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52 Comments

cityscape

Does Bessarion Station Actually Exist?

One man's quest to understand the most inscrutable name on the subway map.

Bessarion Station is the second-least used of any of Toronto’s subway stations—and in fact it could be considered the absolute least used, because the only one that beats it is on the Scarborough RT, which isn’t even really a subway. Everything about Bessarion is weird, from its name, to its location on a sparsely populated part of Sheppard Avenue East, to the fact that seemingly nobody has ever actually been there. It almost seems like some kind of elaborate hoax or trap, like when dictionary makers slip a fictitious word into the mix as a way of catching wholesale plagiarists. Could the TTC just be testing us?

The hilarious video above, by Cameron Wyllie, follows comedian Jeremy Woodcock—a Torontoist contributor and Sketchersons member—on a mission to visit Bessarion and settle the question once and for all. “I don’t know what it’s like,” Woodcock tells the camera at one point. “Are the benches red? Probably. Are there stairs? There have got to be—I think that’s the law. But other than that I have no idea what I’m going to see there.”

CORRECTION: June 13, 2013, 3:00 PM This post originally said that Finding Bessarion was the work of John Gape. In fact, the videographer was Cameron Wyllie. “John Gape” is the name of Wyllie’s comedy collective.

Comments

  • SmarterThanYou86

    Loved the video – was very Toronto :)

    Also, kinda liked the underhanded slap to Scarborough East’s subway dreams lol

  • http://twitter.com/synshow Syn

    Not entirely Bessarion related, but my first memory of the TTC was when my family came into the city to watch a Jays game. After the Jays game we were heading back to Yorkdale and the train had some sort of problem and dumped everyone off at Glencairn. Once we got off the train I heard someone yell, with great volume “What are we doing here? Who the FUCK ever gets off at Glencairn?!”

    • Bob K

      Interestingly, a few years ago when the TTC updated some direction indicator signs that showed the YUS line, they actually left off Glencairn. You could tell, because there were little Glencairn stickers visible on all the maps, which were easy enough to see if you looked closely. I mean, Glencairn? I always wanted to talk to the person within the TTC who spent an afternoon sticking on Glencairn stickers onto existing posters.

  • OgtheDim

    “Its a great place to take a girl on a date.”

    Priceless

    ***********

    As somebody who has actually used that station, mainly as its the easiest way to get to that Canadian Tire as the uphill slog from Leslie is a pain, I can say the only thing in the area of note was the store Baxters, which was good for getting South African food. Sadly, closed about 4 years ago. Nothing there now worth going to.

  • sezmesez

    It’s always mystified me why when the TTC had the opportunity to put a station right in front of the one thing on that stretch of Sheppard one might want to visit (Ikea – duh), they instead put two stations on either side of it, just far enough away so that walking back carrying a 3′x4′ mirror late at night after the shuttle bus has stopped running poses a significant challenge. (Or so I have heard.)

    Oh, Bessarion, what might have been…

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      It mystifies me why a subway was built there at all.

      • Marshal Dunnik

        Ask Mel Lastman.

      • Elto Desukane

        At the very least this subway line should reach Victoria Park Ave. and Warden Ave.

    • OgtheDim

      But then we wouldn’t get the fun that is waiting for the IKEA bus while your cheap ice cream melts all over your flat packs.

  • http://www.MysteryHistory.TV/ Julius James III

    Bessarion Song http://snd.sc/11WnB1M

  • Marc

    He’s one to talk. He lives at Keele.

  • maximoose

    Come back again in few years, young man, you’ll be in to a surprise.
    Thank you Mel, someone who was able to vision years ahead.

    • OgtheDim

      You mean the other 8-10 condos that are going up west of IKEA and Canadian Tire? With a Shopper’s Drug Mart and a bank in the bottom pedestal? And a dry cleaner, a doctor’s office and a place to get your nails done? Plus some art, a few benches, and some plants in concrete cages? All beside a major highway?

      Wow…….who knew they could recreate CITY place up in North York.

      • Morley C

        The guy was clearly being sarcastic.

      • Steve Fleck

        Not sure why this has all been delayed, but there is a massive condo and town-home development planned for the old Canadian Tire warehouse lands that are right beside the Bessarion Station. Ounce this has been built, I am sure that the station will get more use. Does anyone know why, this development has been delayed so long?

        • PeevedInOntario

          Who wants to live in the middle of nowhere? They’re probably having a hard time convincing people to buy condos out there.

          • AboveTheCity

            Well, it’s not exactly in the middle of nowhere. To someone from right down-town, I can see how they might feel about it. However, this particular location does have some appeal. There are some key services that are already right there. – direct TTC Subway access being one of the key ones. Also, the 401 is right there, with the 404 only a few kilometers away. There is already decent shopping in the area, with likely more built and FWIW – North York General Hospital at the end of the street!

          • PeevedInOntario

            Yes, it has some amenities but those are more a curse than a blessing IMO.

            It is in the middle of nowhere in that you can’t really live there without a car (that’s my definition of middle of nowhere). When I used to commute along the Sheppard line I’d get off at Bessarion just to see what it was all about and it was depressing. Bessarion symbolized the strangeness that was Sheppard to me.

            I simply couldn’t understand (2007) why Sheppard had been built and my best guess was that it was Mel Lastman and Mike Harris pork barreling the conservative gravy train to North York–and, this was before I even knew how much of an economic disaster the Sheppard line was or any of its sordid history.

            Sadly Sheppard symbolizes the failure of Toronto’s transit plans. Subways. Subways. Subways.

            Subways are expensive and only can sustain themselves if population density is already high. The experience around the world is that they don’t lead to intensification of land use so you don’t build one in the hopes that it will lead to better use of available land.

            The Danforth and eastern portion of the Bloor line was built along a streetcar line that was over capacity. The same story goes for the central and southern portions of the Yonge line.

            The failure of the past 30 years has been to see the subways as commuter lines. They’re not. They need to allow people to LIVE their lives, outside of getting to and from work.

            Sheppard’s primary function was as a commuter line. It’s fine, but, it costs the TTC $8/rider to operate each of the Sheppard stops because next to no one uses the Sheppard line at night.

            We could’ve saved a considerable amount on the build AND avoided the need to heavily subsidize its operating costs if we’d built LRT along Sheppard. It costs the TTC less than a $1/rider to operate most of the Bloor-Danforth and southern Yonge stops

          • AboveTheCity

            Agreed all around. I’m not defending the Sheppard subway, nor do I agree with the Scarborough subway. However, now that the Sheppard line is built, development should take full advantage of that. Since it is right on the Sheppard line, and depending on one’s lifestyle and where they work, you could conceivably live in a condo or other development right there, and not need a car.

            I live in Aurora, and if you want to see dumb development, head out my way to the fringes of the GTA, or in just about any direction. It’s truly depressing – endless sprawling housing developments still being developed and a fast pace, with no access to ANY services – transit, shopping, entertainment, and everything else, necessitating a car for everyone and for doing everything. 15 years ago they started talking about smart-growth and development. I’m seeing none of that out this way! It’s like the left hand is not talking to the right hand at all!

          • PeevedInOntario

            Surprisingly enough, as a city slicker I do actually disagree with you (slightly) on the state of the GTA ;).

            There are some visionary developments if you look hard enough (tragically, you’ve really got to look hard). I once stumbled upon one on highway 9, east of Markham. It was a development planned as a community and not just as a bunch of houses designed to make a developer a quick buck. The layout of the streets included multiple uses, there were already plans for a community centre and businesses, and, they even had tied into the local transit system.

            I’ve been in the GTA for 15 years and I really can’t say I’ve seen much positive change in that time beyond the waterfront :( :( :(. A number of years ago I saw a grandiose plan for the downtowns in Markham and Vaughan, and, even a vision for what the transit corridor along highway 7 would look like. I don’t see any evidence of those plans yet :(.

            My gut says it’s because home buyers are buying with shortsighted vision. When you buy a house you’re super stressed because you’re a lot of cash that’s going to tie you to a debt for 25 to 30 years. You don’t have the luxury to really investigate a neighbourhood before buying so you just buy and hope for the best. And, developers also sell you on how your subdivision will look in 10 years when the trees are planted, the school is built and the businesses move in. Unfortunately, developers don’t mention that they have no incentive to make sure those things happen.

            Yeah, a school will be built, but, if there’s not an existing multi-use infrastructure you’re going to have a heck of a time convincing your city council to spend the money to re-engineer the road to allow for sidewalks and bike paths. And, at that point people simply become dependent on their cars and get used to driving 5 km just to do groceries. It doesn’t cross their mind that life could be so different if they were able to walk or cycle to their local grocery store.

            C’est la vie. Toronto’s core is slowly being changed because of the never-ending influx of new residents. Eventually the non-drivers will outnumber the drivers so many times (now it’s probably already 3 non-drivers to 1 driver in the core and it’s only going to get bigger).

            At that point you’ll see a change in attitude. We’re already getting our first separated bike lanes. Eventually we’ll also see streets like Queen shut off from private vehicle traffic. And, the Portlands developments are coming along nicely. When people see what multiuse looks like in Toronto they’re going to start wondering why it’s not possible in the ‘burbs (where there’s a lot more space available for multi-use since the roads are so wide).

            Perhaps my grandkids will have a multi-use experience in the broader GTA. I doubt you and I will.

          • AboveTheCity

            In the concentrated core of downtown Toronto, and in some other nodes around the GTA, I do see a focus on what you are talking about. However, the vast majority of the GTA is a massive mess. The traffic even in outer environs like Aurora, can be horrible. The reason is simple – almost ALL development seems to have proceeded, assuming everything will get done via car. Walking cycling? Few do ANY of that out here. I agree that the infrastructure is part of the problem. Also, it seems house buyers, seem to give little thought to commute times, and other transportation logistics – the latest marble counter-tops seem to matter more!

          • PeevedInOntario

            Having recently bought our second house (after having done more than the usual level of due diligence on the ‘hood) I now am reminded of how stressful a house purchase is. More than a few things were overlooked.

            In the case of the ‘burbs I do wonder what goes on. Is it that buyers overlook the local transportation options at purchase or is that they don’t care?

            In the case of transportation in Toronto I’ve seen examples of NIY[our]BY. I even see it on my street and in my colleagues at work–they want their own streets to be slow streets but heaven forbid that other people would like to enjoy a safe street for their kids.

            If you noticed the farce about the on again-off again bike lane on Jarvis, many Leaside residents (who certainly don’t live along Jarvis) were vocal opponents (even though it now turns out it was a distinctly safer route for cyclists). This is my summary of the attitude expressed by the Leaside community association: “On our Leaside streets we want low speed limits. One ways to limit through traffic. We want our ravines. We want our bike trails. But, on our route to work downtown we want to drive 60. We also want you councillors to get those damn bikes off OUR road and, while you’re at it, get rid of those stop lights. We don’t want the backyards of those poor people to have the same amenities or quality of life as ours.” Is that too cynical a take :(

    • IB

      Yes, thank you Mel for helping to doom the Eglinton Subway.

      • chris

        Actually Mike Harris did that, but good try!

        • IB

          Yes, the final decision rested with Harris, but Lastman had prioritized Sheppard over Eglinton even though Sheppard was more expensive. Lastman’s Tory roots helped too.

  • Marshal Dunnik

    “I consider myself well-versed in the TTC”, John Gape boasts, then later points at a green circle on the subway station wall and says, “It doesn’t do anything, it’s purely aesthetic.”

    Oh really?

    http://torontoist.com/2010/08/rocket_talk_what_are_those_subway_symbols_for/

  • splagelouf

    utter non-story

  • Chris

    I’m sitting here in Prince Edward Island and, wow, up comes a video of where I grew up. It use to be called Burbank and Sheppard. When I was young there were lots of farm fields and the subdivisions were just being build. Nearby was the location of the last one room school house in Toronto (Mrs Kidd, 1955).

    • nihir

      The north side is still called Burbank Drive, though I’m not sure if that one room school house has survived!

      • hotproperty

        It did and is now worth 11 bajillion dollars. I hope Mrs. Kidd bought it and her heirs can fund the new scarborough subway.

  • Maarten Heilbron

    Charming. You might also enjoy a tour of art on the TTC: http://youtu.be/vm8o30izJcQ

  • DM

    On behalf of those who live at Bessarion station, thank you. And your pronounciation was spot on. The subway drone will get it wrong. Every time.

    • http://levynewsnetwork.wordpress.com TheDanLevy

      Of course it gets it wrong every time…it’s a recording not a live reading! :)
      But i was wondering how it is pronounced since he never got that second opinion so thanks!

  • PumpkinCupcake

    Pape station is prettier.

  • Judy #ReleaseYou

    key landmarks of that area i’ve noticed after living at bayview and sheppard for 17 years:
    - building with a bunch of doctors’ offices (including my family doctor and orthodontist)
    - canadian tire
    - mcdonald’s
    - ikea

    LOL :P

  • Stevan

    Divisive dribble. Yet another example of what right wing nut jobs call “the elitist downtowners”. Pretentious beardo garbage. And I’m a liberal! Just because the people up that way can’t afford to live downtown doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a subway station.

    • OgtheDim

      You do know that the condos in that area go for $300K for a 1 bedroom and the houses for $800K+, right? Not exactly a poor neighbourhood. People live there because of the highway access (which is why that area has some of the worst congestion in the city).

      And, no not every neighbourhood deserves a subway station.

    • Testu

      You know what’s really divisive? Saying people “deserve” a subway station.

      The TTC doesn’t build subway lines and stations because the people in the neighbourhood have been really good all year, brushed their teeth and washed behind their ears. They (ideally) build subways stations where population density and projected usage shows that it will be viable to do so. The entire Sheppard line was not built according to this principle, it was built because Mel Lastman decided his old riding “deserved” subways.

      That’s why we have jokes about token stations with daily ridership numbers more in line with a single streetcar. That’s why the entire Sheppard line loses money every year and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. That’s why instead of expanding heavily overburdened routes like Finch we’ve been subsidizing a vastly under capacity subway line.

      People deserve good transit options, those aren’t always a subway line.

    • PeevedInOntario

      This has nothing to do with pretentious beardos. It’s a commentary on poor planning and poor economics.

      You put a subway station where people live now. For that matter, you build subways where people live NOW, not in 50 years.

      You put street cars or LRTs in places where not enough people live now and build subways when density gets high enough.

      We’ve seen how successful the Danforth and parts of the Yonge-University-Spadina line are. They were built on the backs of street car lines that were filled beyond capacity. We’ve also seen how poorly planned subways simply drove up property prices along western stretches of Bloor and did nothing to encourage intensification of land use (and, we still have to subsidize those stations while the ones east of High Park all all self-sustaining).

  • Moaz Ahmad

    Very interesting story … I’m curious about why there is a Bessarion station but not a Willowdale Rd. station … Willowdale being close enough to Sheppard to see redevelopment … and supported by some density along Willowdale itself.

    If I recall correctly the story is that the rising cost of construction and associated delays (including those related to the cut and cover of the Sheppard & Yonge intersection and the connecting track between the two lines) led to cost cutting that eliminated a station or two and cut back the line to Don Mills.

    It’s funny, but if the Sheppard line had been built underground for LRT rather than subway, even with the bigger tunnel the underground portion would probably run from Bathurst to Victoria Park and on the surface to Downsview.

  • westendgal

    Kipling is quite the destination. It recently opened up a new entrance. Which is quite lush. West side. Braap braap!

  • Mike Lipsius

    This was actually pretty cool, but I couldn’t help noticing how he got on one of the old trains at Yonge, but got off a new one at Sheppard.

  • Mr Trainbeans

    I always thought bessarion had a cool name and determined to visit the place

  • Whitebox

    Bessarion: it sounds like a mythical land, like ‘Iowa’.

  • Chony

    Liked the video and the production idea very much. I often wonder about TTC stations that nobody uses, or just a few. I guess it goes with the saying, “If you build it, they will come.” I am interested in the music at the end, where is it from? It’s stuck in my head now. Congrats on the project. What’s next?

  • John A.

    Bessarion is the A.G.O. of subway stations.

  • Andy

    Bessarian sort of reminds me of Wiarton at 6:00 pm on a fall Thursday night….

  • Flootie McTootie

    Great video. In high school, my friends and I would amuse ourselves during commutes identifying all the double entendre station names: “High” Park; “Broad”-view; “Pape;” “Cox”-well; Old Cummer” (RIP). Good times.

  • Rob L

    I regularly stop at Bessarion to go to the medical buildings nearby. There’s two other things I do there: go to the convenience store to get biltong (South African jerky), and go to Taro’s Fish to get sushi/Japanese food products.

  • Elto Desukane

    What is the vast empty lot south-east of Bessarion station, as seen on Google Map?

    • iMiiTH

      Lastman’s cronies’ land that was supposed to be turned into quick condos to sell at an inflated price because of the subway. The soil ended up being contaminated, and there was an underground river(?).

  • SayBlade

    I believe the green dot is a marker for train braking and stopping.