Toronto subway and RT: Wikis


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Toronto subway and RT
Toronto Subway Sheppard-Yonge.jpg
Sheppard-Yonge station on the Sheppard Line of the TTC Subway. Note the colour-coded signs referring to each line.
Locale Toronto, Ontario
Transit type Rapid transit
Number of lines 4
Number of stations 69
Daily ridership 942,600 (avg. weekday, 2009)[1]
Began operation March 30, 1954
Operator(s) Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
Number of vehicles 706 subway and RT cars; 62 work cars
Train length 4 and 6 car trains
Headway 2mins 21seconds (min) -
5mins 30seconds (max)[2]
System length 68.3 kilometres (42.4 mi)
Track gauge 4 ft 10+78 in (1,495 mm) (subway)
1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) (SRT)
Electrification Third rail 600 V DC (subway)
Third rail, linear induction (SRT)

The Toronto subway and RT system is a rapid transit system in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, consisting of both underground and elevated railway lines, operated by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). It was Canada's first completed subway system, with the first line being built under Yonge Street, which opened in 1954 with 12 stations. Since then, the network has expanded to become Canada's largest rapid transit rail network, encompassing four lines and 69 stations on 68.3 kilometres (42.4 mi) of track. The subway system is a very popular mode of public transport in Toronto and only second in number of passenger usage behind the Montreal Metro in Canada, with an average of 942,600 passenger trips each weekday (as of 2009).

The TTC sometimes uses the term "rapid transit" internally to describe all four lines,[3] but in public usage they are called subway lines, with the exception of the Scarborough RT, which is simply called "the RT."

A current focus for the TTC's rapid transit expansion is an extension bringing the western branch of the Yonge–University–Spadina Line northward to York University, Steeles Avenue, and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (formerly known as Vaughan Corporate Centre) in York Region.


System map

Subway/RT Map
A map of the Toronto Subway/RT network.
Between Finch and Downsview via Union
Between Kipling and Kennedy
Scarborough RT
Between Kennedy and McCowan
Between Sheppard-Yonge and Don Mills


Early proposals

The first serious proposal for a subway system in Toronto was made in the early part of the 20th century, with a series of proposals to bury the streetcar line on Yonge. A number of proposals emerged between 1909 and 1912, but the public rejected subways in a plebiscite in 1912, and discussions ended for a time.[4] In 1931, City Controller Hacker proposed a north-south subway running from Avenue Road and St. Clair south to Front and York Streets, making a wide loop via Front, Scott, Victoria and Gerrard.[4]

Yonge route

Subway excavations in front of Union Station (left) on Front Street in 1950

During World War II, workers travelling from their homes in "northern Toronto" (parts that would now be considered part of the core) to the industrial areas to the east and west of the downtown area on Yonge seriously strained the existing road and streetcar networks. There was considerable worry that the expected post-war boom in car ownership would choke the city with traffic.

The TTC formed a Rapid Transit Department and studied various solutions between 1942 and 1946, finally deciding on a cut-and-cover route that would allow streetcars to travel underground from Eglinton Avenue to Front Street, and then the short distance westward along Front to Union Station. In addition, a cut would allow the existing Queen Street streetcars to run underground from just east to just west of Yonge, and then for an additional short distance in an open cut to the west. The matter was put to voters on a 1 January 1946, plebiscite and overwhelmingly approved. Toronto City Council approved construction four months later.[4]

The plebiscite contained the condition that the federal government would subsidize 20% of the project. The federal Minister of Reconstruction, C.D. Howe, promised federal support in a 3 October 1945 letter. However, the funding fell through over a disagreement about the details of the employment arrangements. A scaled down proposal, about 20% smaller, was agreed to in its place. The work along Queen Street was abandoned temporarily, and the original $42.3 million was reduced to $28.9 million plus $3.5 million for rolling stock.[4] After a two-year delay due to postwar labour shortages, construction on the new subway did not start until 8 September 1949. A total of 1.7 million cubic yards (1.3 million cubic metres) of material were removed and some 14,000 tons (12,700 metric tons) of reinforcing steel and 1.4 million bags of cement were put into place.[4]

Since the system was envisioned as an expansion of the current streetcar network, the current subway system retains one feature unique to the Toronto system. The streetcar system was originally installed on dirt roads used by wagon traffic. In order to allow the wagons to continue using the same roads, as well as to reduce wear and tear on the dirt portions, the streetcar rails were designed to allow the wagon wheels to run within the rail, while the streetcar wheels would run on top of them. Since the days of the Roman Empire, wagons have used standard gauge at 4 feet 8 ½ inches, so the streetcar gauge had to be slightly wider, and runs at 4 feet 10 ⅞ inches. Rolling stock for the new "rapid transit subway" also adopted this gauge.

Service on the Yonge route would be handled by new rolling stock, and the TTC was particularly interested in the Chicago PCC cars, which had been adapted from existing streetcars. However, the PCC cars were found to be too expensive, and in November 1951 an order was placed with the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company for 104 cars for $7,800,000, including spare parts.

Ontario Premier Leslie Frost and Toronto Mayor Allan Lamport officially opened the 7.4 km (4.6 mi) long Yonge subway on 30 March 1954. Trains operated at average speeds of 20 miles per hour (32 km/h).[5] The route was an instant success. Originally planning to operate two-car trains during off-peak hours, this was abandoned in favour of four-car trains, and six-car trains were standard during most periods, with some eight-car trains used during peak periods.

The 1960s to the 1980s

The TTC originally intended the subway to use streetcar-derived trains, like this ex-Chicago Transit Authority vehicle preserved at the Halton County Radial Railway
The Gloucester (G-series) trains were ultimately settled on to be system's first rolling stock

In 1963, an extension was added, curving north from Union station, below University Avenue and Queen's Park to near Bloor Street, where it turned west to terminate at St. George and Bloor Streets.

The Bloor-Danforth Line opened in 1966 along Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue from Keele Street to Woodbine Avenue, and was extended in 1968 to run from Islington Avenue to Warden station at Warden and St. Clair Avenues. For six months, the subway was operated as a single system, with trains from Eglinton station running through to either Keele or Woodbine, while other trains connected the latter two points; after this the two lines were permanently segregated.

The routing of the line across the Don Valley was possible thanks to a decision made more than forty years earlier. When the Prince Edward Viaduct was built in 1918, its designer insisted on providing for twin decks below the roadway to allow for future rail traffic. As a result, the subway is able to cross the Don Valley to Danforth Avenue on the east side.

The Yonge-University line was extended north 8.7 km (5.4 mi) from Eglinton Avenue to Finch Avenue and Yonge in 1973 and 1974.

A further 9.9 km (6.2 mi) was added to the Yonge-University Line in 1978 when it was extended from St. George and Bloor, running north and northwest to Eglinton Avenue and William R. Allen Road, then north along the median of the Allen Road to Wilson Avenue. This extension was originally proposed as part of the Spadina Expressway, but when the expressway portion south of Eglinton Avenue was cancelled, the subway was still built following the original route through Cedarvale Ravine. Hence, it is called the Spadina subway line, though it follows Spadina Road for less than 2 km (1.2 mi).

In October 1976, an arson caused the destruction of four subway cars and damage to Christie station, resulting in the closure of the Bloor-Danforth Line for three days, and the by-passing of Christie station for some time afterwards for repairs. Extensions were added in 1980 at both ends of the Bloor-Danforth Line. These extensions each added a single station, much needed bus bays to connect to surface routes, and, on the eastern end, room to connect to the Scarborough RT.

Spanning six stations over 6.8 km (4.2 mi) of track, the Scarborough RT is an intermediate-capacity line built almost entirely above ground, which has no direct track connections to the other lines and uses a separate fleet of Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS) trains based on dramatically different technology (similar to the those on the Vancouver SkyTrain). Nevertheless, its operating practices are the same as those of the three subway lines: the route is fully isolated from road traffic and pedestrians, the stations are fully covered, and the trains are boarded through many doors from high platforms within a fare-paid zone set off by a barrier. The TTC therefore includes it with the other rapid transit lines for mapping and administrative purposes.

Since the 1990s

An additional 1.6 km (1.0 mi) was added to the north end of the Spadina section of the Yonge-University-Spadina Line, adding one station (Downsview), with bus bays for connections to surface routes. At the time, a newly elected provincial Progressive Conservative government cancelled their share of funding that would have extended this route northward to York University and Steeles Avenue. This extension is currently in the planning stage, and funding has been committed by governments (see Future expansion).

In August 1995, the TTC suffered its worst subway accident in what it refers to as the Russell Hill accident, on the Yonge-University-Spadina Line south of St. Clair West station. Three women died and 100 people were injured, a few seriously. This led to a major reorganization at the TTC, since contributing to maintaining a "state of good repair" (i.e., an increased emphasis on safety and maintenance of existing TTC capital/services) and less so on expansion.

The subway's newest line, Sheppard, opened in 2002. It was the only one of three subway projects backed in the mid 1990s by the Rae government to be completed. It runs 5.5 km (3.4 mi) east, underneath Sheppard Avenue from Sheppard station on the Yonge line (now renamed Sheppard-Yonge), to Don Mills station at Sheppard and Don Mills Road. The Sheppard line currently has fewer users than the other two subway lines, and shorter trains are run.

In its over fifty-year history, the first baby to be born on a TTC subway station platform only occurred recently on February 6, 2006.[6] This incident occurred at Wellesley station and caused delays on the subway system.[6] It was front-page news for many days.[7]

An automated voice system was added to announce each station (e.g., "The next station is Bloor, Bloor station.") and replace the need for the train operator to announce each stop. The automated system is used throughout the entire subway and RT system. The system uses a pre-recorded female voice taken from one of the TTC employees. Station announcements by the operators originally commenced on January 8, 1995, under pressure from visually-impaired advocate groups. However, this policy was not enforced and announcements were sporadic until the TTC began to enforce the policy in around 2005, until automated announcements could be implemented under further pressure from the advocate groups. Years later, the automated stop announcements were expanded on TTC surface routes which also have the LED board indicating the next stop. However, while the surface route automatic announcements are both audible and visible, it is not until new subway trains arrive in the Toronto subway system will provide audible and visible automatic stop announcements. As of October 25, 2007, the Ontario Human Rights Commission introduced a new legislation that will require all transit operators across Ontario, such as York Region Transit, Brampton Transit, Mississauga Transit, GO Transit and Durham Region Transit, to call out all stops for the visually-impaired passengers. Transit operators who do not announce all stops could be violating rider's rights according to the OHRC.[8][9]

Operations and procedures

The standard subway car interior, the T1.
The external view of a T1 subway car incoming to Victoria Park station.
Interior of an H6 subway car prior to the instalation of velour seat covers.

Like most subways, the Toronto subway/RT trains collect their electric power from a third rail mounted alongside the tracks. 'Shoes' mounted on the trucks are located on both sides of each coach for the required contact. Power is supplied at 600 V DC.

Scarborough RT trains cannot switch directions except at the ends of the line as there are no turnback switches between the two termini.

In contrast, the subway system was built in multiple segments, thereby providing multiple x-pattern crossovers. Current service patterns do not provide regular short turn service aside from the procedure at St. Clair West in the AM rush hour, however the flexible crossovers have come in handy during emergencies where service is suspended in certain areas.

Subway trains maintain their normal schedule, serving every station on a particular line, except during the morning and evening rush hours when some northbound trains short-turn at the St. Clair West station. Electric-mechanical signs, left over from the 1966 integrated subway lines experiment, were used to indicate if a train was going to short turn or not. This service was discontinued in 2004, though the signs were not even used at all in various stations. During rush hour, up to 50 trains will be on the Yonge-University-Spadina line simultaneously, and 40 trains on the Bloor-Danforth line. During non-rush hour periods, there are approximately 27 trains on the Yonge-University-Spadina line at any one time.

Safety procedures have progressed over time, usually in response to a mishap. One such incident was in March 1963, when there was an electrical short in a subway car's motor. The driver decided to continue operating the train, despite visible smoke in the affected car, until the train reached Union station. This decision resulted in the destruction of six subway cars and extensive damage to the tunnel and signal lines west of Union station. Following this incident safety procedures, involving electrical malfunctions and/or fire in subway trains, were revised to improve safety and reduce the likelihood of a similar incident occurring.

GO Transit commuter trains stop at or near the Kipling (GO's Kipling station), Dundas West (GO's Bloor station), Main Street (GO's Danforth station), Leslie (GO's Oriole station), and Kennedy (GO's Kennedy station) subway stations. The TTC's Union subway station connects with Union Station, Toronto's main railway station, which serves not only GO trains, but also VIA, Amtrak, and Ontario Northland. GO buses connect with the TTC at a number of stations, and some other GO stations, while not connected to the subway, are served by buses or streetcars.

Suicides in the subway system have occurred in Toronto, but are not usually publicized. It has been suggested by some members of Toronto city council that the installation of barrier doors, would prevent suicides and others from accidentally falling onto the tracks. To date this does not appear to be the number one priority for the TTC.

A train guard is responsible for opening and closing the subway car doors, and making sure no one is trapped in a door as the train leaves a station. The train guard signals the driver when it is all clear. The car carrying the guard can be identified by the white or the orange light outside the subway car. For safety reasons, since 1954, a transit-worker notified patrons that the subway car doors were closing with two short blasts from a whistle. In 1991, due to lawsuits, electronic chimes, using a descending three-note arpeggio (G-E-C [C major, root position]) and a flashing pair of orange lights above the doorway, added for the hearing impaired, were tested and gradually introduced system-wide during the 1990s.

Hours and frequency of operation

On weekdays and Saturday, subway service runs from approximately 6:00 am to 1:30 am, but Sunday service begins at 9:00 am. Start times on holidays may vary.

Line Off-peak frequency Rush hour frequency
Bloor-Danforth 4–5 minutes 2–3 minutes
Scarborough RT 5–6 minutes 4–5 minutes
Sheppard 5–6 minutes 5–6 minutes
Yonge-University-Spadina 4–5 minutes 2–3 minutes

Stations and features

For complete lists and details of stations, lines, and their locations in the Toronto subway/RT system, see List of Toronto subway and RT stations.

Current stations

Most stations are named for the nearest major arterial road crossed by the line in question. A few are named for major landmarks, such as shopping centres or transportation hubs, served by the station. The University Avenue section of the Yonge-University-Spadina line, in particular, is named entirely for landmarks (public institutions and major churches).

All trains, with the exception of short turns, stop at every station along their route and run the entire length of their line from terminus to terminus.

Subway station art

A "clock" near escalators at mezzanine level at Bayview Station
Columns in Museum Station
A Spadina Summer Under All Seasons at Dupont Station
A close up of Tempo at St. Clair West Station

Over time, Toronto's transit system has become a hidden art gallery, home to more than two dozen pieces scattered along the subway and streetcar routes.

One of the most memorable art pieces in the subway system is Charles Pachter’s "Hockey Knights in Canada", added to College station in 1985. The two-part installation, just steps from Maple Leaf Gardens, depicts the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs squaring off from opposite sides of the subway tracks. The name of the artwork is a pun derived from Hockey Night in Canada.

The Spadina Line features many art installations. Spadina station on that line features a tilework mural with approximately 10,000 circular tiles and another mural called Barren Ground Caribou by Joyce Wieland. St. Clair West Station features an enamel mural called Tempo by Gordon Rayner. Unusually, Eglinton West station features an artwork called Summertime Streetcar by Gerald Zeldin, which consists of two enamel murals depicting PCC streetcars facing each other, although these streetcars had never served this station. Dupont station features A Spadina Summer Under All Seasons, an installation from the 1970s. Using thousands of pieces of glass, artist James Sutherland built colourful mosaics of flowers directly into the station’s tiling. Two giant flowers face each other across the tracks, reaching upward into a mezzanine level lined with smaller flower mosaics.

The artwork at Dupont station was the most extensive in the Toronto transit system until the Sheppard line opened in 2002. The Sheppard-Yonge station features Immersion Land, a mosaic composed of 1.5 million one-inch tiles, created by Toronto artist Stacey Spiegel. The installation was developed from a digitized and pixelated blend of 150 photographs depicting lush landscapes, country homes, and rural scenes from Yonge Street as it stretches towards North Bay.

Each Sheppard line station has an artistic feature. The most notable of these is Leslie, a station that approaches the expanse of Dupont and Sheppard-Yonge’s installations. Five years before the station opened, artist Micah Lexier began collecting writing samples from the public of the words “Sheppard” and “Leslie”. Over 3,000 of these samples were used in the installation, and the words were silk-screened onto tiles. In total, 17,000 of these tiles are on the walls of the station, each featuring the handwritten contribution of a community member. The installation was dubbed Ampersand in recognition of the “&” symbol – the only consistent element of each tile.

At Bayview station, shadows of common objects such as apples and ladders silk screened to the linoleum and walls framed by patches of coloured tile gives it a kind of surreal look called trompe l'oeil. Panya Clark Espinal is the artist who designed the art in the Bayview Station.[10][11]

At Bessarion, images of the backs of peoples' heads have been silk-screened onto wall tiles that highlight the platform walls.

At Don Mills, metallic inlays of shells in the floor of the platform make it appear underwater, while in the concourse, tile patterns representing geological strata make it appear underground (which it is).

USA Today said of Toronto's Sheppard Subway: "Despite the remarkable engineering feats of this metro, known as Sheppard Subway, [it is] the art covering walls, ceilings and platforms of all five stations that stands out. Each station is 'a total art experience where artists have created imaginative environments, uniquely expressing themes of community, location and heritage' through panoramic landscapes and ceramic wall murals."[12]

The Osgoode and St. Patrick subway stations will be renovated to provide transit riders with a visual experience linking them to the major cultural institutions in the area, such as the Royal Ontario Museum, Gardiner Museum, Textile Museum of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Ontario College of Art and Design and the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Renovation began at Museum station in June 2007 and completed on April 8, 2008. At that station, there are columns that resemble Osiris, First Nations house posts, Doric columns found in the Parthenon, China's Forbidden City columns, and Toltec warriors.

Inactive stations

Lower Bay

TTC Interlining Trial

The TTC has one closed subway station platform: the lower level of Bay subway station. This subway station was briefly used for interlining between two of Toronto's lines in 1966, producing an effect similar to the "branching" lines of metro systems in some other cities. Interlining worked in that one would not have to switch trains to go from one line to another.

The experiment, which lasted six months, proved to be impractical. A problem could hold up much of the system. The interlining trial worked by having one group of trains travelling south from Eglinton. After leaving Museum, they would turn east into Lower Bay, continuing east to Woodbine. They then travelled west to Keele via upper Bay and lower St. George, afterwards returning east to upper St. George, where they would switch south onto the University line, and return to Eglinton, producing a wye pattern. The other group of trains would also start at Eglinton, but at the Bloor junction, they would turn west to Keele via upper St. George, reversing east to Woodbine via lower St. George and upper Bay, and returning to the University line via lower Bay.

At Bay, the problem was caused because trains going to Woodbine from Eglinton would arrive in Lower Bay, and trains from Keele would arrive in Upper Bay. Since trains alternated, passengers entering the station did not know where to find their train. The same problem was encountered at St. George, where trains to Keele from Eglinton would arrive in Upper St. George, and trains from Woodbine arrived in Lower St. George (opposite to that of Bay). The problem was not encountered for trains headed for Eglinton, as they would always arrive at Lower Bay and Upper St. George-due to track layout, and Museum did not have the same problems, because it had a single level. Track layout was the cause for the issues at St. George and Bay because both levels had sets of tracks headed for their corresponding terminal. (At St. George, westbound tracks on both levels went to Keele. Bay & Woodbine had the same issue, but with east-bound tracks.) It was impossible to make both trains headed for the same terminal arrive on the same level (as in the New York City Subway's Queensboro Plaza Station), because at the University line junction on both sides (west and east), both tracks on the same level went in the same direction.

Lower Bay seen during the Doors Open event. The TTC rarely grants public access to the area.

Chaos ensued as passengers at St. George did not know which platform their next train might end up on, causing people to wait on the stairs. Switching trains also did not significantly lengthen a commute, since at the point of departure one would have to wait anyhow for an interlined train heading to the desired destination.

Today, Lower Bay is best known for its use in movie shoots and special events. The station has been modified several times to make it look like a "common" American subway station, and the TTC owns a pre-built set to disguise it as a New York City Subway station. While open, the setup of staircases between Upper and Lower Bay resembled that of St. George. The stairs to Lower Bay have been walled up, but are still fairly obvious in that they were walled up using green tiles, in contrast to the white tiles of the rest of the station.

The tracks through Lower Bay still exist and are used from time to time to move equipment between lines. The junctions are just north of Museum station northbound and just west of Bloor-Yonge station. A second double-track connection links junctions just east of Spadina (Bloor-Danforth line) and just north (physically west) of St. George on the Yonge-University-Spadina Line.

Other stations

A lesser known station is Lower Queen. In the plan that produced the original section of the Yonge subway, the TTC planned to build a second subway under Queen Street that would have been used not by dedicated rapid-transit trains but instead by regular streetcars in order to speed up their east-west passage through the downtown section. When the federal government refused to provide funding for the subway project, the TTC deferred the Queen subway, and by the time it came to revisit the east-west question, changing traffic patterns made the route under Bloor Street more sensible. The original Yonge subway's Queen station, however, had been built with a roughed-in streetcar station on a lower level, ready for the second line if it should ever be built. Many people unknowingly pass through this second station every day, as the tunnel that goes under the station so that riders can move between northbound and southbound platforms is a portion of this underground station, with most of the excess infrastructure walled off. The access to the lower space is from the passageway between the platforms.

The TTC also planned a similar platform under Osgoode station for the Queen line, but all that was done was the relocation of utility lines to allow for future construction.

In the 1990s, the TTC began digging a platform under the existing Eglinton West station for the Eglinton subway project, but it was filled in again when the Government of Ontario cancelled the line in 1995. However, with the announcement that the Eglinton Crosstown LRT is to be constructed as part of the Transit City proposal, the TTC will dig the same hole again in early 2010.

In addition, during 1995, provincial resources were immediately pulled out of the environment ministry, cutting its budget by nearly half and shifting focus away from urban planning. In addition to cancelling the planned subway line along Eglinton West, extension of the Spadina line to York University was also halted.[13] By 1998, the province completely eliminated subsidies for the Toronto Transit Commission that had amounted to $104 million (16% of its operating budget) in 1995.[14]

Rolling stock

Davisville Yard is home of some of the TTC's current fleet of subway cars.

The TTC has a fleet of 678 Subway cars of various ages. The oldest cars in the fleet are the H4s and H5s and were built over 30 years ago. They are scheduled for retirement upon delivery of the new Toronto Rocket trains, which are slated to come into service in Spring 2010.

All Toronto Subway cars were manufactured by Bombardier Transportation or one of its predecessors (Montreal Locomotive Works, Hawker Siddeley and UTDC), except the TTC's original G-Series cars, which were manufactured by the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company. All Bombardier cars (starting with the Hawker Siddely H-Series) have been built in Bombardier's Thunder Bay, Ontario plant.

The Scarborough RT fleet consists of 28 ICTS Mark I vehicles built by UTDC (now Bombardier) in Millhaven, Ontario similar in design to those found on the Vancouver SkyTrain. The Mark I's are the original vehicles of the SRT and have been in service for over 25 years. A replacement plan for the fleet has yet to be announced as the future of the line is currently in question.

The TTC also maintains a fleet of various specialized work cars for both the Subway and RT.

Signal information


The TTC like most transit systems, uses a system of light-based signals to give instructions to their trains. They use block signals commonly, as well as interlocking signals. The system has been relatively unchanged since it was first installed on the Yonge Line in the 1950s.

A rare platform accessible signal tree as seen at Islington Station

The system works on fixed signal blocks (a section of track that can be occupied by a train), with lit aspects indicating whether it is safe for a train to proceed into the next fixed block. Interlocking signals or protected signals are used where track features such as crossovers and pocket tracks exist where it is possible to route trains in either direction. The signals are directly connected to a trip arm that has the ability to stop a train if it violates a signal (runs a red light).

If a train is occupying a block the next two signals behind the train will be red with the trip arms in the danger position so that a train cannot proceed into the area. This allows a safe stopping distance even if a train behind violates a signal (the trip arm would trip the train's emergency brakes).

Grade timing is a method of speed control that is worked into the signaling system. In a grade timed section the signal preceding the timed block has a lunar white aspect below the coloured signal. The following signal is red (only because the section is timed) and the signal will blink the red aspect (or the top red aspect in a home or interlocking signal) for a predetermined time before the signal clears. In addition to lunar white signals grade timed sections are sometimes indicated by a sign with the letters "GT", or just "T" in white.

Station timing, a method of evening out trains, has been imposed on certain stations with interlocking (or home) signals. These signals turn to a red aspect as a train passes it, and is forced red for a variable amount of time. This time depends on the distance between the last train that passed the signal, and the train that comes after the next train. This system is computerized, and can accurately calculate the relative distances. If the next train is closer to the train before than the train after, the signal will hold the train at the station. If the next train is closer to the train after it than the train before it, then the signal will clear. Station timing occurs in the following stations:

  • All terminal stations
  • Eglinton Station
  • Bloor Station
  • Union Station
  • St. George Station (all directions)
  • St. Clair West Station
  • Jane Station (eastbound)
  • Keele Station
  • Ossington Station (eastbound)
  • Christie Station (westbound)
  • Yonge Station (westbound)
  • Broadview Station (eastbound)
  • Chester Station (westbound)
  • Greenwood Station (westbound)

(Note: Not all trains in the line are affected by the principle of station timing. Sometimes, signals will clear without being cancelled due to station time.)

There are several limitations to this signaling system that can result in "signal problems" and "signal delays". One of the most common problems is track down. A track down occurs when a block gets a false reading and places signals into the danger position even when there is no train occupying the block. This can occur if debris interrupt the block by grounding out the track circuit mimicking the electric circuit caused by an actual train in the area.

When a signal fails to clear, depending on the area, there are three different ways to rectify the situation. On home signals, and station timed signals transit control can perform a "call-on" where an orange aspect blinks and the trip arm is released even when the aspect displayed is red. The second option is a "key-by". Some signals have a plunger that the operator can stop, reach out the window, operate the plunger dropping the trip arm and then can operate the train to a less restrictive signal. Where neither of these options exist, the only way to get passed a defective signal is to "trip through". The operator at slow speed must trip the signal (which in turn trips the train and places it into emergency). The crew must then reset the emergency valve (by going out the front door of the train) before proceeding.

The TTC is planning on upgrading their signal system within the next 15 years as they prepare to switch to automatic train operation.[15]

Scarborough RT

The Scarborough RT uses Automatic Train Control (ATC) to control vehicle movement and therefore does not have traditional wayside signals. In the event that the computer that controls the trains fails to operate normally in-cab signaling can be used as a backup. This allows the operator to take control of the vehicle and operate it based on information displayed from within the cab of the vehicle. In the event of a total computer failure it is possible to operate the vehicles using the absolute block technique (verification by a controller or supervisory personnel that train moment is safe to the next point and at a speed where the train will be able to stop safely using line of sight observation). This option is usually exercised only to get the train to the next station to offload passengers when it is expected that the delay could be lengthy. The SRT also differs from the subway in that it uses axle block counters to confirm train location instead of a track circuit.

Track information

Track gauge

The tracks of Toronto's streetcars and subways (apart from the Scarborough RT) are built to the unique gauge of 4 ft 10+78 in (1,495 mm), 60 mm (2⅜ inches) wider than the usual standard of 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in). One popular anachronistic belief is that the City of Toronto feared that the Toronto Railway Company, which held the franchise to run streetcars before the TTC was created, would allow Canadian Pacific Railway to operate steam locomotives through city streets.[citation needed] (In fact, this gauge was established in 1861, ten years before Canada's adoption of standard gauge and long before the TRC, the TTC, or the CPR existed.)[citation needed] The more practical reason is that early tracks were used to pull wagons smoothly in the days before paved roads, and that they fit a different gauge. Due to the cost of converting all the tracks and vehicles (and the lack of any real benefit in doing so), the unique gauge has remained to this day.

The practical consequence of the gauge was to make it difficult to ever operate standard gauge equipment on city streets.

Some proposals for the city's subway system involved using streetcars in the tunnels and possibly having some routes run partially in tunnels and partially on city streets, so the same gauge was used. The use of standard-gauge tracks on the Scarborough RT makes it impossible for there to be any track connection between it and the other lines, and so when its ICTS vehicles need anything more than basic service (which can be carried out in the RT's own McCowan Yard), they are carried by truck to the Greenwood Yards.

Track features

Crossover tracks are used throughout the system, particularly at terminal stations to allow trains to reverse direction. Diamond-crossovers also exist outside most stations that once served as terminal stations. A single-crossover just east of Union Station is what remains of the former diamond-crossover which was used when the station marked the southern terminus of the original line. A few crossover tracks which were built as part of the original subway system have since been removed; their locations are marked by tunnel sections where there are no central pillars between tracks. Diamond-crossovers exist in the following locations:

  • East of Kipling Station
  • East of Islington Station
  • East of Jane Station
  • East of Keele Station
  • East of St. George Station (on both Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University-Spadina Lines (southbound for Yonge-University-Spadina))
  • West of Woodbine Station
  • East of Victoria Park Station
  • West of Warden Station (geographically south of the Station)
  • West of Kennedy Station (on the Bloor-Danforth Line)
  • South of Downsview Station
  • South of Wilson Station
  • North of Spadina Station (on the Yonge-University-Spadina Line)
  • Union Station (Union to King Side - single crossover south to northbound King)
  • North of Bloor Station
  • South of Eglinton Station
  • South of Lawrence Station
  • South of Sheppard Station
  • South of Finch Station
  • East and West of Sheppard-Yonge Station (on the Sheppard Line)
  • East of Bayview Station
  • West of Don Mills Station

Centre—or storage-tracks allow a train to enter from either end into a third set of tracks, longer than the length of a standard train, between the two normal tracks. Trains can either rest there, allowing other trains to pass them by, or reverse direction from this position. Sometimes, regular trains are diverted into centre tracks when there is a construction or broken rail on one of the normal routes. Pocket tracks are a variation on the storage-track, accessible only from one end. Storage tracks exist in the following locations:

  • East of Islington Station
  • East of Ossington Station
  • West of Chester Station
  • South of Lawrence West Station
  • North of St. Clair West Station
  • South of Osgoode Station (accessible from north end only)
  • South of St. Andrew Station (continues down to Union Station)
  • North of Eglinton Station (accessible from south end only)
  • South of York Mills Station
  • North of Finch Station

Track configurations become more complicated where lines meet (at the Spadina-St. George-Museum-Bay-Yonge junction and at Sheppard-Yonge), and at the entrances to subway yards.

Tracks usually continue for roughly the length of a train beyond the last station on a line; these are known as tail tracks. The only exception to this is at Don Mills Station, where the tail tracks are less than two cars in length. This is likely because storage capacity is available at Sheppard-Yonge), which can store enough trains to service the line.

Other track features that exist are:

The tracks used for interlining in the late 1960s:

  • North of Museum Station the tracks split, one heading for Upper-St. George Station, the other for the now abandoned Lower-Bay.
  • The track headed to Lower-Bay joins up with the Bloor-Danforth line just before Yonge Station.
  • The track headed to Upper-St. George is what is now used for the University Line.
  • The tracks approaching St. George Station from Spadina split, one heading for Upper, the other for Lower-St. George.
  • The track headed to Lower-Spadina Station just west of Upper-St. George is what is now used for the Bloor-Danforth Line.
  • Single cross-overs act as entrances to the Vincent Yards, the Wilson Yards, the Greenwood Yards and the Davisville Yards.
  • Between Donlands and Greenwood Stations the track splits in both directions, allowing trains to enter or exit the Greenwood Yards in either direction.
  • A maintenance track, accessible from the eastbound Bloor-Danforth line, just west of Warden Station. Trains must back into this track, and leave head first.
  • The tracks used to transfer between the Sheppard and Yonge Lines are as follows:

From Northbound Yonge to Eastbound Sheppard: Simple track split on the Yonge Line: This track meets the Sheppard Line East of Sheppard-Yonge Station, so trains must then back into the station.

From the Westbound Sheppard Track to Southbound Yonge: Trains go west, beyond the Sheppard-Yonge Station, the track then splits, one track onto the Eastbound Sheppard, the other to Southbound Yonge.

Yard track features

Each of the three subway yards have different features that join them to the mainline. Subway operators generally get their train at a point where the yard meets the main line. At the Greenwood Portal, the Davisville Buildup (Third Platform - Davisville Station), or the Wilson Hostler (platform-like in appearance seen heading between Wilson and Downsview on the East side of the yard) depending on what yard they are based out of.


Here is a list of subway and RT yards and facilities:

Facilities Year opened Services
Davisville Subway Yard 1954 services the Yonge-University-Spadina and Sheppard lines
Greenwood Subway Yard 1966 services the Bloor-Danforth line
Wilson Subway Yard 1977 services the Yonge-University-Spadina line
McCowan RT Yard 1985 services the Scarborough RT line
Vincent Subway Yard 1966 inactive (closed in 1978)

There are also:

  • 66 elevators and 294 escalators in use in 2005
  • 28 parking lots with capacity for 14,136 cars in 2005

Source: TTC subway-related properties



While generally a safe system, occasionally emergencies occur. The following organizations provide emergency response:

Emergency devices for passenger use

There are also several safety systems for use by passengers in emergencies:

  • Passenger Assistance Alarms: Located through out all subway and RT trains - When the yellow strip pressed an audible alarm is activated within the car, a notification is sent to the train crew and the Transit Control Centre which in turn dispatches a tiered response and an orange light is lit on the outside of the car for emergency personnel to see where the problem is happening.
  • Emergency power cut devices: Marked by a blue light, located at both ends of each subway and RT platform - For use to cut DC traction power in the event a person falls or is observed at track level or any emergency where train movement into the station would be dangerous. These devices cut power in both directions for approximately one station each way. They also notify the Transit Control Centre when activated.
  • Emergency stopping mechanisms (PGEV - Passenger/Guard Emergency Valve): Located at each end of each subway/RT car - Will activate the emergency brakes of the vehicle stopping it in its current location (for use in extreme emergencies ie. persons trapped in doors as train departs station, doors opening in the tunnel, derailments etc.)
  • Passenger intercoms: Located on subway platforms and near/in elevators in stations - For use to inform station collector of security/life safety issues
  • Automated external defibrillators (AED's): Located in several subway stations near the collector booth(s) - for use in the event someone suffers cardiac arrest
  • Fire extinguishers: Located on subway/RT platforms - not specifically for use by customers but available if necessary


Subway operators begin their training at Hillcrest with a virtual reality mockup of an H6 car. The simulator consists of the operator cab with full functions, a door and partial interior of a subway car. The simulator is housed in a simulated subway tunnel.

Plans for expansion

Picture of the TTC subway sign in Toronto in 1999.

Although the TTC has placed a lower priority on subway expansion, preferring instead to construct new rapid Transit City lines, there are currently plans for three expansions to the existing subway and RT system under the Ontario's government's MoveOntario 2020 plan,[17] as well as the plans from Metrolinx to discuss a Downtown Relief Line.

The three MoveOntario 2020 projects, for which the Ontario government would cover two thirds of the construction cost, are:

Yonge-University-Spadina line extension to Vaughan

The extension of the Spadina branch of the Yonge–University–Spadina line north to the City of Vaughan in the Regional Municipality of York, was announced by the Government of Ontario in its 2006 budget. The six proposed stations are provisionally named Sheppard West, Finch West, York University, Steeles West, Highway 407 Transitway, and Vaughan Corporate Centre. The TTC estimates this expansion could open by 2014/2015. If built, the extension would be approximately 8.6 kilometres (5.3 mi) long.

The current provincial Liberal government has provided $670 million to a trust fund earmarked for the Spadina subway extension, about one-third of the expected cost. The federal Conservative government has also committed an equal sum. The remaining amount of this $2 billion project should be funded under the MoveOntario 2020 plan. An environmental assessment has been completed to Steeles Avenue.[18] The Ontario Realty Corporation and Hydro One, agencies of the Government of Ontario, have attempted to charge the City of Toronto approximately $3.85 million for a 10-year lease for the use of hydro corridor lands for a bus-only transitway to York University.[19]

Yonge-University-Spadina line extension to Richmond Hill

The MoveOntario 2020 plan proposes to extend the Yonge branch of the Yonge-University-Spadina line north to Richmond Hill. Until recently, York Region Transit had proposed to build a busway in the middle of Yonge Street from Finch Station, the existing terminus of the subway, north to their Richmond Hill Centre transit terminal in Richmond Hill, a major hub for VIVA express bus service. However, the region has recently shifted its focus onto a subway extension instead of an intermediate busway as of 2008, and is lobbying for its construction as soon as 2009. Presently, demand on the existing subway is at the point, in which there is not enough spare capacity for this extension south of Lawrence Avenue, however a new signal system promoted by the TTC will allow headways to be reduced from the current 150 seconds to as little as 90, provided costly modifications are carried out at Bloor-Yonge station, the busiest hub in the system. The current plan calls for station stops at Drewry/Cummer, Steeles Avenue, Clark Avenue, Royal Orchard Boulevard, Langstaff Road and Highway 7 (Richmond Hill Centre). An underground bus terminal will be built at Steeles Avenue primarily for the TTC, and the existing terminal at Richmond Hill Centre will be maintained. Langstaff station will mainly serve a massive parking lot to be built in the adjacent hydro corridor, similar to Finch, and the remaining stations will have on-street connections to buses.

Scarborough RT revitalization and expansion

The TTC is currently considering options for revitalizing the Scarborough RT line and extending it northwards, since its fleet of trains are approaching the end of their lifespan and the line is already overcrowded. Replacing the trains is complicated by the fact that the original ICTS vehicles used by the line are no longer produced, and their newer counterparts are longer and so would require expensive upgrades to the existing track. The Government of Ontario has provided $1 million for an environmental assessment relating to the future of "the Scarborough subway". The Scarborough LRT will also be upgraded and expanded by 2015. The latest proposal is to replace the ICTS system with the LRTs to be used in Transit City, eliminating the problems of a unique technology that have plagued the RT in the past.

Downtown Relief Line

An east-west line through downtown has been discussed since 1911 along Queen Street. In 1985 as part of the TTC's Network 2011 plan,[20] it was proposed to construct a Downtown Relief Line from Pape Station to a station at the intersection of Spadina Avenue and Front Street passing under Pape Avenue, Eastern Avenue, and through Union Station.[21] Later extensions were suggest to the Bloor-Danforth subway in the west, and to the intersection of Eglinton Avenue East and Don Mills Road in the east.[21] Since 2008, Metrolinx chair Rob MacIsaac has spoken of starting construction of the Downtown Relief Line or "Queen Line" in 2020.[22] Toronto council has also expressed support for this plan.[23]

Formerly planned lines

See also


  1. ^ "APTA transit ridership report, Third Quarter, 2009" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. 2009-11-23. pp. 33. Retrieved 2010-01-16. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ TTC's main website
  4. ^ a b c d e James Bow, "A History of the Original Yonge Subway", 8 December 2009
  5. ^ "Traffic authorities from all over world see subway opened", Toronto Star, 30 March 1954, p. 3.
  6. ^ a b Brown-Bowers, Amy; Isabel Teotonio (February 7, 2006). "Baby born on subway platform". Front Page (Toronto Star): pp. A1. Retrieved 2007-06-21. 
  7. ^ Connor, Kevin (2006-02-07). "Baby, what a ride! Child born on subway platform". Toronto Sun. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  8. ^ "Ontario Transit Services Expected To Announce All Transit Stops". Ontario Human Rights Commission. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  9. ^ Ku, Christina (June 3, 2007). "Our lady of the stations: Meet the calm-voiced woman behind the TTC's automated subway announcements". News (Toronto Star). Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  10. ^ McIlveen, Eli (2006-12-17). "Art on the TTC". Transit Toronto. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  11. ^ Bow, James (2007-04-18). "Subway Art by Serafin". Transit Toronto. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  12. ^ Sell, Shawn (2004-09-02). "10 great places to stop for subway art". USA Today. 
  13. ^ Moloney, 2002
  14. ^ Theobald, 2003
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Kalinoswski, Tess (June 16, 2007). "A $17,5B transit promise". The Toronto Star. Retrieved 2007-06-17. 
  18. ^ Spadina Subway Extension - Downsview Station to Steeles Avenue
  19. ^ North York Mirror, 20 July 2007, p.1
  20. ^ "Network 2011 – To think of what could have been". Transit Toronto. 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  21. ^ a b Jonathan English (2006-11-10). "The Downtown Relief Line Proposal". Transit Toronto. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  22. ^ Barry Hertz (2008-09-04). "New subway line still a way's off, Metrolinx head says". National Post. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 
  23. ^ Donovan Vincent (2009-01-29). "City favours relief line over subway". Toronto Star. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 

External links

Simple English

Toronto subway and RT
File:Toronto Subway
Owner The City of Toronto
Locale Toronto, Ontario
Transit type Rapid transit
Number of lines 4
Number of stations 69
Daily ridership 948,100 (avg. weekday, 2007–2008)[1]
Began operation March 30, 1954
Operator(s) Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
Number of vehicles 706 subway and RT cars; 62 work cars
System length 68.3km
Track gauge 4 ft 10+78 in (1,495 mm) (1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) for the Scarborough RT)

The Toronto subway and RT is the main rapid transit (RT) railway system in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is run by the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). Since the first part under Yonge Street opened in 1954 with 12 stations, the system has grown to be Canada's biggest rapid transit rail system. It has four lines and 69 stations on 68.3 km of track. The subway system is used very often and has the most number of passengers of any system in Canada. It has an average of 948,100 passenger trips each weekday (as of 2010).[1]

The system is being made bigger at the moment on the western part of the Yonge-University-Spadina Line with new tracks and stations being made north to York University, Steeles Avenue, and Vaughan Corporate Centre in York Region. The Government of Ontario said on March 23, 2006 that it will give $670 million for this new work, which is less than one-third of the total money needed. If it is built, the new track would be about 8.6 km long and would likely be built with six new stations: Sheppard West, Finch West, York University, Steeles West, Highway 407 Transitway (highway), and the Vaughan Corporate Centre. It is expected to cost about $2 billion. An environmental study has been done up to Steeles Avenue.[2]


Toronto's subway network


(left) on Front Street in 1950]]

The first part of the subway, replaced a very busy streetcar route, and followed Yonge Street from Eglinton Avenue south to Front Street, then turned west for one block to end at Bay Street, next to the city's main railway station Union Station and so the subway station was also called Union. This line was finished in 1954 and was 7.4 km long.

In 1963 another part was added, that went north from Union station, below University Avenue and Queen's Park to near Bloor Street, where it turned west to end at St. George and Bloor Streets.

The Bloor-Danforth Line opened up in 1966 along Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue from Keele Street to Woodbine Avenue, and was made longer in 1968 to run from Islington Avenue to Warden station at Warden and St. Clair Avenues.

The routing of the line across the Don Valley was possible because of a choice made more than forty years before. When the Prince Edward Viaduct was built across the Don River in 1919, its design included twin decks below the road to allow for future rail lines. This made it possible for the subway to cross the Don Valley to Danforth Avenue on the east side.

The Yonge-University line was extended north 8.7 km from Eglinton Avenue to Finch Avenue and Yonge in 1973 and 1974.

More track (9.9 km) was added to the Yonge-University Line in 1978 when it was extended from St. George and Bloor, north and northwest to Eglinton Avenue and Allen Road, then north along the middle of Allen Road to Wilson Avenue.

In October 1976, an arson (a fire set on purpose) destroyed subway cars and damage to Christie station. This caused the closure of the Bloor-Danforth Line for three days, and closed Christie station for some time for repairs. More track was added in 1980 at both ends of the Bloor-Danforth Line. These extensions each added one station, bus bays, and, on the eastern end, room to connect to the Scarborough RT.

.]] With six stations on 6.8 km of track, the Scarborough RT is a line built almost all above the ground, and which has no direct tracks that connect to the other lines and uses a different trains. It uses the Intermediate Capacity Transit System (ICTS) trains which are very different from subway trains. The route is fully separate from road traffic and pedestrians, the stations are fully covered, and the trains have many doors that use high platforms.

An extra 1.6 km was added to the north end of the Spadina part of the Yonge-University-Spadina Line, adding one station (Downsview), with parking for buses.

In August 1995, the TTC had a really bad subway accident in what it calls the Russell Hill accident, on the Yonge-University-Spadina Line south of St. Clair West station. Three women died and 100 people were injured, a few badly.

The subway's newest line, Sheppard, opened in 2002. It runs 5.5 km east, under Sheppard Avenue from Sheppard station on the Yonge line (now called Sheppard-Yonge), to Don Mills station at Sheppard and Don Mills Road. The Sheppard line has less users than the other two subway lines, and shorter trains run on it.

In its over fifty-year history, the first baby to be born on a TTC subway station platform only occurred recently on February 6, 2006.[3] This incident occurred at Wellesley station and caused delays on the subway system.[3] It was front-page news for many days.[4]

An automatic voice system was added to announce each station (such as; "The next station is Bloor, Bloor station.") which ended the need for the train operator to announce each stop. The automated system is used in the whole subway and RT system.[5]

Plans for the future

Until recently, the TTC did not have plans to expand the subway during the last twenty years but only had plans to build new above-ground rapid transit lines based upon streetcars travelling in closed lanes on streets. Today there are plans to build new subway lines under the ground, including extensions to the Spadina-University line and two lines in the central section of the city south of Bloor-Danforth.[6]

Operations and procedures

Like most subways, the Toronto subway/RT trains get electricity from a third rail that runs next to the tracks. 'Shoes' (pieces of metal that touch the third-rail) mounted on both sides of each coach for contact. Power is supplied at 600 V DC.

A train guard opens and closes the subway car doors, and makes sure no one is trapped in a door as the train leaves a station. The train guard tells the driver when it is okay to leave. The car carrying the guard can be identified by the white or the orange light outside the subway car.

Hours and frequency of operation

On weekdays and Saturday, subway service runs from approximately 6:00 am to 1:30 am, but Sunday service begins at 9:00 am. Start times on holidays may vary.

Line Off-peak frequency Rush hour frequency
Bloor-Danforth 4–5 minutes 2–3 minutes
Scarborough RT 5–6 minutes 4–5 minutes
Sheppard 5–6 minutes 5–6 minutes
Yonge-University-Spadina 4–5 minutes 2–3 minutes


File:Toronto Subway
A train at Sheppard-Yonge station
File:Lower Bay Station west-end of
Lower Bay station (closed forever)

For complete lists and details of stations, lines, and their locations in the Toronto subway/RT system, see List of Toronto subway and RT stations.

Current stations

Most stations are named for the nearby road crossed by the line in question. A few are named for major landmarks, such as shopping centres or other transportation stations near the station.

All trains stop at every station along their route and run the entire length of their line from end to end.


  • TTC Special Constable Services are special constables who provide security and some law enforcement on the subway. The Toronto Police Service are still called for all other law enforcement needs
  • Emergency medical services as dealt with by the Toronto EMS
  • Fires are dealt with by the Toronto Fire Services



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