In yesterday’s blog post “Spotted: TTC Referring To Subway Lines By Color!” I mentioned (and showed a picture) of a strange sign outside of St George TTC Subway Station on Bedford Rd. This sign was like none I had ever seen before for the TTC referring to subway lines by colors and numbers. I hoped when I wrote it that it was the beginning of the TTC moving to adopt some signage that would be easier to understand for tourists or people new to the city. I found out to my chagrin after doing some searching that while I was sort of right I was mostly wrong.
Why I Was Sort Of Right
After some searching I found out this was a pilot project by the TTC to introduce a new type of signs to the subway/bus/RT system. However, this move was done in the mid 1990s and half of St George Station was the pilot/beta testing area of the proposed signs. As you already have guessed the TTC did not implement these signs anywhere else in the system either (otherwise it wouldn’t have struck me as remarkable).
Why I Was Wrong
Well as I mentioned above and as you can see from the Google Maps StreetView imagery of the station (taken some time in 2009 and posted in 2009, but the copyright for it is from 2010) – this sign is not new. Also, as I mentioned above the sign is actually from the early 1990s: 1993 or 1994. You can check out more and better pictures of this sign along with the drawings/plans for the sign and comparisons to the ones they made instead in Joe Clark’s Flickr stream collection called “TTC pylon signs” here. Also, Joe Clark put up some another Flickr stream collection “Paul Arthur’s original signs at St. George station” here. The second Flickr collection actually has pictures from circa 1993-94 of St George Station when not only did it have the strange sign that remains outside of the Bedford Rd entrance but they also had half of the subway station’s signs redesigned as part of the pilot program.
In the end the TTC decided to go a different way and what remains is the bad signage we have still today in Toronto. However, the St George Station pilot program of the 1990s while it was a great idea wasn’t all roses. Below check out a picture from the second set which is owned by Joe Clark and taken from here. Joe Clark titled the photo “Line Map”.
This map was the one thing I really did not like about the sign pilot program of the 1990s. I don’t like it for a very different reason than someone reportedly complained about in the Toronto Life, the North-South axis was on a horizontal. Rather, my problem with it is that it tells the rider they are going to go south to Union but Union isn’t the end of the line in this map. Beyond that the line doesn’t pull a U-turn at Union Station as it does in real life rather it seems to go south all the way to Finch Station (which is really north of St George). Granted, they did try to note that Union is the southernmost tip of the line by putting an S underneath it but it isn’t very self explanatory for someone who doesn’t know the system or a map of Toronto. Beyond that, the Bloor Line (or here the Green/2 Line) seems to hit the 1/Yellow Line (really known as the Yonge-University-Spadina Line) with 11 stops in between. While this is technically true, you COULD ride the train all the way around Union to the other side of the Bloor Line why anyone in their right mind trying to actually get somewhere WOULD do that is beyond me. The other side of the Bloor Line is really 3 stops away from St George. This map makes it appear as if the Bloor Line is the one that has a giant U-shape and not the Yonge-University-Spadina Line.
Further, the “Line Map” sign to me seems to have contradicted the “Decision Sign” which is above and you can find here and is also in Joe Clark’s Flickr stream collection “Paul Arthur’s original signs at St. George station” indicated that the end of the line was Union. If you looked at the “Line Map” (posted above the Decision Sign) the stations seemed to continue on past Union to Finch as I mentioned above. What was also strange about the Line Map is it didn’t tell you the names of the stations north of you…I am going to assume this was put on the southbound platform and the rationale was that if you’re on the southbound platform you don’t need to know the stations to the north of you and that does make sense but it still is a little bit odd to me, untrained in the art of sign making.
If you want to know more about this sign pilot program check out Joe Clark’s postings on his website about it here - http://joeclark.org/design/signage/TTC/redesign/.
It really is a pity that no one ever implemented the good parts of this plan. Hopefully, the TTC will get its act together sometime soon and put in signs that actually tell people what they need to know. Either way, I think that the sign outside St George Station on Beford Rd which is the most noticeable remnant – and possibly quite a confusing one – of the Paul Arthur signs from the 1990s should be taken down and preserved in a museum somewhere. It serves no purpose in its current location other than confusion and wasting electricity but it is an important part of the TTC’s history which one day I hope they revisit and implement. Maybe before the 17th Pan American Games in 2015 (aka (Pan Am Games) when a whole bunch of international visitors from 41 countries all over the Americas will flock to Toronto.