyone from the TTC read this — can you explain what the hell the classical music is for? It sounds awful echoing against the walls. I think it’s meant to keep the punks out from nearby Central Tech, but it’s also bugging other passengers as well. I have nothing against classical music, but I don’t want to hear it in the subway. If security is an issue, you have special constables for that.

    Steve: The classical music is indeed intended to soothe the savage breast (William Congreve, 1697), and we have it at Kennedy for the same reason. It’s rather impressive when the RT arrives heralded by the trumpet fanfare of the William Tell Overture!

    As for Special Constables, I’ll take the music. At least we don’t have clusters of constables (what is the collective noun for them anyhow) loitering with intent.


  18. I add my feelings of disappointment to so many of the others above.

    Before the Museum Station renovation people got on and off the train at Museum and headed to their destinations. After this five million dollars has been spent those same people are getting on and off trains. This renovation did nothing to better the service that the riders are receiving nor does it inspire anyone new to ride the subway. With the frequencies the system has few people will spend more than a few minutes waiting for a train and they certainly don’t stay around after they leave a train. This hardly is comparable to a couch by the fire in a Chapters lounge area.

    I will add to Joe Clark’s comments above. What will be the theme at Lansdowne? A Coffee Time motif with drug dealers painted in the windows? What about Dufferin? What about Ossington?

    This has been a total waste of money. No elevator, no washrooms, no improved signage and a very temporary grime-free finish. Of course the idea that they have done something is enough to make the believers of this project pat themselves on the back. The sad thing is that someone with far too little experience to lead a large municipal transit commission is such a believer in putting out money for nothing in return. Maybe they could find some funds to get some staff to remove all those soggy transfers from the urinals at Kipling. Unfortunately for Adam and the “donors” this would not get them in the paper.


  19. “Cheesy” was the word that struck me, as it did Sean Marshall. The columns looked more artistic before the bags were taken off — symbolic of the commuter trapped in the private hell of his/her life. Up close those columns look like cheap theme park stuff. Perhaps taggers will brighten them up.

    Speaking of taggers, the TTC has tagged its own station. Where the streetcars enter St. Clair station someone has spraypainted “Do not enter” on the wall. Perhaps they were trying to add a countercultural touch to the LCC Modern.


  20. I don’t really care what the stations look like. Sure it’s nice, but 5 million is a lot for a system that has as many problems as the TTC. I just want the streetcars, subways and buses to show up on time. That would really impress me.


  21. Based on the consensus here we either invest in reliable, cost effective public transit or have a showpiece that accomplishes squat (said with tongue firmly planted in cheek).

    I’d add a TTC without the looming threat of strike every couple of years to the list of wants before a $5 million a station redesign any day.

    Here’s my redesign suggestion, big cookies on the wall at Christie. And a pioneer brewery motif at Bloor in honour of the namesake.


  22. I agree with all of the other naysayers here.

    I’ve posted this once before, but I really hope that someone will stop the TTC before it ruins Pape… But I know that won’t happen.

    Do what’s necessary to put Pape into a state of good repair and to make it accessible, but otherwise, leave it alone. The new design may have improved since its first iteration, but it’s still ugly, above ground and below.

    The TTC does not have the ability to design stations relevant to local neighbourhoods, even when it contracts out that function. Take Pape for example: The artist does not even reside in the local community. In fact, I don’t even think the artist resides in either the 416 or 905 area codes! Plastering the platform walls with photoshopped pictures of the station and community and is about as bland and, at the same time, as tacky as you can get.

    As much I honestly want station environments to be aesthetically pleasing, I have to point out to the champions of this re-envisioning scheme that subway stations are not art galleries; they are subway stations. People spend most of their time in subway cars, not on platforms. And, even if the art was good (which none of it looks to be — including Victoria Park schemes, etc), people still wouldn’t treat subway stations like art galleries. No matter how the hard they might try to re-brand themselves, “TTC” will never spell “ROM” or “AGO.” The TTC understands transit (most of the time anyway). Stick to transit. It’s that simple.


  23. When I first saw the renovation plans over a year ago, I was horrified at the idea of replicating Museum artifacts and integrating them into the station architecture, but I was impressed with how the station walls were rendered, with the larger-than-life MUSEUM sprawled on the wall.

    When I toured the finished project, it was the opposite. The columns are tasteful and attractive. The walls are banal and look cheap -competing with Dundas and College as the system’s ugliest.

    For $5M, new lighting and ceiling finishes should have been included.


  24. Oh I thought the Classical in Bathurst was an unusual occurrence and not a normal thing. I noticed it one Saturday morning on the way out and sort of wished it was playing at the rest of the stations all day. My traveling companion and I thought it would be a great addition.

    I really wished it was there when I was waiting 25 minutes for the 501. That would’ve been soothing.


  25. The idea of cookies at Christie is making me hungry. Does anyone know why the escalator there is a few steps short? I never could figure that one out.

    Steve: We have a similar escalator at Broadview. These were retrofits to already-built stations.

    At Broadview, the escalator from the mezzanine to the street level is located directly above the station roof below. Normally, if this sort of geometry were designed, they would put the mezzanine high enough to leave room for the escalator pit. However, at Broadview, the original stairway didn’t need this clearance. That’s why you go up a few steps to get to the bottom of the escalator.


  26. The other thing that Bathurst has is flocks of pigeons. They swoop up and down the stairwells, and up and down the platforms – I’ve more than once been clipped by a wing. Recently there’s been an improvement in this, but I expect it will get worse again. Apparently they don’t mind the classical music.

    I don’t believe there’s a need to have EVERY station reflect its surroundings, as nice as that might be. (Does the shiny appearance of Downsview reflect drab Sheppard and Dufferin?) I doubt there’s a transit system out there where every station has such a makeover. What makes sense to me is that as stations come up for renovation, community involvement comes into play. If nothing seems obvious, then a simplle cosmetic upgrade will do, and undoubtedly be cheaper. That said, I’m sure that to someone on the Danforth, there is some sort of theme that would be appropriate for Donlands. Runnymede, “my” station growing up, could reflect the Ukrainian heritage of the neighborhood. (Better that than the Magna Carta…) Honest Ed’s for Bathurst would be a gaudy extreme, but something reflecting the immigrant heritage for the community would be great.

    The point though, would certainly be to make sure you get what you pay for. The non-ceiling, lack of screens and definitely, the lack of elevators (what a cock-up) at Museum should be a lesson applied to any future renos. The Union project should be put off until they can properly apportion platforms. Yonge station should certainly go to the top of the list, to deal with the narrow platforms and degraded wall tiles and terrazzo steps. Why Pape gets priority is beyond me.


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