Expanding Bloor-Yonge Station

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.

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.

9 thoughts on “Expanding Bloor-Yonge Station

  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

    Cheers.

    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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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