Victoria Park Subway Station

Concept: 4 out of 5
Execution: 4 out of 5
Yeah, but: Second time's a charm.

The Long Version: Subway stations on the Bloor-Danforth line are usually a 3:1 ratio of utility to ugly, but for the old Victoria Park station the numbers were reversed. It used an odd layout with an elevated train track and bus bays on the same level; these bays were reached with a pair of up/down staircases after walking through a long interior concourse. The pedestrian options were either an automated turnstile and long narrow hallway that ended in the commuter parking lot, or a strange main exit out of the side of the building, which faced someone else's parking lot. For bonus points, there was an impromptu passenger pick-up and garbage-storage area underneath the subway bridge. Welcome to Scarborough.

But that was years ago: recent renovations have vastly improved the station. Large windows were knocked into the walls on the platform level; sometimes the results are awkward, but it does open up the station to its surroundings. The bus bays have been moved to the ground level, and there's a long glass wall that lets people wait indoors. The station has been designed with contemporary ideas about accessibility and comfort, and it's a profound change.

The station's main entrance now faces the street, with glass replacing the concrete facade. A secure, enclosed and reasonably-priced bike storage area fills most of the void under the bridge, but still allows for an open sidewalk. It's a huge improvement, inside and out.

Not all is perfect with the new layout, of course; if nothing else, the lone transfer-issuing machine is oddly hidden. But after spending half an hour there on a weekday morning, I found myself thinking that it's too bad that the station is tucked a short distance north of the Danforth, which is the main commercial street with a fair bit happening on it. The revitalized station could easily become the gateway to a community that would really benefit from a little more exposure.

Victoria Park station used to be a bunker, squatting in a high-rise community that already had far too many concrete walls. The renovations haven't quite made it into a cathedral, and it's still not actually attractive, but after being used to the oppressiveness of the old station – and all of the others designed in the Stalinist Public Washroom period of TTC architecture – it's an astonishing change. My biggest challenge in taking these photos was having too much light and too many windows. In a subway station. Owned by the TTC. Amazing.

It's been made perfectly clear to everyone in Toronto that the TTC doesn't have any spare money. But I'm glad that they found the cash to revamp Vic Park, and they've done a great job with it – which is quite something for a downtown-dweller to say about his former near-suburb neighbourhood.

last updated 4 dec 2010


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