TTC plans to “diversify” – and destroy – its heritage

It’s been a long year and a half of proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the TTC subway has a unique design heritage, as expressed in its typography and tile finishes. I have also proved that TTC has been busily neglecting, mishandling, or intentionally destroying that heritage. Two obvious cases were the unwanted renovation of Museum station in Egyptian drag and the offhand declaration of an intent to remove and destroy every vestige of the Paul Arthur signage experiment at St. George. Through a letter-writing campaign, we stopped that latter plan.

But that was nothing compared to what the TTC has up its sleeve. TTC staff want Commission authorization to gut, defenestrate, destroy, remodel, renovate, or rebuild 63 of its 69 stations in any manner TTC wishes. TTC staff are asking for carte blanche to vandalize the subway’s heritage.

Yes, that really is what’s happening and no, I am not exaggerating.

What’s happening this week

At this week’s TTC meeting (Wednesday, 26 March 2008, 1:00 PM), Commissioners will vote on an action item to authorize TTC staff to remake and remodel all but six subway stations in any manner that promotes “distinctive” design.

What you need to do

We need many people, not just the usual two or three, to write in to the TTC, or make deputations at the March 26 meeting, or both, in opposition to the attempt by TTC staff to gain permission to destroy any of 63 subway stations and rebuild them however they see fit.

If you’ve just sat on the sidelines, or even if you went on the TTC Type & Tile Tour, this is the time to speak up. Silence very much means approval here. If this motion is passed, there will probably be no way at all, legal or otherwise, to force the TTC to preserve its type and tile heritage.

The easiest way to submit correspondence is to send a regular E-mail, or a PDF (or similar) attachment, to GSOEmail2@TTC.CA. Your correspondence goes in a public file and is printed and handed out at the meeting.

Send a separate message to that same address before Tuesday at noon if you want to speak at the TTC meeting (you’ll have exactly five minutes, so rehearse).

TTC plans

TTC’s plans are described in a PDF entitled “Design Approach – Station Modernization and Station Renaissance Programs” dated 2008.03.05. The proposal:

Shorter TTC: The Bloor line is a bug, not a feature. We’ll swap out every wall with fake stone and replace every sign with fake Helvetica if doing that makes stations distinctive.

As usual, the TTC is the last to understand its own stations

In an example of newspeak worthy of Orwell, TTC thinks that having 63 stations that don’t remotely match each other leads to distinctiveness. But most stations are not distinctive.

Consistency means different things on different lines, which are consistent within themselves. The Yonge stations that match each other also more or less match the Bloor stations, and that is not accidental.

The Bloor line with 31 stations, the Sheppard line with five, the Scarborough RT with six, the six stations on the Yonge line, and the three stations on the Spadina line add up to 51 stations that are consistent in some way. (It’s 53 if you include Queen’s Park and St. Patrick.) That’s three-quarters of the system’s 69 stations. Some kind of consistency is the norm, but the madly divergent Yonge line has evidently led TTC planners to believe in mad divergence.

And now they want approval from the TTC to do anything they want with 63 out of those 69 stations. Four stations on the Bloor line would be left as museum pieces. (A similar approach was dismissed by Adam Giambrone’s political operative as “kitsch.”) All other stations could be made over with fake materials, using signage in a fake typeface arranged in a layout that is a clone of another city’s design from 30 years ago. Or some other “distinctive” design could be imposed.

This is the last stand for TTC preservationists

TTC staff are trying to get around an inevitable recommendation from the Toronto Preservation Board to preserve the Bloor and Yonge lines. They want approval from Commissioners to do whatever they want. With that in hand, they can ignore any listing of subway stations as preservation properties. They can say they have authorization from their political masters to remake any and all of 63 stations in the name of “diversity.” In essence, TTC staff wants an order today from the Commission that countermands a future order from the Preservation Board.

This is the last stand for anyone interested in TTC preservation. TTC does not appreciate, or apparently even know about, its own unique and precious design heritage and is intent on destroying it. If this motion passes, such destruction will begin and there will be no stopping it.