The PATH

A sense of satisfaction, of moral victory always accompanies a successful navigation Toronto’s underground PATH, 28 subterranean kilometers of shopping and services create a squirrel trail between the waterfront and the Financial District’s northern reaches.  Such was my experience Monday night attempting to maneuver my way from Commerce Court North to Google’s Toronto offices at Yonge and Dundas, the bustling hub striving to match New York’s Times Square energy.

The Guinness Book of World Records notes the PATH as the largest underground shopping complex.  It covers more than 4 million square feet, 1,200 shops, and 5,000 employees.  The intrepid walker can find anything from men’s and women’s clothing stores to health food stores to newsstands and everything in between.  There are more than 50 buildings connected by the PATH, 5 subway stops, 1 rail station, several hotels, and tourist points of interest such as the Hockey Hall of Fame.  For the most part, it is accessible.  Where it is not, there is signage indicating an alternate route.

I tend to give directions by landmarks. It doesn’t matter that I’ve lived in Toronto for six years, a city mostly built on a grid pattern.  It’s a habit going back to my days in Boston where the streets are built on old cow paths and where you could be traveling north(ish) on Tremont Street only to have it turn 90 degrees due east.  I find it easier to ask someone to turn left at the CITGO sign than go through the rigmarole of explaining why a street seems to inexplicably change name.

The PATH is not on Toronto’s grid system, but you’ll do yourself a great disservice learning to follow it using landmarks.  Some stores change over with enough frequency that the shoe store you used as your marker to turn right is now an indie chocolatier giving Laura Seacord a run for her money.  Fortunately there are maps at nearly every major intersection in addition to the informative signs overhead indicating which direction you’re heading and which building you’re about to enter.  On these signs, north is represented by the color blue.  South is red.  Going east?  Look for the yellow arrow.  And if you’re headed west, you’ll want the orange arrow.  Take your time, read the signs and/or the maps, and you will avoid my initial mistake of walking around in circles when I tried to make it home underground my first year here.

As for Monday night, despite the fact that I was swimming upstream against the flow of rush hour pedestrians on their way to Union Station I made it to Yonge and Dundas with 10 minutes to spare only having to look at a map once in Scotiabank Plaza. Success!

You can find a map of the PATH on the City of Toronto’s website.

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