The east pavilion of the new station, photo by Jack Landau

You'll find fossils at the Toronto Transit Commission's future Downsview Park subway station, if you look carefully enough, but, otherwise, everything is brand spanking new.

In fact, "These are state-of-the-art subway stations," explained the TTC's chief executive officer, Andy Byford about this station and others on the Line 1 extension to Vaughan. "Wi-Fi-ready, PRESTO-enabled and using automatic train control."

TTC CEO Andy Byford at the Downsview Park station tour, photo by Jack Landau

Byford was speaking to reporters during an official media tour of the future station Monday. Designed by AECOM, Aedas, Bryan Shaw OAA, and Parsons Brinckerhoff, Downsview Park is the southernmost of the new stations on the extended line. The TTC expects to open the station—and the entire extension—this December. The new TTC station is also a GO Transit station, with trains operating along GO's Barrie line also dropping off or picking up passengers at the new stop when the subway station opens.

Soon all TTC buses and streetcars will sport this new look, photo by Jack Landau

We boarded one of the TTC's Orion VII buses wearing its new livery to start our tour. (The red-and-white colour scheme matches the look of the newest streetcars, the Toronto Flexity cars.) The bus carried us from the current Downsview Station near Sheppard Avenue West and Allen Road about one kilometre further west along Sheppard to view the new station.

We arrived on the east side. Keith Sibley, the line's project manager, explained that the exterior design took advantage of its location in the middle of Canada's largest urban park by using many natural building materials. The station is the focal point of the northern park area and its design reflects the dual nature of the park, featuring green roofs, dramatic sloped glass walls and landform-shaped building elements in aluminum and stone.

Keith Sibley, photo by Jack Landau

Grey limestone panels with painted metal doors and prefinished grey aluminum cornices decorate the station structures. Glazing is bird-friendly fritted glass in clear anodized aluminum curtain-wall framing. Roof overhang soffits also include prefinished silver-grey aluminum panels. Significantly, the walls of Manitoba limestone at each entrance successfully match the green environment and mark each passenger's transition from a park into the urbanized setting of the subway station itself.

The entrance to the east pavilion, photo by Jack Landau

Identical pavilions on either side of the GO tracks form the station structure. They contain a public accessway through the pavilions and under the tracks that non-travelling members of the public can use—without paying fares—to access nearby Downsview Park and future residential and commercial developments in the area near the station, especially on the west side. The design of the station meets height limitations which the nearby—and still active—Downsview airport imposes on all neighbouring structures.

Inside the east pavilion. Note the stripes, which form part of the public art installation, photo by Jack Landau

TTC service rooms and back-of-house spaces occupy the north side of both buildings, allowing for fully glazed walls to the south. The glass permits "daylight harvesting", meaning they allow natural light to flood the buildings.

Wells in the station floors let light--and stairs and escalators--descend to lower levels, image by Jack Landau

Both pavilions incorporate large wells through the floor levels, allowing escalators and stairs to penetrate to lower levels. These apertures also allow the outdoor light to cascade indoors down from the ground level to the concourse and subway platforms below.

Another view inside the east pavilion, photo by Jack Landau

"Natural light is an important design feature in five of the new subway stations, explained Joanna Kervin, the TTC's director for Third-Party Planning and Property. "However this one most successfully draws the light right down to train level. Not only does that help us save on our energy bills," she continued, "but it also acts as an effective wayfinder. Often, passengers are disoriented from traveling underground. The natural light easily guides them through the station from the platform to the park."

"Spin" by Panya Clark Espinal, seen from a key point that brings floor, ceiling and wall elements together, photo by Jack Landau

Inside the station itself, though, most eyes focused on the public art installation, "Spin", by Panya Clark Espinal. By collaborating with the station's architects and engineers, Espinal has integrated the piece into the glazing, terazzo floors, ceramic wall tiles and the aluminum ceiling finishes. Station construction lead Tom Murray pointed us to a key spot close to the entrance for a unique view of the piece. From that perspective, the design, on the floors, the walls and the ceiling form a complete circular pattern, leading passengers and pedestrians down to the next level of the station.

Elements of "Spin" in the ground-level ceiling of the station, photo by Jack Landau

Sibley and other TTC staff lead us to one of those "back-of-the-house" spaces, to display the vast array of cabling that keep the station and the subway line itself active – "hundreds of miles of cables", as Andy Byford said, supplying power, lights, communications and signalling. Later in the tour, he showed us the giant fans that the TTC will use, in the event of a fire, to exhaust smoke from the tunnels or to bring fresh air inside.

Giant fans like this one will help remove smoke or provide fresh air into tunnels in the event of a fire, image by Jack Landau

At Downsview Park, GO train passengers can connect with the subway, photo by Jack Landau

GO passengers will, for now, board and exit from trains into the east pavilion. Joanna explained that, originally, the TTC planned to build its station further west, but the opportunity to integrate the subway with GO Transit train service encouraged the TTC's planners to relocate to this site.

A view across the GO train tracks with the west pavilion in the distance, photo by Jack Landau

Metrolinx, which operates GO Transit, has contributed to the costs of building the GO station. While the Barrie line currently has just one track for trains, the TTC has built the station with room for as many as three tracks to accommodate Metrolinx plans to expand service along the line, including regional express rail service.

Signs are already in place throughout the station, photo by Jack Landau

The new GO station provides train passengers an alternative for connecting with the TTC's rapid transit network for GO train passengers. This may help alleviate some congestion at Union Station, while making commuting to northern areas of Toronto attractive via GO as well.

Pedestrians can walk through the station and concourse under the tracks, without paying a fare, photo by Jack Landau

The TTC's main facilities are under the GO tracks and provide an alternative entrance into the TTC's rapid transit network for GO train passengers. After we descended to the concourse, Sibley indicated that the ceiling uses special aluminum panels to muffle the sound of trains passing above. The TTC and Metrolinx have also built the tracks on springs to help reduce train noises inside the station, especially in areas directly under the rails.

Wires in the concourse floor indicate where crews will soon install PRESTO-enabled fare gates, photo by Jack Landau

Crews are ready to install new PRESTO-enabled fare gates in the centre of the concourse level. While the TTC will continue to collect tokens, tickets and cash as fares throughout 2017, the goal is for most, if not all passengers to board trains here using PRESTO fare cards. This point on the concourse level would be the where passengers can pay their fares. Park-goers and other non-traveling pedestrians can continue to walk through the station in either direction without paying a fare.

A touchdown station, not a collector's booth, for station customer service staff, photo by Jack Landau

A glass booth is available near where the fare gates will soon arise, but, unlike older stations, you won't find a fare collector inside. Instead these new stations will be the first to deploy the TTC collectors in their new positions as roving customer-service agents in stations. These workers will help guide passengers, watch for potential day-to-day operating issues and generally problem-solve in the stations. They'll only use the glass booth as a temporary touch-down station to review closed-circuit television cameras.

Elements of "Spin" appear throughout the station--in this case on the platform, photo by Jack Landau

Elements of "Spin" on the ground-level ceiling, seen from the platform, image by Jack Landau

This station is closer to being completed than the other stations on the extension that the Urban Toronto team has toured. Signs directing passengers are already in place. While we visited the platform level, workers were busy sweeping and vacuuming dust and other construction debris from the tracks.

Workers get the station ready for service, vacuuming and sweeping dust from the tracks, photo by Jack Landau

Mike Palmer, the TTC's acting chief operation officer pointed out yellow boxes in the centre of the tracks. These are the devices that, under the TTC's future automatic train control (ATC) system, will relay information about the position and speed of trains. When this system is fully up and running on all of Line 1 in 2019, the TTC will be able to operate more trains more frequently along the line. By the end of this year, all stations on the University branch of north of Dupont – including the extension – will have ATC in place.

A view of the platform level, photo by Jack Landau

Palmer explained that, before the end of March, TTC crews will use a diesel engine to pull a Toronto Rocket train through the length of the new section of subway, just to make sure the trains can pass through all stations and tunnels without any unexpected obstacles.

A look northward along the tunnel towards Finch West Station, photo by Jack Landau

After that, the next milestone for the project—and it's a big one—will be powering the line, which likely will occur in early April. After that the TTC will test all systems—signals, power, communications and ventilation—and operate trains along the line, heading toward opening day later this year.

Inside the west pavilion, photo by Jack Landau

Stairs and escalator from concourse down to track level, image by Jack Landau

We emerged from the lower levels to the west pavilion, where our bus waited to transport us back to Downsview Station. Sometime this May, the TTC will rename the current Downsview Station with its new moniker, "Sheppard West", to avoid confusing passengers by two stations with similar names.

The exterior of the west pavilion, photo by Jack Landau

At the west entrance, we learned that the City of Toronto has built a new public roadway, Vitti Steet, which, in turn, leads to a southerly extension of Bakersfield Street from Sheppard Avenue West. TTC passengers could transfer between trains and bus by walking to and from Sheppard along these streets, although it will be a bit of hike. Vitti Street also contains a cul-de-sac where motorists can drop off or pick up passengers. The Downsview Park official plan allows for some development near the station and Vitti Street will be the address for at least one of those projects, a mixed commercial/residential development whose businesses and residents will take full advantage of their proximity to the new station.

A longer view of the west pavilion, photo by Jack Landau

The west pavilion also houses an electrical substation—one of four for the new line—but you won't readily see it as it's tucked just above the west station entrance.

One of many fossils appearing in the limestone wall beside the west entrance, photo by Jack Landau

And what about those fossils? You'll find the remains of ammonites and other prehistoric sea creatures embedded in the limestone walls at the entrances to both pavilions. They are the only mementos of the past in this most modern of subway stations.

Here's one more look at Downsview Park Station and the spinning ball:

Map of the extended Line 1, including Downsview Park Station, courtesy, TTC

Want to know more about Downsview Park Station and the other new stations on the subway extension? Check out our previous tours of the stations for Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, Highway 407 and Pioneer Village. You can visit UrbanToronto's dataBase files and associated Forum threads, linked below, to get in on the discussion of the project, or you can leave a comment in the space provided on this page.

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