Update 1: December 28, 5:15 pm:
I have received a note pointing out that a second entrance program is in progress for various stations regardless of the building code requirement for a “trigger” condition (the addition of substantial load to the demand in the station).
The reports in question are from 2004 and 2005. The 2005 report deals with College, Wellesley, Museum and Castle Frank. The work at Castle Frank is underway now. Museum was to get a second exit through the vent shaft at the south end of the station, but this work was put on hold because it was to be funded as part of the condo project on the Planetarium site that was cancalled.
Original post follows with amendments:
“James” sent in a comment in the Richmond Hill subway thread that deserves to start a discussion of its own.
Perhaps this comment belongs back in your thread on Bloor-Yonge renovations….
But since that seems to be the dominant line of discussion here….
Your arguments are persuasive on the need to build a DRL (something I already supported); but further, to build it prior to either a major Yonge line extension, or a massive Bloor-Yonge overhaul.
However, I think everyone can accept that Bloor-Yonge, as it is today, requires more space, and improved passenger flows just to cope with existing traffic; and it will likely need that even if a DRL is built. Though, one hopes a less drastic solution might be feasible.
Which brings me to the Steve question of the day. Given the need for capacity/flow improvements and for the renovation for aesthetic and state-of-good-repair reasons of the Yonge portion of Bloor-Yonge…. What if any improvements could the TTC make to this station that would be of moderate expense, and less disruption, in the immediate future?
This post deals primarily with the south end of the Yonge line, but the topic is a generic one for both existing and future stations: providing the ability for passengers to move around within the stations. Stations exist to move people, not just trains.
Roughly speaking, the capacity at Bloor-Yonge can be divided into four main areas:
Platform capacity on the Yonge line (Bloor Station)
Platform capacity on the Bloor line (Yonge Station)
Interchange capacity between the two stations
Entrance/exit capacity from the complex
Any discussion of Bloor Station requires that readers be familiar with the underground layout of the station relative to streets and buildings. Originally, this station included a transferway to streetcars allowing passengers to move from street level to the subway in a fare paid area. On the surface, this was in the wider section of Bloor Street in front of what is now the Bay, and at platform level, the connection was south of the point where the centre pillars stop at the north end of the station.
Originally, Bloor Station was like any other, but the southern two-thirds was rebuilt in the 1980s when a development above the station (the one containing the south exit) went up. The area from Hayden Street to the north limit of Bloor Street was opened, and the station was rebuilt with new outer walls and beams carrying the roof clear across the platforms and tracks. A short section at the south end, as well as the northern third of the station lie under or within structures that could not be removed.
The north end of the station, including the thick walls separating the platform from the Yonge Station mezzanine, is physically inside of the Bay’s building which was built around the existing subway tunnel. Widening the station at this point to accommodate a centre platform requires removal of these walls as well as the row of pillars. The north end of the station structure is roughly a block north of Bloor Street, and the tunnel is threaded between pre-existing building foundations.
Yonge Station lies diagonally under the Bay building on a line from the west entrance location (beside Starbucks, the old Albert Britnell bookshop on the east side of Yonge) to Park Road and Bloor (the southeast corner of the Bay). The curve as you enter the station eastbound takes trains from an east-west alignment it follows from Bay Station west to the diagonal alignment at Yonge, and the curve at the east end of Yonge Station takes you back to an east-west alignment under Bloor itself.
Any consideration of expanding platform capacity at Yonge is constrained by the structure of the Bay. When additional outside platforms were proposed for this station, this would have required taking space from the parking garage, and some structural pillars would have been unavoidably within the platform space.
Connection between the two levels of the station and any new platforms, especially from a new centre platform on the upper level, is very difficult. From the platform itself, stairs and escalators down are limited in width by the available platform space, with the only mitigation being that this would be an “offloading” platform where there would be no crowds waiting to board trains. However, it is quite conceivable, especially if headways are shortened to 105 seconds, for two trains to offload onto the same platform at once.
Because the Bloor subway structure is in the way, there can be no connections down other than elevators at the north end of the centre platform.
Everyone who now flows through the north mezzanine to Yonge Station would now be routed through a passageway that needs to go down two levels to get under the Bloor subway and connect with its existing centre and a future north (westbound) platform. This passageway would be the controlling factor in passenger movement from the Yonge line to the Bloor line, assuming that the centre platform would be only for offloading. Although much of the existing mezzanine, stairs and escalators would now be available only for Bloor-to-Yonge movements, a much more constrained path with less capacity would be used for Yonge-to-Bloor movements.
Frankly, I don’t think that the TTC has ever looked at how the station would operate under heavy load, and particularly in conditions where one or more escalators was out of service for repairs.
When the south entrance to Bloor Station was rebuilt to link into the concourse of the Xerox building, and when the new west entrance to Yonge Station was added, TTC staff claimed that these would divert a considerable proportion of existing pedestrian flows away from the main entrance through the Bay.
I use both of those entrances regularly, and they are quiet spots. The west entrance isn’t even manned. It suffers from being at the far end of the platform where only those who know it exists and where it goes will make use of it, and its lower escalator is often out of service thanks to the same groundwater that will complicate any construction in the area. (Structurally, the Bay sits on an underground bridge to avoid this problem.) While these exits give alternative ways out of the station (a fire code requirement), they do not make a substantial contribution to station capacity. Indeed, the one potentially useful part of the west entrance, a PATH connection, was deleted from the final design to reduce costs.
St. George Station
St. George suffers from the same platform capacity problems we see at other busy centre platform locations like Yonge and Union because of narrow platforms between stairwells and the platform edge.
Physically, the station lies between Bedford Road and St. George Street, and it is constrained by some existing buildings, notably OISE, that did not exist when the station was built.
Unlike Bloor-Yonge, it has the relative advantage that the two platforms are oriented in the same direction, but this does bring its own problems for navigation. If new “outside” platforms are dedicated to one function, it is self-evident that this cannot be the same on both levels as transfer traffic wants to move from an “unloading” platform to a “loading” one. Moreover, someone getting off a southbound University train might want to go to either an eastbound or westbound platform on the Bloor line, but the westbound platform would only be accessible from the existing centre University level platform, not from a new southbound platform outside of the existing station.
Assuming that new platforms are structurally possible, the dedication of each platform to a specific function may be counterproductive.
Other Yonge Stations from Wellesley to King [Revised]
If the capacity of the Yonge line is substantially increased, then there will be additional load on these stations. Wellesley and College share a common problem with a single exit to street level containing a narrow stairway and escalator. If the escalator is out of service, the only link is the single stairway.
A second exit is planned for the north end of Wellesley at Dundonald Street (first street to the north).
College Station lies roughly between Wood Street (one north of Carlton) and the south end of the Eaton’s College Street building. The new condo to be built on the northeast corner at Gerrard is too far south to act as a second entrance. A second entrance is to be built on the east side of Yonge in the parkette opposite the south end of Eaton’s College Street.
It is intended that both of these exits will be fully functional, not simply exit-only structures.
Dundas Station also has only a single exit on each platform. The southbound side connects with malls on both the north and south side of Dundas west of Yonge and includes one narrow stairway to the north sidewalk. The northbound side has exits to Dundas Square and through the AMC building. A second exit should be provided further north, but I believe that Gould Street (the corner that will anchor the new Ryerson University entrance) may be too far north to connect with the station.
Queen Station has two entrances. At the main entrance, connections from the southbound platform into the nearby stores have been in place since the station opened. On the northbound side, street entrances have been replaced by connections into new developments. The “Albert Street” entrance is a bit of a misnomer these days as Albert Street no longer comes out to Yonge. Originally, this entrance only included the stairs to the east side of Yonge south of Shuter, but now it includes a connection (under what was once Albert Street) to the Eaton Centre.
King Station originally had only one set of exits from the northbound platform, and the Melinda Street exit (the single escalator) was the only secondary exist southbound. The new south exit was built to connect with Commerce Court. The north exits are tight, like those at College, and can be badly backed up when an escalator is out of service.
There are two threads you have probably noticed through all of this. One is the need for second exits, a fire code requirement that would have required a much different design had it been in place in the 1950s when these stations were built. If the TTC engages in work that expands the demand on a station (an example is Spadina for the streetcar loop), then it must bring the station up to current fire code. Less clear is whether addition of route capacity through shortened headways triggers the same requirement. This could be a hidden co-requisite of increasing the Yonge line’s capacity.
The second thread is a basic question of capacity and safety. The TTC never seems to look at how its stations will work when escalators are closed for repairs even though this can have a large effect on pedestrian movements and capacity. For an organization that claims to have a “safety first” motto, this is a glaring omission.
Moreover, as the system evolves to become accessible to a wider community, all the low-floor vehicles in the world are worth bugger-all if subway and LRT stations are inaccessible. This is not just a question of providing escalators and elevators, but of actually making them work reliably. That’s another thread, however. The point here is that stations must not be designed with single points of failure where their capacity, safety and accessibility can be compromised because an escalator is waiting for a spare part.
I will close off this item here with the hope that this will start a thread on station design and capacity both as they relate to the existing system and its problems, as well as to future additions.