With some difficulty, I bought the RFP for the TTC’s plans for six new stops, “Subway Station Design Services: Toronto–York Spadina Subway Extension Project,” Contract A85-75, Proposal P13PW08810 (bidders), July 2008. As promised, here is a reader’s guide.


Six are contemplated, with these budgets for architectural consultation (in millions):

  • Sheppard West ($8M)
  • Finch West ($12M)
  • York University ($11M)
  • Steeles West ($15M)
  • Highway 407 ($12M)
  • Vaughan Corporate Centre, which could not possibly survive as its final name (it’ll just be Vaughan; $12M)

These stations will run north of Downsview, though in nothing resembling a straight line, and are questionably needed at best, save for the crushingly important York University station. I don’t know why Vaughan needs a subway. When completed, these stations will probably a Sheppard-style boondoggle and will come to be known as the Sorbara Line, since only Greg Sorbara really wants them. (Or at least wants a station in Vaughan.) His company owns property above the new line.

The total budget for the entire project is $2.6 billion, meaning that architectural design accounts for 2.6% of the cost. And people wonder why there’s so much ugliness in Toronto: Even right now in 2008, good architecture accounts for a 1/30 of a project using the only measurement that counts – money.

Design only Finch West

  • Architects have to “provide a narrative on the design approach and issues associated with Finch West station only” (six pages max). If you can come up with two separate teams, you can submit two separate designs, but they will both be for Finch West.

  • The TTC can creatively interpret §7.5 of its own RFP to award a contract to three, four, five, or six companies. It was incorrectly and nonsensically declared at the bidders’ meeting that there might be too few qualified architects for the six stations needed, leaving one or more orphan stations.

    Diamond & Schmitt, if it submits an entry, is guaranteed to win. Moriyama & Teshima already has designed a subway station in living memory (Leslie) and would have to propose something like a straw-bale hut in order to lose. Hence the TTC would need to select a single firm outside the family to get the whole project done. It’s inconceivable that there won’t be a one single solitary qualified bid to award to a newcomer to the TTC fold. (Even in the Web redesign, spoiled by noncompliant bids, they managed to find one that met the criteria.)

Station layout

  • TTC long ago decided that all new stations would have centre platforms rather than edge platforms. That is the case along Sheppard (except at Yonge) and will be the case here, with nominal 10.3 m wide platforms (158 m long for six-car trains).

  • Platform-edge doors are one of a lengthy list of issues that architects are told to ignore.

  • Stations are usually not parallel to a street. Here I must struggle through TTC’s deplorable drawings. In the bid book, they’re black smudges, later replaced with printouts that are obviously 72 dpi JPEGs blown up too big. (The “type” is Arial caps.)

    Tack-sharp TTC site drawings (original, right; subsequent handout, left)

    Sheppard West is south of Sheppard Ave.; Finch West is under Keele St.; York U and Steeles West are transverse to surface streets; 407 is off in a corner somewhere; Vaughan is right under a street that no reader of this posting will ever voluntarily go to, except on subway opening day, should the station even be built.

Individual stations

Sheppard West

  • There will be an adjacent GO station connected by a tunnel that, by its description, reminds me of the interminable forced marches of York Mills. Somehow I see this tunnel as not having an elevator anywhere.

  • The entire station and two huge parcels of land alongside it are located on the grounds of Downsview Park. So yes, they’ll be developing parkland into a subway station and something else.

Finch West

The project has to move a firehall. They might not be able to manage that, but at the bidders’ meeting, I was told that plans are going OK. If they move it, the winner of the station architecture contract may have to design the replacement firehall. (Here “move” means “tear down and build from scratch.”)

York U

Every entrance will be built into existing York buildings. This rather limits the realm of architectural expression. I also dispute that entrances can be made wheelchair-accessible under those conditions. (Actually, the RFP authors aren’t really clear that they’re working in the 21st century. We are told that one entrance’s “tunnel section will contain escalators and stairs to take it down to concourse level and also under a portion of York Blvd.” And if I’m crippled? I’m supposed to wheel up to Steeles to take the subway?)

Steeles West

  • The RFP acts as though Steeles West will not be the endpoint of the Jane LRT line. As it stands now, you the winning architect will not have to take into account an entire intermodal transfer capacity in your designs. This is nonsense, of course, but it’s perfectly consistent TTC nonsense: They’re renovating Pape station without putting in so much as a broom closet for the LRT line that might terminate there.

  • Incredibly, there are plans for a 1,900-vehicle parking lot in two sections that, in the scale drawings, occupies the footprint of four football fields. (A football field is helpfully shown in the overhead view for ready comparison.) Kiss ’n’ Ride is a Toronto specialty (it’s now a phrase in Canadian English, no less), but 1,900 spaces? When people try to pull this shit downtown, they take you to the OMB over it (Cf. Wal-Mart in Leslieville).

  • Steeles West will have three tracks and two platforms. It was explicitly denied at the bidders’ meeting that this is a plan to short-turn service away from Vaughan most of the time. But the RFP specifically states that triple-tracking the station offers “the ability to turn back trains during times of low service demand or other delays.”


By far my favourite station. It will surpass even Bessarion for uselessness and leave Ellesmere in its dust (or exhaust fumes).

  • You might not be aware that they seriously want to spend tens of millions of dollars installing a subway station unwalkably far away from the unwalkable corner of Jane and Highway 407. There’s a cloverleaf a short drive away from the station, which has an adjacent parking lot (capacity unstated) that will house the station entrance.

    Why can’t this be like the PEI ferry – where you just drive your Hummer right onto the train?

  • There’s the following incomprehensible statement about smart cards: “It is planned that[,] once the subway system is operational[,] an integrated fare system will be in place whereby all the transit agencies will be participating in a Regional Fare Collection/Smart Card Program. This will allow York University students to access York University station from the north for a single fare.” They’d be paying two fares otherwise?


  • Be careful what you design above ground, because “it is anticipated” that “future building development” will swallow it up. Land is important up there: They have to install an electrical substation, but the cheapest installation “consumes valuable land slated for high-density development.”

  • Here’s another humdinger of a sentence about smart cards: “Fare card transaction processor equipped turnstiles” – that was a single noun phrase, people – “will be used to accommodate transferring, fare paid bus passengers.”

What about signs?

There’s a full-page list of specifics items that architects will have to design. Dead last on the list is “signage and graphics.” (Yet “supply and installation” of illuminated and unilluminated signage is, like platform-edge doors, a topic the architects do not need to consider.)

The architect must also “[r]ecommend and select finish materials in accordance with TTC performance specifications.” Presumably they won’t be using bare concrete, but I can just imagine Giambrone getting in there to lobby for fake stone. (His legacy!)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2008.08.22 17:19. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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