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Text by James Bow

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Warden subway station was, from 1968 until 1980, the eastern terminus of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway and the gateway into Scarborough. Passengers transferred from subway trains to one of many buses at an extensive, 9-bay bus terminal to continue on their journey into northern and eastern Scarborough. Even with the extension to Kennedy in 1980, Warden serves as a major transfer point for several bus routes operating along Warden Avenue and St. Clair. In 2018, a respectable 39,980 passengers passed through the station on an average weekday.

Early History

The early history of urban development in Scarborough begins in at the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th, with the construction of the lake shore highway (now known as Kingston Road) and the military trail named after Asa Danforth who’d been contracted by the governor of Upper Canada to build it (Military Trail is a northeastern continuation of old Danforth Road). Houses, stores and businesses slowly developed around these roads to serve travellers moving to and from Toronto. Scarborough Township north of these roads remained primarily rural, with an assortment of hamlets. As Toronto’s urban shadow lengthened in the early part of the 20th century, the communities of Birchcliffe built up, but most urban development remained in the southwest part of the township.

Warden Avenue began life as a north-south concession road between lots 32 and 33, roughly 4/5ths of a mile east of the Scarborough Town Line. Warden as a name didn’t appear until after 1912 when the real estate developer Moraine & Company built on lots near the intersection of today’s Warden Avenue and Danforth Road. The company called this development “Wardin Park”, advertising it as an affordable place, with ample lots for “the working man” to live.

For whatever reason, when the concession road was named after this development, Scarborough officials made a spelling error, choosing the word “Warden”, meaning “a person responsible for the supervision of a particular place or thing or for ensuring that regulations associated with it are obeyed.” Perhaps they were keying on associations with the phrase “game warden” or “park warden”, to promote the idyllic natural character of the township. Whatever the case, by the 1950s, “Warden Avenue” was what appeared on maps.

An Undeveloped Oasis

The area around the Warden/St. Clair intersection remained largely undeveloped, however; even as late as 1957. It’s likely that the topology of the land around Taylor Creek made development in the early part of the century difficult, although the Canadian Northern Railroad did use the valley to route its railway line northeast through Scarborough, a decision that influenced the layout of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway as Metropolitan Toronto officials planned its route into Scarborough.

The result was no transit service operated on Warden Avenue when Metropolitan Toronto was formed in 1954, and the Toronto Transit Commission assumed responsibility for public transportation within Metro’s boundaries. The TTC had planned to loop the northern end of the DAWES bus from the Lawrence/Warden intersection via north on Warden, west on Manhattan and south on Lillian, and printed this route on their maps, but protests from local residents scrubbed this idea. The first TTC bus to operate on Warden did so on October 3, 1955, when a rush-hour extension of the DAWES bus was routed north from Lawrence, east on Manhattan and looped via north and west on Rossford to Warden. This was replaced on August 27, 1957, by an extension of the 67 PHARMACY bus from Eglinton Avenue to Manhattan. This service continued into the 1960s, extending as far north as Huntingwood.

Road improvements in the early 1960s allowed the TTC to extend service towards the Warden/St. Clair intersection. The 91 WOODBINE bus was extended along St. Clair Avenue East from Victoria Park to Providence Villa, just west of Warden Avenue, on January 21, 1962. On September 3, 1963, bridges across Taylor Creek must have opened, because the service was extended west from Providence Villa, across Warden Avenue, to Kingston Road. On April 19, 1964, service on the 43 KENNEDY route was split, with some buses operating from Danforth Road and Warden Avenue via north on Warden and east on St. Clair back to Danforth Avenue.

The area was transforming. Industrial development bloomed along Eglinton Avenue East from Victoria Park creating a neighbourhood called the Golden Mile. Service on Warden Avenue between Eglinton and St. Clair continued to lag, however, with only a rush-hour service on the 67 PHARMACY route appearing diverting from the main route via Comstock and Warden to Eglinton starting on August 21, 1964. However, the area’s transportation map was about to change dramatically.

The Subway’s Arrival

As work continued on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway in the early 1960s, the provincial government-supplied enough subsidy to ensure that the first phase would open from Keele to Woodbine on February 26, 1966. It also accelerated the extension of this line into Toronto’s eastern and western suburbs. The subway had been built parallel to Bloor Street and Danforth Avenue, using back laneways and residential streets to dig cut-and-cover tunnels without disrupting traffic on the main street a block to the south. East of Woodbine, however, this became more challenging, as the grid pattern of Toronto’s street network broke down, partly due to the Taylor Creek ravine, but also due to mid-century developments breaking away from the street grid system. There may have been more local traffic for the line if it followed Danforth Avenue to the intersection of Warden Avenue and Danforth Road, but it was cheaper to come to the surface and follow the Taylor Creek Ravine to the Warden/St. Clair intersection. The fact that the land was underdeveloped meant that a large terminal could be built, with lots of parking to capture suburban drivers.

Warden station opened with the rest of the BLOOR-DANFORTH intersection on May 10, 1968, with considerable fanfare. Ontario premier John Roberts attended, along with the Mayor of Scarborough Albert M. Campbell and other city officials. A ceremonial first train burst through a paper barrier welcoming the train to Scarborough. There were speeches in the concourse level, along with music from a local high school orchestra. Officials then packed up and rode the train to Islington station where similar a similar ceremony was held for Etobicoke’s benefit.

The following day, transit service was reoriented around the Warden station terminal, which replaced a lengthy trek to the DANFORTH streetcar shuttle at Luttrell loop. Warden Avenue north of St. Clair finally saw through transit service with the launch of the 68 WARDEN service, while bus service south of St. Clair was provided by the new 69 WARDEN SOUTH route.

Utilitarian Design

Built as part of the major expansion of Toronto’s subway network in the 1960s, Warden station shares a lot of the modern architectural cues employed by other stations of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway. Warden follows the tile colour scheme of the other 1960s-built on of the line, with a beige background tile colour and red-brown accents (although this breaks the sequence, which should have called for a blue accent). Like Islington, Warden has a special third accent colour to denote its status as a subway terminal (presumably beige walls and blue trim would not have allowed the selection of a harmonious third colour). As the station platform itself is elevated, it’s only on the full-height walls that the red-brown upper trim strip appears. The low walls surrounding the stairwells in the centre platform feature the beige background tile, while the station name is sandblasted in unusual medium-size letters in the red-brown trim colour.

Like Islington and Victoria Park (before its renovation around 2011), Warden’s bus terminal is a series of individual lanes and platforms. The station’s design owes much to the fact that when it opened, it was in the suburban (Zone 2) fare zone of Toronto’s transit network. As the subway itself was considered to be in Zone 1, passengers transferring from bus to subway had to pay a second fare to continue their journey, and so the bus terminal was outside the station’s fare-paid zone, and collection gates separated it from the station. When the TTC’s two-zone fare structure disappeared in 1972, these fare gates had to be reworked to allow passengers to transfer from bus to subway without showing a transfer or paying a fare.

Special Features

As befitting its status as a terminal and a major transfer point on a suburban commuter’s trip, Warden’s bus terminal, like Islington and Eglinton, featured several stores and services. These continue to serve passengers to this day. The station also has washrooms. Parking was built north of the station, with a pedestrian bridge over Taylor Creek and St. Clair Avenue connecting passengers to the subway.

In addition to the double crossover just west of Warden station, a short siding can be seen on the south side of the tracks, paralleling the trackbed of an abandoned railway line. This railway line was part of the original Canadian Northern Railway, which eventually became part of Canadian National. When the siding was built, in 1968, the plan was to use it to facilitate the delivery of subway equipment, although the siding saw little use. The TTC found that deliveries were more easily handled at its Greenwood shops, and in any event, Canadian National eventually abandoned its tracks. The siding remains for occasional storage of work equipment.

Usage and Accessibility Concerns

Warden station was designed as a suburban transit hub, and it saw most of its traffic brought in by buses rather than coming from local foot traffic. Its location near Taylor Creek and the sprawling parking lots around it precluded the construction of residential or commercial development within easy walking distance from the station. The area to the north of the station was also primarily industrial, although the Warden Woods shopping mall did act as a draw. With the closure of Warden Woods, the former mall site has become an area of potential redevelopment that might be more closely linked to the station.

The station’s sprawling design, with its nine individual bus platforms, made it a challenge to render accessible. For this reason, as the TTC were scheduling what stations it would make wheelchair accessible and when, Warden, along with Islington, was placed dead last. In 2021, however, the architectural firm SAI was announced as the lead architect for a plan to revitalize Warden Station and make it fully compliant with accessibility standards. The project is part of a larger redevelopment initiative by CreateTO to add mixed-income housing to former TTC commuter parking lots and revitalize the park and public realm spaces near Taylor Massey Creek.

According to SAI, “(the) design also looked for interventions that would improve the customer experience by optimizing personnel and vehicle flows through the station, creating an intuitive alignment of the bus platform, bus concourse, subway platform, subway concourse, and PPUDO, and ensuring ample access to natural light. The design also features integrating wave shapes on the roof to respond to the internal height profiling and provide location for sustainable features such as green roofs.”

The design, unveiled by SAI early in 2021, replaces the bus bay structure with an island terminal taking up space not only of the original terminal but of the southern commuter parking lot. The concourse features some of the same commercial amenities as the old terminal, as well as elevators and escalators to speed passengers on their way from bus to subway and vice versa. The station renovation is planned to be complete by 2024, and be finished without shutting down the station.

The new design promises to change Warden station from a suburban transit terminal to a more urban transit hub, serving nearby residents and offices as well as bus passengers from farther afield.

Service Notes (as of April 1, 2021):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 2 Bloor - Danforth
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Kipling: 5:41 a.m. weekdays, 5:51 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:03 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train to Kennedy: 5:55 a.m. weekdays, 5:56 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:17 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Kipling: 1:34 a.m.
    Last Train to Kennedy: 2:13 a.m.
  • Address: 701 Warden Avenue
  • Opened: May 10, 1968
  • Wheelchair Accessible: In 2024
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 39,980 (2018), 29,500 (2016), 29,740 (2015), 32,110 (2014), 31,210 (2013), 26,220 (2012), 29,610 (2011), 29,480 (2010), 26,830 (2009), 25,770 (2008), 26,130 (2007)
  • Entrances:
    • Warden Avenue Entrance, accessed from St Clair Avenue East via 74 metres south on the east side of Warden Avenue then east 27 metres to the entrance.
    • Passenger Pick up and Drop off Entrance. Vehicles can enter off St. Clair, east of Warden and exit on Warden Avenue south of St. Clair. Pedestrians can travel east from Warden on the south side of St. Clair 152 meters and then proceed south along a walkway for 116 meters and then west across the street to arrive at the entrance. Pedestrians from the north parking lot can enter the covered walkway at the south end of the parking lot and travel 54 metres to the stairs, go down the stairs and continue 112 metres south through the walkway and then 47 metres west to the entrance.
  • Elevators: None
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • West End - Concourse To Train Platform (Up At All Times)
    • Centre - Concourse To Train Platform (Down At All Times)
    • East End - Concourse To Train Platform (Up At All Times)
  • Parking:
    • North Lot (east side of Warden, north of St. Clair): 920 spaces
    • South Lot (east side of Warden, south of St. Clair): 151 spaces
  • Pass Vending Machine available.
  • Centre platform
  • Token vending machine

TTC Surface Connections:

Former TTC Surface Connections

Warden Station Image Archive

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