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June 12, 2013 6:49 AM   Subscribe

"On an average weekday the TTC collects 1,582,000 fares. 180 are collected at Bessarian Station": Finding Bessarion, a short film about exploring the unknown (subway station).thanks to AM for the link
posted by jb (58 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pfft, it's no Ellesmere (which I found by reading about Bessarion on Wikipedia).
posted by filthy light thief at 7:00 AM on June 12, 2013


The Urban Dictionary defines Bessarion as a person who purposely places their tie on the outside of their vest.
posted by gman at 7:01 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


First off - I love the guy's outfit - dressshirt under sweater, but a tie that is over the sweater. An oddball way of being all dreseed up for his adventure. Charming! The best part of living in a really big city is discovering the nooks and crannies that are not so obvious to even long time residents. I love that. Also - Hong Kong used to color code their subway stations - with the downtown central business district station being all bright red. Unfortunately - they are slowly renovating the stations to all have a generic airport feel now - and the commuters are all the poorer for it.
posted by helmutdog at 7:06 AM on June 12, 2013


That could have been cloying or just stupid. But it was pretty good.

From the looks of the construction around Bessarion, in ten years it's going to be a madhouse.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:10 AM on June 12, 2013


If I lived in Toronto I would totally schedule a meetup in the station just for the fuck of it. Portable tables, table cloth, candles, wicker basket picnic lunch, maybe a little faux campfire singalong.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:11 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This post inspired me to find other quiet places to begin a subway ride. So, let's take a relaxing trip to Johannelund, least-used station on the Stockholm metro; Roding Valley, least-used station on the London Underground; and Cheverly, least-used station on the DC Metro.
posted by Stoatfarm at 7:26 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to admit I found this guy kinda annoying. I think it's the way he seems to treat Sheppard Avenue as if it were a mysterious place only marginally closer than Nunavut. Why is it Bessarion? That's one of the cross streets on Sheppard. That random highway? That'd be 401.

Good on the TTC for having the foresight to put a stop in a mostly-fallow area between Bayview and Leslie.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:28 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's the way he seems to treat Sheppard Avenue as if it were a mysterious place only marginally closer than Nunavut.

In local cultural terms, it basically is. In terms of anything worth going to on foot, rather than going past in a car, Bessarion might as well be the tundra.

That entire line is an enormous waste - it would actually be cheaper to send everyone who uses it to work in a cab than to run that line, and the growth that was supposed to spring up around it never happened - and it's there because of political selfishness, not foresight.

But even having said that, I think this is endearing as hell; I'd be totally in favor of hiking out there with tables and chairs and doing a meetup or a game night or something.
posted by mhoye at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think that's the closest stop to North York Ikea. So clearly it's quiet except for the downtown schmuck who is trying to get several bookcases home by subway.

Anyway, I would expect most people walk to that station, don't they? When they built the Sheppard line they also zoned most of Sheppard for super-high-density apartment complexes so there are a lot of people (in theory) living there.
posted by GuyZero at 7:37 AM on June 12, 2013


In local cultural terms, it basically is. In terms of anything worth going to on foot, rather than going past in a car, Bessarion might as well be the tundra.

Yeah, I get that, but it's still a weird ignorance to have. I don't even live there, but when they flashed up the line map in the subway my immediate reaction was "Oh, it's just Sheppard between Bayview and Leslie. Not much there yet. I wonder if that's closer to Ikea than Leslie and Sheppard?"

the growth that was supposed to spring up around it never happened

I guess that depends on the timeframe that was promised or that you expected. I first laid eyes on North York in 2001, I think, and to me that area seems markedly more built-up than it was.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:52 AM on June 12, 2013


I think [Bessarion is] the closest stop to North York Ikea.

It's slightly farther than Leslie, and the Ikea shuttle bus stops at Leslie.
posted by cranberrymonger at 7:57 AM on June 12, 2013


Good on the TTC for having the foresight to put a stop in a mostly-fallow area between Bayview and Leslie.

The entire Sheppard line is a money-loser, even with the additional development it's generated, because the people living on Sheppard simply don't take the TTC. They drive.

There's an important lesson to be learned here: you can't artificially create transit demand.
posted by mightygodking at 7:57 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Subways in general are money-losers. That doesn't mean there's no point in building them (even though Eglinton would have been a better choice).
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:00 AM on June 12, 2013


Bessarion: Let me see if I've got this straight: In order to close the station we'd have to conclude that it is crazy, and it must be crazy to keep it running in this situation. But if we plan to close the station, that means we're not crazy any more and so it has to be kept open.
posted by Kabanos at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Eglinton would have been a better choice

Did they move Pearson Airport to Eglinton? I did not know that!

BUILT A TRANSIT LINK TO PEARSON YOU IDIOTS AT METROLINX.
posted by GuyZero at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2013


Subways in general are money-losers.

Yes, but there are useful money-losers and then there are giant money sinks where money goes to die. The Sheppard subway line is the latter: it gets a smattering of the passengers needed to justify having a subway there. Subways need really high population density to operate reasonably efficiently (even though they still lose money, even then, although you make up for it indirectly thanks to overall money gained/not spent by society by avoiding traffic congestion and smog) and the Sheppard line does not have that.
posted by mightygodking at 8:04 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I lived in Toronto for over 10 years, and the only time I ever went to Bessarian (or on the Sheppard line at all) was to go to Ikea. To buy bookshelves. And carry them home on the subway like a shmuck. (GuyZero, are you inside my head?!)
Then I discovered the shuttle that goes to Leslie, and my low-cost-generic-furniture shopping became marginally less annoying as a downtowner without a car. Alas, I never saw Bessarian again...
posted by Dorinda at 8:07 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bessarion: Let me see if I've got this straight: In order to close the station we'd have to conclude that it is crazy, and it must be crazy to keep it running in this situation. But if we plan to close the station, that means we're not crazy any more and so it has to be kept open.

Bessarion 22.
posted by jb at 8:35 AM on June 12, 2013


The Sheppard subway line is the latter: it gets a smattering of the passengers needed to justify having a subway there.

I know absolutely nothing about Toronto, but according to Wikipedia the line gets 50,000 weekday passengers and cost $1 billion. That is about average for new rail in the US. Minneapolis cost $700 million and gets 35,000 passengers; Seattle cost $1 billion and gets 20,000 passengers.

The TTC Sheppard Line is ridiculously short (only 3 miles!), but it does connect with a massive preexisting subway network so it might have a lot of value for an average passenger.
posted by miyabo at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2013


On a related note, Jonathan Lethem's "Speak, Hoyt-Schermerhorn."

Also is the tie over the sweater a thing now? Is this because of that whole t-shirt over a dress shirt and tie thing? Is that my lawn you're on with your tie out over top of your sweater like you dressed yourself for the first time ever in the perfect dark of a very deep cave?
posted by gompa at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seeing as the only referent I've got for the word "Ellesmere" is that one ginormous island with a few dozen residents, it seems appropriate that it should also refer to a ginormous subway station with a few dozen passengers.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 8:41 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


180 are collected at Bessarian Station
In Paris that would just mean it had low turnstiles and a wide gap between the subsequent door and the post with the ticket machinery, such that everyone skipped the fare. (A casual count one day while waiting for a friend revealed about half of the riders at that station where I waited were not paying.)
posted by whatzit at 8:46 AM on June 12, 2013


I know absolutely nothing about Toronto, but according to Wikipedia the line gets 50,000 weekday passengers and cost $1 billion. That is about average for new rail in the US. Minneapolis cost $700 million and gets 35,000 passengers; Seattle cost $1 billion and gets 20,000 passengers.

You're comparing a subway with light rail lines, which is an apples/oranges comparison, and you're talking about original construction cost rather than operating cost. Subways cost way more to operate and maintain than light rail does.
posted by mightygodking at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2013


The TTC Sheppard Line is ridiculously short (only 3 miles!)

This is because the Sheppard Line is one of Canada's all-time greatest municipal infrastructure clusterfucks. The Wikipedia page is a pretty good primer:
The original proposal for the Sheppard line was for a major subway line running from Downsview Station on the Spadina line to Scarborough Centre Station. Instead, funding was only approved for a truncated line, with several phased expansions.
Sporadic TOD, inconsistent funding, warring jurisdictions, higher levels of government playing political football, egotistical mucking about by not one but two blowhard suburban mayors (first Mel Lastman, then Rob Ford) -- the Sheppard line is an all-in-one model of everything wrong with municipal governance in Canada in the last 25 years.
posted by gompa at 8:48 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


As somebody with a slight persistent interest in moving back to the city, am I to understand that there's a place with ready metro access in Toronto where housing is still relatively cheap because the proximity-to-subway is underrecognized?

Or am I getting excited for no good reason?
posted by Shepherd at 8:49 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't quite tell if his tone is supposed to be sincere, or a send-up of overly sincere "explorers" of mundane things.

Bessarion: Let me see if I've got this straight: In order to close the station we'd have to conclude that it is crazy, and it must be crazy to keep it running in this situation. But if we plan to close the station, that means we're not crazy any more and so it has to be kept open.

They should have called it Yossarian Station instead.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:57 AM on June 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or am I getting excited for no good reason?

You may be - it's a very dreary area with little walkability. I'm no suburb hater - I was born and raised in north Etobicoke - but as a non-driver, most of central North York is a seriously desolate, even hostile environment for me. I prefer Jane & Finch to Yonge & Finch - at least there are lots of pedestrians.
posted by jb at 8:58 AM on June 12, 2013


Or am I getting excited for no good reason?

Most of North York isn't affordable at all, subways or not.
posted by chunking express at 9:05 AM on June 12, 2013


Most of North York isn't affordable at all, subways or not.

Most Canadian cities aren't affordable at all, but that's due to the fact that people have been able to buy well beyond what they can really afford for the better part of the past decade, inflating a bubble.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:11 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


As somebody with a slight persistent interest in moving back to the city, am I to understand that there's a place with ready metro access in Toronto where housing is still relatively cheap because the proximity-to-subway is underrecognized?

You might look along the path of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line: you're going to find places that probably haven't priced in the benefit that that line is going to create, and you're also going to find places that do have an actual retail main street. The bus options are tolerable in these places too until the LRT is up in x years. In the west: Weston, whatever that area is above Silverthorn/Prospect Cemetery, Oakwood? In the east: Vic Park-Eglinton Area (the commercial strip on O'Connor is underrated). Nothing's cheap though.
posted by waterunderground at 9:14 AM on June 12, 2013


Having apartment hunted, I can tell you that there are neighbourhoods not in North York which have subway access and aren't insanely expensive (more medium, like $800-1000 for a one-bedroom).

- places around Dundas West, Lansdowne and Dufferin Station are just starting to go up in price - some are still affordable

- St Clair West Station is at St Clair and Bathurst; I know people renting a reasonably priced place about 5-10 minutes walk north on Bathurst

- the Danforth continues to be much less expensive than Bloor, including places near Donlands, Greenwood, etc. These places were cheaper and/or nicer than what we viewed in the west end.

Also - don't ignore the good streetcar lines. I've housesat at Greenwood & Gerard and had a great, fast commute downtown via the Carleton streetcar, just about as fast as the subway. I could also bike from there.
posted by jb at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2013


Weston doesn't have good TTC yet (if you're talking the old town at Weston & Lawrence), and won't for a long time - and the rental properties there are very questionable. I'm saying this as a third-generation Weston person; the buildings there have become poorly maintained.

Jane has better TTC connections, because the Jane bus is fast and runs frequently, and the buildings at Jane & Eglinton include some clean & well-maintained ones.
posted by jb at 9:29 AM on June 12, 2013


As he got off the subway, I expected him to say "My God, it's full of stars."
posted by bq at 9:31 AM on June 12, 2013


Also: a Bessarion-based meetup was originally suggested in 2009.
posted by jb at 9:31 AM on June 12, 2013


GuyZero: BUILT A TRANSIT LINK TO PEARSON YOU IDIOTS AT METROLINX.
Umm...
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:32 AM on June 12, 2013


No, I know, I just want more than a plan. I'll be happy when it's running.
posted by GuyZero at 9:40 AM on June 12, 2013


It's more than a plan - they've been building for a year. Should be open by the end of next year.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:45 AM on June 12, 2013


That was a cool video. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:58 AM on June 12, 2013


As somebody with a slight persistent interest in moving back to the city, am I to understand that there's a place with ready metro access in Toronto where housing is still relatively cheap because the proximity-to-subway is underrecognized?

Or am I getting excited for no good reason?
posted by Shepherd


Eponysterical?

Yeah, subway access is nice and all, but for these prices? I like Parkdale just fine, and the King streetcar and Dufferin bus aren't that bad if you can get a window press your unconscious face against.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:03 AM on June 12, 2013


On average I only have to take the Sheppard subway about once a year, but every time I do it's so empty it gives me the creeps.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:09 AM on June 12, 2013


Now imagine if that line was at capacity and feeding all those people onto the YUS line.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 10:16 AM on June 12, 2013


Most Canadian cities aren't affordable at all, but that's due to the fact that people have been able to buy well beyond what they can really afford for the better part of the past decade, inflating a bubble.

Which on its own wouldn't have been so bad, except that foreign investors have been buying up Canadian real estate and making the bubble much, much worse.
posted by mightygodking at 10:27 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ellesmere station closed in 1965 under the Beeching axe. I know, because my aunt used to catch the train from there to school in Oswestry every day.

More interestingly, according to (a blogger at) The Economist, Hong Kong's metro operator MTR has figured out the key to inducing demand on new railway lines: build the lines and the surrounding development, and lease out the buildings.
posted by ambrosen at 10:40 AM on June 12, 2013


I wouldn't get too excited about the Union Pearson Express - it's not going to be as cheap as a subway token. See here....$20 each way is ridiculous.
posted by barnoley at 10:41 AM on June 12, 2013


Which on its own wouldn't have been so bad, except that foreign investors have been buying up Canadian real estate and making the bubble much, much worse.

Except that prices also went up in much of the USA (before some parts melted down, although many parts did not) and Australia.

Either there are a near-infinite number of "foreign investors" or there's just a fundamental increase in demand for housing. The trouble is that the suburbs don't actually scale and there's only so much central, urban real estate.
posted by GuyZero at 10:45 AM on June 12, 2013


I wouldn't get too excited about the Union Pearson Express - it's not going to be as cheap as a subway token.

$20 is still much cheaper than a cab and faster to boot. It's still cheaper than the Heathrow Express which is £20-£28.
posted by GuyZero at 10:47 AM on June 12, 2013


This thread is making the transit geek in me twitch.

Firstly, the video was fun. I guess we're assuming what we saw as he got off the subway was his genuine first impression, but it is a little surprising for newcomers to see actual design and art on the Sheppard Subway, as opposed to the bathroom tile decor you see on essentially the entire TTC system. The irony is that the directive for stations on the Sheppard line was to keep it bare bones, due to cost (note the exposed concrete opposite the platform, which is unusual for Toronto). And they dealt with that by doing some very creative things, which naturally ended up coming off really nicely. My favourite along the line is Leslie Station, where each tile has "Leslie & Sheppard" written out by a different resident.

Also, when he notices the big green dot? Those are in every station in the system. They are indicators for the drivers.

With respect to other points raised in the thread:

*The transit link to Pearson is under construction as we speak and will be finished by 2015. You can see the construction at multiple locations along the Georgetown line and at the airport. (next time you're approaching the airport from the 409, the partially-completed columns to the right are the support beams for the transit link)
*Development is happening along Sheppard. There are tons of condos along that stretch. It's slowly making it's way to Bessarion. See the big empty lot next to the station? Yeah, big empty lots are the fallow ground for condos to sprout up like weeds in Toronto. (assuming the market doesn't collapse before it gets built) But it's true that most of the residents drive because they work in the suburbs, not downtown.
*The subway makes a big difference in commute times for some. If you live in Northern Scarborough, it saves you 15 minutes (and saves you from the purgatory of the Finch bus). And many people in that area need to take transit.

The Sheppard Line is far from perfect but it's what we got.

Ok, I'll stop now. Transit in Toronto is my GIF-JIF debate/Doctor Who fandom/Cult of Apple. I tend to go off.
posted by dry white toast at 10:52 AM on June 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Stoatfarm: "This post inspired me to find other quiet places to begin a subway ride. So, let's take a relaxing trip to Johannelund , least-used station on the Stockholm metro; Roding Valley , least-used station on the London Underground; and Cheverly , least-used station on the DC Metro."

It's not a subway, but let's meet at Corrour.

And, yes. Appropriate buildings are absolutely necessary for transit to succeed. DC's a shining example of this. Arlington County was quite good at building transit-oriented developments. Their transit line is now bursting at the seams, and the county added about 75,000 residents without needing to build any additional transportation infrastructure or displace any major residential neighborhoods. On the flipside, Prince George's county had a knack for building its Metro stations in the middle of the %#&ing woods, and those stations all compete for last place in terms of ridership. PG's government is just staggeringly incompetent.
posted by schmod at 10:55 AM on June 12, 2013


On average I only have to take the Sheppard subway about once a year, but every time I do it's so empty it gives me the creeps.

I guess you don't use it during rush hour, then. My observation is that southbound on the Yonge line during the morning rush, only Bloor and Eglinton are busier than Sheppard.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:07 AM on June 12, 2013


foreign investors have been buying up Canadian real estate and making the bubble much, much worse

It's less this and the ridiculously cheap money that was available starting in 2004 or so and only started disappearing last year. Zero-down, 40-year amortizations in a low-interest-rate environment are far more responsible for the bubble than mythical money from Asia. It's pretty easy to bid up prices when you don't actually have to pony up the cash for decades.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:10 AM on June 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, Seattle's Link light rail carries about 26k passengers a day. (I am one of them several times a week). I agree with the assessment that the 200 person/standing room sized cars stop filling when, in fact, 25-50 more people could get on. I'm guessing that the suburbanized primary users of the Light Rail aren't accustomed to the amount of body contact one experiences on Seattle rush hour buses, or almost any transport in more populated urban areas. Seattleites would plotz on the NYC subway.
posted by Dreidl at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2013


$20 is still much cheaper than a cab and faster to boot. It's still cheaper than the Heathrow Express which is £20-£28.

Agreed - but it's more than I'm willing to pay most of the time, when I can take the bus from Kipling station for the price of a token. I just didn't know if you were aware of the potential price.
posted by barnoley at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2013


Also, for what it's worth, it appears I use the Bessarian-equivalent station on the Light Rail; just 264 riders per day. Compared to 4,994 at the University Street station in central downtown, Seattle's closest approximation of a financial/government district.
posted by Dreidl at 11:22 AM on June 12, 2013


Being a dedicated eastsider, I had a similar moment of wonder when I found out about Glencairn. Yes, I rushed out and wandered around in awe, too.

Ellesmere has problems, not the least of which is the dark approach and lingering memory of the (possibly unresolved) sex attacks from a few years ago. It's one stop north of Where You Go To Check in With Your Parole Officer, and one stop south of The Station That Smells Really Bad. It is within walking distance of epic Tamil food, though, and is a few blocks from a mini MeFi fried food meetup we had a while back.

Oh, and affordable housing? That's at Kennedy and Eglinton.
posted by scruss at 11:23 AM on June 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Weston doesn't have good TTC yet

Yeah, sorry, I was thinking in street terms. Neighbourhood-wise, I meant Mt. Dennis. But sketchy and rebuild isn't a barrier to everyone, just look at the boom in lower Hamilton in recent years.

And don't count Weston-proper out. It may not be seeing improved local transit anytime soon, but all-day GO service on the Kitchener-Georgetown-etc corridor will transform Weston just as surely as an LRT would.
posted by waterunderground at 4:46 PM on June 12, 2013


I thot the only reason people went on the purple line was to get the ikea, leslie and shepard is an interesting idea but really difficult to work thru, my favourite art station is the mosiac of pastoralism at yonge/shep. my best firend lives at glencairn and it might be my favourite station.
posted by PinkMoose at 6:31 PM on June 12, 2013


That Union Pearson rail link is the dumbest thing. How can they justify charging more than Go transit scale fares? I just looked up the Airport Express fair, and I was shocked to learn that it has gotten up to $25. It used to be well under $20. Feels like there is some shenanigans going on there actually.

LRT is cheaper to maintain than subway? You must mean surface LRT?! Is it just that there are two employees instead of just one per vehicle? Does the Sheppard subway have two workers per train? The people who dis the ridership of the Shepard subway don't ride it. It may not be as well used as we'd like, but it is very well used. It would be much much better if they'd just build it out to Victoria Park though. That one stop would make a huge improvement to getting around in the area.
posted by Chuckles at 10:06 PM on June 12, 2013


As somebody with a slight persistent interest in moving back to the city, am I to understand that there's a place with ready metro access in Toronto where housing is still relatively cheap because the proximity-to-subway is underrecognized?

Or am I getting excited for no good reason?


There is tons of moderately priced highrise rental right at Don Mills and Sheppard (unless they are all condo conversions nowadays). Not such a nice neighbourhood, and personally, highrise apartments wouldn't be my first choice anyway. The Shepard subway wasn't built for low income people. If it was, it would have at least gone to Victoria Park.
posted by Chuckles at 10:11 PM on June 12, 2013


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