Text by James Bow.
North York Centre station is a station on the YONGE subway line located roughly halfway between Sheppard-Yonge station and the terminal at Finch. It is unique among the subway stations of Toronto in that it was built after the tracks had been laid through the station site and were put in service, opening on July 18, 1987. It serves the development around the municipal centre of the former City of North York, including municipal offices and the old main branch of the North York Public Library. As of 2014, 24,560 passengers use the station on an average workday.
North York Centre station may have opened in the late 1980s, but planning for it took place as early as the 1960s. As Metropolitan Toronto and the TTC considered Yonge-University-Spadina Subwayextending the YONGE subway north of its terminus at Eglinton Avenue, the original proposal for the extension had stations located roughly a kilometre apart from each other, both at the major intersections (Lawrence, York Mills, Sheppard, Finch and even Steeles) and at more minor intersections between them (Glencairn, Glen Echo/Yonge Blvd, Empress/Park Home and Cummer/Drewry — no intermediate stop was planned between York Mills and Sheppard).
Subsequent studies suggested that the costs of the subway extension were too high and funds could be saved by cutting the “mid-block” stations and using buses on Yonge Street to provide local service instead. In 1964, Metropolitan Toronto approved extending the YONGE subway from Eglinton to Sheppard. After working out financing arrangements, the plan was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in 1967, and construction began on October 3, 1968, with an expected completion date of 1972.
On October 17, 1969, Metro Council agreed to extend the North Yonge Extension further, from Sheppard to Finch. Although Metro planners had backed away from initial plans to extend the line to Steeles by 1980, suggesting that Vaughan and Markham Townships did not have the infrastructure to handle the development that would follow, the extension to Finch was brought about because of the presence of largely vacant land in the Hydro right-of-way north of the Finch station site. It was proposed that this land could be used to house large commuter parking lots, which weren’t possible at Sheppard. The Ontario Municipal Board approved this $37.5 million extension in 1970.
Again, the plan approved by Metropolitan Toronto and the Ontario Municipal Board did not have a “mid-block” stop at Park Home Avenue. North York council supported the station proposal, although there was some controversy. At a meeting on May 25, 1971, North York councillors voted 12-3 to “rough in” a station box at the site at a cost of $850,000. Among the councillors opposed was Paul Hunt, who cited fears from area ratepayers that the station could spark runaway development, threatening their quiet suburban homes. For the part, TTC planners spoke out against the station, suggesting that it was too close to Sheppard, would attract few customers and slow down service, albeit by “30 to 40 seconds”.
On June 13, 1971, Metropolitan Toronto councillors rejected the proposal to rough in the station at Park Home. Councillor Paul Hunt was at the Metropolitan Toronto council meeting to speak against the proposal, and was thus able to claim victory. However, provision for the station was made as the line was being built to Finch, in the form of a section of tunnel being graded level at the station site.
North York Centre station could not be built until North York council itself resolved what North York was supposed to be as a city. Was it to remain a sleepy suburb of Toronto, full of quiet residential neighbourhoods, or was it to build itself into a city with a downtown to rival that of Toronto? North York mayor Mel Lastman came increasingly in favour of the latter approach and, at North York Council, he pushed through plans to allow for the redevelopment and intensification of the area around Yonge Street between Sheppard Avenue and Finch. By the late 1970s, its was clear that North York would have its downtown. The YONGE subway, however, had station stops only at the very ends of it.
In September 1982, North York mayor Mel Lastman and North York council voted to ask the TTC to build the mid-block station at Park Home. This project was now estimated to cost $22 million. He claimed to have support of local residents of the $1.5 billion in development and the thousands of new jobs that were likely to result. TTC chief general manager Alf Savage noted, “approximately 17,500 jobs are located in the immediate vicinity of the new station at this time… As many as 40,000 additional jobs are forecast to be created there over the next 15 years. Clearly, the need for a new station is there.” Metro Chairman Paul Godfrey agreed, noting that his only regret was that the decision to build wasn’t taken when the line itself was being built, “because it would have cost somewhere under $1 million.”
With North York and Metro approval, designs were made, funding secured and approval issued by the Ontario Municipal Board. There was one more decision to be made: the station’s name. As late as early 1984, the TTC were still referring to the project as “Park Home Station”. As Park Home was not a major street (at Yonge, it lines up with Empress, which could have equal claim to the station name), this led to proposals for different names from different interest groups. For example, in June 1984, the North York Public Library board proposed that the stop be named “Library Station”. In considering this matter, the TTC noted its policy with regard to station names, as it had been applied to the SPADINA subway and the SCARBOROUGH RT: “In cases where no major cross street exists or where a major destination is in direct proximity to the station, as with Museum and Scarborough Centre Stations, names which represent the destination should be considered.” Based on that policy, the TTC decided that Park Home station should be named “North York Centre” instead. Construction began in September 1985.
Filling in the Gaps
Building a new station around a subway tunnel that is already in service posed unique challenges to construction. Yonge Street was excavated and decked over to minimize disruption to traffic. Workers had to dig around the subway tunnel to build the frame of the subway station’s two levels. The platform’s concrete floor could only be poured as far as the existing subway tunnel walls, for the workers had to wait until the concrete was properly set before those walls could be cut out. The cutting of the tunnel walls could only be done when the subway was shut down for the night. Once this was done, the remainder of the rider platforms were completed. The central wall between the two tracks was only opened up slightly and tiled over in the same basic white with blue accents as the rest of the station. Subway trains, passing through the station site, ran slow to protect construction workers, giving subway patrons a quick tour of the construction through their windows as they passed.
North York Centre Station, once opened, boasted a mezzanine level as well as a platform level. Escalators take passengers from the street level and the city centre development to the mezzanine level as well as between the mezzanine level and the platform. Construction was helped by the fact that a lot of the surrounding developments were under construction at the same time as the station, allowing workers to build access into surrounding buildings from the start, including North York City Centre.
North York Centre station opened on time on July 18, 1987 at a final cost of $25 million. Opening ceremonies were held at 10 a.m. with North York mayor Mel Lastman cutting the ribbon alongside Metro Chairman Dennis Flynn and Ontario Minister of Transportation Ed Fulton. The station officially opened to passengers at 2 p.m. that afternoon.
North York Centre boasts a single collectors’ booth at the centre of the station’s mezzanine level, with passages connecting the station to sidewalk entrances, and access to surrounding buildings. There was no bus terminal, with local 97 YONGE buses passing the entrances on Yonge Street.
North York Centre station, being built over a decade after the other stations on the North Yonge Extension, is very different from the others both architecturally and in aesthetic design. The station breaks the two-tone tile motif of Lawrence, York Mills, Sheppard and Finch, and the station name is written in Helvetica, rather than the other stations’ TTC subway font. The length of the station name meant that it had to be printed out on two lines — the only station on the network to take this approach (although Bay, Queen’s Park, St. Patrick, Osgoode and St. Andrew do have two lines of text on their station walls, the second line is a sub-title, identifying the local neighbourhood or cross street).
Had North York Centre station been built with the rest of the North Yonge extension, it likely would have been very different. Not only would it be named Park Home and share the aesthetics of its neighbours, it likely would not have had its expansive mezzanine connecting it to surrounding developments. The station would have been more modest, with expansions made later.
North York Centre station also boasts a number of pieces of art. At the platform level, the mural _Top of the North Hill - 1850’s_ can be found on the northbound side, while the complementary mural _Traffic at Yonge and Sheppard, 1860s_ is found on the southbound side. These murals were created by Nicholas and Susana Graven, highlighting North York’s rural routes. According to the accompanying plaque, “Each mural contains more than 5000 inlaid ceramic tiles and took over a year to make.” At the mezzanine level, there is a plaque dedicated to the unionized workers that helped build the station.
In the passageway leading to the northern automatic entrance, there are two murals painted by members of the local community in honour of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These murals are much more temporary than the ceramic murals at platform level, as they were painted over drywall. The passageway was initially designed to host space for as many as 20 shops that the TTC could lease out. However, sufficient passenger demand did not materialize, and the shop space remains boarded over.
In spite of this, North York Centre remains a well-used station, providing direct access to municipal services and major developments in North York’s downtown. Its ridership levels remain respectable, and the investment made in the mid 1980s appears to have paid off.
Service Notes (as of January 3, 2016):
- Off-Site Resources
- Line: 1 YONGE-UNIVERSITY-SPADINA
- Address: 5102 Yonge Street
- Opened: July 18, 1987
- Wheelchair Accessible Since: November 2009
- Average Weekday Ridership: 24,560 (2014); 25,330 (2013)
- Hours of Operation:
First Train to Finch: 5:50 a.m. weekdays, 6:02 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:16 a.m. Sundays.
Last Train to Finch: 2:12 a.m. every day.
First Train to Union and Downsview: 5:42 a.m. weekdays, 5:47 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:57 a.m. Sundays.
Last Train to Union and Downsview: 1:18 a.m. every day.
- Entrances: A single concourse level provides access to the station collector from all three station entrances. The concourse level offers automatic fare gates at the north end, with stairs leading to the subway platform level, or passengers can follow a passage south to the station collector in the main part of the concourse level. The three entrances are:
- Yonge Street Entrance (Mel Lastman Square), located on the west side of Yonge Street, 163 metres north of North York Boulevard. Stairs from street provide access to station collector via the station entrance on the lower level of Mel Lastman Square. (Not Wheelchair Accessible)
- 5095 Yonge Street Entrance (Empress Walk), located on the east side of Yonge Street, 56 metres south of Empress Avenue, providing elevator, escalator and stair access to the station collector via the Empress Walk Lower Level. (Fully Accessible)
- 5150 Yonge Street Entrance (North York City Centre), located on the west side of Yonge Street, 48 metres south of Park Home Avenue, with escalator and stair access to the station collector. (Not Wheelchair Accessible)
- Elevators (click here for maintenance schedule): Empress Walk mall to Concourse (Non-TTC elevator), Fares Concourse To Northbound Platform, Fares Concourse To Southbound Platform
- Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule): Concourse To Centre Of Southbound Platform (Down At All Times), Concourse To Southbound Platform (Up At All Times), Concourse To Northbound Platform (Down At All Times), Concourse To Northbound Platform (Up At All Times)
- No in-station washrooms
- Token vending machine
- Two side platforms
- No dedicated Parking
TTC Surface Route Connections:
North York Centre Station Image Archive
Platform level perspective on North York Centre Station, as rendered by an artist in the mid 1980s for a TTC technical/promotional brochure.
Cross-section through station structure, showing the old tunnel, and the new station that would surround it. Image taken from a TTC brochure detailing the construction project.
A TTC construction render of the fare collection mezzanine level at North York Centre station.
TTC mezzanine level and platform level floor plans for North York Centre station.
A T-1 subway train is seen here loading on southbound North York Centre station platform. This 2000 photograph is by David Cavlovic.
Southbound platform of North York Centre station. The wider-than-normal middle columns are evidence that this station was once just a tunnel. This 2000 photograph is by David Cavlovic.
A T-1 train leaves northbound North York Centre station. This 2000 photograph is by David Cavlovic.
The wide mezzanine level of North York Centre showing the fare control area and exits to North York Civic Centre and a new upscale shopping complex. This 2000 photograph is by David Cavlovic.
This ceramic mosaic, entitled "Top of the North Hill, 1850s", can be found on the platform level of North York Centre station. This photo was taken by PFHLai on September 3, 2005, and is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License.
This ceramic mural, entitled "Traffic At Yonge And Sheppard, 1860s", can be found on the platform level of North York Centre station. This photo was taken by PFHLai on September 3, 2005, and is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License.
The northbound platform of North York Centre station, looking north. This photograph was taken by Richard White on September 17, 2014.
The station tiling and name on the wall of North York Centre station. This photograph was taken on September 17, 2014 by Richard White.
The mezzanine level of North York Centre station. This photograph was taken by Richard White on September 17, 2014.
Next in Line
- Best, Michael. “All Aboard! New Stop on Subway to Open.” Toronto Star [Toronto] 16 June 1987: A1
- Brennan, Rick. “Subway Station Will Spark Boom Lastman Says.” Toronto Star [Toronto] 22 Sept. 1982: A9.
- “Council Wants Park Home Station ‘Roughed In’.” Globe and Mail [Toronto] 26 May 1971: n. pag.
- “Extra Station Is Rejected.” Globe and Mail [Toronto] 14 June 1971: n. pag.
- Morrison, Laura. “New North York subway station to open next year.” Real Estate News ? 1986: p1.
- Toronto Transit Commission, Yonge Street: North York Centre Station, The Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto (Ontario), November 1985.