David Topping’s every subway station trip

David Topping of Torontoist has a piece in the National Post today about his summer project 69 Stations — he took a trip every day to one of Toronto’s subway stops and did a short photo essay. In the end, he posted a photo from every station. Here’s an excerpt or read the full story.

I should’ve listened to that bus driver at Jane Station.

It was May 23rd. Two weeks before, I’d decided that I wanted to photograph all of Toronto’s TTC stations, and bring Torontoist along for the ride. Jane was only the fifth station out of sixty-nine, and by the end of the project – including travel time, shooting, and editing – the project would suck up more than 300 hours of my summer. At the time, however, I was blissfully unaware of how consuming the project would become.

Motioning towards my camera as I got on the bus, the driver — young, wearing orange sunglasses with a black baseball cap on top of his shaved head, and a light blue TTC collared shirt – asked if I was “taking pictures of all the hot girls.”

“Nah, I’m doing this project over the summer where I’m taking pictures of all the TTC stations.”


“I don’t know, it seemed like a cool idea.”

He paused. “Sounds pretty boring…”


  1. If one reads the article, one will see that petits fonctionnaires TTC employees are still using their “no photographs” bullshit on innocent transit fans:

    The decisive point of the journey came on July 17, when I was stopped by a ticket booth operator at Dupont station. He warned me that my camera would be confiscated if I continued without a permit from the TTC’s head offices.

    This is, of course, a complete and total lie. Not only can a ticket tacker not confiscate one’s camera, non-commerical photography does not require a permit. Every time a transit fan complains, a memo gets sent out, and then gets ignored.

    Why do TTC employees have so much trouble doing their job properly?

  2. Ticket taker, not tacker. I was probably thinking of “tacky,” which is the first word that comes to mind when thinking of the appearance of TTC stations.

  3. “Why do TTC employees have so much trouble doing their job properly?”

    Momentum, probably. Like most everything else. Plus, a little power goes a long way.

  4. A few months ago, there was a good discussion about the rights of photographers on TTC property at the Toronto Transit group on Flickr, including David’s own comments about having to obtain a permit:


    And while few things anger me as much as restrictions on photography in public spaces, thickslab, I would like to point out that Torontoist is indeed a commercial enterprise, as its contributors are paid (albeit a pittance) per post.

  5. Cheers Matthew, thanks. The Post has been lovely about this whole thing, but it looks way way nicer in print than online, sadly.

    There’s a longer version of my essay up on Torontoist; I went into a lot more detail about what happened at Dupont Station – and how Howard Moscoe reiterated what the ticket booth operator said when I spoke to him on the phone.

    I’ll re-post it here just so anyone who’s wondering exactly what happened can get a fuller picture. I should mention that of the TTC employees I met (and people I met along the way for this project, period), pretty much all of them were really nice (including Howard Moscoe).

    The decisive point of the journey, after which I had to choose whether to continue or stop, came out of nowhere on July 17th. As I was shooting on the Northbound Dupont platform near the Designated Waiting Area, a voice came out from the tall metal box against the wall that has the “Push for Assistance” button on it.

    “You, on the northbound platform with the camera, can you hear me?”

    Out came my iPod headphones, and I paused, still sitting on the rounded orange bench.

    “No photos. Photography’s not allowed on the platform.”

    It was surreal. Without thinking to hit the ‘Talk’ button on the DWA box to reply, I desperately yelped “but it’s non-commercial!” in the direction that I heard the voice coming from, which was – of course – met with no reply. The ticket collector watching me on the security cameras probably enjoyed that one.

    I hurried upstairs to the ticket booth, and spoke with the operator. He warned me that my camera could be confiscated by the TTC’s special constables if an employee chose to call them, and he told me that I’d have to contact the TTC’s head offices to pick up a permit if I wanted to continue shooting. I tried to object, but it didn’t help; the train bombing in India less than a week before had put the entire system more on edge than they normally were about terrorism. I’d been asked what I was doing before, and was used to explaining myself (at Chester Station, all I had to do was give the collector my name and Torontoist’s website address – he promised that he’d check the photos out that night after his shift and wished me luck for the rest of the system), but this time was different: I was being ordered to stop.

    Though the TTC’s bylaws currently state that “No person shall operate for commercial purposes any camera, video recording device, movie camera, or any similar device upon any vehicle or premises of the Commission without authorization,” and although I could’ve avoided TTC employees for the rest of the trip, I decided to put the project on hold.


    The process of getting a permit was a bit of an ordeal. I got in touch with a few different TTC employees in the Marketing & Public Affairs departments, playing phone and e-mail tag over two weeks. By the time, I was finally granted one and picked it up at the TTC’s head offices at Davisville Station, it was August 1st. Now two weeks behind, to be able to finish in time for September and school, I’d have to shoot and edit one station a day for the rest of my summer.


    [Towards the end of my conversation with him, Howard Moscoe] reiterated that I needed to have a permit to keep shooting, but told me he’d overlook it just this once. He seemed pleasantly surprised when I told him that I already had one granted.

  6. I guess it’s too much to expect that TTC employees will start properly enforcing by-law number 1 as it is written; these, of course, are the people who resisted regular calling out of station names on the subway until for blind people until they were ordered to by the Human Rights Tribunal. So it’s probably a little much to expect them to understand the rules for photography.

  7. There are “VERY FEW” nice stations in Toronto, check out these ones:

    Unbelievable subway station at Marienplatz, Germany: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arndalarm/266334775

    Moscow, Russi- Electrozavodskaya: http://beeflowers.com/Metro/Elektrozavodskaya/electro1/mainpage.htm

    Londres – South Kensington: http://metrorama.free.fr/World.htm

    London Tube, Moscow Metro, and Disney, MTR: http://www.virgin-vacations.com/site_vv/11-top-underground-transit-systems-in-the-world.asp

    Candidplatz, Munich Subway Station, Opened 1979, http://www.flickr.com/photos/effpunkt/212440803/in/pool-metrosdelmundo/

    Randstadrail: http://www.zwarts.jansma.nl/popup.php?id=588&label=FIG03

    Toyko, Metro: http://www.flickr.com/photos/arndsan/462711964/in/pool-metrosdelmundo/

    Covent Garden Underground Station: http://www.flickr.com/photos/belowred/371652663/in/pool-metrosdelmundo/

    Rinkeby, Stockholm: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xjy/323922282/in/pool-metrosdelmundo/

    kungstrà¤dgà¥rden T-stn, Stockholm: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xjy/313623876/in/pool-metrosdelmundo/

    Notting Hill Tube Stop http://www.flickr.com/photos/everita/530888425/in/pool-metrosdelmundo/

    Paris Stations, Picture of the Month:
    Pasteur is a newly Paris metro themed station! The whole station hosts a permanent exhibition dedicated to health and medical research.

    And you really should see the exit/entrance at Walmer Road on the West side of Spadina Station, not the side 90% of the people take, the other exit!, it’s really cool!

    TTC Environmental Citizen’s Group

  8. I think the driver had it right, sounds like a boring project.

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