A balanced and workable
new transportation plan
for the City of Toronto

An open section of the Yonge subway line in the 1950's

Map of the proposed northern extension of the Yonge Subway to Richmond Hill

Subway construction on Yonge Street in 1949

As of February 2007, a number of stations have elevators for wheelchair access. By mid-2010, wheelchair-accessible elevators will be added at Lawrence West. Museum station could also become accessible as early as 2010. Platform passenger crowding, particularly at Yonge and Bloor, is becoming a problem, with passengers often having to wait for two or three trains to pass in order to just get on. This could have been relieved by construction of the shelved Queen Street Subway. However, platform widenings and a proposed Downtown Relief Subway line are planned to ease this growing situation.

The preferred alignment and placement for four stations for the proposed "Spadina North" extension beyond Downsview station to serve York University were finalized in September 2005. Six stations are planned: the tentative name for the new terminus in theVaughan Metropolitan Centre is "Vaughan Corporate Centre" based on the area's former tentative name, with intermediate stations called "Highway 407 Transitway", "Steeles West", "York University", "Finch West", and "Sheppard West". If built, this extension would likely replace the portion of York Region Transit's Viva Orange bus rapid transit line that currently covers the Downsview — York University route.

The eastern leg runs straight up Yonge Street for 16 km (10 miles), crossing the Bloor-Danforth Line again at Bloor-Yonge and theSheppard Line at Sheppard-Yonge, before reaching its northern terminus at Finch station.

The Yonge–University–Spadina line uses an automated voice system on board its trains to announce each stop as the train arrives. The new Toronto Rocket trains scheduled for delivery starting in late 2009 are to be the first subway trains on the system to incorporate a visual display, which is already in use on TTC buses and streetcars. The displays and active route map will indicate the train's position, the next station and the side which the doors will open upon arrival at the next stop. The line was designated as Line 1 in 2014.

View a show of pictures of the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway line 

Spadina Line Extension

Construction has begun on an extension to York University northwest of Downsview station, and into the city of Vaughan to the proposed Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Six new stations are planned along the 8.7 km extension (6.2 km in the City of Toronto and 2.5 km in York Region). The estimated cost of this extension is $2.09 billion in 2006 dollars, which will have escalated to $2.63 billion considering costs at year of occurrence. The current Ontario government has committed $670 million in its March 23, 2006, budget, which is about one-third of the expected $2 billion cost. The federal government had long committed to funding one-third of the subway extension, but only recently released its share of the funds at the start of its fall election campaign. The other third of the money comes from municipal governments (Toronto and York Region). In 2003, a temporary busway was planned between Downsview station and the campus, but was opposed by the University, because they felt it would lessen government willingness to extend the subway. After numerous delays, construction on the York University Busway started on July 25, 2008 with a short section of the busway being opened September 6, 2009 and the remainder being opened on November 20, 2009. 

The TTC purchased two tunnel boring machines in the fall of 2010 from LOVAT Inc. for $58.4 million to dig tunnels on this extension and purchased two more boring machines in the spring of 2011. Originally planned to be completed by mid-2015, construction will now be complete by early 2016 with revenue starting in the third quarter of 2016. The first construction contract was awarded on February 27, 2008. Construction has commenced in July 2008 with relocation of sewers. Tunnel borning began in July 2011.

The extension north of Steeles Avenue has been very much maligned in the press for a number of reasons. The TTC had originally intended to extend the subway as far as York University, with a vast bus terminal complex at the future Steeles West station. However, provincial funding hinged on the line crossing the municipal border. The area around the future Vaughan Corporate Centre station is occupied by big-box stores and highways and lacks the development that surrounds most other subway stations. Although a station is planned for the 407 Transitway, most GO Transit buses will actually terminate at Steeles West station, so as again to avoid commuters having to pay an additional TTC fare to reach York University. The TTC has recently announced that it will incorporate a system in which GO Transit users do not have to pay an extra fare to use the subway to get to York University station from the 407 Transitway.​ The extension opened in December 2017.

Yonge–University–Spadina Line

The Yonge–University–Spadina Subway is the oldest and busiest subway line in Toronto. It has 32 stations and is 30.2 km (18.8 miles) in length. It opened in 1954, and had extensions completed in 1963, 1973, 1974, 1978, and 1996. North York Centre station opened on an existing section of line in 1987. The Toronto Transit Commission adopted a numerical identification system in 2014 and this subway line became Line 1.

Subway construction was first debated in Toronto as far back as 1911 with proposals to put streetcars underground. This was upgraded to full train subways in the 1940's. Subway construction was put to a public referendum in 1911 which was defeated, and then put to another referendum in 1946, which was approved, resulting in the construction of Toronto's first subway.
Subway referendum 1911

Horatio C. Hocken, made the underground issue the main plank of his campaign to become Toronto's mayor in 1910. On the same ballot, voters were asked: "Are you in favour of the City of Toronto applying to the legislature for power to construct and operate a municipal system of subway and surface street railway, subject to the approval of qualified ratepayers?" The results of the vote, which was held on January 1st, 1910 (at the time, and until the middle part of the century, municipal elections and associated referendums were held every year, on New Year's Day), were favourable, with voters supporting the proposal by a count of 19,268 to 10,697. However, the mayoralty was won not by Hocken but by George R. Geary, who had opposed subways due to their expense. The City continued to look into the subway question and issue reports. In 1910, an American engineer named James Forgie of the Jacobs & Davies company of New York City was consulted by the City of Toronto to make a report on a possible underground/surface transit system. His report was submitted to council on September 1, 1910, and recommended a $23 million, 11.6 mile long network featuring three lines extending from the intersection of Front and Yonge streets. One line would run northeasterly to Broadview and Danforth, while a second would run northwesterly to Keele and Bloor, both beneath new arterial roads. The third line would extend up Bay and Yonge Streets to St. Clair Avenue. The 1910 plan was followed up by another report by E.L. Cousins, the Assistant City Engineer. His report, submitted on November 20, 1911, noted that the northeasterly and northwesterly lines could not be constructed without the corresponding roads. As these roads themselves might not be feasible, he suggested an alternate plan with a north-south subway line similar to the Forgie proposal, and two east-west lines, one following Queen Street from High Park to Woodbine Avenue and another following Bloor Street from High Park to Broadview. The two lines could be connected at both ends, forming a large loop. It is possible that it was on the basis of this proposal that the designer of the Prince Edward Viaduct, Thomas Taylor, had a lower deck built into his Bloor Street Bridge over theDon Valley to accommodate underground streetcars. In the fall of 1911, the City of Toronto decided to press forward with subway development and called for tenders for the construction of cement tubes designed to house a three-mile subway running from Bay and Front to St. Clair Avenue. The lowest bid was $2.6 million; adding in the cost of track, signals, electrical power, and cars would probably have doubled the cost. The approach was strikingly similar to the decision in 1996 to complete the Sheppard subway tunnels but not lay down any tracks. But whereas the Sheppard subway was eventually built, in 1911 the strategy failed. The expenditure was put to the voters on January 1, 1912 and this time voters were not so willing to embrace the subway. Weary of the taxes required to pay for other infrastructure projects, and with four of the city's five newspapers solidly against the project, voters turned down the proposal by a vote of 11,291 to 8,486. Hocken had been returned to the Board of Control on January 1, 1911, and was chief magistrate in 1912. Despite being defeated on the issue in 1910, he continued to advocate subway construction until the 1912 referendum. After the referendum defeat, he did not raise the issue further.

Subway referendum 1946

On January 1, 1946 the following question appeared on Toronto's municipal ballot: "Are you in favour of the Toronto Transportation Commission proceeding with the proposed rapid transit system provided the Dominion government assumes one-fifth of the cost and provided that the cost to the ratepayers is limited to such amounts as the City Council may agree are necessary for the replacement and improvement of city services."

The proposal called for the federal government to pay for 20% of the cost, and for TTC revenues to pay for the rest. City taxpayers were to be almost totally off the hook, except in cases where the city moved and improved pipes and reinstalled roads. The proposal was ratified by a vote of 69,935 to 8,630. Toronto city council approved construction of the Yonge Street subway line on April 26, 1946. Toronto would finally have its first subway. Construction began on the Yonge Subway line on September 8, 1949 and it opened from Eglinton to Union in 1954.

The line's name has changed as it was extended. It was simply called the subway (Yonge subway is its retronym) until 1963, then the Yonge-University Line until 1978, when the Spadina section was added. Briefly in 1966, the Yonge-University subway ran in two branches: one west along Bloor to Keele (Yonge-University-Bloor), the other east along Bloor and Danforth to Woodbine (Yonge-University-Danforth).

The Yonge-University section of the line was originally planned to run only from St. George to Sheppard. It was extended further to Finch in 1974 and plans are being made to extend it further north to Richmond Hill. The Spadina section was first planned to stretch north only to Wilson entirely on the surface in the middle of the Spadina (Allen) Expressway. Since the cancellation of construction of the expressway south of Eglinton, the line runs underground from St. George to Eglinton West and then runs as originally intended on the surface in the middle of the Allen north to its original destination of Wilson in 1978 and later beyond to Wilson to Downsview station at Sheppard Avenue in 1996. Construction has begun to extend it northwest to York University and on to Vaughan Corporate Centre.

Although only two stations are actually on Spadina Road, a larger portion of the line was originally planned to follow the Spadina Expressway. The part of the expressway that was actually built was renamed Allen Road, but the name of the line was never adjusted. It is also numbered as Route 1 (formerly route 602), but its route number is used by the TTC predominantly for internal purposes and is rarely used by the public or on TTC maps.

The subway runs from approximately 6:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday to Saturday and 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Sunday. The subway runs every 4–5 minutes, with frequent service (2–3 minutes) during rush hour periods. There is limited service (5 minutes) northbound from St. Clair West station from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. Monday to Friday.

The 320 Yonge Blue Night bus provides late night service when the subway is not in operation. This service operates frequently from along Yonge between Steeles to Union Station. No bus service follows the University-Spadina line, though other night bus services, such as 311 Bathurst pass near some of the stations. Bus service is extended on Sundays to account for the 9:00 a.m. start.

The Spadina Subway on the surface in the middle of the Allen Road expressway at Eglinton West shortly after opening in 1978

The elaborate opening ceremony of the Yonge Subway, Toronto's - and Canada's - first subway line, on March 30, 1954 with Metro Chairman Frederick G. Gardiner making a speech.


Lawrence West Station on the Spadina subway line

On March 30, 1954, after five years of work, the first subway in Canada opened to the public. The original Yonge Street subway line went from Union Station north to Eglinton station. Premier Leslie Frost and Mayor Allan Lamport, among other important persons, rode the first train that morning, going north from the yards at Davisville station, and then from Eglinton south along the entire line. The line was then opened to the public, and that day at 2:30 p.m., the last streetcar to travel Yonge Street made its final trip.

In 1987, the North York Centre station was added between Sheppard and Finch stations.

On August 11, 1995 at 6:02 p.m., a southbound subway train heading toward Dupont Station crashed under Russell Hill Drive, killing three passengers. This accident, called the 1995 Russell Hill subway incident, prompted the Toronto Transit Commission to review its practices and put its resources into safety.

In 1996, the Spadina expansion was opened, adding one new station, Downsview.

The line forms a rough U-shape. Its western leg starts at the northern terminus at Downsview station, at Sheppard Avenue andAllen Road. The line follows the Allen Road, which becomes a small expressway with the subway line travelling in its median for 6 km (3.8 miles). Continuing southeast below the Cedarvale and Nordheimer Ravines, it turns south under a short stretch of Spadina Road.

After sharing the Bloor-Danforth Line's Spadina and St. George stations, it turns south again under Queen's Park, passing to one side of the legislature, and running the full length of University Avenue beyond. It turns east onto Front Street to serve Union Station, Toronto's main railway terminus, and then north.

The line is generally underground, but has several surface or elevated sections between Downsview and Eglinton West, and between Bloor and Eglinton; some portions of the section between Bloor and Eglinton were originally open and have since been covered over to permit other uses above the tracks. Sections between Bloor-Yonge and the track short of Summerhill, and between St. Clair and Eglinton remain in their original open state. Between Summerhill and St. Clair, the track was originally open, but has since been covered. Evidence of this can be found in the tunnel; there are no columns or walls between tracks, tree stumps, and there are ballast and drainage ditches present in the tunnel - something not seen in the rest of the subway system. There are also clues outdoors; there are seemingly useless railings along the sides of a nearby street, which was once on an exposed bridge, and there are empty lots following the trains' right of way marked with signs warning heavy vehicles/equipment to keep off because they might fall through the columnless tunnel below.

Most of the tunnel was constructed by cut-and-cover, but some was bored, as noted below. All stations, whether by transfer or fare-paid terminal, connect to surface TTC bus and/or streetcar routes. Other surface and train connections are noted below.

Click on the map below to enlarge it

The Spadina Subway in the middle of the Allen Expressway south of Yorkdale Station today. The glass roof in Yorkdale Station lights up at night

The subway trains for the Yonge line on display at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1953, one year before the subway opened. This would give people an idea of what was coming for Toronto's first subway line.

Nine years later, in 1963, the University segment of the line opened, continuing the line from Union north to St. George station.

Map of the northern extension of the Spadina Subway to Vaughan now under construction

Yonge Line Extension

Proposals have also been put forward to extend the Yonge Street portion of the line beyond Finch to Steeles and into York Region, most likely ending at the Richmond Hill Centre Terminal of Viva bus rapid transit. On June 15, 2007, the Ontario government announced plans to fund this extension as part of a vast network of rapid transit growth in the form of MoveOntario 2020.

Although completion of this subway expansion is many years away, a local group in York Region is lobbying for the cancellation of the planned busway along this route, which would be a part of York Region's Viva bus rapid transit.

Although this extension is the most justifiable, there is a reason it will not be built just yet. The Yonge portion of the subway line operates at capacity during the morning rush hour, and could not carry the additional riders attracted to this extension. Once a new signal system is in place, the TTC will be able to increase the frequency of trains from 2 minutes 30 seconds to every 1 minute 45 seconds, allowing capacity for this extension.

Toronto council approved the plan in principle in January 2009, but added caveats indicating that upgrades within Toronto would be needed to support the additional capacity from York Region. The plan, as approved, lists six new stations: Cummer/Drewery, Steeles, Clark, Royal Orchard, Longbridge/Langstaff, and Richmond Hill Centre. As of 2009, TTC has no plans to expand this subway line in the "near future" but have VIVA Bus Rapid Transit bus lanes going along Yonge Street from Finch Avenue to Highway 7, which would go into full service by 2013. The Province took over Toronto's subway system after 2018, and the Yonge north extension to Richmond Hill was one of its priorities. This extension may be completed sooner with Provincial funding.

A mock subway station at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1953 to introduce people to the design of the new subway which would open the following year. Gloucester Series trains would be used.

The Bloor station on the Yonge Subway line in the 1950's. The Bloor streetcars would soon be replace by an east to west subway line.

The Yonge Subway soon after opening in the 1950's

In 1973, the line was extended north to York Mills station, and the next year to Finch station as part of the North Yonge Extension project, bringing the subway to North York. Stations were also planned for Glencairn (between Eglinton and Lawrence (though another Glencairn station would be built on the Spadina line)), Glen Echo (between Lawrence and York Mills) and Empress (between Sheppard and Finch - later opened as North York Centre station). In 1978, the Spadina segment of the line was opened, going from the north terminus of the University line to Wilson station. The Provincial Government promised construction of the Spadina Subway after construction of the Spadina (Allen) Expressway was cancelled in June 1971. The line was built soon after along the route of the expressway in its median. The new Spadina subway came with decorative stations with art in the underground stations and special lighting in the surface stations.

Yonge Subway construction using cut-and-cover tunnelwork near St. Clair in 1949

Rush hour platform passenger crowding on the Yonge Subway line at Bloor today has created a demand for wider platforms and construction of a new Downtown Relief Subway line.

Space and track allowance roughed in along the median of the Allen Expressway in 1971, including bridges over the 401 for the future subway tracks (left of picture). The subway would be built in 1977

Space left open for the future surface section of the Spadina Subway in the median strip of the Allen Expressway in 1971

Yonge-University-Spadina Subway (Line 1)