Toronto Transit Urban Planning

Why Finch West is the best of Toronto’s new subway stations

The dream is finally a reality for thousands of York University students

On Sunday, December 17, six new TTC subway stations opened, and tens of thousands of excited people crowded the new extension to York University and Vaughan (the free TTC fares, courtesy of the provincial government, might also have had something to do with it). I also took the opportunity to explore the new subway stations, and get a second sense of their layout and their ridership potential.

While Pioneer Village Station remains my favourite architecturally, I have found myself liking the simplicity of Finch West Station.

As I have argued here before, I expect that Finch West and Pioneer Village Station will be well used – mostly due to the TTC surface route connections. York University Station will do well during the academic term, and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre has potential — but only if York Region commits to operating a decent transit system with convenient and frequent service to the new subway. I also suggested that the main GO Transit connections — Downsview Park and Highway 407 — will see very little usage. Both stations rely on GO Transit connections, and at the time, GO did not make their plans public.

We now know that GO Transit service to Downsview Park Station will begin December 30. The Barrie Line will see new midday and evening service, and all trains will call at the new stop. Existing rush hour trains will also continue to stop at York University Station. All GO Transit buses on Highway 407 that terminate on the York University campus will also continue to do so, instead of taking full use of the new bus terminal at Highway 407 Station. (Only GO bus routes 25F, 46, 47, 47F, 48, 48B and 48F, along with route 40, will call at the fancy new terminal, adding up to 10 minutes to existing travel times.)

I predict that GO Transit will abandon York University Station and direct all its bus services to Highway 407 Station after the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, and after the provincial election is over. It would not be the first time that GO Transit abandoned one of its railway stations, either. In 1969, train service at Lorne Park was abandoned, in favour of nearby Clarkson.

The province announced a $1.50 TTC fare discount for Presto card transfers to and from GO Transit and UP Express in October, to take effect January 7, 2018. But without further fare integration for transfers to and from York University, students and staff who currently arrive on campus directly might have to get used to paying an additional $3.00 a day. But at least Highway 407 Station will be useful.

In a previous post, I also explained that Pioneer Village Station was architecturally my favourite of the six new stations. That is still true. But in terms of functionality, my favourite is now Finch West.

Southbound 41 Keele bus loads in front of the new Finch West Station. Note the nearby apartment buildings.

Finch West Station, like Pioneer Village, was designed by  aLL Design, a global firm led by Will Alsop. The various tile patterns used in the design are a bit jarring, but to me, they recall those used in older TTC stations in North York.

Ascending the escalator at Finch West

The station serves buses on routes 36 Finch West — the TTC’s third busiest surface route in 2016 — along with Route 41 Keele, 107 St. Regis, and 199B Finch Rocket. Only Routes 36 and 199B enter the 3-bay bus terminal, all others (along with the 36 bus) stop on the street. This simplicity is in contrast to the Highway 407 Station terminal, which will be little-used for quite some time.

Route 36 serves neighbourhoods such as Jane-Finch and Rexdale. These large, lower-income communities of Toronto will benefit from a much shorter ride to the subway.

Simple new TTC bus terminal at Finch West Station

In 2022, the Finch West LRT is scheduled to open, connecting Finch West Station with Humber College. On the mezzanine level, a temporary wall, as seen in the photo below, can be knocked out for a passage to a yet-to-be-built underground LRT station. Major construction is scheduled to begin in 2018.

Looking towards the temporary wall that will lead to the Finch West LRT

Finch West might not be the most stunning of all the new stations that opened on the Line 1 extension, but it might be the most useful and the most functional. In design, and in function, Finch West is a throwback, recalling a simpler time in TTC subway construction.

Toronto Transit

The many challenges of creating a transit hub at Pearson Airport

Sign in Terminal 1 at Pearson Airport. Whether we realize it or not, Pearson Airport is already a transit hub. 

Updated April 7, 2016

Lester B. Pearson International Airport is Canada’s busiest airport, handling 41 million passengers a year. It is not the busiest transportation hub in the Greater Toronto Area, though; Union Station is considerably busier (GO Transit alone handles 64.4 million passengers a year at Canada’s busiest station).

Pearson Airport is located almost entirely within the City of Mississauga, but the terminals are less than a kilometre away fromthe City of Toronto’s western boundary; due to the location of the airport terminals, most passengers reaching the airport by road, or transit pass through the City of Toronto to get to it.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), the not-for-profit agency that operates Canada’s busiest airport, has expressed interest in creating a transit hub and guiding transit-oriented development around it. It’s an interesting idea, and some of the facts are compelling.

There are approximately 300,000 jobs located at and near Pearson Airport. The airport itself hosts 40,000 employees that work for the airport authority and its contractors and tenants, including retailers, airlines, and allied services. The remaining 250,000 jobs are located in office parks and industrial areas that surround the airport, in the cities of Toronto, Mississauga, and Brampton, a very large area that extends north into Bramalea, west of Hurontario Street and south to Highway 403.

You can read the GTAA’s report, written by the prestigious planning firm Urban Strategies Inc., and named Pearson Connects: A Multi-Modal Platform for Prosperity online as a PDF. The report claims that Pearson Airport and environs has more jobs, and more economic clout than any Canadian downtown, with the exception of Downtown Toronto. To a degree, this is true. But the size of the Airport Employment Zone, as the GTAA defines it, is much larger in size than any downtown, even Toronto’s; the jobs are mostly dispersed in warehouses, factories, and suburban office buildings difficult to reach by transit.

In fact, Pearson Airport and its surrounding area — all 25,600 hectares  (256 square kilometres) — has fewer than 25 employees per hectare, while Downtown Toronto, one-tenth the size, has nearly 200 employees per hectare (and a growing residential population as well). Igor Dragovic calculated these figures from a recent Neptis report. The low employment densities found in business parks and warehouse districts are only partly to blame; the airport itself, with five active runways and a large land buffer, contributes to this.


The GTAA wants to build an “airport-related multi-modal hub” that would tie together existing and planned rapid transit services, including the Kitchener RER Service, LRTs on Eglinton and Finch Avenues, the Mississauga Transitway BRT and a proposed Derry Road transit corridor.  It cites airports in Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, and Hong Kong as examples to emulate.

GTAA ProposedThe GTAA’s proposal for a transit hub, taken from Page 7 of the report

The report also neglects to recognize that Pearson Airport is already a major transit hub; the problems lie in integrating the existing and proposed transit services together. And for an area the size of the GTAA’s Airport Employment Zone, that’s a very tall order.