The 192 Airport Rocket on the new TTC subway map posted in its trains
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) introduced a new subway map on “T-1” subway trains, the older 6-car trains used on the Sheppard Line (known as Line 4), and the Bloor-Danforth Line, now known as Line 2. I first spotted the new map a few days ago and I have a few thoughts about it.
In the latest edition of the map, found over every second set of doors, a red line representing the 192 Airport Rocket bus route was added, the first time a bus route was included on a TTC subway map. It’s a helpful reminder to passengers that a fast, frequent, affordable, and usually reliable airport transit link exists. I could quibble about the details (which makes little sense; I’d simply terminate the line at the airport icon), but it’s a great addition to the map. Now that the premium Union-Pearson Express train is about to launch, it’s an excellent time to remind customers about the TTC’s affordable airport link. (It’s worth noting that the MTA in New York City includes bus routes to LaGuardia and JFK airports on its subway maps as well.)
Another little change that I like is the removal of the word “Spadina” from the name of the Yonge-University-Spadina Line, now known as Line 1. With the subway extension to Vaughan [ugh] Metropolitan Centre due to open in 2016 (though it may end up being 2017), Line 1 will now serve all four of Toronto’s universities (not counting secondary campuses): Ryerson, OCAD University, the University of Toronto, and York University. Since the line only operates under Spadina Road for less than 2 kilometres, and will extend beyond the old Spadina Expressway alignment (now Allen Road), the shortened name makes a lot of sense.
And there’s one more great little addition to the new map: information on how to purchase your own subway map via the TTC’s website. The TTC’s slowly starting to realize the demand for transit-related merchandise; it recently began selling re-prints of old promotional posters and maps to the public via a new Shop TTC page on its website and through the new Spacing Store. An authentic subway map can be yours for $10. The new maps also emphasize the subway lines’ numbers over their names, part of a larger TTC wayfinding strategy. Numbered bullets, similar to those used in New York City, are used on new signage and maps for each subway and RT route.
Spadina is dropped; information on how to buy your own map
Despite these changes, I feel the new map edition is still two steps forward, two steps back. For one thing, there are too many details removed. Compare it to the 2005 subway map [PDF, archived at Transit Toronto]. The 2005 map includes the station’s address (which is quite useful on Yonge, Bloor, and Danforth if looking for the closest station to a specific address), whether a paper transfer is required to connect with surface transit routes, and the locations of commuter parking lots. On the 2005 map, the international symbol of access (the blue wheelchair icon) indicates which stations in the system are fully accessible. In 2005, 22 1/2 of 69 subway and RT stations were accessible. (The 1/2 refers to Spadina Station, where the University-Spadina Line platforms are not accessible to persons using wheeled mobility devices, but the platforms for the Bloor-Danforth Subway Line 2, buses, and now, streetcars, are.)
Ten years later, in 2015, 11 additional stations were fitted with elevators, bringing the total up to 33 1/2, nearly half of the TTC’s 69 stations. The 2015 map still includes the ISA icons, but they are now smaller, located within the white dots indicating the location of each station. In the photo below (taken with an iPhone), Scarborough Centre, Kennedy, Victoria Park, and Main Street, all accessible stations, are nearly indistinguishable from other, nearby stations that are not. The ISA icons are practically illegible from any distance or to anyone with impaired vision. This is the greatest failure of the new subway map; I believe that the TTC should re-issue these subway route maps for this reason alone.
The new subway maps available on the internet and on the Ride Guide paper system map have white backgrounds (perhaps to save printer toner if one wishes to print the PDF?), but it the same flaws as the version used in the subway trains.
The new, over-simplified subway route map reminds me of complaints that I had about the new TTC system map, released in mid-2014. The old system map was too large and cluttered (see the 2013 version archived at Transit-Toronto [PDF]) and was in need of a re-fresh. In the new map, the street grid is removed; as are bus routes operated by adjoining systems, such as GO Transit, Miway and York Region Transit. Landmarks are removed as well, but the addition of thick lines representing frequent-service surface routes was a nice addition. Green lines indicating express bus routes was also a great feature, though I don’t understand why frequent express routes, like the 196 York University Rocket, weren’t represented by thick lines either.
Hopefully the TTC will re-think and revise both maps in the very new feature.