Expanding Bloor-Yonge Station (Updated)

Updated October 25, 2020 at 9:30 pm: Illustrations have been added or replaced to provide higher resolution versions that were issued as part of the TTC Board Meeting presentation.

Plans for the expansion of Bloor-Yonge Station have reached another milestone with revelation that the project will have some effect on the buildings above and around the subway structure. This was not really a surprise, and some of the structural challenges have been acknowledged in past reports.

For this iteration, however, the need for more platform and circulation space triggered negotiation with affected property owners who may view this as an opportunity to reconfigure their buildings.

To put everything in context, here is a bird’s eye view of Bloor and Yonge showing the existing subway structure. North is at the top.

Yonge Station lies on a diagonal between, roughly, Bloor Street East and Park Road (the east end of the Hudson’s Bay building) and the northern half of the block on Yonge between Bloor and Cumberland. The building at 2 Bloor Street East (northeast corner) actually sits on an underground bridge because of local ground water conditions and a nearby stream that continues to appear from time-to-time within the station.

1877 Map of Yorkville by Silias James from the Toronto Public Library

The original Yonge line is east of Yonge Street and its alignment is easy to spot from the surface by a succession of parks and parking lots above the subway where once there were buildings.

Source: Google Maps

Before the Bloor-Danforth line opened in 1966, there was a fare-paid transfer station in the middle of Bloor Street where passengers switched between the subway and extremely frequent streetcar service. The problem of moving people between the Yonge and Bloor routes has been with us for a very long time.

Photo from Transit Toronto

A painting of the proposed Yonge Station by Sigmund Serafin from 1957 shows how the then-new Yonge Line would relate to the proposed station on the Bloor Line. Note the red Gloucester cars on the Bloor line. That’s what everyone thought of as a subway train in those days.

[Many decades ago, I rescued this painting and others from a TTC housecleaning binge. It is now in the collection of the City of Toronto Archives Fonds 16, Series 2449, Item 1]

The connections to the streetcar platforms are now walled off, but they were behind a row of fluted aluminum columns about a third of the way down the platform.

The platforms on the Bloor Station (Line 1) level were expanded decades ago to double their width over much of their length, and the east and west concourses were also expanded to provide more circulation space. However, problem remain on the Yonge Station (Line 2) level where a single centre platform is shared by both directions. It is often crowded and can be dangerous when service is suspended.

The map below shows the site and the degree to which the structure will be expanded. Most of the new construction will be under Bloor Street but some will be under existing buildings on the northeast corner of the Bloor-Yonge intersection. Exactly how this will affect the buildings is unknown because details of the property agreements are in a confidential appendix to the report.

The important point about this land is that it is still owned by the City and is leased. The expanded station will require changes in the lease arrangements.

On Line 2, a new platform will be added south of the existing structure. This will separate eastbound and westbound passengers. The new platform will have its own connections to the upper level into expanded concourse areas, as well as a link to the exit onto Yonge Street at the west end of the station.

Also shown in the diagrams below are new fan plants (red). These are required to improve emergency ventilation at the station and bring it to current fire code.

Updated October 25, 2020: A second version of the plan has been added below (the “Concept Design”) from the presentation to the TTC Board. It is at higher resolution and gives a better site context. Figure 3 from the original report has been left here because it contains notes that are not in the presentation version.

At the north end of Bloor Station, the circulation space will be considerably increased and there also be new elevators linking the east and west concourse areas to the two Yonge Station platforms below.

Not shown in either the report nor the presentation materials is the layout for the fare control area one level up from Bloor Station. This will necessarily be affected both by the relocation of stairs, escalators and elevators, as well as by whatever changes might occur in the mall outside of the station itself.

This project is fully funded with contributions from Toronto’s City Building Fund, as well as the Provincial and Federal governments at a total cost of $1.5 billion. Design is expected to reach the 30 per cent level in mid-2021 for project approval. Final design would be completed in 2023 with an aim for the construction contract award in 2024. The completion date of 2029, before the Richmond Hill extension opens, drives the overall schedule for this project.

18 thoughts on “Expanding Bloor-Yonge Station (Updated)

  1. Thanks Steve. Interesting project, although I’m still feeling sticker shock. Is there any indication on how and if this configuration will improve passenger flow? Is it just the amount of available platform space that’s being upgraded or is there more access points between the platforms?

    During morning rush hour I transfer from the Bloor line by exiting to street on the west end of the platform and walk to the south end of the Yonge line platform. Saves dealing with congestion.

    Steve: There is supposed to be modelling done by the consultant, AECOM, on how the new station will behave. With two separate platforms, the problem of a westbound and eastbound train dumping their loads simultaneously at Yonge Station will be removed, but upstairs there is still the problem that the Bloor line is located toward the north end of the Yonge line’s platforms. This will also be affected by changes in headways on each line as ATC is introduced on Yonge, and later on Bloor allowing more frequent service. There are also problems over at St. George, but they are hard to fix because there are buildings close behind the walls that prevent splitting the demand on the central platforms.

    From a construction staging point of view, I hope that the City has the sense to just close Bloor Street rather than attempting to maintain traffic lanes through the work site. Get it over as fast as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 2029 target for handling the massive and insanely dangerous crowding that happens at Yonge-Bloor in 2018-2019-2020. Why the rushed schedule? Take your time and finish sometime in 2040.

    Steve: And remember how until fairly recently, there was no “need” for a “Relief Line” (whatever it might be called) because we could just keep adding more trains on the subway. The blinkered planning of past decades haunts us.


  3. Since before this plan for Bloor-Yonge expansion was put forward, hasn’t the main concern been that the line 1 station was couldn’t run trains through often enough and so the plan was to expand it to a three platform station so the doors could open on both sides of the trains. Will this plan be able to achieve the reduced headways?

    Steve: That plan was incredibly complex and was abandoned. At the time, there was no thought of ATC and so the fix was to shorten the dwell time with two-sided loading.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Steve:

    I am working on a “lost rivers” project with my middle school students, and I would love to be pointed in the right direction to find someone who could describe the impact of this stream on the overall plans for Yonge and Bloor.


    Steve: I’ll just leave this here to see if there are any takers, and will see if there is any info available from the TTC.


  5. $1.5 billion to upgrade Young/Bloor
    $6 billion to extend Bloor/Danforth east (Scarborough Subway Extension) adding 105K passengers
    $3.1 billion to extend Yonge north to Richmond Hill adding 20K passengers in AM
    $12 billion for Ontario line servicing 389 passengers
    $1.6 billion SmartTrack no daily passenger projection

    As a citizen of this city, I question how effective spending all this money is.

    Pre-covid, I viewed our problems as over-crowded Yonge, crowded Bloor/Danforth and evidence that the Dufferin/Bathurst and Victoria Park corridors needed improvements the most.

    To me, if we built alternate rapid transit routes (EMU SmartTrack, Finch crosstown LRT and EMU GO Richmond Hill line through the Don Valley) we relieve the load at Yonge/Bloor and save the $1.5 billion. I view the $1.5 billion Yonge/Bloor upgade as a bandaid for the self inflicted wounds of the Scarborough and Richmond Hill extensions.

    This spending of tax payer money for Public Transit has no business case justification, and does not address existing transit problems. With the box fare revenue declining, fare evasion and decline in usage, it is time that the Province provide subsidies for TTC operations. There is no department in the City that deals with these wide ranging aspects of Public Transit. Public transit is a low priority item for Councillors. They will response if there is excessive road congestion because the car constituents have clout.

    Public transit is a lower class issue. Nathanael said:

    It seems like TTC is *institutionally* incapable of *conceiving* of headway-based operations

    The poor service degrades the quality of life of TTC passengers, robbing them precious time. It shows a lack of respect towards passengers and brings dishonour to the sense of public service. I have met many Councillors. They are spread too thin. The City needs a department to spoon feed them on the issues of Public Transit. A department that does the hard thinking for them.

    Steve: Well, that should be TTC staff, but the advice they give can be, shall we say, uneven. As for Councillors’ workloads, blame Doug Ford and his vendetta against Council.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. As @Marc says, it does seem strange that 30 years ago the problem was loading and unloading of Yonge trains, and Yonge platform capacity.
    Now the problem is Bloor line trains and circulation between the two levels.
    Are we only doing half the solution here?

    With the massive construction that will take place for 5+ years, I wonder if that extra Yonge platform should be done at the same time. Back in the late 80’s, one idea was to put the SouthBound Yonge Line directly under Yonge, and construct a 2 platform, 1 track station there. Tie in-ins would be near Canadian Tire and Hislop Park – about 900m length. When they’re done, they can fill in one of the track one the current Yonge alignment to enlarge that platform. There may be some pesky columns in the way, that would require new trains to have door spacing to match the columns. Alternatively, we could operate the 2 tracks in peak time – and worst case someone goes to the wrong platform and has to wait an extra 2 minutes – and close that platform in off-peak when the wait if you guessed the wrong platform would be excessive.

    Finally, consider lengthening the platforms a bit. Add another 15m or so so that a 7th car could be added to the trains. Then, service could operate such that the front 6 cars line up with the platforms north of Bloor, and the last 6 line up south of Bloor, and at the critical Y-B, all cars line up. If needed in the future, this same thing could be done to some other busy stations. I am not sure the exact design of cross-overs and pocket tracks, but I suspect if they were designed for 6 car train and manual operation (and the resulting tolerances), they could easily accommodate 7 car trains with precise ATC operation.

    Steve: The proposed changes to the upper level at Bloor ran aground, so to speak, on the fact that various buildings are in the way particularly at the north end, and that some of the construction would have to be dug by hand under pressure in water-laden ground.

    The seventh car proposal is alive and well and part of current plans as a future option. It does not require longer platforms.


  7. If you had to speculate, what do you believe is the city’s view on platform screen doors, and what are the current chances that they appear in this station upgrade in some form?

    Steve: Nice to have but a lot of money to retrofit. The City has been saved from making a decision by the absence of automatic operation, but that will not be the case on Line 1 by 2022. Line 2 is further out. I think the real test will be whether extensions like North Yonge and Scarborough are designed with the doors already installed even if the rest of the system takes time to catch up.


  8. Curious to be able to come back in 75 years or so, to see if similar problems with crowding will occur with the Queen transfer station on Line 1 & Ontario Line.


  9. This could be wildly out of place as a question – but some transit systems have platforms at stations that don’t align perfectly … inbound/outbound are slightly staggered.

    Would that help at some locations (like St. George) where it’s tough to turn a center platform into separate sides … or has the ship sailed on that kind of construction opportunity?

    Steve: You cannot extend east from St. George because that gets into the crossover area on the upper level which turns south to the University line. Also on the upper level, the junction with the Spadina line starts just west of the platform and so one cannot extend to the west there either.


  10. I don’t think I’m alone in wondering if somehow there isn’t a better less-costly fix. Ranging from the near-free possibility (maybe), of having some trains clearly announcing NO STOP AT BLOOR and going right through (slowly) and others on Line 2 having similar no stop at Yonge. It’d be needing co-ordination, and mightn’t work at all. And then, getting in to using other Relief projects of varying degree to take away loading, up to – should we construct a B/Y bypass on Bloor or Yonge for the amount we’re spending? And have it with few stops/longer distances. Because the overall record of such complex projects is NOT very good for the benefits..


  11. Wait, we’re planning to spend $1.5 billion to rebuild Yonge/Bloor? For that money we could install an LRT on Yonge to provide local service and increase transit capacity. Take all the people only going a couple of stops off the subway, maybe even close a few judiciously chosen stations.

    Note: I don’t care how much road capacity that leaves for motor vehicles. I haven’t looked closely but if that means Yonge has to become a transit mall that’s OK.

    Or build a parallel LRT on a different street. This fixation on carrying everybody on one line is crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Isaac Morland said: This fixation on carrying everybody on one line is crazy.

    My own sanity may be in question but I share Issac’s view. We are inmates in an insane asylum run by men with four letter names, Tory and Ford.

    Steve: There is no question that the platform space on Line 2 there is really at a premium. So often the focus has been on crowding on the southbound platform in the AM peak, but when ATC comes on line in two years, the TTC will be abe to improve service on Line 1. The big problem will be in the PM peak when Line 1 will be able to deliver transferring passengers to that common Line 2 platform at a higher rate than today, and Line 2 will not be able to see better service until about 2029.

    If you think this project is a messy and expensive, look at the version proposed in 1988 (part 4 of my article has the gory details, but the other sections are interesting too).

    Over the years, I have been in some “heated” debates with people about what could or could not happen at Bloor-Yonge, and really have the sense some people think I make this stuff up. This was a real TTC study, 32 years ago, that set out many of the operational and physical constraints for system expansion at a time the subway was bursting with riders. The recession of the early 90s ended that, for a time, but the geology and basic physics affecting how trains move have not changed. The big difference today is that there are even more buildings in the way.


  13. Steve said: when ATC comes on line in two years, the TTC will be abe to improve service on Line 1. The big problem will be in the PM peak when Line 1 will be able to deliver transferring passengers to that common Line 2 platform at a higher rate than today.

    Isaac Morland said: This fixation on carrying everybody on one line is crazy.

    Our superficial comments pale compared to the depth of Steve’s understanding. In my ignorance, I consider the ATC upgrade part of Issac’s “fixation on carrying everybody on one line”. I feel the better use of money is to be building a rapid transit grid. I don’t consider SmartTrack at 15 minute headways with lumbering locomotives (diesel or electric), only two doors per coach and step down access, rapid transit. The technology should be EMU (subway like equipment) and must avoid Union Station because of the nearly insurmountable engineering challenges. The Finch Crosstown LRT has been historically in transit plans. There may be a way to run an EMU line on the GO Richmond Hill (RH) route through the Don Valley by using the old CP Don Branch through Leaside to avoid all the curves along the Don River. If Metrolinx can propose that the subway can run up the CN Bala corridor then a separate set of tracks can be built for an RH EMU route. The difficult part is sharing the CP mainline through Leaside to connect to the current RH GO line just east of the the DVP. There is absolutely no discussion of a rapid transit grid.


  14. What should be the long term lesson for anyone looking at Toronto for long term mistakes to avoid?

    • When your route layout has an intersection of two lines that may be busy, in future, design those station for two side boarding, from day one. Steve, I think you called this Barcelona boarding.
    • $1.5 billion at Yonge/Bloor? Yipes, and it only addresses the east west platforms, and the retrofit doesn’t make room for two door boarding. Retrofits are expensive, so I am disappointed the Crosstown stations that intersect Subway lines and GO train lines weren’t built wide enough for two side boarding.
    • I have looked at lots of maps of other city’s subway and light rail systems. Some cities with young relatively lightly used routes have multiple lines connect, and share stations in a central portion. It seemed goofy to me at the time. But now I see one strong advantage. In a system where riders who have to switch from one line to another have two or more stations where they can make that transfer you don’t have one station, like Yonge/Bloor slow the whole route down because half your riders want to get off.

    If the North-South platforms at Spadina was just a stairway from the East-West platform, if you were traveling south, and planned to go west, it would be faster for you to get off at Spadina. If you were traveling north, and wanted to go east, it would be faster for you get off at St George.

    I think, in the long run, it would be superior if instead of extending the Yonge Line north to Vaughan, or Richmond Hill, or Newmarket, we built the Downtown Relief Line much farther north, to Vaughan, Richmond Hill etc. Yes, a big expense now, but we wouldn’t be facing the risk that ATC does not add enough capacity to the Yonge Line for the new riders we plan to add.

    Steve: “Barcelona boarding”? Not me.

    When decrying the lack of foresight at Bloor-Yonge, I think it is important to remember that when the Yonge line opened in 1954, there were still farms in parts of what is now Toronto, and north of Steeles was little more than occasional villages and towns sprinkled among the fields. That said, the concept of station capacity, as opposed to line capacity, did not take root quickly at the TTC. Some of the warnings of their 1988 study seem to have been lost when their official opposition to a “Relief Line” was rooted in the sense that the existing Yonge line could be operated at as short a headway as 90 seconds, albeit with some major geometric changes at terminals. I distinctly remember Gary Webster musing something like “why would you build a new line rather than getting everything out of the one you already have”.

    This attitude, plus periodic downturns in ridership (such as the one we are now in) allowed the idea of “surplus” capacity to become planning orthodoxy, an idea that unravelled when the riders returned.


  15. Geo Swan said: “When your route layout has an intersection of two lines that may be busy, in future, design those station for two side boarding, from day one. Steve, I think you called this Barcelona boarding.”

    Hasn’t the TTC been criticized for doing that at Sheppard-Yonge station?

    Steve: Sheppard-Yonge is a massively overbuilt station whose design appears to have assumed a level of demand and local development well beyond what we are likely to see. Moreover, it is not clear just how that centre platform would function given the limited opportunity for vertical links between the two lines. But North York and Mel Lastman got the subway they wanted. It was a bribe from Mike Harris to get Lastman’s support for the megacity.


  16. Geo Swan asked: What should be the long term lesson for anyone looking at Toronto for long term mistakes to avoid … When your route layout has an intersection of two lines that may be busy

    Many years ago, Mr. E. Levy had stated that relying on the intersection of two lines was wrong. He objected to the very first proposal of the Scarborough Subway Extension and advocated a rapid transit grid.

    The crush at Bloor/Yonge is threatening, but an overflow incident at St. George is dangerous because there is absolutely no overflow capacity.

    Pre-covid, we could see how strained Line 1 (Yonge) and Line 2 (Bloor/Danforth) were.

    I went to a Committee meeting the morning there was a half hour disruption on Line 2. Two Councillors were late, so had to catch up on their morning routines, including emails and breakfast while the Committee was in session.

    You can feel the strain on Line 1 in rush hour. The slightest delay cascades and affects such a large number of people along the whole line. I suggest that station dwell time will become the new constraint after ATC enhancements.

    One morning the Line was out of service and the City was disrupted.

    Isaac Morland said: This fixation on carrying everybody on one line is crazy.

    We need better informed decision makers, the Mayor and City Council.

    In Steve’s post on TTC October Board Meeting, it is mentioned that “TTC Riders supports the implementation of ATC on Line 2.” TTC Riders has political sway. Its former head became a MPP. There are Councillors who choose not to have a Public Transit staffer in their office so consult with TTC Riders. These Councillors would support the implementation of ATC on Line 2, in part based on their consultations with TTC Riders. Public Transit is just too low on Councillor’s priority list.

    A better informed City Council would have done due diligence on spending $1.6 billion on SmartTrack. No daily riderships were presented by staff. The U of T study projected 34,500 daily passengers for 15 minute service, under the two fare system (page 41). The question should have been how to achieve 307,900 riders with 5 minute single fare service.

    The Provincial Government also fails due diligence. The business case analysis for the Scarborough Subway Extension should explain the value of spending $6 billion to serve 105,000 daily boardings. There was deliberate obfuscation in the Business Case report. There was no case made. The project should be dead.

    Government staff and agencies like Metrolinx, should work free of political influence. Politicians should be presented a choice of 3 or more plans. The Politicians pick or combine plans. Staff and agencies shouldn’t work like public relations companies rolling out a political party’s transit plan.

    There is a failure to respect fundamental project management, a convincing business case and working towards a thought out long term strategic plan. The Sheppard subway so badly lacked a business case that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent for a station that serves a 1,000 people a day. The Vaughan extension also lacked a business case in the public interest but it is rumoured one provincial minister stood to personally benefit. There were rumours that the Kirby GO station lacked a business case but might personally benefit the Provincial Liberal leader.

    Public Transit is the victim of human nature and is currently in an abyss. Instead of a one solution fits all it is the case where no solution fits anyone.


  17. If we can’t afford to redesign the platform areas of St George, and the North-South platforms of Yonge-Bloor and Yonge-Eglinton, so allow two side boarding, could we order rolling stock redesigned so more of each side was devoted to doorways?

    Those of us who are middle-aged, or older, remember when the doors on the TTC’s subway cars were wide enough for just two adults to exit or enter at a time. About two decades ago the TTC got new cars with doors wide enough for three adults to exit or enter at a time.

    What if, instead of having four pairs of pocket doors that opened horizontally the vehicles had more doors, or wider doors, that slid open vertically?

    If each vehicle opened up more of its sides, for exit or entry, could that shorten dwell time? Could three doors that were four adults wide enable exit or entry faster than four doors that were three adults wide?

    For what it is worth I think human nature crept in, and eroded the value of the wider doors that were three adults wide. When I ride a crowded car now I almost always see riders who continue to stand in those three-rider-wide doorways, when the doors open, reducing their effective width to just one adult at a time. It is a phenomenon I find annoying.

    Wider doors might imply less floorspace were devoted to seating. Or it might not.

    I saw a suggestion for redesigning NYC’s subway cars. IIRC their current design has seats lining the outer walls, with no crossways seats. The redesigned layout had no seats at all in the middle of the car, devoting it entirely to standing. But the redesign had crossways seats at the ends of the vehicle, so they had the same number of seats as currently.

    Steve: There are structural limitations on the amount of the car wall that can be devoted to doors because those openings are not available to be part of the wall structure. Also as you note, the more space devoted to doors, the less is available for seating. The question of all bench seating comes up from time to time. The last time the TTC tried to go down that route, there were objections to this from people on the basis that some cannot sit sideways and require the seat back to deal with acceleration/deceleration forces. This is an accessibility issue.

    On older trains, the transverse seats had only a narrow space between them impeding movement through the car. On the TRs, the transverse seats have space for only two riders rather than three, and they are offset so that the gap between them is wider than it would be if they were directly opposite.

    There is an issue with poles in the middle of cars for standees in that these get in the way of wheelchairs.

    All things considered, I don’t think that jamming even more people into a less comfortable car is the way we should be headed.


  18. Glad I’ve checked in again: more broadsides amidst the varied commenters, thanks all.

    The 1957 plan in Ed Levy’s good book shows a very long ‘Realief” line going north of Eglinton, and using Pape (or was it Donlands?) down to Queen St. and then west, not just to the Ex area but all the way out to Islington. So in the absence of having more of a network, yes, it isn’t so sensible to attempt a retrofit if we could triage a Relief FUNCTION, and yes, use the Don Valley and the Parkway if need be for that.

    It could all have been well studied a couple of decades ago as part of the last Metro Official Plan had a route up the Don Valley with a call for the provincial level to lead an EA study of the interconnection up at Don Mills and Eglinton, including using a bit of that spur line now a Rail Trail, and who knows how many other options?

    While the federal Liberals HAD to commit to some big transit project to have some cred with the voters, they might be the most sensible of the lot now, and might recognize a way to tunnel through the cost barriers with a surface Relief function, and re-allocate some of the larger sums towards effective Relief function, which may take the form of a massive project, such as straightening out and burying the GO line to run under Don Mills to Eglinton area ie. OSC.

    We need the silver buckshot, not the silver bullet in this festering issue, and we also should be able to have a reset of sorts given how badly the C-19 has messed up the transit and funds, though for some, like the current province, plan is another Ford-letter word, like ‘fact’, which the previous Council has basically voted to ignore in a vote about four years ago now 23-19.

    We shouldn’t feel too awkward about questioning basics and worth given that both the Union Station and the Eglinton projects are pretty behind and having excess costs, so trying for a KISS, (which could be Keeping It Simply Surface), might well be best value, though political will and smarts are required, along with some cash. The feds might be the only way to get to that point given how Mr. Ford is/has been pulling the City’s anachronistic leash – and this includes making sure there’s amendment to the ‘creatures of the province’ status, including not sending along more billions, especially if they aren’t being fully spent on the intended usage, as I think some of the health care/C-19 major sums are sticking at the provincial level.


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