Landmarks Vanish! Tourists Mystified!! (Update 2)

Updated September 22 at 9:50 pm:  According to this evening’s Global news, the TTC will pull the offending maps tonight from all stations.  Now may be your last chance to photograph your favourite blunder.  Mind you, considering how fast the TTC is at taking down out-of-date notices, I suspect the “bad” maps will be around for awhile.

It will also be intriguing to see if, when the new maps are installed, they actually do update all of them in every station.  I found four of elderly vintage without looking very hard yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Star managed to publish an annotated version of the St. Andrew map which shows City Hall where Osgoode Hall actually is, and the CN Tower at the corner of John and Front, north of the rail corridor.  I suppose a paper with its offices in the 905 can’t be expected to know much about downtown Toronto any more.

Finally, I strongly urge that the TTC circulate the new maps for comment to ward Councillors’ offices who might actually know where things are in their respective neighbourhoods.  Even better, as some have suggested in the comments here, put them online so that the vastly better-informed transit amateurs can help out with the project.

Updated September 21 at 3:25 pm:  The TTC has announced that it will be reviewing, correcting and replacing the new maps.  I do not know the details of basic design issues such as a clear identification of entrance locations and inclusion of surface routes, but I hope to get more info as the week goes on.

This morning, I visited many stations with the intention of posting a consolidated view of things.  That post would rival my yet-unpublished detailed film festival reviews for length, and would be of limited long-term value.  However, a few common threads do emerge:

  • Old buildings are hard to kill off, even when they no longer physically exist.  The TTC could argue that nobody will be looking for these buildings, but something else may be there today.
  • Information about schools is largely missing and, when present, is often inaccurate.  Also, the TDSB Education Centre became part of the UofT years ago (I should know, I used to work there), but it’s on the map for Queen’s Park.
  • Union Station is inconsistently identified (on the King Station map, you wouldn’t even know it was a major rail terminal).
  • Many buildings or sites of interest are not shown, but there is no consistent pattern in what’s missing.  Some buildings are not in their correct location.
  • Information is not consistent between maps covering the same area for different stations.  This is particularly evident for the UofT campus and Queen’s Park.
  • Most of Ryerson doesn’t exist according to the TTC.
  • The TTC should conduct a spelling bee for street and building names.  The winner gets to review the new maps.
  • Some stations have old maps, or multiple versions.  St. Clair has a new map at the main entrance (mezzanine level) and an older map at the north entrance.  Spadina has two generations of maps, both out of date (these include the Spadina bus south of Bloor Street).
  • The TTC Lost Articles Office is on the Bay and Bloor-Yonge maps as if it were simply a building, not part of Bay station.  It is not on the St. George map.
  • Space for advertising takes precedence over maps.  The only map at the north end of Bloor-Yonge station is on the south wall of the east mezzanine.  The only maps at Dundas are on the southbound side, but there are three of them, all close to each other. 
  • Visual clutter is a very serious problem at some stations.

The original post follows the break.

This post picks up from a thread on by Sean Marshall.

The TTC is now installing, new, updated area maps for all of its subway stations, and they are so bad in so many ways.  The TTC gets a lot of flak for lousy customer information, and better materials and services are one of the TTC’s key goals.  On this project, they have failed astoundingly.

Someone decided to get new maps.  Someone either assigned the project in house, or contracted it out.  Someone thought that graphic layouts that would shame a student in elementary media arts were good enough for the TTC.  Someone didn’t bother to proof-read the maps or check the basic data that went onto them.

A great deal of time, effort and money went into producing and installing materials that are woefully inaccurate, and this will all have to be done over again.  I hate to say it, but this is precisely the sort of project that gives “public servants” a bad name.

Someone needs to seek alternative employment.

Sean began his commentary on St. Andrew Station, but wanting a closer look, I went there today and took a photo for myself.

This map has so many errors that I had to print a copy and start making notes.  I will leave most issues of style, typography, legibility and other matters related to design and usability to Joe Clark who often fumes at length about these subjects.

My concern is solely with accuracy.  Maps are, after all, supposed to tell you the lay of the land.


  • The maps are not to scale.
  • Buildings, where they are shown at all, are often crammed into less space than they deserve.
  • Buildings are named in very small type which does not always fit within the supposed outline of a landmark.
  • The shapes of buildings and parks do not generally match their actual layout.
  • The station where the map is located is identified with a larger icon than other stations on the map, and its entrances are shown individually.  Alas, this also blocks out part of the nearby area causing affected sites to be ignored or misplaced.
  • The legend includes a green P for parking, but no lots are actually shown even though they do exist.  It is unclear why someone in a subway station needs to know where parking lots are anyhow.

Missing Buildings

Buildings are included in this list because comparable information is provided on other station maps, because other items in the same class of building (e.g. hotels) are shown, or because they are items of major interest.

  • Ogden PS (on Phoebe Street, shown as a park)
  • Osgoode Hall and Law Courts
  • City Hall (New and Old)
  • Elgin-Wintergarden Theatre
  • St. Michael’s Hospital
  • Holiday Inn
  • King Edward Hotel
  • Strathcona Hotel
  • The Domed Stadium / Rogers Centre
  • The CN Tower
  • The Convention Centre
  • The Intercontinental Hotel
  • The Cosmopolitan Hotel
  • The Cambridge Suites Hotel
  • The St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
  • The Government of Canada offices on Adelaide east of Victoria
  • The Albany Club (the Wellington Club is shown although I have never encountered anyone asking where it might be found)

Misidentified and Mangled Buildings

  • The Exchange Tower also includes “Rogers Plan 5341”
  • 145 King West is identified by street address, a treatment not used for other buildings
  • Many building sites are shown incorrectly to occupy much less space in a block than they actually do.  Examples include the CBC Broadcast Centre and Scotia Plaza.
  • The Eaton Centre is incorrectly named as “Eaton’s Centre”
  • The building at the northeast corner of Adelaide & University is labelled as the “Guardian of Cananda Tower”.

Street Naming and Placement

  • The Gardiner Expressway is called “Gardner”.
  • Simcoe Street ends at Station Street although it actually goes under the rail corridor to Queen’s Quay.
  • St. Patrick’s Square is not shown, but lanes in the same area are.
  • St. Patrick Street is called “Partick”.
  • Renfrew Place is shown as ending at McCaul Street when it actually runs through to John Street.
  • The Esplanade is shown between Bay and Yonge in the area that is actually the bus terminal.
  • Adelaide, Richmond and Wellington Streets west of Yonge have no “W.” included in their names, although corresponding streets east of Yonge have “E.”.

Transit Information

  • Neither the subway nor the surface routes are shown on the map.
  • The Yonge line stations are coloured orange, not yellow, the standard colour for the YUS on all other TTC maps.
  • Union Railway Station and Bus Terminal are not shown, although the words “Via and Go Transit” do appear on top of the rail corridor.

Meanwhile at Broadview

When I had a look at my home station, Broadview, the map isn’t as much of a mess.  However, that’s fairly easy given that almost half of it is the Don Valley.  The following items are notable:

  • An animal hospital that is actually on Danforth east of Broadview is shown in the block actually occupied by Broadview Station.  The icon for Broadview Station interferes with correct placement.
  • The Music Hall Theatre is shown at the corner of Broadview and Danforth when it is actually half a block to the east.  Again, the proper space taken up by the “Broadview” icon.
  • The Green P lot immediately east of the station is not shown, nor is any other in the area.
  • Jackman Junior Public School is labelled a “Junir” school.
  • Frankland School (Logan south of Danforth) and Rosedale Heights (at Castle Frank Station) are not shown.
  • City Adult Learning Centre (known as CALC) is labelled “City of Toronto Adult Learning Centre”.
  • The nearby “Public Washrooms” have been closed for an extremely long time, and the building now has other uses occupying it.
  • Chester Village Extended Care closed well over a year ago.  The building is now being rebuilt for another use.
  • The road layout at the DVP entrance west of the viaduct is not shown correctly.
  • At least the subway line colour is green, the correct one for the BD line.
  • An last, but not least, Chester Station is shown on Jackman Avenue, one block west of its actual location.

The Roxy Lives!

I passed through Greenwood Station tonight, and noted that the Roxy Cinema, long the home of Rocky Horror screenings, is shown even though this theatre has been closed for well over a decade.

53 thoughts on “Landmarks Vanish! Tourists Mystified!! (Update 2)

  1. I am actually astonished.

    Collectively, we who think of ourselves as either Big or small “A” transit activists, have come to believe, in some cases rightly, in others debatably that transit is not as well run as it ought to be in this town.

    But most of those disagreements are over the scale of expenses for project A or B; or over the precise route of a bus or subway, or some subjective matter like paint jobs or other matters aesthetic.

    On most counts, we actually do assume that people in the TTC or GO etc. can spell and add and do indeed have a certain basic level of knowledge or dare I say “common sense” in their field.

    This looks really poor, I almost feel badly being so denigrating, as we can all make mistakes … but wow.


  2. This is the type of BS that should get people fired…. why would anyone put up with this??? A couple mistakes fine.. but this is way too much…. I could pick someone up off the street and get a better map done


  3. Just two things:

    The transit authority that can’t even be bothered to use real Helvetica uses the debased Helvetica parasite, Arial, for these maps.

    And! Subway stations do not actually occupy the same footprint on the earth’s surface as the Pentagon.


  4. This is such a poor example of in-housing projects. (I’m assuming in-house because I’ve never heard of a published public tender for such a commission.)

    Incorrect spelling, wrong locations, incorrect map hierarchy.

    It’s astounding that the map were ever printed and put up.

    This would be a fail in most classes in high school or college/university. Way to go TTC.


  5. Reminds me of the first neighbourhood maps the TTC installed in the 1980’s. When routes were included, they were often wrong, and stayed that way for years. Not much changes with customer service.

    At least the TTC doesn’t screw-up bus-stop schedules (as far as I remember) the way OC Transpo does. I have seen schedules printed for travel in the wrong direction, or listing that the bus does not stop there on weekends when it clearly does and has for years (and if they didn’t then there’s no way anyone could connect to their feeder routes! Oy.) But if you try to complain to customer service…


  6. Geez. From the looks of this map, you would think the TTC designed it for Auto Drivers. Too much emphasis on the major arterial roads.


  7. I doubt that I am the only person who judges an organisation, an institution and even people by looking at the things they do which I can understand and by making the, maybe unfair, assumption that if they can do these things well then they are probably also doing things I cannot understand well too. I really want to like the TTC as they provide a vital public service, which I use, and these maps are something I DO understand and they really are beyond bad. If the TTC are bad at “simple” things like proof-reading then one rather suspects they are bad at more complex and more critical things like construction projects.

    Someone clearly does need to be disciplined for these maps and I suggest that when they issue new ones they should maybe consider restricting the maps to the AREA DIRECTLY AROUND THE STATION. For example, It seems unnecessary to go east of Yonge Street for the St Andrew Map. If they only covered the immediate vicinity they could be made to a far larger scale. Transport for London has an excellent website. Their ‘station maps’ show an area ‘a 15 minute walk’ around each station. See in particular the examples in their “Gallery”.


  8. “Someone decided to get new maps.”….”Someone needs to seek alternative employment.”

    Having myself being put in a position to accomplish a pain-in-the-butt task that wasn’t part of my job by an irate and impatient supervisor, we’d need to know more about the whole process before deciding who ought to go.

    If I was told to make up some vicinity maps, and do it tout suite, I’d have not much idea either, beyond that maybe some GIS and google might be my friend. If the deadlines are close enough, I have not time to be careful.

    “This would be a fail in most classes in high school or college/university.” Depends on the amount of time and resources given to the students, and assuming they have the proper skills, yes?

    In other words, I’d be more inclined to suspect management FUBAR being pushed down the hierarchy.

    Steve: Although a bit indirectly, that was the position I took in my post, even if might not be clear. This isn’t just a case of someone producing crap, somebody else reviewed and approved it. Before this started, somebody approved a common set of design standards, such as they may be.


  9. This project seems to me to be destined to fail no matter how much effort is put into it (obviously this try has major issues with spelling, and the map designs are terrible), but even if they figure out those issues…bus routes seem to change at least 3 or 4 times a year, restaurants come and go, buildings come and go…and unless we have a staff of hundreds to manage the changes across the entire city, it seems like these maps are destined to be out of date…and that’s not even factoring in the time it takes to finalize, print and post the new maps…

    It seems this is a job for a company that deals in this type of information, of which there really are only a few…the obvious one being Google…and a printed map seems to be a terrible way to present the information…

    Couldn’t we just get a projector or screen and specially designed version of google maps? Maybe every week or so someone could come by and hit the refresh button…

    In any case BIA’s should be paying for this stuff, especially if it’s advertising local stores, etc. and it would be much more convenient if the maps were available as pamphlets so you could take them with you…


  10. “Everyone makes mistakes.” Sixty-nine mistakes?

    @Justin: With references (sketchy) to arterial roads and parking lots (as Steve mentioned) maybe they aren’t for users after all.


  11. I think the green P signs are actually for stations with commuter parking lots.

    But otherwise, these are garbage. The fact that it doesn’t even include connecting routes is very surprising from a transit agency.

    Graphics have never been the strong suit of the TTC. They should really consider hiring one of the many great firms in Toronto to do this kind of thing for them. Part of the reason people are so fond of the MTA or London Underground is their consistent and attractive visual identity (and useful maps).


  12. > David said “At least the TTC doesn’t screw-up bus-stop schedules (as far as I remember) the way OC Transpo does.”

    Yup. They sure do! Most people I speak with are unable to decipher the route displayed on the schedules posted at bus/streetcar stops as the TTC insists upon displaying the route vertically instead of with NORTH at the top of the map. (And they do this on their web site, too). This makes the map & schedule useless for many.


  13. In the age of in car and hand held GPS systems, bad mapping is unacceptable to the public. I’m pretty certain the powers that be that approved this wouldn’t accept this level of ineptitude from the little gizmos they have on their cars that get them around.

    The amount of incorrect details leads me to believe these are based on another source. Is there some really bad internal map being used by drivers, something that maybe focuses on streets?

    In general, I’m not surprised about this. The TTC seems to care more about how routes operate then what happens once a person leaves the vehicle. As long as they get in and then out the doors, that’s all they seem to worry about. This is really embarrasing and, more importantly, going to cost the city in tourist dollars if they don’t get fixed.


  14. > David said “At least the TTC doesn’t screw-up bus-stop schedules (as far as I remember) the way OC Transpo does.”

    Several years ago, there was a Sheppard West 84 Schedule posted on the east wall of a TTC bus terminal.

    Only the station was Wilson. There was at least one confused resident looking for a bus for Sheppard without realizing he had to go to Downsview first.

    Steve: Another long comment by Stephen Cheung has been withheld by me. It slams TTC union staff as if they were responsible for this fiasco when (a) the department in question (Marketing) is mainly non-union and (b) any signoff on the new map designs and content would have come from a non-union person. The most the union staff would have done was to install them.


  15. “Reminds me of the first neighbourhood maps the TTC installed in the 1980’s. When routes were included, they were often wrong, and stayed that way for years. Not much changes with customer service.”

    On that note, there’s still a little green sign in Bloor-Yonge station by the main fare gate transfer dispensers advising riders that transfers from this station will not be accepted on the 97 Yonge…. and the 19 Church!


  16. Simply reviewing and replacing the maps isn’t enough. They need to make sure this kind of stuff doesn’t happen again.

    Of course, being the TTC, that won’t happen. Their incompetence is legendary.


  17. Steve wrote: “Visual clutter is a very serious problem at some stations. ”

    There’s a whole new blog comment in that statement.

    The TTC may eventually go down the route of eradicating that clutter; but not until they have a serious culture change in their management away from engineers of mass linear system movements to architects of complex system experiences that lead to fullfilling common goals.

    The generation that thinks like that is 10-15 years away from leadership in this city.

    Steve: More to the point, when we stop treating stations like bathroom walls that need posters and dollar-store outlets everywhere, and start treating them as enjoyable spaces for passengers, things will improve a lot. The Commission regularly sees presentations on new station designs (both for remodeled stations and for those on the York extension), but they are curiously free of the advertising such as overwhelms Union and Bloor today.

    We sold our souls to advertising revenue, and nobody at TTC or Council has the guts to say “Enough!”.

    Anyone who believes the video screens on new trains will only display transit information is dreaming. Of course if it is transit info, it will probably be wrong and out of date. Hmmm … reruns for subway notices … maybe a “best of” series.


  18. Ah yes, the bus and streetcar schedules! Even if they are accurate the posted schedules are not user friendly. Compare the ease of using a Montreal one to the problems with a TTC one. See as an example.

    No sign of the TTC’s mysterious “F.S.” here!, hours are given in a recognisable way and even if Torontonians couldn’t cope with the 24 hour clock it would be an improvement if the hours appeared, as in Montreal, in a vertical line.

    Looks like yet another bad day for the TTC’s Marketing Department – they are the guys who run the website too!


  19. For some reason, the people in charge of Transit City seem to be pretty good at making maps of the proposed lines. Why isn’t the rest of the TTC?

    And to the person who suggested using Google Maps: don’t. Their maps are garbage, made by a company called TeleAtlas. They don’t show new subdivisions, show other subdivisions that never existed, show rail lines that haven’t existed for 20 years, and don’t show major landmarks like the CN Tower…


  20. Speaking of out of date transit information, the pleasant female PA voice was still telling us that “this weekend September 19 and 20, Spadina Subway service will turn back at Wilson Stn. due to trackwork” … at 5:40 this afternoon (Monday the 21st).

    Steve: The posted notices, really blanket coverage in some stations, have started to disappear, but I expect some of them will last at least a year. The TTC is terrible about taking down out of date notices, and at times has multiple versions of notices posted at the same time. Some suggest that this is the sort of job a “Station Manager” could do. No, it’s a job that any decent janitor could do if it were formally part of their job, and if the TTC put stale dates (“remove after xxx”) on all of their “temporary” signage. Just one more example of an organization that doesn’t care.


  21. Stephen Chung said :

    “Several years ago, there was a Sheppard West 84 Schedule posted on the east wall of a TTC bus terminal.

    Only the station was Wilson.”

    Ah yes! I remember! Waiting for my 104 FAYWOOD seeing that schedule.

    I also remember TTC leaving up bus stops way past their expiry date. One such stop was on Brucewood Cres. northbound at Covington Rd., behind Lawrence Plaza at Lawrence and Bathurst. The last time the stop was in use was for the old 14 CHAPLIN route, before the opening of the North Yonge Subway extension. But the stop was there until at least the late 80’s!!!


  22. Also,

    “Compare the ease of using a Montreal one to the problems with a TTC one… It would be an improvement if the hours appeared, as in Montreal, in a vertical line.”

    I like.

    Steve: This has been suggested many times, but getting the TTC to change their timetables at stops is probably harder than getting them to fix the maps.


  23. I always figured the problem with the route schedules and maps at stops was due to the width of the pole itself, making it necessary to stretch the long east-west routes (like Lawrence East) vertically in order to give the detail they desired. (like the crossing streets and routes on these streets)

    If you attempt to arrange long east-west routes on a telephone pole with north up you’re going to have to sacrifice some of this detail aren’t you? Or at least break the route in two or three chunks, which they probably deem as being just as confusing? I suppose they could turn the whole frame sideways but somebody would likely claim they walked into the overhanging part and raise a big fuss about liability.

    And for the record there have been numerous big chain stores that have published maps supposedly leading to their location that in fact are totally wrong – to the point that you would never find it. One of the more recent ones I noticed was a flyer for a Goodlife Fitness that showed the local club down the road and around a corner where a Swiss Chalet really is…


  24. I’ve been chuckling as I read this post but I honestly don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Just today exiting Queen’s Park station I had to think twice before deciding I wanted the College Street North Side, East Side of University Avenue, Westbound Streetcars exit. Arrrrghh, inconsistent terminology and wow, three compass directions in one go! I guess they thought a simple Northeast Corner exit sign (with some landmarks noted possibly in smaller type) would confuse people too much. Here’s where a proper local area map with the closest exit name could work wonders.

    And yes, what is it with those printed bus schedules?? Are they trying to save ink by only putting in the minutes instead of the hours? I’ve lived in Toronto forever and I still can’t make sense of those things.


  25. Where did TTC “announce” it would be fixing its maps? In private E-mails to you and Spacing?

    Steve: Yes, as part of an ongoing conversation regarding how widespread the problem was.


  26. Hi Steve

    I think that the person responsible for this should get a pig mask as a prize. They have earned it.

    Steve: Pigs are intelligent creatures. Please do not insult them.


  27. Ironically, this morning’s Toronto Star story on this issue places the missing CN Tower on the wrong side of the rail corridor.

    Anyway, perhaps the TTC could launch the updated maps online first (e.g. as graphics or PDFs linked from the station pages on their web site) which would give locals to catch mistakes before they’re too costly.


  28. I would like to point out the maps at Warden Station predate the opening of Kennedy station. They still show the 114 Kingston Road east as well as other buses that now run into Kennedy Station and no trains east of Warden Station.


  29. Steve wrote, “Someone thought that graphic layouts that would shame a student in elementary media arts were good enough for the TTC.”

    Then Eric wrote, “This would be a fail in most classes in high school or college/university.”

    Both these statements were backed up today when Mitchell Kosny, director of the school of urban and regional planning at Ryerson University, said in today’s Star “I wouldn’t even accept work from my students – I wouldn’t even look at it – if it had those types of errors.”


  30. Although I only caught the last few seconds, this story was deemed important enough to make it onto the 12 o’clock City TV News today. Either that or it’s a very sloooooow news day, but it certainly made me chuckle how relatively quickly this made it to air and that it did at all. Supposedly Admiral Adam is taking charge of the matter…


  31. RB brings up a good point. It would be much more convenient for people who are directionally challenged to number subway exits. London does so, and not surprisingly that info even shows up on their station vicinity maps, making it much easier to find the correct exit for your destination.


  32. The TTC may be interested in adopting an alphanumeric exit ID system like Tokyo’s Metro. It wouldn’t be necessary for simpler stations like Chester, but stations like Spadina, King, or Finch could well such. It would make the maps much cleaner. It would also be good if the TTC got acquainted with a graphical gimmick known as “leaders.” (no pun intended… )


  33. I really wish that the TTC would create a vicinity map, similar to Montreal’s, including one that we can download on the computer, in PDF form. If the same map can be used both for the station and in download-able PDF form, the excuses about cost can be reduced.


  34. Richard White says:
    September 22, 2009 at 11:06 am

    “I would like to point out the maps at Warden Station predate the opening of Kennedy station. They still show the 114 Kingston Road east as well as other buses that now run into Kennedy Station and no trains east of Warden Station.”

    When I went to a meeting for redoing Queen’s Quay in the spring the map at Union Station still had route 77B providing service from Spadina to the Ferry terminals alomng Queen’s Quay.


  35. The TTC doesn’t believe in proofreaders?

    Steve: To proofread, you first must know what the correct spellings are for street names, be vaguely familiar with where buildings are located and with what they actually contain today, not 20 years ago.


  36. As I am heading off to Hong Kong soon, I’d thought I’d pitch how Hong Kong’s MTR system does its maps. Sure they use a legend and numbers to identify the different buildings, but considering how dense Hong Kong is, it works for me.

    Click to access cen.pdf


  37. The Star offices are at 1 Yonge Street – the printing facility is in some strange area known to trendy too-cool-for-school downtowners as the …. (alien noises) … 905.

    Steve: Actually there are editorial offices up there too.


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