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Highway 407

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<< Mississauga/Oakville/Points West | GO Highway 407 Services | Richmond Hill Centre >>
Subway Related Properties Page

Text by James Bow

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By most measures, Highway 407 station on the Vaughan extension of the SPADINA subway should not exist. It is located in an underdeveloped section of Vaughan, across from a graveyard, with very little development planned in the future. However, the station — the first of two to open outside the boundaries of old Metropolitan Toronto — was set up as an interchange between a major highway running across the north end of Toronto, and as a future regional transit hub connecting the Toronto subway with a bus transitway taking passengers north, east and west to the far reaches of the Greater Toronto Area.

A Green Belt and a Bypass

The area immediately surrounding Highway 407 station was rural until the middle part of the 20th century. The first major development through the area was likely a corridor of hydro towers designed to bring Ontario’s electricity to customers. In the late 1950s, the provincial government and the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto started to consider a plan for highway construction in the region. One of the proposals for a “Toronto Bypass” eventually became Highway 401. A second, more northerly highway belt was proposed along the route of today’s Highway 407, and the provincial government started to acquire land adjacent to the norther hydro corridor in the 1960s.

Plans for the highway were shelved, however, when the Ontario Department of Highways (a precursor to the Ministry of Transportation) decided to expand Highway 401 into a twelve-lane collector/express system. Instead, Canadian National purchased land and built its own Toronto bypass in the form of the York Subdivision, running from Bramalea north of Steeles into today’s Durham Region and Pickering. In 1965, a graveyard developer purchased 120 acres east of Jane and north of the York subdivision, promising that its rolling landscape and open spaces would provide a space reflection and contemplation. Toronto’s development bloomed, with car-oriented sprawl developments filling up the boroughs of Etobicoke, North York and Scarborough, but Vaughan Township saw limited development as provincial planning restrictions kept the townships north of Toronto rural, for the time being.

By the late 1960s, however, development was starting to spill across the boundaries of Metropolitan Toronto. Considering the issue, the province rejected a call to expand Metropolitan Toronto’s boundaries to encompass its surrounding townships, and instead created “mini-Metros” in the form of the Regional Municipalies of Peel, York and Durham. With their enhanced borrowing powers, these municipalities started developing the previously rural areas surrounding the hamlets and villages, and the population started to grow.

By the early 1980s, congestion was increasing throughout the city, and the province was pressured to revisit its proposal for a highway through southern York Region. In 1986, after he was given a helicopter tour of Toronto during rush hour, Ontario premier David Petersen announced plans to start construction of Highway 407 the following year.

The New Toll Road.

At the time, the province of Ontario was dealing with a significant deficit and a shaky economy, which made Highway 407 too expensive to develop as a conventional highway. Instead, the Peterson administration established Highway 407 as a toll road, seeking out a private sector partner in order to collect tolls electronically, doing away with traffic-delaying toll booths seen on other toll roads. The plan was that user tolls would operate for thirty-five years, ultimately paying for the cost of building the highway, at which point the tolls would be removed.

The following government of Bob Rae maintained this arrangement, and the first section of the highway, running from Highway 410 to Highway 404, was opened by the Mike Harris government on June 7, 1997. Eventually, Highway 407 would run from the interchange between the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highway 403 in Burlington, across the north of the Greater Toronto area, east into Durham Region and the north end of Whitby, with further construction planned to take the highway to Highway 115/35, providing a quick run to Peterborough.

Ahead of the 1999 election, the Harris government made a controversial decision to lease Highway 407 to a private company for 99 years in exchange for $3 billion. Critics called the effective sale a bad deal for drivers and the taxpayers of Ontario, but it’s a deal subsequent governments have had to live with.

Considering a Transit Bypass

As Toronto’s urban growth spilled northward, helped in no small part by the presence of the Highway 401 and (later) 407 “bypasses”, both Metropolitan Toronto and the Province of Ontario started to give thought towards providing rapid transit across the northern part of the City of Toronto. A proposal from the 1960s suggested connecting the ends of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway by a rapid transit line running north through central Scarborough and central Etobicoke and then back towards Yonge Street via the Hydro corridor north of Finch Avenue. North York Reeve James Service suggested that this be accomplished by extending the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, creating a gigantic belt line, although planners pooh-poohed this as overkill. Other suggestions called for streetcars on private right-of-way.

The provincial government got in the act with the GO-ALRT proposal which called for a network of regional light rail transit lines replacing the Lakeshore GO line and extending throughout the GTA, including a northern crosstown line following the Finch corridor. When this proposal did not bear fruit, but Highway 407 did come to pass, the proposal evolved into a bus-only roadway paralleling Highway 407, possibly connecting with the Mississauga Transitway.

The ridership for these rapid transit lines were not initially anticipated to compare to the subways operating through downtown Toronto. However, some planners argued that while the highway 401 and 407 bypasses existed without a public transit equivalent, any attempt to reduce the suburbs’ dependence upon the private automobile was doomed. So the Highway 407 Transitway became a key long-term goal for the provincial government, and parts started to get built, from HOV lanes on Highway 403 to the beginnings of the Mississauga Transitway.

As Highway 407 opened, GO Transit explored the possibility of using it for its services. Initially, they were put off by the tolls, as the provincial government was not clear on whether GO Buses were exempt, as GO Transit thought they should be. An arrangement was eventually worked out, however, and GO’s Highway 407 services started operating on October 30, 2000, with buses connecting Richmond Hill and York University with Durham Region, Mississauga and Oakville. The service proved popular enough, especially with York University students, that GO marketed the 407 route as a special bus corridor, more akin to its main train corridors.

Meanwhile, as debates continued over extending the Toronto subway network in the late 1990s, the City of Vaughan and then the provincial government threw their support behind a plan to take the SPADINA subway northeast from Downsview station to the Jane/Highway 7 Intersection. The City of Vaughan hoped to build a new downtown core around this intersection, and hoped to have the subway anchor it. As the subway line would have to pass beneath Highway 407, a station next to Highway 407 was deemed necessary as a gateway for car drivers heading downtown (either Toronto’s or Vaughan’s), and as a connection with GO’s growing Highway 407 services, and the future Highway 407 transitway. Funding was approved by the Liberal government in 2007 and construction began in 2009.

Station Design and Naming Issues

For the design of Highway 407 station, a design team was set up. The company AECOM was established as the prime consultant, Aedas was set up as a design architect, and Parsons Brinckerhoff as the design engineer. The design team came up with a plan for a transportation hub that would be a “visual landmark”. In the words of the designers, the station would represent “a figurative and real connection between the City of Toronto and York Region creating a transit/accessibility node and strong sense of place through its functional design and engaging form.”

To that effect, Highway 407 station is a single, multi-level building, containing the main entrance and a bus terminal. The station’s roof is clad in standing seam, clear anodized aluminum. Landscaped berms buttress the structure at ground level. The windows of the bus terminal are made of bird-friendly fritted glass in black aluminum framing. The bus terminal offers 18 bays serving York Region and GO Transit buses. The station is fully accessible and features a parking lot containing 583 spaces, plus 25 accessible parking spaces next to a Passenger Pick-Up and Drop-Off facility. The accessible access route from the station to the parking lot and the Passenger Pick-Up and Drop-Off is fully separated from automobile traffic.

Below the bus terminal, the concourse level features the fare gates. The bus terminal is outside the TTC’s fare paid zone (and, indeed, will likely never see a TTC bus), whereas the subway is within the TTC’s fare paid zone. Passengers pay their fare here. The concourse level also provides access to the main entrance and parking, as well as the tunnel to the future Highway 407 Transitway platform. Within the fare-paid area of the concourse level, an elevator and four escalators lead down to the subway platform. A staircase has also been built, wrapped around the elevator shaft leading down to the subway level.

Highway 407 station includes a number of features to reduce its environmental footprint. The station has been designed to maximize the collection of daylight and routing it down to the subway platform. The exteriors have been designed to “enhance the passenger experience” within the station building, using sustainable and biodiverse landscaping. This landscaping has also been designed for best storm water processing.

The Station’s Art Statement

Highway 407 station’s main art feature is Sky Ellipse, designed by Toronto artist David Pearl. It features multi-coloured glass panels covering the skylights to the subway and the western glass fa├žade of the bus terminal. As the sun shifts across the sky, different colours will pass through the station, all the way down to the platform level. In the artist’s words, “a simple palette of expressive coloured glass works with the dynamic of natural light and the movement of the observer to animate the space and interior surfaces. This is colour that is not coded to sign or direct - just pure coloured natural light; responding to the cycles and rhythms of the sun; echoing the building’s response to the greenbelt surroundings and its environmental sensitivity celebrated as art and architecture.”

The station’s architects also promise intuitive way finding, and an efficient layout to minimize the distance walked between subway trains, buses and parking. The result will, in the architect’s words, “balanc(e) a sense of grandness with a comfortable pedestrian scale.”

Plans for the Future

Possibly the most important long-term feature of Highway 407 is its provision for a connection with the Highway 407 Transitway running north of the station. Indeed, “Transitway” and “407 Transitway” were two of the names considered for the station. Once the transitway is built, a tunnel will run to a set of platforms (possibly underground) beside the bus-only roadway. Connections between the buses and the subway should be faster, here, and take passengers as far west as Oakville and as far east as Durham Region, all on private bus roadways.

The success of Highway 407 station depends heavily on how Metrolinx uses it as a regional transit terminal. Eighteen bus bays have been assigned to GO Transit, with the remaining two going to York Region Transit. In early December 2017, Metrolinx announced that most of its Highway 407 GO buses would serve the station, but many of these would continue on to York University. How long this continues depends on whether Metrolinx and the TTC can negotiate a fare agreement that allows Metrolinx users to use the subway for the same price as a bus trip they used to be able to take directly to the University.

While the additional parking and passenger pick-up and drop-off facilities may appeal to commuters driving Highway 407, unless GO Transit commits more strongly to the nation, it’s likely the construction of the Highway 407 Transitway which will transform Highway 407 Station into the proper regional hub it has the potential to be.


Service Notes (as of January 1, 2017):

  • Off-site Resources:
  • Line: 1 YONGE-UNIVERSITY-SPADINA
  • Address: 7332 Jane Street, opposite the Beechwood Cemetery
  • Opening: December 17, 2017
  • Average Weekday Ridership: Not opened yet
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Union/Finch: 5:53 a.m. weekdays, 5:52 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:52 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Union/Finch: 1:06 a.m. weekdays, 1:07 a.m. weekends/holidays.
    First Train to Vaughan: 6:03 a.m. weekdays, 6:04 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:54 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Vaughan: 2:34 a.m. weekdays, 2:28 a.m. weekends/holidays.
  • Entrances: 1
    • Main entrance (fully accessible), located at the northeast corner of the main parking lot, leading into the concourse level, with stairs, elevators and escalators taking passengers to the bus level (above) and the subway platform (below). Sidewalks guide pedestrians safely to Jane Street.
  • Wheelchair Accessible Since: On Opening
  • Elevators (Not open yet):
  • Escalators (Not open yet):
  • Parking: 1 lot, southwest of the station building, accessed on the west side of Jane Street, via traffic-signalled intersection. Features 600 spaces, including 14 accessible spaces, plus PPUDO spaces.
  • Washrooms: Accessible washrooms available in the GO Bus Terminal
  • One centre platform

TTC Surface Route Connections:

  • None

Regional Transit Connections

  • GO Transit/Metrolinx
  • York Region Transit

Document Archive


Highway 407 Station Image Archive

<< VAUGHAN | Yonge-University-Spadina | PIONEER VILLAGE >>
<< Mississauga/Oakville/Points West | GO Highway 407 Services | Richmond Hill Centre >>
Subway Related Properties Page

References

  • Haskill, Scott, ‘Toronto Subway Expansion’, Rail and Transit, March 1993, p3-5, The Upper Canada Railway Society, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Immen, Wallace, ‘Ambitious plan in works to give Vaughan a “heart”’, Globe and Mail, April 10, 2000, pA?, Toronto (Ontario).
  • Mackenzie, Robert, ‘See the Design for the Future Steeles West Station, March 9, Transit Toronto, February 28, 2011, Online Toronto (Ontario).
  • White, Patrick, ‘Boring Project Excites Rob Ford, Globe and Mail, June 17, 2011, online edition, Toronto (Ontario).