"I think this may be my favourite of the stations," said Joanna Kervin, the director for Third-Party Planning and Property with the TTC's project to extend the Line 1 (Yonge–University) subway northwest to Vaughan. Kervin led members of the UrbanToronto team on a sneak-preview tour of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station, the northern terminal for the extended line, which the TTC is planning to open at the end of 2017.
Arup Canada Inc., in association with Grimshaw Architects, designed the future station north of Highway 7 and west of Jane Street. With its distinctive dome entrance, the facility will serve as a regional transportation hub with connections to a York Region Transit bus terminal and VIVA rapidway stop in the centre of Highway 7. It's also the centrepiece for the entire Vaughan Metropolitan Centre commercial and residential development—with most of the new Downtown now in the planning stages or (in some cases) already under construction.
We started our tour at the tail tracks—extending north of the passenger area. The tail tracks allow the TTC to store two trains at the station overnight. That way, they'll be immediately available as the first trains each morning. The tail tracks are slightly longer than a single train (i.e. over 150 metres long). Kervin explained that the north end of the tunnel is also 'future-proofed,' meaning that the TTC and its contractors have built the tunnel so that it can accommodate any future construction to extend the line further north.
The station already bears the standard platform-level design features typical of other stations on the extended line: grey concrete walls, with the station name etched on the walls. Large hanging lamps supplement the standard station lighting, while ducts containing pipes and cables are enclosed in burnished stainless steel—a hint of the material that dominates the design of the station building at street level.
A view of the passenger platform under construction, image by Jack Landau
After a look at the tail track, Kervin highlighted a point under Highway 7, where contractors have built crossover track for trains to change from one side to another. Pointing up, she indicated the spot where crews had sunk a shaft from the surface to remove the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) after they completed their northward journey from Highway 407 to construct the twin-bore tunnels in late 2013.
The crossover track south of the station, image by Jack Landau
Climbing from the platform to the concourse, we entered into an area for passengers arriving or leaving the station from York Region Transit's VIVA line. Separate elevators and escalators will carry passengers between the subway station platform and the east and westbound platforms for the bus rapid transit line. This feature was not in the original plans for the station, but York Region and Metrolinx decided to fund this addition as the most efficient way to connect passengers on the two rapid transit lines. The distinctively domed stop is still under construction in the centre of Highway 7.
York Region Transit passengers will be able to transfer from the rapid VIVA buses by walking through the platform area of the station, and then along a corridor to the north that will lead them to the future YRT bus terminal. (YRT is building the horseshoe-shaped terminal, a Diamond Schmitt Architects design, as part of a separate contract.)
Fare gates and an attendant booth will be in the centre of the concourse. YRT passengers who are simply transferring between YRT services may walk through the concourse area without paying an extra fare. However, if they want to board the subway they will pay another fare in this area before they can ride an escalator or elevator down to platform level.
Kervin explained that the YRT bus terminal was originally slated to be east of the station building, across Millway Avenue. However, SmartREIT—who developed both the Walmart and SmartCentre big-box complexes and much of the new urban Downtown—negotiated with the TTC to move the terminal closer to its stores north of the station. In doing so, the developers also agreed to pay for a pedestrian tunnel under Millway Avenue. The tunnel would have connected the station with the original site of the terminal, though SmartREIT is now planning another development on that site.
Across from the tunnel under Millway on the west side of the concourse, workers are finishing off a connection to the nearby KPMG Vaughan building (which was also recently toured by UT). The station also has knock-out panels to accommodate more pedestrian connections to future developments and secondary entrances, with two planned south of Highway 7—one on each side of the tracks—and two more north of the main facility.
Above the concourse, a solid concrete structure with a large circular opening and other apertures supports the floor of the station's street-level amenities and lets light pour into the lower levels of the station. To build this, crews continuously poured 2,250 cubic metres of concrete during 24 hours.
Owing to the magnitude of the pour, two concrete plants—with a third on standby—were used. During the pour, concrete trucks arrived every five minutes and crews worked in 10-hour shifts, with two crews placing the concrete in different sections, and the installation proceeding at a rate of 70 to 100 cubic metres per hour. Below, a comparison of the concourse's current state against a pre-construction rendering helps to illustrate the work to come.
At street level, the station building is necessarily long and narrow. The architects' vision counterpointed this length with a vertical "room" at the centre that links all three levels in one grand space. To facilitate this concept, the design aligns the station under a linear park that allows for a more generous entry pavilion with extensive glass walls and large floor voids, providing daylight to the concourse level—and even some indirect natural light to the platform level.
Eventually, a public art piece by Toronto artist and architect Paul Raff will integrate into the domed ceiling of the pavilion, capping the vertical room in a collaborative effort by Raff and Arup/Grimshaw. The installation will use mirrors to create a dynamic three-dimensional collage of life in the station as passengers rise through the central space.
Burnished and polished stainless steel panels will cover the surface of the domed ceiling. The reflective surface of the polished panels will provide visual depth, optical richness and subtle shifts of colour with movement. The dome also contains a number of apertures with sloping sides, culminating in a skylight that berings daylight down to concourse. The sides of these apertures will be coloured and angled to match the summer and winter solstices, and the spring and fall equinoxes. They'll also send glimpses of colour to the levels below.
According to Kervin, the team found just one manufacturer—in China—that could produce the stainless steel panels to meet the specifications of both artist and architects. Outside, metal roof will also be a 'cool roof' with a high solar reflectance to reduce heat absorption. A ring-beam clad in prefinished dark grey steel supports the dome and bird-friendly fritted glass in curtain wall framing glazes the building. The design team worked with the City of Vaughan to apply environmental standards, including the Toronto Green Standard, to the structure.
"I think this may be my favourite of the stations", Kervin said as our tour concluded. "I mean, it's got everything—great design, great surface transit connections and a great public-private partnership to help build it. It's the future of transit."
Finally, our video of the tour offers a more complete overview of the new station:
You can also learn more about Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station and the other stations on the extended subway line through our dataBase files, which we've linked below. Want to share your thoughts? Leave a comment in the space below this page, or join the conversation in our associated Forum thread.