Yonge-Bloor station gets new, number-based signage

Yonge-Bloor station gets new, number-based signage

What's wrong with this picture? (Image: Steve Kupferman) What’s wrong with this picture? (Image: Steve Kupferman)

Anyone who passed through Yonge-Bloor station this morning may have noticed that things were slightly amiss. All the usual elements of the weekday commuter slog were there—crowded platforms, packed trains—but all the soothing, familiar signage had been replaced by weird, New York–style colour-coded numbers. Even the loudspeaker announcements were numerical: “Attention line-one passengers,” and so on.

Although the new signage may seem like a lame prank intended to get jaded subway riders to lift their eyes from the floor—and perhaps hilariously stumble onto the tracks—the colour-coded numbers are in fact part of a carefully orchestrated effort to improve the clarity and consistency of subway signage in Toronto. The TTC approved the move in October. (The image below shows how the system is supposed to work.)

(Image: Courtesy of the TTC) (Image: Courtesy of the TTC)

The numbers, according to the TTC, shouldn’t be considered replacements for existing line names like “Bloor-Danforth” and “Yonge-University-Spadina.” In theory, the two naming systems are supposed to supplement each other, although in practice many of the new signs omit the old line names.


Yonge-Bloor is the first station to have received a full makeover, but St. George is expected to follow in coming weeks. The TTC will be collecting feedback from riders at both stations so it can fine-tune the signage before rolling it out to the rest of the subway network.

The numbering system is intended partly as a future-proofing measure. Toronto is supposed to be getting at least three new light-rail lines over the next decade, and the TTC wants to be sure it’s easy to add those lines to signs.

So far, the experiment seems to be proceeding well. Yonge-Bloor station didn’t devolve into anarchy this morning, and friendly TTC employees were on hand to explain the system. They were also handing out buttons with images of the new numerical emblems on them (see to the right), in a clear-but-not-unwelcome attempt to buy passengers’ love.