There’s A New Subway On The Way (6)

From time to time, the question of just what constitutes “subway demand” comes up in various threads on this site. As a matter of comparison, here is the TTC Scheduled Service Summary for April 7, 1964.

Headways on the Bloor-Danforth service itself were quite impressive. Two-car trains of PCCs, roughly the equivalent of the new Flexity cars, ran throughout the day until mid-evening, and the peak headways shown below are for trains.

                          AM Peak         PM Peak
                          Hdwy   Veh      Hdwy   Veh
Bloor route                      100             110
  Jane to Luttrell        2'30"           2'30"
  Jane to Bedford                         4'00"
Danforth route                    30              48
  Bedford to Hillingdon   3'20"
  Bedford to Luttrell                     3'00"
Combined                         130             158
  Bedford to Hillingdon   1'26"
  Jane to Bedford                         1'32"
  Bedford to Luttrell                     1'22"

Jane Loop was at Bloor & Jane.
Luttrell Loop was on Danforth between Main and Victoria Park at the old city boundary.
Bedford Loop was at St. George Station.
Hillingdon Loop was at the east side of Danforth Carhouse east of Coxwell.

The Bloor-Danforth streetcars could not carry all of the demand into downtown, and that work was shared with many parallel routes.

  • 2’00” Bathurst car from Vaughan Loop (at St. Clair) to Church & Adelaide
  • 1’30” Carlton car
  • 1’40” Dundas car from Runnymede & Dundas to City Hall
  • 2’30” Harbord car from Lansdowne & Davenport to Pape & Danforth via Dundas & Yonge
  • 1’20” King car
  • 2’00” Kingston Road car (now “Downtowner”)
  • 5’00” Kingston Road Tripper car (Victoria Park to Roncesvalles & Queen)

The streetcar system required 640 cars in the am peak, 684 in the pm peak.

There’s A New Subway On The Way (5)

The new subway would bring major changes in travel throughout the transit network.  The TTC produced a large poster, the size of a two-page foldout in newspapers of the day explaining many features of the line and its operation.


Probably the largest reorganization of routes in the TTC’s history accompanied the opening of the new subway including the change or removal of several streetcar lines. This was to be the beginning of a gradual dismantling of streetcar operation leading to the opening of a Queen Street subway in 1980.


Lest passengers be confused about the destination of their trains with the integrated subway service, platform signs would indicate where the next train was headed. The signs remain on many platforms with their displays fixed to the now-standard destinations.


The two-zone fare system still existed, although its boundary would not be punctured by the subway until the extensions beyond the old City of Toronto opened. The fine boundary line is visible in the route map below.


Adult tickets were still a common method of fare payment, and the TTC exhorted travellers to switch to the mode used by “seasoned subway riders”, tokens, at the princely price of 6 for $1 in handy cardboard holders.


For the opening, a special commemorative token holder was issued.


The subway had its own pocket route map.



Six months later, this would change to the routes we know today.



There’s A New Subway On The Way (4)

February 1966 saw the opening of the Bloor-Danforth’s Keele-to-Woodbine stretch, and an extension to North York was already in the cards, albeit only to Sheppard Avenue. Like the BD extensions to Scarborough and Etobicoke, this segment would itself grow another two kilometres. The original plans called for the line to be built parallel to and west of Yonge Street just as the route south from Eglinton had been, but demolition of a swath of homes through North Toronto was not in the cards. The alignment eventually chosen lay directly under Yonge with a bored tunnel north to Sheppard. (The Finch extension would later be built cut-and-cover through the then much less-developed Willowdale.)

Progress Report 6 includes a few choice items including the coin changer at an automatic entrance (fares were 6/$1.00), the speed ramp linking the temporary Bloor streetcar shuttle platform at Keele Station to the eastbound platform, and a reference to Metro Toronto’s “balanced transportation system”. That was the standard buzzphrase used to sanitize a combination of subway and highway building in the 60s, and the Spadina Expressway project was very much in the foreground at the time.

The integrated service with trains running through the wye between the BD and YUS routes was now described as a six-month trial to be followed by a similar test period for separate routes.

The extensions were well underway, and the original balance of lengths east and west had been abandoned in favour of a more sensible Etobicoke terminal at Islington.

There’s A New Subway On The Way (3)

By mid 1964, the University subway had been running for over a year, and the Bloor-Danforth line’s opening was set for early 1966. Extensions to the east and west were already approved, although the Etobicoke segment ended at Montgomery Road on the east side of Mimico Creek. This would later be changed to Islington, and the stations at Prince Edward and at Montgomery were consolidated into a single stop at Royal York.

With most of the line built by cut-and-cover, work was underway in many locations simultaneously, aided by the final added funding contribution from the Metro Toronto government. Unlike more recent projects, where political wrangling and tax saving measures dictated that construction run as slowly as possible, the BD line’s construction was a high priority in its day.

Yorkville became the centre of Toronto’s 60’s culture, complete with an endless stream of tourists driving through to gawk at the hippies through closed windows. The name had such an unsavoury reputation for up-tight pols that in time the station would be renamed “Bay” with “Yorkville” as a subheading. Now it is one of the poshest areas in the city.

A fleet of 164 subway cars was on order. These were the “H-1” trains as they would be known after their manufacturer, Hawker-Siddeley, at what is now the Thunder Bay plant of Bombardier.

There’s A New Subway On The Way (2)

As construction progressed on the Bloor-Danforth-University subway, the TTC issued progress reports from time to time.

Progress Report 3 predates the opening of the University leg of the project. By this time, a funding contribution from Queen’s Park brought the then estimated completion date back from 1969 to 1967.

The first batch of aluminum 75-foot cars, a form that would become standard for Toronto, came from Montreal Locomotive Works. All subsequent orders went to the plant in Thunder Bay now owned by Bombardier.

There’s A New Subway On The Way

With all the hoopla about yet another new transit plan for Toronto, it’s time to remember that the 50th birthday of the Bloor-Danforth subway is coming up in a week’s time. Depending on which event you consider the “real” birthday, it will either be Thursday, February 25 (the anniversary of the ceremonial opening) or Friday, February 26 (the first day of revenue service).

Over the next week I will post some ephemera from that era when Toronto launched on a major subway building project.

The handout below was a publicity piece for the Bloor-Danforth-University subway project. Among items of interest are:

  • The expected construction time was 9 years broken down as the University Line (3.5), Greenwood to University including Greenwood Yard (4), and the remaining pieces east from Greenwood to Woodbine, and West from St. George to Keele (2.5). Almost all of the line was built cut-and-cover , and the city expropriated a swath of houses along most of the route to the north of Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue. This strip is now home to parking lots, a few parks, subway entrances, and the occasional new building sitting right on top of the subway.
  • The original completion date to the terminals at Woodbine and Keele was planned to be 1969, but work was accelerated thanks to additional funding from the Metropolitan Toronto government and Queen’s Park.
  • The paintings showing what the new stations would look like date from 1956 and 1957, before the project had been approved by Metro Council.
  • The map of the route includes the original names for most of the stations including Vincent, Walmer and Yorkville. By the time this was printed, “Willowvale” Station had already changed to “Christie”, but the park to the west retained its original name.

The station illustrations are by Sigmund Serafin whose work also shows up in samples of the original Yonge line station designs. Of the four stations shown here, none was built exactly as shown. You can see the full set on Transit Toronto. The eight water colours were rescued from a housecleaning binge at the TTC in the late 1960s when much material went into various private collections lest it simply disappear. These paintings are now back with the TTC who plan to issue them as posters later this year, and the originals will go to the City Archives.

Here is Bloor-Yonge Station in all its mid-50s glory, with Gloucester trains, no Hudson’s Bay building and a lot of Bloor-Yonge streetscape that has vanished over the years.


For a detailed history of the Bloor subway, visit Transit Toronto.

Looking Back: Bloor-Danforth Shuttles

From February 1966 when the original Bloor-Danforth subway opened between Keele and Woodbine, and May 1968 when the extensions to Islington and Warden were added, two streetcar shuttles served the remaining outer part of the Bloor carline.

Looking at the old streetscapes, much remains familiar, but much has been lost especially to cheap rebuilds and infill developments.  Very much a vanished breed from this era are the car lots, gas stations, furniture stores and, in a few cases, houses.

Continue reading

Bloor-Danforth Streetcar Shuttles: Demand Without Density

A frequent part of debates about technology choices and network planning is the premise that to succeed, rapid transit must be surrounded by high density development. This is an odd claim given the counter-examples available on Toronto.

The situation is more subtle, and “demand” turns not just on density adjacent to the line, but on its ability to act as a corridor drawing on feeder services to concentrate demand. Whether such concentration is “good” is another matter. Higher demand requires more infrastructure in the corridor and in a worst-case scenario, a line can run out of room. Two good examples in Toronto are the Yonge subway and Highway 401.

Focus on a single corridor can also distort travel patterns and network design. As a non-driver, I have often been amused by motorists who will go miles out of their way to use an expressway, only to find themselve trapped in a traffic jam. For transit riders, the need to force-feed rapid transit can interfere with travel that is not oriented to the primary trip pattern. Try getting around Scarborough if you are not bound for Kennedy or STC stations.

Recently, I was scanning another batch of old phographs and they reminded me of an even older example of high demand in a low density area: the streetcar shuttles on Bloor-Danforth that operated between the opening of the original Keele-Woodbine service, and the extensions a few years later to Islington-Warden. Neither Bloor West nor the Danforth — particularly in the late 1960s — were forests of high rise apartments. All the same, the shuttles had service, capacity and demand beyond that we see on any streetcar line today.

The Bloor West shuttle from Keele Station to Jane Loop operated with 17 cars at peak over a distance of only 2.1km at a headway of 1’07”. That’s 53.7 cars/hour for a design capacity of about 4,000/hr (based on about 75 riders per car) with headroom for peaks at a higher level.

The Danforth shuttle from Woodbine Station to Luttrell Loop operated with 12 cars on a 1.6km line at a headway of 1’30”. At 40 cars/hour this gave a design capacity of about 3,000/hr.

An important point about these shuttles is that the lion’s share of their traffic was bound to or from the subway, and local traffic was comparatively light. Many riders boarded inbound at the Jane and Luttrell terminals, and the streetcars were not attempting to serve very heavy demand from on-street stops. That demand depended on feeder bus services from what we now call “the inner suburbs”.

Moreover, the level of service on the outer ends of the old Bloor-Danforth streetcar route shows how considerable the demand was for these segments, even allowing for some added demand due to the subway’s presence.

The moral of this short article is that a transit network and its routes cannot be thought of with a simplistic model of transit stations surrounded by development. The larger context includes the diversity or concentration of demand patterns and the degree to which the network serves them.

In the next article, a look at Bloor West and The Danforth as they once were.

Correction January 6, 2015: In the original version of this article, I cited the number of cars/hour as the actual assignment of vehicles to each route. Thanks to John F. Bromley for catching this howling error.