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Residents had a hand in new Leslie station

Commuter Corner
Joseph Hall



Bored, but far from boring: Workers peer down the tunnel, as yet without tracks, near the Leslie and Sheppard subway station. The 6.4-kilometre Sheppard line is set to open in June, 2002, with a few surprises for riders.

It will be hard not to know where you are.

With the name of the nearby intersection written on virtually every one of its wall tiles, the Leslie St. station on the TTC’s new Sheppard subway line will be a very well-marked location.

Five thousand local residents were asked to write out the words Leslie and Sheppard on paper forms. These were then photographed and emblazoned on individual tiles to create unique nuances in the station’s seemingly repetitive interior design scheme.

While the $57 million station is nearing completion, however, the neighbourhood artists will have to wait two more years before they can view their sanctioned graffiti.

Leslie is to be finished this spring, but will welcome no passengers until June 30, 2002, when the rest of the 6.4-kilometre, five-station line is to open.

“There will be people down here on a scheduled basis to run the elevators or to check other systems,” says Andy Bertolo, chief project manager for the Sheppard subway. “But it will basically be mothballed for the time being.”

With the tunnel pushed through from Yonge St. to Don Mills Rd., and the Leslie station about to be completed, the $930 million line is right on time and budget, Bertolo says.

“Over-all we’re dead on schedule, and there’s no element on the critical path that we’re behind on,” he says.

“We expect to be finished all the physical work by September or October of next year and then we’ll have about eight months of safety certification, commissioning and testing before we open the doors.”

While there’s but one station to judge by so far, it’s already apparent that opening will present veteran Toronto subway users with some real surprises.

First off, the line will have shorter platforms than the ones to which riders are accustomed. Normally, TTC trains string six subway cars together for a combined length of about 135 metres. But Sheppard trains will only be four cars long and the line’s platforms have been truncated.

Should the line ever be extended to its originally planned terminus at Scarborough City Centre, then “temporary” concrete block walls covering parts of the platform edges can be removed to lengthen boarding spaces to accommodate larger crowds.

Secondly, Sheppard will be the first TTC subway line to be totally accessible, offering elevators for elderly or handicapped passengers in all five stations. New, accessible T1 trains built in Thunder Bay by Bombardier Inc. will be used exclusively on the line.

Finally, Sheppard’s decor will be slightly less drab than the public washroom-like scheme that predominates along the Yonge-University and Bloor-Danforth lines.

Forced by provincial cuts to forgo the ornate geometry and artistry that marked the 1970s Spadina line, Sheppard will certainly be a square-cut, right-angled continuum of basic building materials.

But station artists and designers have configured their concrete, tile, terrazzo and lighting components in an imaginative way to give the line personality and appeal.

While customers will see some bare concrete walls and exposed ceiling pipes, they’ll also view nature scenes and geometric fossil themes on their daily journeys.

Many senior TTC staff argue that Sheppard was a huge mistake; a line that goes nowhere and wastes nearly $1 billion that could have been spent far more wisely during this, the commission’s most parsimonious period.

But the line is being built, nonetheless. That it’s going in on time, on budget and with an appealing portion of flair, is something Toronto transit riders can cheer about.