Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Service Change: Toronto, Part 1 (of many) - The Yonge-University-Spadina Subway and the Sheppard Subway

The layout of the Toronto subway is kinda...weird. There are two main subway lines: the Yonge-University-Spadina Line, and the Bloor-Danforth Line. However, only the Yonge-University-Spadina (which I will now be referring to as just the Yonge) Line serves the financial district, in a U shape. The Bloor-Danforth Line goes east to west, but doesn't go anywhere near downtown! That said, Bloor Street is still extremely busy - Toronto is the fourth largest city in North America, after all. Fun fact for the day.
We (my father and I) did ride every single subway line and went through every single stop, plus we rode two bus and almost all of the streetcar routes. Also we rode Toronto's commuter rail service, as well as some ferries. That's a lot of stuff, but today we'll be focusing on the Yonge Line.

Once again, this is the U-shaped one that serves downtown. It uses the newest trains out of any of the lines, and let me tell you, they're really cool. Like the London S Stock, this train is basically a single car, with passengers free to walk down the entire thing. These trains also have screens, which is good since the robotic announcements can be hard to hear sometimes...a lot. LED maps are a feature, too, and they were awesome. The trains have a mix of horizontal and forward (and backward) seats, and were very quiet.

From the outside.
The LED map.
Rather than announcing it, the screens tell you what side the doors open on.
The view down the train.
There are also these screens along the sides of the train.
Good safety feature.
In case there's someone in a wheelchair, these seats retract.
There are interesting prop seats at the end of the train.
Or click here to see the video.

Before I start talking about the actual route, I should talk about the fare system in Toronto. Every time we rode the subway or streetcar for the entire trip, we would just pay the 9 dollars (3 for adults, 2 for students). It was only on the very last day that we found out about the day passes: 11 dollars for an entire family! That's such a deal it's crazy.

Also, let me just talk about transfers, because they're definitely something you should know about. Many TTC stations offer free transfers from train to bus or streetcar (which is great), but some of the downtown ones don't. With these, you have to pick up transfers at the station you board, not the one you exit at. It's not a mistake you want to make.

A token machine.
And a transfer machine.
Downsview is currently the last stop on the Yonge Line's western arm (but it soon won't be - check the pictures below). Most TTC stations are very utilitarian, but Downsview was a nice deviation from the standard style. Namely, there was a huge skylight, bringing natural light into a subway station. The mezzanine and busway were more standard fare, but the skylight was awesome.

Some bad pictures of trains at the station.
The platform.
A look down.
The mezzanine.
They're extending the Yonge Line!
The busway.
There was a short underground section after Downsview, but we soon came up to the surface. We went by a yard, which made for an interesting view.

A train at the yard.
It was also a bus yard.
There was some sort of work platform, maybe so drivers can get on their trains.
After the yard, the tracks came into the middle of Allen Road, which was more like a highway. There wasn't much to see, but there was a nice view of the Toronto skyline at one point (sorry, no pictures). We crossed over the 401, the busiest highway in North America (or possibly the world - Wikipedia attests to both) and one of the widest, with 18 lanes.

We passed some malls, but it was mostly houses that were exactly the same. That said, the highway was below ground level so we didn't see much of that. We passed some huge apartments before going below ground at Eglinton West. Passing through St. Clair West and Dupont, we arrived at Spadina.

Now, Spadina is one of two transfer stations to the Bloor Line on the west side of the Yonge Line. It's also the one you should definitely not use if you're transferring, namely because of the million mile walkway connecting the two lines. Spadina was a typical utilitarian station on both the Yonge and Bloor Line platforms. It did have one redeeming value, though: an underground streetcar station. It's one of only three on the system, and the other two are closed for renovation. Interestingly, they're all on the same line, the 510, which I'll be posting about later.

The platform.
A mezzanine area.
It...never...ends.
Finally!
The Bloor platform is a lot brighter.
These countdown clocks are pretty good, though sometimes the next train is arriving in N/A minutes.
Mind the gap!
A Bloor Line train arriving at Spadina.
St. George, on the other hand, made for a much easier transfer. It was still utilitarian, though, not much you can do about that.

A plaque at St. George (I think) commemorating the opening of the Bloor Line.
A train at the platform.
The platform.
A convenience store...funny how I don't actually remember seeing that.
A nice sign outside.
The station entrance.
The station from far away.
So after the two transfers, the Yonge Line goes around the downtown U shape. The standout station on this section (and one of my favorites on the whole system) is Museum, right after St. George. In this station, each pillar is a different artifact: some are Roman columns, others are totem poles. It's absolutely ingenious, and I love this station for that!

The entrance - seems like any other.
The fare area - seems like any other.
Then the amazing platform.
A close-up of one of the totems.
Even this thing is really cool!
There are a few stations between Museum and St. Andrew, the next one we actually used. It was very standard, nothing special about it. Next!

The sign outside.
The entrance.
The mezzanine.
Center platforms always make for fun pictures.
Union is the vertex of the Yonge Line's parabola, then it heads back up past King (which is right in the financial district) and into Queen. Now, I don't remember/have any pictures of Queen's platform, but I do remember that it has an unmarked entrance. Yeah, we crossed the street because there was only signage there, but it turns out there was an entrance on the side we were on. Ugh.

This signage is perfectly fine, but not on the other side.
An awful picture, but you can see the interesting Art Deco in the station.
Next is Dundas. This was our local station, and thus the one we used the most. But alas, it was just another uniform one. The best part about it was the fact that one company bought all the ad space in the whole thing, but made really good use of it. Dundas is considered to be "downtown," and there is a Times-Square-like area outside the station with free musical performances to boot.

The platform, with a little train in the distance.
The train, much closer.
An entrance to Dundas.
A very cool poster that was at the station.
There are a few stations after Dundas, but the next one we used was Bloor-Yonge. It's the eastern transfer to the Bloor Line and the busiest station on the system by far. But guess what? It's utilitarian! Surprise!

A train at the platform.
The platform itself.
Another example of ads taking over an entire station, but the one at Dundas was much better.
The Yonge platform.
Stand back!
After Bloor-Yonge, I was very surprised when the train went above ground. It was also exciting, since I figured it would be above ground the rest of the time to Finch. Not so: after one stop and some views of apartment buildings, it went back underground. But after a few stops, we came back outside and through a yard. But after another stop, it was back into the depths of the earth for us.

A train at the yard.
And the yard itself.
And so, it was underground all the way to Finch, the last stop. We didn't get off at Finch, however. We stayed on the train so we could go back to Sheppard-Yonge Station to ride the short Sheppard Line. More on that in just a second.

The platform at Finch.
The platform at Sheppard-Yonge.
The mezzanine to the Sheppard Line.
Now the Sheppard Line is a very short one, only five stops in length, and is entirely underground. It did have my favorite station on the system, though: Leslie, where every tile had "Leslie" written in a different handwriting. I didn't get any pictures, though...sorry.

We pretty much had the train (or at least the car we were in) to ourselves during the entire ride. One thing I really liked was that the driver held the doors for us when he saw us running in - that's not something you see on the subway, but it was a really nice thing to do. And finally, when we arrived at Don Mills and I went around taking pictures, I noticed that there was a driver in the back of the train as well... fast asleep! It must be really boring sitting back there doing nothing. Or maybe she just fell asleep on the job and nobody noticed her? No idea.

Sheppard-Yonge Station.
The interior of the train.
And the exterior.
Don Mills Station.
The mezzanine.
Don Mills had different leaves on the floor, which was interesting.
The very dingy busway at Don Mills.
A bus countdown clock at Don Mills. Spoiler alert: we took the 190.

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