Text by James Bow
Finch subway station is the northern terminus of the Yonge line and, until late in 2017, the furthest north the Toronto subway extends. Opening on March 30, 1974, the twentieth anniversary of the subway itself, Finch station acts as a gateway of thousands of commuters from the northeastern and northwestern suburbs of Toronto and of southern York Region. In 2014, it served 90,910 passengers on an average workday, making it the fifth busiest station on the Toronto subway network (after Bloor-Yonge, St. George, Union and Kennedy). It is a major job connecting the subway to TTC buses and buses operated by GO Transit and York Region Transit. At one point, it even offered a connection with Brampton Transit.
And it was built almost as an afterthought, thanks to the availability of cheap land for parking.
The Finch subway station is found north and west of the Yonge-Finch intersection, in the old village of Newtonbrook. This village was established in the early 19th century along the old military highway of Yonge Street. The presence of the Don River near this location allowed for the construction of grist mills, and the traffic on Yonge street was soon served by inns and stores.
One such inn, established in 1848, was a two-storey structure at the corner of today’s Finch-Yonge intersection owned by one John Finch. Finch’s Hotel established the name of Finch Avenue for the cross street, although it was often referred to as “Finch’s” well into the 20th century, as seen on roll signs of cars short-turning for the NORTH YONGE RAILWAY. Newtonville developed as a self-contained village into the 20th century, as part of a string of villages and towns that sprang up along Yonge Street as interurban service extended as far north as Sutton.
In the 1950s, however, Toronto’s urban sprawl overtook these settlements, which became commercial centres for burgeoning suburban neighbourhoods. By the 1960s, the area was just another neighbourhood in the growing Borough of North York when Metropolitan Toronto considered extending the YONGE subway north of Eglinton.
In June 1961, planners for the TTC and Metropolitan Toronto released a study suggesting that the YONGE subway could be extended north in two phases, with construction beginning on an extension to Sheppard Avenue in 1970, followed by construction on an extension to Steeles in 1980. A further study, conducted in 1964, suggested that the YONGE subway should end at Sheppard Avenue, downplaying an extension to Steeles, suggesting that the sewer and water systems of Markham and Vaughan Townships were ill-equipped to handle the development such an extension would stimulate. Metropolitan Toronto approved the extension of the YONGE subway to Sheppard in 1967. Approval by the Ontario Municipal Board followed soon thereafter, and construction on the project began on October 3, 1968.
On October 17, 1969, Metropolitan Toronto council approved a further extension of the YONGE subway, from Sheppard to Finch Avenue. The reason for the $37.5 million project was concerns over the location of commuter parking at Sheppard station. There simply wasn’t enough land to meet demand, and North York council was interested in developing that intersection as part of its proposed downtown. Instead, the presence of a Hydro right-of-way running east-west north of Finch Avenue offered the promise of plenty of space for large commuter lots that could serve the station, capturing many drivers from Toronto’s northern suburbs. Construction commenced soon thereafter using tunnelling cut-and-cover tunnelling technique, and after some delays due to labour disputes and complicated construction, the station opened to the public on March 30, 1974. The station opened with 800 commuter parking spots. Today, the station holds 3,258 spots, including 31 accessible spots. The station was also the first to use the carousel-style “kiss-n-ride” passenger pick-up and drop-off design that was incorporated into later terminals like Kipling and Kennedy. The design was chosen to try to reduce the traffic congestion that had afflicted the pick-up and drop-off facilities at Islington and Warden.
Fare Zone Issues
The design work for Finch station was easily incorporated with the planning for the other stations on the North Yonge Extension. At the time, the Toronto Transit Commission operated with a two-zone fare system. Passengers from the suburbs of Metropolitan Toronto were obliged to pay a second fare as they crossed the zone boundary around the City of Toronto and the inner suburban neighbourhoods. On Yonge Street, that zone boundary was Glen Echo loop near the Yonge Street/Yonge Boulevard intersection. When the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway extended to Islington and Warden, it poked out into the second fare zone. To avoid the complication of charging multiple fares on the subway, it was decided to keep the Toronto subway within the first fare zone, and having suburban passengers pay their second fare as they changed from buses to trains and vice versa at the suburban stations.
The North Yonge extension stations of York Mills, Sheppard and Finch were designed when the two-zone fare system was still in place, meaning that the bus terminals were outside the fare paid area of the stations, and long corridors connected these terminals and associated exits to the fare booths inside the station. The zoned fare system was removed from the TTC in 1972, however, meaning that there was now considerable benefit to bringing the bus terminals within the fare paid zone, allowing for quick and seamless transfers between buses and the subway. The complicated network of tunnels and exits at Sheppard station precluded bringing the bus terminal within the fare paid zone until the SHEPPARD subway opened in November 2002, but passenger traffic from connecting buses at Finch made the TTC find a way. Automatic fare gates were set up on exit stairwells leading to the main corridor connecting the bus terminal to the main concourse, and a long fare barrier was built across the centre of the main concourse area.
Finch station features several entrances, onto the nearby streets, some of which were added after the station opened. In addition to the TTC’s bus terminal, the TTC also constructed a regional transit terminal north of Bishop Street (two blocks north of Finch) where buses from York Region could pick up and drop off passengers, including Gray Coach services. This facility was taken over by GO Transit in March 1977, around the time GO took over Gray Coach’s operations on Yonge and Bayview streets between Finch station and Newmarket. Markham and Vaughan Transit soon connected to the TTC via this terminal. In April 1990, Brampton Transit buses entered this terminal, serving on the joint Brampton-Vaughan route 77 along Highway 7. This continued until September 4, 2010 when Brampton Transit replaced its part of route 77 with its bus rapid transit Zum service to York University.
Finch subway station shares many of the same architectural features of its North Yonge brethren. Its walls follow York Mill’s two-tone tile and vinyl stripping along the walls, but with grey tiles rather than blue-green. It’s outdoor buildings are modernist in design, featuring long lines and lots of concrete. Features added after the opening, including a connection to the North American Centre tower and a new exit onto Pemberton Avenue, have added to the mix of styles. The station was rendered accessible in 1999, with elevators connecting the subway platforms to the main entrances and the TTC bus terminal, but the regional bus terminal was not rendered accessible until 2005 when elevators were added ahead of the launch of the VIVA rapid-bus network.
At the track level, Finch station features an extensive tail track arrangement north of the station. A pair of switches allows trains to travel into one of three tail tracks extending a full subway-train length north of the station. Finch station can store as many as five subway trains overnight, and has done so in order to reduce deadhead times and when capacity was at a premium at the TTC’s subway yards. Trains switch ends using a double-crossover south of the station.
Initially, the TTC short-turned half of its rush hour service at Eglinton Avenue, but ridership eventually extended full service all the way to Finch. When the TTC considered increasing subway frequencies due to overcrowding, Finch itself proved to be a bottleneck, as the double crossover limited the turnaround times at the station to just 130 seconds. To improve frequencies, the TTC considered extending the tunnel north, to a roughed-in Cummer station, and building another pocket-track north of the current tail tracks, allowing alternate trains to pull into each pocket track north of the station to switch ends.
Finch station also boasts the art installation Rhythm of Exotic Plants. Found on the mezzanine level, this large metal sculpture was made by Krystyna Sadowska in 1965, but donated to the TTC in 1977 by its owner Rio Algom. There are also two plaques celebrating the station’s opening and the work labourers put into it, one found in the main concourse, and a smaller plaque found at the south end of the subway platform.
Finch station has been the northern terminus of the YONGE subway since 1974. Proposals to extend the subway north of Finch remained no more than proposals until the late 1990s. Then, on the eve of the 1999 election, Toronto mayor Mel Lastman asked the TTC to study potential subway extensions, in case the provincial government of Mike Harris decided to spend money on such a project as an election goodie. The extension of the Yonge subway to Steeles Avenue and beyond to Clark Boulevard rated highly. However, no such funding materialized.
In the meantime, York Region merged the transit agencies of the region’s lower-tier municipalities into York Region Transit. The agency set about building a bus rapid transit network called VIVA, with many of its buses converging on Finch station via the regional transit terminal. The many buses using Yonge Street to access Finch created significant congestion north of the station, so proposals surfaced to create bus-only lanes in the middle of Yonge Street, possibly extending as far north as Richmond Hill.
However, York Region was still interested in serving Yonge Street south of Richmond Hill via a subway. In July 2007, as part of its MoveOntario 2020 proposal, the Ontario government threw its support behind an extension of the Yonge subway to the Richmond Hill boundary at Langstaff, and the busway proposals were quietly dropped on Yonge Street. Though officially a priority, however, the extension proposal has not moved further, due to concerns about overcrowding further south. The extension’s development is not likely to go forward until steps are taken to reduce subway overcrowding downtown.
Part of the MoveOntario 2020 proposal also included an LRT operating on Finch Avenue from Finch station to Humber College. Although plans were delayed with the election of Rob Ford as mayor of Toronto in 2010, it remains a priority, although the first phase is likely to extend west from Finch West station at Keele Street.
Finch station has served as Toronto’s northern gateway since 1974, and it is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future, but its importance is unlikely to diminish. Even as the SPADINA subway is extended north to the Jane/Highway 7 intersection, VIVA and York Region transit will continue to route dozens of buses into the regional terminal. The opening of the SHEPPARD subway did not reduce the number of buses coming into the station from Finch East. As the Greater Toronto Area continues to grow, it’s clear that the crowds at Finch aren’t going away.
Service Notes (as of January 1, 2017):
- Off-site Resources:
- Line: 1 YONGE-UNIVERSITY-SPADINA
- Address: 5600 Yonge Street
- Opened: March 30, 1974
- Wheelchair Accessible Since: May 21, 1999
- Average Weekday Ridership: 90,910 (2014), 97,460 (2013), 101,940 (2012), 96,240 (2011), 94,400 (2010)
- Hours of Operation:
First Train to Downsview: 5:40 a.m. weekdays, 5:45 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:55 a.m. Sundays.
Last Train to Finch: 1:16 a.m. every day.
- Yonge & Finch Entrances, located on the east side of Yonge, 21 metres north of Finch, and on the west side of Yonge, 29 metres north of Finch. These two sidewalk staircases connect with the main concourse. (Not Wheelchair Accessible)
- Passenger Pick-Up and Drop Off Entrance, near the Yonge/Hendon intersection. Accessed on foot from either the west side of Yonge Street, walking 82 metres north of Hendon Avenue, then one metre west, then southwest forty metres to the sidewalk entrance, or from the northeast corner of the Finch West Parking lot. Features an outside elevator and a sidewalk staircase and a staircase from the enclosed waiting area to the concourse level. (Wheelchair Accessible)
- GO Bus Terminal Entrance, near the Yonge/Bishop intersection, located on street at the northeast corner of Yonge and Bishop (sidewalk stairs and stairs within the terminal building), offering stairs, an escalator and an elevator to the concourse level. (Wheelchair Accessible)
- North American Centre Entrance, 5700 Yonge Street, located on the southwest corner of Yonge and Hendon. The lower concourse of this building has direct access to the station’s concourse level (Wheelchair Accessible)
- 5775/5765 Yonge Street Entrances located on the east side of Yonge Street, 162 metres north of Bishop Avenue. Stairs and an escalator inside 5775 Yonge Street or an enclosed staircase at 5765 Yonge Street provide access to the concourse level (Not Wheelchair Accessible)
- Pemberton Avenue Automatic Entrance, located on the north side of Pemberton Avenue, 130 metres west of Kenneth Avenue, with stair access to the concourse level beneath the bus terminal. (Not Wheelchair Accessible)
- Yonge Street Automatic Entrance, , located on the east side of Yonge Street, 100 metres north of Finch Avenue, with stairs directly to the concourse level beneath the bus terminal. (Not Wheelchair Accessible)
- Wheelchair Accessible: Since 1999 (Regional Bus Terminal in 2005-6)
- Elevators (click here for maintenance schedule):
- Main Concourse to Street level
- Bus Concourse level to Buses
- Main Concourse to Bus Concourse level
- Main Concourse to Subway platform
- Street (Northwest corner of Finch Avenue and Yonge Street - North American Centre) to Main concourse (Non-TTC elevator)
- Concourse to GO Transit/YRT bus loop and street level (Non-TTC elevator)
- Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
- To GO Transit (Down At All Times)
- To GO Transit (Up At All Times)
- Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
- Concourse To Train Platform (Down At All Times)
- Concourse To Train Platform (Down At All Times)
- Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times)
- Concourse To Concourse (Up At All Times)
- Concourse To Concourse (Down At All Times)
- Concourse To Street - East Side (Up At All Times)
- Concourse To Bus Platform (Up At All Times)
- Concourse To Bus Platform (Down At All Times)
- Finch East - 890 Willowdale Avenue - 1,675 spaces (20 accessible spots)
- Finch West - 18 Hendon Avenue - 1,552 spaces (11 accessible spots)
- Washrooms: located on the concourse at the north end of the fare paid area
- Token vending machine
- Pass vending machine
- One centre platform
TTC Surface Route Connections:
- 36 FINCH WEST
- 39 FINCH EAST
- 42 CUMMER
- 53 STEELES EAST
- 60 STEELES WEST
- 97 YONGE (Transfer to bus on street)
- 125 DREWRY
- 199 FINCH ROCKET
- 320 YONGE (Transfer to bus on street)
- 336 FINCH WEST NIGHT (Transfer to bus on street)
- 339 FINCH EAST NIGHT (Transfer to bus on street)
Finch Station Image Archive
A model of the proposed Finch station, circa 1968. This image is from the Toronto Archives Fonds 16, Series 1604, File 114 and is courtesy Nathan Ng.
A view of the TTC's bus terminal at Finch station, taken on March 6, 1974, just weeks before opening. This image is from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 836, Subseries 4, File 46, and is courtesy Nathan Ng.
A view of the mezzanine level of Finch station, and the long barrier needed to separate the fare paid zone. This photo is from the Toronto Archives, Fonds 16, Series 836, Subseries 4, File 62, and is courtesy Nathan Ng.
An undated photograph of the Finch regional bus terminal, and the northern entrance off of Bishop. This photograph was taken for the Toronto Archives (Series 836, Subseries 4, File 60), and is courtesy Nathan Ng.
The Kiss'n'Ride carousel building at Finch station, taken for the Toronto Archives on August 11, 1976 (Fonds 16, Series 1643, File 23, Item 760861-23-7). Image courtesy Nathan Ng.
GO Transit GM "New Look" bus #1115 waits to pick up passengers at Finch's Regional Bus Terminal on April 6, 1980. The photographer is unknown and the image is courtesy the John Knight collection.
A TTC H5-class subway train prepares to pull out of Finch station (this view is looking south) in this May 1980 shot. The photographer is unknown and the image is courtesy the John Knight collection.
The walkway between TTC buses and trains at Finch. Notice the token-and-metropass-only entrance to Yonge at the left. Although Finch station opened after the TTC abandoned its zone fare system, the station was designed when this exit would have been outside the station's fare-paid zone. This 2000 photograph was taken by David Cavlovic.
The Finch station bus terminal in 2000. Photo by David Cavlovic.
An out-of-service H5 pulls south into the northbound track at Finch from the middle tail track north of the station. This 2000 photograph was taken by David Cavlovic.
This view of the entrance of Finch station's regional bus terminal was taken by GTD Aquitaine on May 31, 2008, and is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License
This photograph shows the outside of Finch station's long TTC bus terminal. It was taken on June 1, 2014 by Rayson Ho and is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License.
The station wall tilework of Finch Station, largely unchanged since 1974. This image was taken by Richard White on September 17, 2014.
The TTC bus terminal at Finch Station, taken by Richard White on September 17, 2014.
The mezzanine level of Finch Station, looking north. The entrance to North American Centre is on the left. This image was taken by Richard White on September 17, 2014.