Our subway – Canada’s first – opened in 1954, with 12 stations. There are now 69, with half a dozen more on the way. The originals were spic and span; their walls covered in Vitrolite tiles, and ceilings painted white. They were criticized for being too cold and minimal, yet they were wonderfully distinct. Unfortunately, all were rebuilt in the 1980’s and 90’s, an architectural calamity for subway enthusiasts. They’re now a hodgepodge of materials, typefaces and colours – as if some misdirected designer went off the rails.
The TTC subway system is the only transit system in North America – if not the world – paying for day-to-day operations out of city coffers and the farebox. (Imagine that happening in Montreal, London, LA, Moscow or Washington).
If you look carefully enough there’s a subway public art scene here – and it’s a pretty good one. <BELOW: – building Canada’s first subway, John DeRinzy, Toronto City Archives>
<ABOVE – one of the original Vitrolite tiled stations>