Maps Transit

The over-simplification of the TTC’s maps

IMG_7647[1] 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.

IMG_7644[1] 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.

Click image for full-resolution version on the TTC’s website

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.

7 replies on “The over-simplification of the TTC’s maps”

Not sure how I feel about the addition of the Airport Rocket. I appreciate the importance of this route, but including a single bus route on the Subway Map seems a little confusing. As it’s clearly labelled “Subway Map” and the bus icon is hard to differentiate from a train icon, I imagine many people are going to get confused and think there’s a train from Kipling to the airport – people who are new to the city, tourists (before their return to the airport, if they ride TTC during their trip), etc.

At the very least, it should be made clearer that it’s a bus (similar to how the New York map says “with bus and railroad connections” in the map title and has “Bus to airport in the legend”), but I’m not sure it belongs on this map in the first place.


Thanks for posting your comments on the new TTC subway map. Frankly I’m wondering how the TTC got this map past the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transportation given that the wheelchair icons are now so hard to read.

I certainly hope that ACAT and the AODA alliance take up this issue in the new year.

I think the removal of the T icon for stations where a transfer is required is fitting with TTC “policy” where all riders should be carrying a pass or transfer at all times. I suppose this is also reflective of the plan to move to POP system wide, but it feels to me that TTC is jumping the gun a little bit.

Cheers, Moaz

The removal of whether you need a transfer at stops is bad – it can be a bit random, and it’s easy to forget to collect one if you are used to not needing one but going to an unfamiliar stop where you do.

“The old map contained whether a paper transfer is required to connect with surface transit routes”

Isn’t the whole TTC system moving towards POP anyways? You’ll need a transfer regardless if the streetcar boards within the fare zone soon enough.

Line 3 has also been renamed Scarborough Line, instead of Scarborough RT.

The map is poorly designed (from a cartographer’s point of view), as the “U” loop near Union contains a lot of wasted space, whereas all the downtown stations are crammed together.
The line number circles are distracting and could be better placed or incorporated into the colour line itself. The washroom icons are too prominent. And the placement of Bloor-Yonge is far from ideal, especially since it is the biggest interchange station in the subway network.

Missing in the new system map PDF is the station/bus reference along the edges of the map, where at a glance you could see what bus numbers operate at a subway station. Currently, if I see a bus number out in the middle of nowhere, I have to trace it back through “spaghetti” to find where it connects to a subway. In the old map, you could simply scan the station/bus reference for your number, and then you also see all the other bus numbers coming out of that station too. To end, I really miss the street grid. What is all this for? Quicker loading time? Also, when viewing in my browser, I cannot seem to pan with Adobe classic hand icon, instead I have to manually adjust both horizontal and vertical scrollbars. All this smells like it was designed with mobile touchscreens in mind first, and any old desktop conveniences didn’t make it.

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