Text by James Bow
When the first revenue trains pull north of Sheppard West station (formerly Downsview station) for the first time late in 2017, the first station passengers will encounter will be a bright, airy gateway to one of Canada's newest national parks. The expansive glass station structures and the surrounding greenery bely the station's other benefits, however, connecting passengers to properties and later developments on Sheppard Avenue, as well as providing a link to a rapidly expanding GO train line to Barrie.
Planning for Downsview Park station began in October 2008, after the provincial government announced funding for the extension of the Spadina subway from Downsview to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre via York University. TTC commissioners awarded a contract for the design of the station to a team led by Earth Tech Canada Inc (later renamed Aecom), and the architectural firm Aedas.
The station was initially named Sheppard West in plans, as Sheppard Avenue was the nearest major street. However, TTC planners concluded early that this wasn't the best name for the station. Downsview station, further south, made more sense for the Sheppard West monicker, as it had the bus terminal offering direct connections with Sheppard Avenue buses. It was initially named "Sheppard West" in its plans, until the TTC decided to name the station after the Downsview neighbourhood after a naming contest was held in 1994.
At the same time, the primary purpose of the new station was to serve the redeveloping lands of the former Canadian Forces Base named Downsview. The former airport had been decommissioned and the lands cleaned up to make an urban park (operated by the federal government as a national park) called Parc Downsview Park. Naming the station Downsview Park while Downsview was still in place would cause confusion. Naming the new station Sheppard West while keeping Downsview's name in place would cause more confusion. After considering the matter, the TTC decided that Downsview station would have to be renamed "Sheppard West" when the subway was extended, and Sheppard West station was officially renamed "Downsview Park".
A Green Station
Working with the TTC, Metrolinx, the local community and officials at Parc Downsview Park, the station's architects designed a station to be a focal point for the north end of Parc Downsview Park, emphasizing the connection by using many green elements. The station was designed with "sweeping lush vegetated green roofs" and "dramatic sloped glass walls and landform shaped building elements in aluminum and stone". Light wells cutting through all three levels through the use of escalators and stairs will ensure plenty of natural daylight, even at the subway platform level. The station is designed to sustainable principles meeting Toronto Green Standards.
Downsview Park station also straddled the former Canadian National Newmarket subdivision, the railway tracks carrying the Barrie GO Train. Metrolinx agreed to build a station stop at the site, to open when Downsview Park station opened, and replacing the more temporary York University station further north. Passengers heading to York University will have to transfer to the subway instead. Both the subway station and the GO station will be equipped with Presto fare card readers when they open, but as of this writing (January 2017), there have been no plans announced to deal with the fact that York University-bound GO passengers now have to pay an additional TTC fare to complete their journey; it is possible that both the TTC and Metrolinx may agree that the fare be waived.
As with Downsview station, and other stations that opened since, Downsview Park station will be fully accessible once it opens. Passengers can enter one of two station buildings on either side of the GO tracks and station, and cross over to the other via a free public passageway in the concourse level, accessed through escalators, stairs and elevators from either building.
Downsview Park station will open with artwork created by Panya Clark Espinal called _Spin_. The piece, integrated into the station's glazing, terrazzo, ceramic wall tiles and aluminum ceiling finishes will give the appearance of brushstrokes floating within the station, much like the optical illusions built into the tile work at Bayview Station on the SHEPPARD subway line (which the artist was also responsible for).
In the words of the artist, "_Spin_ offers viewers various opportunities throughout the station to visualize three imaginary circular brushstrokes floating within and beyond the architectural envelope they are occupying. Using anamorphic techniques, each view of the rings is depicted on the architectural surfaces such that when viewed from the point of 'projection' the rendered lines connect smoothly and crystalize as a unified geometry. When seen from other angles the various segments of the geometry fragment and the ring becomes unrecognizable. As we move through the station and descend to the lower levels we see the rings from different angles and pass through them, observing them deconstruct."
Building For Future Developments
In addition to Parc Downsview Park and the Downsview Park GO station, Downsview Park subway station serves primarily industrial developments in the Keele Industrial Area north of Sheppard Avenue West. The station is located across from Bakersfield Street and not far from Chesswood Drive. However, ridership on bus routes through these areas have tended to be light. The station does not offer a bus terminal or parking facilities. However, the station has been set back from Sheppard Avenue West to allow for denser development on the south side of the street. Once these are built, local walk-in traffic at the station will certainly increase. Space has been provided inside the station for retail use, but it remains to be seen whether these facilities will be open when the station opens to the public.
Downsview Park station will likely open to modest crowds. The area has not seen dense development. Most passengers will be attracted to Downsview Park, or to transfer to and from Barrie GO trains. However, the station has been designed to anchor transit friendly development in the area, and provides a significant link between one of GO Transit's fastest growing commuter lines and the TTC. The station has a purpose, and significant potential for growth.
Service Notes (as of January 1, 2017):
- Off-site Resources:
- Line: 1 YONGE-UNIVERSITY-SPADINA
- Address: Address not assigned yet, but on the south side of Sheppard Avenue, across from Bakersfield Street, straddling the Barrie GO Train line.
- Opening: Late in 2017
- Average Weekday Ridership: Not opened yet
- Hours of Operation:
First Train to Finch: In late 2017
Last Train to Finch: In late 2017
First Train to Vaughan: In late 2017
Last Train to Vaughan: In late 2017
- East side, accessed via footpaths from Sheppard Avenue West, east of the Barrie GO Train line. Connected to the west-side entrance through a public access corridor in the concourse level. Fare gates located in the concourse level. (Wheelchair accessible)
- West side, accessed via footpaths from Sheppard Avenue West and Bakersfield Street, connected to the east-side through a public access corridor in the concourse level. Fare gates located in the concourse level. (Wheelchair accessible)
- Wheelchair Accessible Since: On Opening
- Elevators (Not open yet):
- East-side entrance to concourse level
- West-side entrance to concourse level
- Concourse level to subway platform
- Escalators (Not open yet):
- East-side entrance to concourse level (2)
- West-side entrance to concourse level (2)
- Concourse level to platform west side
- Concourse level to platform east side
- Parking: None
- Washrooms: None
- One centre platform
TTC Surface Route Connections:
- 84 SHEPPARD WEST (On Street)
- 101 DOWNSVIEW PARK (On Street)
- 106 YORK UNIVERSITY (On Street)
- 107 KEELE NORTH (On Street)
- 108 DOWNSVIEW(On Street)
- 384 SHEPPARD WEST (On Street)
- Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension Project - Sheppard West Station Approval of Conceptual Design, September 4, 2009 - 918 Kb PDF
- Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension Project - Sheppard West Station Approval of Finishes and Artwork, July 14, 2010 - 3 Mb PDF
- Toronto York Spadina Station Names Report, September 30, 2010 - 1.8 Mb PDF
Downsview Park Station Image Archive
- "Downsview Park Station." TTC Downsview Park Station. Toronto Transit Commission, n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.
- "This Is What Toronto's Newest TTC Station Looks like." BlogTO. BlogTO, 14 Jan. 2017. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.