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PATH is a network of underground pedestrian tunnels, elevated walkways, and at-grade walkways connecting the office towers of Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is more than 30 kilometres (19 mi) long. According to Guinness World Records, PATH is the largest underground shopping complex in the world with 371,600 square metres (4,000,000 sq ft) of retail space.[1]

PATH logo
The PATH in the financial district
LocationToronto, Ontario, Canada
Opening date1900 - first pedestrian tunnel in Toronto
1960-70s - construction begins of underground shopping concourses and linkages
1987 - City becomes coordinating agency of network
ManagementCity of Toronto government
(coordinating agency)
No. of stores and services1,200
Total retail floor area371,600 m²
(4 million sq. ft)
No. of floors1
Parking20 parking garages

The PATH network's northerly point is the Toronto Coach Terminal at Dundas Street and Bay Street, while its southerly point is Waterpark Place on Queens Quay. Its main north-south axes of walkways generally parallel Yonge and Bay Streets, while its main east-west axis parallels King Street.

There is continuous expansion to PATH system around Union Station. Two towers are being built as part of CIBC Square and will be linked to the PATH, and extending the PATH to east to cross over Yonge Street by a pedestrian bridge into the Backstage Condominium building (Esplanade and Yonge corner), giving closed access to Union, Scotiabank Arena, and other buildings in the Financial District.



Early pedestrian tunnelsEdit

The first tunnel under construction in 1900 for Eaton's
Elevated portion of the PATH, the SkyWalk

In 1900, the Eaton's department store constructed a tunnel underneath James Street, allowing shoppers to walk between the Eaton's main store at Yonge and Queen streets and the Eaton's Annex located behind the (then) City Hall. It was the first underground pedestrian pathway in Toronto, and is often credited as a historic precursor to the current PATH network. The original Eaton's tunnel is still in use as part of the PATH system, although today it connects the Toronto Eaton Centre to the Bell Trinity Square office complex, on the site of the former Annex building.

Another original underground linkage, built in 1927 to connect Union Station and the Royal York Hotel, also remains an integral part of today's PATH network.[1]


PATH walkway under the Gardiner Expressway and over Lake Shore Boulevard

The network of underground walkways expanded under city planner Matthew Lawson in the 1960s. Toronto's downtown sidewalks were overcrowded, and new office towers were removing the much-needed small businesses from the streets. Lawson thus convinced several important developers to construct underground malls, pledging that they would eventually be linked. The designers of the Toronto-Dominion Centre, the first of Toronto's major urban developments in the 1960s (completed in 1967) were the first to include underground shopping in their complex, with the possibility of future expansion built in. The city originally helped fund the construction, but with the election of a reform city council this ended. The reformers disliked the underground system based on Jane Jacobs' notion that an active street life was important to keeping cities and neighbourhoods vital and that consumers should be encouraged to shop on street level stores rather than in malls (whether they be above ground or below); however, the system continued to grow, as developers bowed to their tenants' wishes and connected their buildings to the system. This also converted low-valued basements into some of the most valuable retail space in the country.

The first expansion of the network occurred in the 1970s with the construction and underground connection of the Richmond-Adelaide office tower and the Sheraton Centre hotel complex.[clarification needed]

Construction of the PATH tunnel north from Scotia Plaza through the Bay Adelaide Centre started in fall 2007. Completion of this section closed the last remaining gap in the north-south route through PATH that parallels Yonge Street, thus eliminating the need to double back from Bay Street to get between buildings located on the eastern edge of PATH.

Coordination and signageEdit

PATH signage in the Bay Adelaide Centre
Lobby of the Sheraton Centre Hotel Toronto; the entrance to PATH is bottom left

In 1987, City Council adopted a unified wayfinding system throughout the network. The design firms Gottschalk+Ash International and Muller Design Associates were hired to design and implement the overall system in consultation with a diverse group of land owners, City staff and stakeholders. A colour-coded system with directional cues was deployed in the early 1990s. Within the various buildings, pedestrians can find a PATH system map, plus cardinal directions (P (red) for south, A (orange) for west, T (blue) for north, H (yellow) for east) on ceiling signs at selected junctions.

The signage can be hard to find inside some of the various connected buildings. Building owners concerned about losing customers to neighbouring buildings insisted that the signs not dominate their buildings, or their own signage system. The city relented and the result is the current system. Many complain that the system is hard to navigate.[2]

Current networkEdit

PATH provides an important contribution to the economic viability of the city's downtown core. The system facilitates pedestrian linkages to public transit, accommodating more than 200,000 daily commuters, and thousands of additional tourists and residents en route to sports and cultural events. Its underground location provides pedestrians with a safe haven from the winter cold and snow, alongside the summer heat and humidity.[3]

In August 2014, a major southward expansion of the PATH network brought it closer to the Toronto waterfront, with the opening of a covered pedestrian bridge connecting Scotiabank Arena south to WaterPark Place on Queens Quay (crossing the Lake Shore Boulevard/Gardiner Expressway corridor and Harbour Street).[4]

Future expansionEdit

In 2011, the City of Toronto released a long-term expansion plan for the PATH, developed by Urban Strategies Inc.[5][6] As part of the expansion plan there will be 45 new entry points, and the walkway expanded to as long as 60 kilometres when changes are completed.[7]

The city of Toronto is constructing a 300-metre, CAD$65 million tunnel connecting Union Station to Wellington Street, the first publicly owned segment[clarification needed] of the 4,000,000-square-foot (370,000 m2) PATH subterranean shopping district. Toronto planners have begun work to guide future PATH development and ensure PATH link construction is included in basement levels of key new buildings.[8]

Connected facilitiesEdit

More than 50 buildings or office towers are connected through the PATH system. It comprises twenty parking garages, five subway stations (Osgoode station connects only to the Four Seasons Centre), two major department stores, two major shopping centres, six major hotels, and a railway terminal. The CN Tower, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, and Rogers Centre are connected via an enclosed elevated walkway, called the SkyWalk, from Union Station, although the walkway does not have indoor connections to these attractions.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "PATH - Toronto's Downtown Underground Pedestrian Walkway".
  2. ^ Lakey, Jack (August 26, 2009). "For Some Visitors, It's a PATH That Leads Nowhere". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 6, 2011.
  3. ^ "PATH - Toronto's Downtown Underground Pedestrian Walkway - Getting Here & Around - Visitor Information Services | City of Toronto". Retrieved 2014-06-02.
  4. ^ "PATH expands with new pedestrian bridge to waterfront". CTV News. 2014-08-16. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  5. ^ Mills, Carry (2012-09-06). "Toronto mulls plan to expand world's largest underground shopping complex". Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  6. ^ "PATH Master Plan Study". City of Toronto. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
  7. ^ Marcus, S: "The Ryersonian", page 1 Archived 2009-03-19 at the Wayback Machine, 5 Archived 2009-03-19 at the Wayback Machine. Ryerson University School of Journalism, September 26, 2007
  8. ^ Kryhul, Angela (June 29, 2010). "Toronto Shines a Light on Underground PATH". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. Retrieved August 6, 2011.

External linksEdit