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Text by James Bow

On paper, Woodbine is a modest station. It serves a moderately-dense neighbourhood of single-detached homes in southern East York and the stores of Danforth Avenue. Coxwell station and Main Street station on either side carry more passengers (Woodbine carried just 13,570 passengers on an average weekday in 2014, compared to Coxwell’s 16,980 and Main Street’s 25,580). Its modest bus platform serves as the terminal for three bus routes.

This belies the history of Woodbine station, and its importance in the development of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway. From February 25, 1966 to May 10, 1968, Woodbine station served as the eastern terminus of the crosstown subway, and was the major gateway for commuters heading into Scarborough (although streetcars had to help). This history gives Woodbine station hidden depths not found at other stations on the original BLOOR-DANFORTH line.

Early History

The site of today’s Woodbine station saw public transit use before the subway arrived. In June 1921, John Hollinger founded Hollinger Bus Lines and started running buses into the township of East York from a pick-up point on Woodbine Avenue just north of Danforth Avenue. Over time, a small bus terminal was built at the southeast corner of Woodbine and Strathmore. The terminal was split between two adjacent properties: 995 Woodbine Avenue (within the City of Toronto) and 997 Woodbine Avenue (within the Township of East York). The East York building was used as a waiting room and featured a lunch counter (the remainder of the building was rented out as an apartment).

The TTC bought out Hollinger Bus Lines in 1954 as part of their expanded mandate to provide local public transportation throughout Metropolitan Toronto. Service on the WOODBINE bus launched, connecting with the BLOOR and DANFORTH streetcars, with buses looping through Strathmore Loop at the southeast corner of Woodbine and Strathmore. By happy coincidence, when the TTC started building the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway in the early 1960s, they dug the route not beneath Bloor Street or Danforth Avenue but in the laneways and streets immediately north of Danforth and Bloor, minimizing disruption. This route put the subway almost directly beneath Strathmore loop at Woodbine Avenue, which made Strathmore loop a perfect site for the station entrance and bus terminal.

The TTC was encountering financial trouble by the mid-1960s. It had been able to pay for the building of the YONGE subway in the early 1950s from its farebox revenues, but declining ridership from urban sprawl and increasing automobile use as well as inflation made it difficult to keep up with the costs of construction. Once the UNIVERSITY subway opened, the plan was to open the first section of the BLOOR-DANFORTH line in stages, with the section from St. George to Greenwood opening first, in 1966, and the next phase, extending the line west to Keele and east to Woodbine, opening in 1969.

Fortunately, in the early 1960s, the provincial government stepped in with sufficient funds to not only open the Keele-to-Woodbine section in one go in 1966, but to extend the line west to Islington and east to Warden in 1968. Woodbine station opened as a temporary terminal on February 25, 1966, to considerable fanfare.

The Danforth Shuttle

The emphasis, however, was on “temporary”. The BLOOR-DANFORTH subway replaced the BLOOR and DANFORTH streetcar lines, which ferried thousands of passengers from Luttrell loop at the east end of the city towards the downtown. Luttrell loop was a gateway connecting BLOOR and DANFORTH streetcars with several bus routes continuing on to Scarborough. With streetcar service on Danforth Avenue ending, those bus passengers still had to connect with the subway, but extending the buses to Woodbine station threatened to overwhelm the station’s modest bus terminal. And why should the TTC build an expansive bus terminal at Woodbine when the subway was going to extend further east in two years, and capture these buses at Main Street, Victoria Park and Warden stations?

The solution was to maintain streetcar service on Danforth Avenue between Woodbine station and Luttrell loop. New tracks were laid from Danforth Avenue up Cedarbrae to Strathmore, and a loop built from Strathmore into what is today a parking lot to the east of Woodbine station’s bus terminal. A temporary streetcar platform was built at the south end of the parking lot, leading to a set of stairs and a wide passageway taking DANFORTH shuttle passengers to the subway.

The fact that Woodbine was a temporary terminal also meant that the station was designed with side platforms rather than the centre platform that is more common at terminal stations. To alert passengers of when the next train would depart, and where it would depart to (when the BLOOR-DANFORTH line opened, it was interlined for the first three months with trains on the YONGE-UNIVERSITY subway, so every second train from Woodbine departed either for Keele or for Eglinton via Downtown).

This arrangement served until May 10, 1968, when the extension to Warden opened. The DANFORTH streetcar shuttle was abandoned, along with the streetcar tracks and the temporary platform. The passageway connecting the temporary platform to the station’s mezzanine was walled over and used as a staff room and for storage. The “Next Train” departure signage in the mezzanine was removed.

Reminders remained, however. The entrance to the connecting passage to the streetcar platforms could be found if people knew where to look. Also, for decades afterward, a short stretch of streetcar track remained in place on Strathmore, from Cedarbrae to where it entered Woodbine station.

Second Exit and Modernization

With its tenure as a terminal at an end, Woodbine station settled into its role as a modest neighbourhood station. The buses from its terminal gave passengers access to the Beaches to the south, and the industrial areas north of Parkview Hills. As the years wore on, however, the need to renovate the station and upgrade it to current accessibility and safety standards became pressing.

In June 2010, the TTC announced plans to add a second exit to Woodbine station from the subway platform. The plans were drawn up as part of a fire safety audit that highlighted concerns about there being only a single exit from the subway platforms. Similar second exit plans were announced for Greenwood and Donlands stations, but ran into controversy due to lack of communication with local residents and fears of expropriation. Woodbine managed to escape some of this controversy. The proposed second exit would lead to a new exit-only structure built at the northwest corner of Woodbine and Strathmore. One home had to be expropriated and demolished for the construction.

The renovations would also clean up and update the look of the station, and add elevators to make the station fully accessible. Renovations began in the fall of 2014 and, on September 8, 2015, the bus roadway into the station was closed. Passengers now had to transfer to connecting buses on the street. The construction was expected to be complete by the summer of 2017.

Architectural Features

Woodbine station shares the modern utilitarian design of the other stations of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway built in the 1960s. It maintains the original tile patterns of the line, with green base tiles and a darker green trim tile. The station renovations promise to retain this look, with the same tiles applied on the walls leading up to the new second exit. The bus terminal has the typical glass wall appearance, tucked away in a limited space; the renovation promises to expand this, making the terminal look brighter and more airy.

Service Notes (as of January 1, 2017):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 2 Bloor - Danforth
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Kipling: 5:51 a.m. weekdays, 5:55 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:07 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train to Kennedy: 5:47 a.m. weekdays, 5:58 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:10 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Kipling: 1:40 a.m.
    Last Train to Kennedy: 2:07 a.m.
  • Address: 991 Woodbine Avenue
  • Opened: February 26, 1966
  • Wheelchair Accessible Since: September 29, 2017
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 14,380 (2015, 13,570 (2014), 13,820 (2013), 13,270 (2012), 13,770 (2011), 13,810 (2010), 13,030 (2009), 12,890 (2008)
  • Entrances:
    • Main entrance, southeast corner of Woodbine and Strathmore, accessible after Summer 2017
    • Secondary exit, northwest corner of Woodbine and Strathmore. Exit only, opens Summer 2017
  • Elevators(click here for maintenance schedule):
    • None available until renovations complete (Summer 2017)
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • Concourse To Street & Bus Level (Up At All Times)
    • Westbound Platform To Concourse (Down 6 am to 10 am, Up At All Other Times)
    • Eastbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
  • Parking: None
  • 2 Side platforms
  • Token vending machine

TTC Surface Connections:

Former TTC Surface Connections

Publication Archive

Woodbine Station Image Archive

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