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Bay station is a moderately busy station operating in the shadow of two of the most well-used stations on the Toronto subway network. It serves the Yorkdale shopping district and the offices and stores of the Bloor-Bay intersection. It opened in 1966 with the first phase of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, and as a result, it is the site of one of the storied legends of the network: Toronto’s only operational lost station. Because of this, Bay station could be the most videoed stations on the Toronto subway network.

A Brief History of Bay Street

Bay Street started life as Bear Street in the late 18th century after the founding of the Town of York. In 1797, the street became Bay when it reached Lot Street (the present-day Queen Street) and the Toronto Harbour. Bay Street became a prominent commercial street in downtown Toronto through the 19th century, with Toronto’s major newspapers, including the Toronto Mail and the Toronto Star, locating around the intersection of King and Bay.

North of Queen Street, the street that became Bay was known as Terauley Street. Terauley was named after the Terauley estate of John Simcoe Macaulay, located near Bay and Queen Streets. Terauley continued to College where it ended, capped by housing properties facing Grenville Street one block north. A St. Vincent Street ran in a similar alignment north from Grenville to St. Joseph Street. A Chapel Street ran from St. Joseph to St. Mary, and a North Street ran from St. Mary Street to Bloor Street West. Developed properties on the north end of Bloor again capped the future path of Bay Street, with a Ketchum Avenue running from Scollard Street to Davenport Road.

The lack of a consistent north-south artery between Yonge Street and Spadina Avenue (University Avenue did begin life as College Avenue in the late 19th century, but did not push south of Queen until much later, routed traffic, particularly streetcar traffic, heavily onto Yonge Street. By 1920, the City of Toronto knew that alternative corridors needed to be built, for cars and streetcars. In 1922, the city began work extending Bay Street north. First, it took over Terauley Street, and then rights-of-way were punched past College and Bloor so that Bay Street ran as far north as Scollard Avenue. On July 28, 1924, Ketchem Avenue was officially renamed Bay Street, bringing the street all the way north to Davenport Road. The City of Toronto took steps to curve the disparate streets together where they didn’t quite meet before, which explains the turns Bay Street makes as it passes Queen, or heads north of College.

Streetcar Service on Bay

Streetcar tracks came late, but quickly to Bay Street. The street was not serviced by streetcars until early in the 20th century. Streetcars along College Street either went downtown via Yonge or an arrangement of McCaul or York. The Toronto Railway Company did eventually build tracks, at first on Bay Street to help cars downtown, but then along Bay and Terauley, to reduce congestion on Yonge Street. When the TTC took over streetcar operations on September 1, 1921, the COLLEGE streetcar was operating from High Park loop via Howard Park, Dundas, Lansdowne, College, Terauley, Queen (a short jog), and Bay, looping via Front, York and Wellington. On July 1, 1923, as construction on the Bay Street extension finished up, the TTC revised the AVENUE ROAD service into the first BAY streetcar route, operating from Caledonia Loop on St. Clair Avenue via St. Clair, Avenue Road, Bloor, Bay, and Front, to loop through Station Loop with the YONGE streetcar. The full history of the BAY streetcar route can be read here. Tracks were extended north on Bay and west to Davenport to Avenue Road in 1931, reducing streetcar congestion on Bloor Street between Avenue Road and Bay.

This was the start of a significant rise in prominence for Bay Street. With the BAY streetcar and its supplementary DUPONT service, the road and routes acted as a relief service for the overcrowded YONGE streetcar, capturing riders from the west end of the city (particularly the northwest corner of the city) as they headed downtown. As Toronto’s downtown expanded, more key buildings and businesses were located on Bay Street, including the Toronto Stock Exchange, and the headquarters of major banks. As the BLOOR streetcar increased in prominence and ridership through the 1940s and early 1950s, the Bay/Bloor intersection became a major transfer point for riders, almost as important as the Bloor/Yonge intersection. Even when the YONGE SUBWAY opened for service on March 30, 1954, streetcar service remained on BAY in the form of the DUPONT streetcar, carrying riders from Christie loop and the length of Bay Street to the Ferry Docks.

The Subway Comes to Bay

From the start, the earliest proposals to build a subway in Toronto included Bay Street or its ancestors. The 1911 plan that went to the voters suggested building a tunnel beneath Bay and Terauley Streets from Front Street to Davenport Road before pushing beneath Ramsden Park to get to Yonge Street on its way to St. Clair. The initial streetcar-subway proposal in 1942 called for a similar Bay Street line, with an additional portal opening up onto Davenport Road and connecting streetcar trains to a private right-of-way line up the Nordheimer Ravine. The goal was primarily to avoid digging beneath Yonge Street and disrupting the businesses there. However, by 1946, the TTC decided it was more important to place the subway nearer downtown destinations on Yonge Street rather than try to avoid disrupting them with construction.

The Queen streetcar subway proposed in 1946 would have had a stop beneath Bay Street at Toronto City Hall, but the TTC decided to forego the Queen Street line after the Yonge subway opened, feeling that the increased ridership on the BLOOR streetcar demanded that the crosstown subway go there. Their proposal called for a wye, with Yonge trains extended north beneath University Avenue and splitting to serve destinations on Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue. Two stations anchored the northern ends of the wye: St. George and Bay. Both would feature two levels of platforms, but St. George would feature crossovers, allowing trains from the east and the south to turn back the way they came. Bay would be a transfer facility only. After Metropolitan Toronto approved the plan, the TTC started construction on the UNIVERSITY SUBWAY in 1959, with Bay being built as part of the wye. Although the other stations of the University line opened for service on February 28, 1963, both levels of Bay would be unfinished and unused until the BLOOR-DANFORTH SUBWAY opened for business on February 26, 1966.

Initially, Bay station wasn’t going to be named Bay. The area north of the Bay/Bloor intersection was part of the old village of Yorkville, and initial plans called for the stop to be called “Yorkville”. Eventually, the “BAY” monicker was picked as the official station name, although the TTC took a similar, if reversed, approach seen on several UNIVERSITY subway line stops, where the neighbourhood was given prominent billing and the street name included as a subheading. BAY station’s markings on the wall would feature a similar subheading, referring to the nearby neighbourhood of “YORKVILLE”.

Bay station opened to the public along with the first section of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway on February 26, 1966. Initially, both levels of Bay saw passengers as the BLOOR-DANFORTH line was interlined with YONGE-UNIVERSITY trains. Passengers on the upper platform could take trains west to Keele or east to Woodbine, while passengers on the lower platform could take trains downtown or east to Woodbine. The interlining operation ended three months later when the TTC tested operating the BLOOR-DANFORTH and YONGE-UNIVERSITY lines as separate entities. As Bay didn’t have the facilities to turn trains around, all YONGE-UNIVERSITY service was turned back at St. George, and the lower Bay platforms were closed to the public. The TTC eventually stuck with the separated operation, and Lower Bay faded vanished from the public eye, seen only during excursions, occasional diversions, and in movies where the station was used to stand in for an American (usually New York) subway stop.

Many argue that the TTC’s interlining operation was designed to fail. Integrated operation allowed passengers to stand on one particular platform if they wanted to head westbound (upper) or downtown (lower), but passengers heading eastbound had two platforms to choose from, and would potentially have to run up or down a flight of stairs to get to the first train to arrive. Also, by placing the turnback facilities at St. George, and leaving the potentially surplus integrated operation platforms on the lower part of Bay station, the TTC could separate the two lines and not require passengers to walk through an unused platform level to get to their trains.

Bay Street’s Shifting Fortunes

The opening of the UNIVERSITY SUBWAY did reduce Bay’s prominence as a street and transportation corridor. The DUPONT streetcar stopped operations the day the UNIVERSITY line opened and, while streetcar service from Dundas to the Docks continued for the next few summers, this too stopped on August 15, 1965. Buses plied the route. However, Bay Street’s fortunes would change. Already a major financial centre, the election of the separatist Parti Quebecois to the Quebec National Assembly in 1976 marked the start of an exodus of English Canadian investment and headquarters from Montreal. St. James Street which had been the financial centre of what was then Canada’s largest city faded in prominence and Bay Street took its place.

Bay Street’s busy financial district helped convince the TTC to convert the 6 BAY bus to trolley coach operation in 1975-76, and the route became the busiest trolley coach route on the network. In the 1980s, as crowds pushed the capacity of the YONGE subway, the TTC and the City of Toronto established an “urban clearway” along Bay Street from Bloor to Front, limiting the use of the curb lanes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m on weekdays to just transit vehicles and taxis, thus encouraging BLOOR-DANFORTH riders to skip St. George or Bloor-Yonge station and use the trolleybuses to head downtown. The prominence of this clearway and the route that served it, however, diminished during the early 1990s recession, and the loss of trolley coach service throughout Toronto in 1993.

Station Features and Lost Articles

Today, Bay station is an active station, seeing 32,690 passengers on an average weekday (as of 2018), with a lot of walk-in traffic from nearby shops and restaurants in Yorkville, the Bay-Bloor Centre, and along Bloor Street. The main entrance of the station has stairs and an escalator leading to the west side of Bay Street, underground connections to nearby buildings, and a corridor leading to exits onto Bellair Street on the other side of the block. A separate fare entrance with automatic turnstiles was built leading to the south side of Cumberland Street, over 150 metres east of Avenue Road. The station buildings were modest brick boxes of a modernist design. The station offered no surface transit terminal facilities, with connections to the 6 BAY bus made on the street.

As the second station on the BLOOR-DANFORTH-UNIVERSITY wye, Bay station shares several features with St. George. Both have two levels with centre platforms. Unlike St. George, which has the University line on the upper level and the Bloor-Danforth line on the lower level, Bay’s upper level handles Bloor-Danforth trains, while the lower platform handles trains operating between Museum station and Bloor-Yonge station. Like St. George, Bay station opened with two entrances: one at Bay Street, linking with the eastern part of the station, and a secondary entrance leading from the western part of the station to Cumberland Street, west of Bellair Street. The eastern main entrance featured a larger than normal mezzanine, with an additional exit onto Bellair. At the eastern end of the mezzanine, a set of stairs and an escalator led up to a station building at the west end of Bay Street.

Bay Station also featured the same two-tone tile scheme as the other stations on the Bloor-Danforth line, albeit breaking the pattern with white main tiles and blue trim. The non-standard tile arrangement, which shares a similar pattern to Islington station, is matched by St. George station, which shares a pattern similar to Woodbine station. It may be that this arrangement is deliberate to highlight these stations’ status as transfers between two subway lines.

And possibly appropriate for a station that has “lost” an entire platform from public view, Bay Station is also the home of the TTC’s Lost Articles office. If any of the millions of passengers lose items on the TTC, and it is picked up by TTC personnel, then, in theory, these items are transferred to the Lost Articles office where they can be picked up by their owners. The office is open on weekdays, and passengers can call beforehand to see if an item has arrived. Anywhere from a third to half of all found items are eventually picked up. Those that don’t get picked up are eventually sold off by Police Auctions Canada.

Changes Since the Opening

The area around Bay station has grown since the local subway opened in 1966. In 1974, Cumberland Terrace opened across the street from the main entrance, and a new underground entrance was built connecting the lower level mall of the building to the station’s mezzanine. Another building with a direct connection with Bay Station is 80 Bloor Street West. These connections, along with links to the Holt Renfrew and Hudson’s Bay Centre around Bloor-Yonge station, and the Manulife Centre south of Bloor Street make Bay Station connects to the second-largest underground network of shopping tunnels in Toronto, after the PATH.

In 2008, the Cumberland Street entrance was rebuilt and improved, with input from the Yorkville Business Improvement Association, bringing in more glass and metal accents. A commemorative plaque immediately outside the station honours Budd Sugarman, a figure of the community’s history known as ‘the Mayor of Yorkville’.

Starting August 2019, the TTC embarked on the installation of a wheelchair-accessible elevator from the east end of the upper subway platform to the main concourse level. Combined with elevators in the surrounding commercial buildings that are directly attached to the Bay Concourse level (at the time, primarily Cumberland Terrace), this allowed the station to become the TTC’s 52nd accessible rapid transit station.

But the biggest change to occur to Bay station in its history was likely the closure of its lower platforms. The stairwells (including a decommissioned escalator) leading to these platforms were bricked off, and can now be identified by the green tile on the walls inset within the original white-tiled columns and structure. The lower level is possibly the largest abandoned area within Toronto’s subway and the only one located beside working subway tracks. The facilities have been used for storage, and to test station improvements, such as platform edge tiles. As noted before, the facilities have also been used for film shoots.

Save for these changes, Bay station has retained much of its original appearance. The south wall of the main mezzanine area of the station was renovated, with the white tiles replaced by a pattern of grey and red tiles comprising an art piece called “The Pulse”.

Just as Bay Street lives in the shadow of Yonge, Bay station lives in the shadow of Bloor-Yonge station next door. It doesn’t see the ridership of either that station, or the other transfer station beside it, St. George, but it maintains a steady rate of ridership. Around 30,000 passengers per average weekday have continued to use the station between 2008 and 2018, and it and the 6 BAY bus remains useful (if somewhat less frequent) means of getting downtown from the BLOOR-DANFORTH SUBWAY. The area around the station has already seen considerable redevelopment, with new condominiums going up in Yorkville, and it may be that Cumberland Terrace may also get redeveloped, all of which should increase walk-in ridership. So Bay remains an important station on Toronto’s subway network, its status enhanced by the mystique of “Lower Bay” lying hidden beneath it.

Service Notes (as of December 30, 2020):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 2 Bloor - Danforth
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train Kennedy: 6:03 a.m. weekdays, 6:11 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:25 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train Kipling: 5:56 a.m. weekdays, 6:01 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:10 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train Kennedy: 1:53 a.m.
    Last Train Kipling: 1:53 a.m.
  • Address: 1240 Bay Street
  • Opened: February 26, 1966
  • Wheelchair Accessible: Since December 30, 2020
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 32,690 (2018), 27,090 (2016), 30,860 (2015), 31,050 (2014), 32,620 (2013), 33,720 (2012), 32,110 (2011), 30,880 (2010), 28,730 (2009), 33,090 (2008), 33,540 (2007)
  • Entrances: 6
    • Bay Street, West Side Entrance, located on the west side of Bay Street, 63 metres north of Bloor Street West. Stairs and escalator access to the east concourse.
    • Bay Street, East Side Entrance (Cumberland Terrace), located on the east side of Bay Street, 69 metres north of Bloor Street West, via the lower level of Cumberland Terrace to the east concourse. This entrance is the one most accessible to wheelchairs.
    • 80 Bloor Street West Entrance, located on the north side of Bloor Street West, 30 metres west of Bay Street. East concourse accessed from the lower level of this building.
    • Bellair Street Entrance, located on the east side of Bellair Street, 66 metres north of Bloor Street West.
    • 110 Bloor Street West Entrance (Automatic), located on the north side of Bloor Street West, 126 metres west of Bellair Street. Escalator access to the west concourse level.
    • Cumberland Street Entrance (Automatic), located on the south side of Cumberland Street, 156 metres east of Avenue Road, with stair access to the west concourse level.
  • Elevators (click here for maintenance schedule): 2
    • Non-TTC Elevator, Cumberland Terrace (East side of Bay Street) to the concourse level.
    • Concourse level to the subway platform.
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • East End - Platform To East Concourse (Up from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Monday to Friday. Down at all other times)
    • Centre - Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
    • West End - Platform To West Concourse (Cumberland) (Up At All Times)
    • East Concourse to Bay Street west side (Up At All Times)
  • Forms of fare payment include credit or debit
  • Pass Vending Machine available.
  • Centre platform (both levels)
  • Token vending machine

TTC Surface Connections:

Bay Station Image Archive

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