The Eglinton West Subway

By James Bow.

The Eglinton Subway was first proposed in the early 1980s as part of the Network 2011 plan for rapid transit expansion, but not initially as a subway. An Eglinton Rapid Transit line would have initially used buses to carry people from the Airport and commuters from Peel Region to the Spadina Subway at Eglinton West Station. Once the Sheppard Subway and the Downtown Relief Line were built, then the Eglinton Busway would be converted to a full-fledged subway, assuming that traffic demand warrented it.

Despite being backed by Metropolitan Toronto, plans for the Eglinton West rapid transit line languished until 1994, when the NDP Government of Bob Rae finally got shovels in the ground on new subway construction. By that time, the Eglinton line had transformed into a full-fledged subway, the first phase of which would run from Allen Station (located below Eglinton West Station and connected to the Spadina Subway using a south-to-west and west-to-north wye) to York Centre Station at Black Creek Drive. The Eglinton line would not immediately provide a link to the Airport, but it would serve established moderate-density neighbourhoods in the city of York as well as the proposed York City Centre.

How a Busway Became a Subway.

When the Network 2011 report proposed an Eglinton Rapid Transit route, it took great lengths to say that the initial line should not be a subway. Buses on private right-of-way could carry the traffic involved at far less cost, it argued. What had changed over the intervening years to transform the busway into a subway?

The change likely occurred due to political pressures. The cities of Etobicoke and York strongly supported the concept of an Eglinton Rapid Transit line, as did the Region of Peel, but they were unsatisfied with the prospect of a busway. There was political jealousy over the fact that North York had successfully made the Sheppard Subway a priority, when it was felt that their transit needs were at least that acute. On Metro Council meetings, Etobicoke and York formed a voting block agitating that the Eglinton rapid transit line be built as a subway from the start.

When the NDP Government of Bob Rae pushed to get subways under construction, they took care that the projects to be started were balanced evenly between the political players in and around Metro. For North York and Southern York Region, they put forward the Sheppard Subway and the York University extension. For Scarborough, they pushed an extension of the Scarborough RT. For York, Etobicoke and Peel, they pushed the Eglinton Subway. Thus they could show that rapid transit funds were being spent evenly between the different areas within Metro, and nobody went away unhappy. The fact that the truncated versions of the Sheppard and Eglinton Subway together provided less benefit than, say, a single complete Sheppard or Eglinton line, didn't enter into consideration.

The discussion turned out to be purely academic. Despite getting shovels into the ground on the Eglinton West subway, the project was cancelled soon after the Conservative government took power in June 1995. The cavern that was excavated for a future Allen Station was filled in, creating another unfinished subway station akin to the roughed-in Lower Queen.

Allen Road Station

Allen station would connect Eglinton passengers with the Spadina subway.

The Stations

Allen station would have been built beneath Eglinton West Station on the Spadina line. Cars would enter service from Wilson Yard using a south-to west connection just west of the station. Trains would leave service by pulling east into the tailtrack and accessing the west-to-north switch. No east-to-south or west-to-south were planned because the TTC is not interested in offering direct-downtown service on the line.

Dufferin North Station

Dufferin North Station

Dufferin station would have straddled Dufferin Street and featured a small bus terminal near the northwest corner of the intersection served by Dufferin North and Dufferin South buses and possibly an extension of the Vaughan bus. Pedestrian entrances would have been located on the north end of Eglinton Avenue, kittycorner to Vaughan Road.

Caledonia Station

Caledonia Station

Caledonia station would have sat just west of Caledonia Avenue, near Gilbert Street (the former terminus of the Oakwood streetcar). The station would have featured no off-street bus facilities, with passengers making connections to buses on Caledonia via a pedestrian entrance at the corner. An additional pedestrian entrance would have served the nearby West Side Shopping Mall. No provision was made for a possible future connection with the Barrie GO train.

Keele North Station

Keele North Station

Keele North station could also have been referred to as Trethewey. A bus terminal would have been built inside the Eglinton/Keele/York block, with an additional entrance on the west, serving the Board of Education building.

York Centre Station

York Centre station

York Centre station, located beside Black Creek Drive, would have served a new downtown built by the City of York. The terminus to the first phase of the line, tailtracks would have extended west towards Jane Street. The station would also have featured a connection to a new station on the Georgetown GO train line.

The Eglinton Line Today

In 1999, when Mel Lastman asked the TTC to write a report on the next priorities for subway construction, should the province of Ontario decide to promise for such projects in the coming election campaign, the TTC reported that extending the Sheppard Subway to Victoria Park, or funding the York University extension should be at the top of the list. This statement provoked anger from councillors in the former cities of York and Etobicoke, and Mel Lastman was forced to say that the Eglinton line was still a priority, and that this report was to cover possible projects to build after the Eglinton line was completed.

The Eglinton rapid transit line wouldn't come back to life until 2006, and only then as an LRT. In that year, Toronto City Council announced a plan (called Transit City) to build a network of LRT lines stretching across the city. Among the lines was a mammoth Eglinton-Crosstown route, operating from Pearson Airport, along Eglinton to Kennedy station, with the line diving underground east of Black Creek Drive and surfacing west of Leslie. The province committed to funding this network as part of its MoveOntario 2020 proposal, announced in July 2007, and made the Eglinton Crosstown LRT a top priority.

The Transit City plan was scuttled by newly elected mayor Rob Ford on his first day of office (December 1, 2010), but Metrolinx had agreed to pay for the full cost of building the Eglinton line. Negotiations between Metrolinx and the Mayor's Office resolved the differences, such that Metrolinx agreed to build the Eglinton LRT completely underground from Jane Street to Kennedy, and interline the line with a revamped Scarborough RT. By early 2011, a tender had been issued for tunnel boring equipment to build the line.

So the Eglinton West subway turned out to be delayed rather than cancelled by Mike Harris back in 1995. After waiting two decades to get shovels back in the ground, passengers on Eglinton will be able to ride far further than they could have if the Eglinton West subway had been built as originally planned.


References

  • Haskill, Scott., 'Toronto Subway Expansion', Rail and Transit, March 1993, p3-5, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).

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