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Royal York

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Text by James Bow
With thanks to Nathan Ng.

Royal York station opened to the public on May 10, 1968 as part of the western extension of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway line. Featuring a main entrance and an automatic entrance at either end of its 500-foot-long platform, it served the Kingsway Business District and, fed by buses coming from Mimico and central and northern Etobicoke, served a number of commuters even in the shadow of the Islington terminal station one stop west.

As a suburban station built when the TTC operated with a two-zone fare system within Metropolitan Toronto, it shares a number of architectural features with Main Street station in Toronto’s east end. As of May 2017, it is undergoing its first major renovation to update the look of the station, install wheelchair accessible elevators, and maintain its structural integrity.

The Street the Named by a Downtown Hotel

Today’s Royal York Road started life as a concession road running north and south through Etobicoke township from Lake Shore Road to the Malton Sideroad (today’s Dixon Road). In its early years, and into the early part of the 20th century, the road was known as Church Street. In 1927, however, the Canadian Pacific Railway, which owned the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto, established an eighteen-hole golf course in Etobicoke, northeast of the Royal York/Kingsway intersection, with access as one of the perks for its richer guests. The course, officially called the Royal York Hotel Golf Club, hosted the Canadian Open tournament in 1933 and, in 1946, was renamed to the St. George’s Golf and Country Club, where it remains to this day.

Although the course was renamed, the Royal York name lived on, as the name of the road from the Queensway north to the Malton Sideroad, starting between 1936 and 1938. The Church Street monicker remained for the section of the Concession Road south of the Queensway until between 1961 and 1962, when the Royal York name was extended south to Lake Shore Boulevard.

Royal York Road was a sleepy drive, serving as a north-south access to the village of Mimico. The Kingsway neighbourhood built up around the intersection with Bloor Street West. At the north end, the street saw some development from the old Village of Weston centred around St. Philip’s Angican Church. The lands south of Bloor Street saw increasing industrial development during the Second World War, but the lands north of Dundas Street remained rural or low-density suburban until overtaken by urban sprawl in the 1950s.

The change and development of Royal York Road can be seen in the way transit service evolved. The first TTC route to serve today’s Royal York was the QUEEN bus in 1928, operating as an upside-down L-shaped route from Humber Loop via west on Queen Street (today’s Queensway) and south on Church Street (today’s Royal York Road) to Lake Shore Boulevard. This temporary service was made permanent as the MIMICO bus, which continued until 1963. Service on the northern part of Royal York didn’t emerge until branches of the KINGSWAY started using portions of the road around Bloor Street in 1931. In 1947, Royal York north of the Queensway was served by the QUEENSWAY bus, operating from Bloor Street, south on Royal York and west on Queensway to Kipling Avenue, covering portions of both streets not served by 55 MIMICO. Through service on Royal York Road didn’t materialize until the 73 ROYAL YORK route replaced the 55 MIMICO and 69 QUEENSWAY services on September 3, 1963.

The Subway Drives West

As the TTC struggled to build the first section of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, the Chairman of Metropolitan Toronto, Frederick Gardiner, confronted the issue of where the TTC should build next. While the City of Toronto favoured the construction of the Queen Street subway, the suburban municipalities wanted further investments in suburban transit. A compromise position to keep construction going was to extend the current subway network out into the suburbs and so, in the early 1960s, plans were drawn up to take the subway west from Keele into Etobicoke. As plans were approved, the provincial government stepped forward with additional funding in 1965, to finish the first phase of the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, and then to extend the line east and west. Construction on the western extension of the BLOOR-DANFORTH line began on March 1, 1965.

Had the Bloor West extension been built to the original plans, Royal York would not have featured as a station. Instead, the TTC planned to open a stop at Prince Edward Drive and a terminus at Montgomery Road. This arrangement would have bookended the Kingsway Business District. However, during the design process, the Bloor West extension was lengthened, placing the terminus at Islington Avenue where it could better serve as a suburban terminal accepting buses from the south, west and north. The Montgomery and Prince Edward stops were consolidated into a single stop just east of Royal York Road, with an additional entrance at Grenview at the east end of the platform to improve connections within the neighbourhood.

Zone Fare Issues

As with most of the other stations built on the first extensions to the BLOOR-DANFORTH subway, Royal York was located within the suburban fare zone (“Zone 2”), even though most of the subway was located in the city fare zone (“Zone 1”). Early on in the planning process, the decision was made to keep the subway entirely within Zone 1. Passengers transferring from Zone 2 buses could pay their Zone 1 fares and continue downtown at the subway.

This meant that Royal York’s bus terminal was kept outside of the station’s fare paid zone. As the bus terminal was also the station entrance, this necessitated a large mezzanine area between the terminal and the subway platform where the fare gates were set — an arrangement similar to that seen at Main Street and Jane stations. Four years after Royal York station opened, Metropolitan Toronto had the TTC drop its two-zone fare structure, allowing the TTC to bring the bus terminal within the fare paid zone to allow for seamless transfers between connecting buses and the subway. This was done by moving the fare gates up from the mezzanine level to the western end of the bus terminal.

Station Features

Royal York station featured the same modernist architectural flavour of the rest of the BLOOR-DANFORTH stations opened in the 1960s. The station buildings maintained clean, straight lines with a prominent, overhanging roof. The exterior walls were red-orange brick and the windows were large, floor to near-ceiling, with a strip of metal accented with a red plastic covering around waist height. The interior walls of the station maintained the subway line’s tile pattern scheme, using beige background titles with black trim. Royal York does have some unique features, however, including a widened platform at the west end of the station, leading to the stairs leading up to the main mezzanine. And although Royal York station doesn’t have any TTC parking, there is a passenger pick-up-and-drop-off south of the main entrance, and the City of Toronto were able to establish a number of parking lots above the path of the subway alignment, just north of Bloor Street, much to the delight of suburban shoppers.

Royal York’s bus terminal was more modest than the large, six-bay suburban terminal operated next door at Islington. Instead, buses pulled around an island with four bus bays — a similar arrangement to, but smaller than Main Street. Even so, Royal York’s terminal served buses coming in from far afield, as 73 ROYAL YORK was soon extended north on Albion Road and eventually to the extreme northwest corner of Etobicoke. The predecessor of the 48 RATHBURN route, 2 ANGLESEY served not just Rathburn Road in central Etobicoke, but followed a circuitous route south on Mill Road near Etobicoke Creek, reaching as far as Sherway Gardens. In the south, in addition to 76 ROYAL YORK SOUTH and 15 EVANS (the latter coming over from Islington staton to improve service on Evans and ease bus congestion in the station there) the station briefly played host to the 38 HORNER (also shifted over from Islington), and the 121 NORSEMAN route serving an industrial and residential street that used to be served by a branch of 69 QUEENSWAY.

Other than the movement of its fare gates, Royal York station did not see significant changes for most of its first fifty years of existence. The station was given its usual maintenance, with roofs fixed up, and landscaping added. A bicycle repair shop and wi-fi service were added around 2016.

In 2017, the station started to undergo bigger changes. New Presto fare gates were installed and operational by February of that year, at both entrances. Then, on May 7, 2017, the bus terminal shut down for eighteen months in order to allow for significant renovations, including the installation of wheelchair accessible elevators. As part of this renovation, a $156,000 art installation is being added. Entitled “rabbit STOP”, by Noel Harding, the installation will feature 50 cast-iron white rabbit pairs, 10 stainless-steel polished bird outlines, over 500 polymer red ants and green caterpillars and a waving yellow line running through the entire station. In choosing Harding’s art proposal, the public jury selected from the community stated, “There is an element of delight and wonder within what Mr. Harding has proposed; a careful combination of humour and intellect. This duality will be presented through the use of recent printing technologies—both two and three dimensional—to transform Royal York Station into a pulsing and active ‘cabinet of curiosities’.”

The renovations forced the buses entering Royal York station to board on the street, and the TTC dealt with operational issues by interlining the bus routes south of the station with the routes north of the station. Buses serving 73 ROYAL YORK continued as 76 ROYAL YORK SOUTH buses and vice versa, while 15 EVANS and 48 RATHBURN performed a similar swap. This arrangement is expected to continue until November 2018.

Royal York station is an important part of the local community, anchoring a major shopping district and an area of large single-family homes, and increasing residential development. The changes taking place in 2017 will serve to make it more accessible and integrated with the surrounding area.

Service Notes (as of May 7, 2017):

  • Off-Site Resources:
  • Line: 2 BLOOR-DANFORTH
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Kennedy: 5:45 a.m. weekdays, 5:52 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:05 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Kennedy: 1:34 a.m. every day.
    First Train to Kipling: 6:00 a.m. weekdays, 6:01 a.m Saturdays/holidays, 8:31 a.m. Sundays
    Last Train to Kipling: 2:13 a.m. every day.
  • Address: 955 Royal York Road
  • Opened: May 11, 1968
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 24,010 (2014), 20,550 (2013), 23,240 (2011), 19,320 (2010), 19,440 (2009)
  • Entrances:
    • Main Entrance, Royal York Road, located on the east side of Royal York Road, 77 metres north of Bloor Street West (wheelchair accessible in 2018)
    • Automatic Entrance, Grenview Blvd, located on the west side of Grenview Boulevard, 59 metres north of Bloor Street West, stairs directly to the subway level.
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • Concourse To Street Level / Bus Platform Level (Up At All Times);
    • Grenview - Automatic Entrance - Concourse To Street Level (Up At All Times);
    • West End - Westbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times);
    • East End - Westbound Platform To Grenview Concourse (Up At All Times);
    • West End - Eastbound Platform To Concourse (Up At All Times);
    • East End - Eastbound Platform To Grenview Concourse (Up At All Times)
  • Not Accessible (Elevators to open in 2018)
  • No Washrooms
  • Token vending machine
  • Passenger Pick-up and Drop-off south of main entrance.
  • 2 Side Platforms
  • No official TTC parking, but City of Toronto parking available nearby.

TTC Surface Connections:

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