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Dundas West Station and Vincent Loop

Text by James Bow

Dundas West station near the West Toronto Junction has become a major transportation hub in its own right. In 2013, the station was used by 27,990 riders on an average weekday. It is the western terminal of two streetcar lines that together haul 89,200 passengers on an average weekday, not to mention two bus routes with a total ridership of over 11,000 passengers. Its use is likely to grow as improvements are made to the rail corridor to the east of the site, with new regional transit services connecting to this station. Its current and future usefulness belies its somewhat modest beginnings.

The Influence of a Street Named Vincent

The ancestor of Dundas West station’s loop is Vincent loop, named after a street that no longer exists. Vincent Street ran from Dundas Street, a block north of Bloor, east to dead end at the rail corridor. While a short street, the name seemed to have a surprising resonance with the TTC. When the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway was being designed, the station where the line crossed Dundas Street was originally to be named “Vincent” instead of “Dundas”, so passengers wouldn’t confuse it with Dundas station on the YONGE subway. While the station was eventually named “Dundas West”, the Vincent name stuck around as the official name of the staging yard immediately to the west of Dundas West station (commonly called “Keele Yard” — access to which is found via a doorway leading off the stairs leading up from the eastbound platform to the station’s mezzanine level), and it remains so named even though Vincent Street disappeared with the construction the Crossroads mall and apartment complex in the 1970s.

Vincent Loop opened to streetcars on July 1, 1923, as part of a general revision of streetcar services the Toronto Transportation Commission inherited from the Toronto Railway Company. Before this date, DUNDAS streetcars continued past Bloor to wye at either Humberside or Keele. Streetcar service on Roncesvalles was provided by the QUEEN streetcar, and wyed at Boustead Avenue, near the Roncesvalles/Dundas intersection.

King Terminus

On July 1, 1923, the TTC routed KING streetcars north on Roncesvalles and Dundas past Bloor to the new loop, located at the northeast corner of Vincent and Dundas. The extension allowed both KING and DUNDAS cars to connect with BLOOR streetcars, giving residents from West Toronto more choices in heading downtown. Vincent loop would see only KING cars in regular service, although short turning DUNDAS and BLOOR cars might pay a visit. Some rush hour KING cars would turn from northbound Dundas to westbound Bloor, avoiding Vincent and providing extra service to Jane loop, but Vincent remained the western terminus for most KING cars, and appeared on most rollsigns.

Vincent was a simple loop, entered into from the south and exiting back the same way, with no passing tracks or loop-the-loop facilities. It remained in use without significant modification for another 40 years. When construction began on the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, the loop was rebuilt and modified to get around the construction work, with a longer private right-of-way, but it was never considered for an upgrade. The station to be built for the Bloor-Dundas intersection was to be located across the street. Once Dundas West station opened in February 26, 1966, Vincent Loop was decommissioned.

Dundas West Takes Over

Dundas West station’s loop was significantly more complicated than Vincent. Vincent only saw KING cars in regular service. When Dundas West opened, KING and DUNDAS cars had to stop there. In the case of the DUNDAS streetcar service, cars coming from downtown stopped in the station and continued on to Runnymede loop, before coming back and stopping in the station again before heading downtown. Dundas West station’s loop was built to be entered from the south and the north, with switches allowing cars to head south or north or loop the loop. Cars entered into a sheltered terminal with a single track providing pickups and drop offs for KING, DUNDAS-Broadview Station and DUNDAS-Runnymede cars, 7 days a week.

Strangely enough, the TTC removed a key piece of track — a short section of northbound track on Dundas West, from north of the switch leading into the station to just south of Edna Avenue. This meant that northbound streetcars could not bypass Dundas West station; all had to enter the loop, whether they wanted to turn around, or continue to Runnymede. This included the CARLTON NIGHT cars, which were rerouted off Howard Park Boulevard to Runnymede Loop via Dundas.

One might think the presence of two different streetcar routes heading to three different destinations loading and unloading at a single platform might cause passenger confusion and chaos, but the TTC managed just fine for the two years, three months that DUNDAS service to Runnymede continued. During the Canadian National Exhibition, and other special events at the Exhibition, additional service would be provided by the DUNDAS-EXHIBITION, adding yet another operating into the mix.

Trolley Bus Operations and the Slow Rise of Diesel

Opposite the streetcar platform was a roadway and a loading platform for buses that wasn’t originally used. No bus routes were routed to Dundas West station when it opened in 1966. However, on May 11, 1968, subway service was extended west from Keele station to Islington, and the TTC used this occasion to end streetcar service on Dundas from Dundas West station to Runnymede. Trolley bus wires were strung up through the station and over the bus roadway and service began on the 40 JUNCTION trolley bus, operating from Dundas West station to Runnymede loop.

This arrangement remained in place for another two decades. The terminal itself saw few changes until the late 1980s, when the TTC rented out space to a McDonald’s restaurant. The move attracted some controversy at city council, with some residents worried about increased litter on the TTC, kids being encouraged to eat more junk food, and whether or not the TTC had received the best deal possible for taxpayers. The deal was maintained, however, with the restaurant split into two sections, allowing customers to purchase Happy Meals without crossing fare barriers.

In the mid-1980s, finally diesel buses started to appear at Dundas West station. For the 1987 CNE season, the 522 DUNDAS EXHIBITION streetcar was replaced by the 93 EXHIBITION WEST EXPRESS bus. On August 3, 1991, trolley buses paid their last visit to Dundas West station as the 40 JUNCTION route was converted to diesel bus operation, along with most of the rest of the trolley bus network. Finally, on February 13, 1994, service began on the 168 SYMINGTON route, replacing a branch of the 41 KEELE bus, that had operated out to Lansdowne station. The new route was more local in nature, and connected residents on Old Weston Road, Davenport Road and Symington Avenue both with the subway, and two major streetcar routes heading downtown.

A Need For More Platform Space

As the 1990s drew to a close, however, changes were afoot at Dundas West station. Rising ridership on the 504 KING streetcar and rising congestion downtown was putting pressure on the line, which led the TTC to look for ways to move streetcars more efficiently. One of the problems identified was the single loading platform at Dundas West station (coupled with a similar arrangement at Broadview station, where 505 DUNDAS and 504 KING cars also met). With 504 KING cars obliged to wait for 505 DUNDAS cars to load passengers and depart before themselves departing, and vice versa, delays on one line had the tendency to transfer over to the other line. The TTC decided that separate loading platforms were required for both routes, so that each could load cars and lay over without delaying the other.

On Labour Day, 2002, Dundas West station’s terminal was shut down so the streetcar loop could be rebuilt. Switches were added leading into the station, and again near the station exit to produce a passing siding and a separate platform for 505 DUNDAS streetcars. 504 KING cars would continue to use the original loading platform. The loop-the-loop switch also remained, feeding directly into the 504 KING siding. Construction proceeded swiftly and streetcar service resumed on Sunday, November 24, 2002. At around this time, elevators were installed from the terminal level to the subway platforms, making the station accessible to wheelchairs.

Possible Changes for the Future

Dundas West station’s loop has seen few changes since its renovations in 2002, and it is unlikely to see more in the near future. The facilities remain adequate for the services that use it. There have been rumours and suggestions for changes, however, such as reinstating the 507 LONG BRANCH streetcar and running it north on Roncesvalles to loop in Dundas West station. Residents groups in southern Etobicoke have been vocal in their support for such an extension, and although the TTC maintains that such a move would disrupt the balance between 504 KING and 505 DUNDAS streetcars that they’d built a second platform to achieve, the fact remains that the station did have more than one route load off a single platform for the first 36 years of its existence.

Another possible change, albeit one less likely to occur than a reinstated LONG BRANCH streetcar, is the restoration of streetcar service on Dundas Street from Dundas West station to Runnymede. Such a move would be to serve an extension of the 512 ST CLAIR streetcar to Runnymede or beyond, shortening deadhead times for streetcars going to and from Roncesvalles carhouse. This has led to proposals for a JUNCTION streetcar, although it’s not certain that the presence of these rails would require such a service.

Further changes may come to Dundas West station, but it may come at the station’s eastern end, rather than its western end. The TTC has long hoped for a secondary exit from the eastern end of the subway platforms, both for fire safety, and to provide a connection with the Bloor GO Train station, but their attempts have been stalled by the Crossroads development which has been reluctant to accept such a connection on their property without considerable compensation. Investments by Metrolinx to improve the station and install the Union-Pearson Express means that such a connection will arrive sooner rather than later; perhaps as early as 2017. In the meantime, connections between GO Bloor and Dundas West are to be via an improved streetscape along Bloor, bringing passengers to Dundas West station’s front (and only) door.

Dundas West Station Loop Image Archive