The Spadina line of the Toronto subway system extends northward from St. George station, a transfer point to the Bloor-Danforth (green) line. The first stop was originally going to be called Lowther, after the avenue under which it was built, but after a corridor was tunnelled to the existing Spadina station on the green line, a decision was made to consider the two stations as one. Nonetheless a considerable distance existed between the two stations, and in order to make the connection feasable for commuters the TTC installed a moving walkway to facilitate rapid transferance between the two lines.

The Spadina Movator was 137m (450ft) in length, and occupied the western 2/3rds of the corridor linking the two Spadina stations. At the southern end the movator discharged commuters into a circular hub where access to the vital Spadina streetcar route and Bloor-Danforth subway line were within easy reach. On the northern end of the walkway passengers could descend by escalator to either side of the Spadina subway line, with an exit to the street at the far end of the platform. In between, that rather mundane moving walkway became a unique and enjoyable diversion known to many riders of the Toronto subway system.

I suppose the widespread fascination with the Spadina Movator was most often accrued in childhood. One could be amused by the high speeds involved in running down the path and watching traffic on the opposite walkway zooming past at ridiculous speeds (for pedestrians anyway). Disembarking from the movator would cause a surge of vertigo - something to do with the regular patterns of the tile work on the walls suddenly passing at a much reduced pace. In fact, many a time have I made a slight diversion from the more convenient St. George transfer point to take another whirl on the Movator. Perhaps my fascination with the moving walkway stems from my early passion for Golden Age Science Fiction, some of which conjured unlikely future worlds replete with high-tech pedestrian conveyor belts.

One tale of absurdity I can relate deals with an occasion in my teenage years when I was at the southern end of the Movator with several unruly trouble-causing friends. One of the walkways was powered down for maintenance, though no workers were in evidence. The black rubber handhold was loosely dangling, and the opportunity was too much to pass up. Seizing the handhold a friend of mine whipped it up in the air and we all fell into convulsions of mirthful laughter as a wave of black rubber travelled the distance of the Movator, startling a few commuters heading in the opposite direction as it passed.

Now in 2004 as the TTC faces a cash crunch and difficulty in getting federal and provincial governments to fork over much in the way of funding, a decision was made to remove the Spadina Movator, as it required about $100k in maintenance each year. The option to upgrade the movators was pegged at a cost of $1.1 million, and it only would have extended the working lifetime of the system by a decade. Removing the walkway reduces yearly costs to a figure somewhere near $0, so the budget-conscious commision approved the Movator's destruction. In the final assessment, it was found that 11,000 commuters rode the movator each day. Rising fares and poorer service are rapidly depleting the TTC's ridership. Why they would go ahead with removing what has become a landmark of the system is simply boggling.

I for one will miss the Spadina Movator. No other element on the system warrants a detour as that long corridor once did. It seems that in this particular future, people walk for themselves.

Update (2006): it's gone. Spadina station will never be the same... *sigh*

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