Text by James Bow
GO Transit’s commuter rail network and the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway network both carry tens of thousands of commuters daily and are thus important components of Toronto’s commuter network. These systems have also been designed in isolation to each other. Toronto’s subway was the product of planners from the TTC and the City of Toronto, built to follow corridors of high traffic. GO Transit’s commuter network was also designed to alleviate stress on high traffic corridors such as the Queen Elizabeth Way and Highway 401, but it has been limited to running on tracks that were laid down decades beforehand by the freight railroads.
Despite this, GO Transit and the TTC are cooperating to establish connections between the GO Train network and the Toronto subway system. This article lists and briefly describes the connections that are currently available, and what may become available in the future.
Union Station (All GO Train Lines/Yonge-University Subway)
The overwhelming majority of passengers who take the GO Train either travel to or from Union Station. Union Station was also one of the two termini for the original Yonge subway. It only stands to reason that this commuter hub, located in the heart of downtown Toronto, should be a major connection between the two systems. A number of GO Train commuters actually complete their commutes on the Toronto subway from this point. Work destinations located as far north as North York Centre are feasible, given that, from Union Station, these commuters are going against the general flow of commuter traffic.
The history of Union Station is extensive, as are the plans for its future. There is simply too much to cover in this section, and is covered here.
Kipling Station (Milton Line/Bloor-Danforth Subway)
The Milton GO Train line opened to the public almost a year after the TTC extended subway service to Kipling Avenue. A connection between GO Trains and the Toronto subway at this point was built into the line from the beginning. The only exit off of the GO platform (aside from an emergency exit directly onto Auckland via a locked gate) is through TTC property, where commuters are steps away from the subway platforms and the TTC’s north and south park ‘n’ ride lots.
Kipling subway station was not built in anticipation of a connection with GO Transit. Islington station is located close enough to the CP main line that a connection is possible there. Kipling station was built to connect to new TTC commuter parking lots. However, this being done, GO felt that a connection at this point would be easier to build and more convenient for its passengers.
The current connection serves eight inbound and eight outbound Milton trains every weekday. During the early part of the 1990s, additional Milton trains served this stop every day. This connection opens up destinations along Bloor Street to commuters from Mississauga, Milton and points west along the 401.
Bloor Station/Dundas West Station (Kitchener Line/Union-Pearson Express/Bloor-Danforth Subway)
The Kitchener GO Train makes eight inbound and six outbound stops at Bloor station (the Milton GO Train bypasses this station and heads directly downtown). This stop was built because of its proximity to the Bloor-Danforth subway, and the connection opens up destinations along Bloor Street, as well as King and Dundas Streets (via the King and Dundas streetcars) to commuters from the northwest. The connection between the subway and the GO Train is not very convenient, however. Passengers leaving Bloor station exit the platform at the southern end, proceed down a dank stairwell to the Bloor Street underpass beneath the CN tracks, and then have to walk a half block in the open air to get to the entrance of Dundas West station.
In the early part of the 1990s, the TTC and GO Transit looked at improving this connection. The TTC considered a plan to build a secondary exit off of the eastern end of the Dundas West subway platforms and into a parking garage located next to the CN tracks. Budget cuts in 1995 forced this plan on the backburner, but it has not left the books. The connection would become more important if the Georgetown line is chosen as the main connection between Union station and the Airport. The TTC confirmed the Dundas West GO connection in their 2000-2004 capital budget and even allocated $10 million for the project with the hope for an opening date of the new entrance in 2003, but opposition from the nearby Crossroads development blocked progress.
The construction of the Union Pearson Express finally gave the green light for this connection, and renovations on GO Bloor station began in the summer of 2013. The new platforms and connection will be ready when UPExpress trains begin rolling in 2015.
Danforth Station/Main Street Station (Lakeshore Lines/Bloor-Danforth Subway)
Danforth station is located beside the Main Street bridge over the CN railway tracks in East Toronto. Commuters initially accessed Main Street through the use of a wooden stairway with ticket booths are located near the level of the street. Between 2005 and 2008, GO Transit renovated the station, adding platforms, stairs and elevators and placing the ticket booths at track level. A wheelchair friendly sidewalk now connects the station with Main Street at the north side of the bridge, closer to Danforth Avenue. The stop at the top of the bridge for the 506 CARLTON streetcar line was eliminated along with the stairway. In the 1980s, the province of Ontario briefly considered building a tunnel south from Danforth station to connect with Main Street station, the expense and difficulty of such a connection scrubbed the proposal.
A direct connection would make destinations along the Bloor-Danforth subway and the Scarborough RT more convenient, all day, seven days a week, for commuters as far away as Burlington and Oshawa.
Kennedy Station (Stouffville Line/Bloor-Danforth Subway)
The eastern terminus of the Bloor-Danforth subway, Kennedy station, is located very close to CN’s Uxbridge subdivision, on which Stouffville GO Trains operate. Indeed, the station’s bus terminal is just a few metres to the west of the railway tracks, and the Scarborough RT parallels the line from Eglinton Avenue all the way to Ellesmere. And, yet, from 1980 to 2005, the Stouffville train did not stop anywhere near Kennedy station, or any of the stations on the Scarborough RT. Agincourt station lies to the north at Sheppard Avenue. Stouffville trains used to stop at Danforth station, where an inconvenient walking transfer with the Bloor-Danforth Subway existed at Main Street station.
GO and the TTC recognized the lack of a connection as a lost opportunity, and agreed to begin work on a connection between Kennedy station and a new GO station near the bus terminal. Although the Stouffville line also passes close to Lawrence East and Ellesmere stations, a location near Kennedy station was clearly more convenient, as it requires just one transfer to go from the Stouffville train to either the Scarborough Town Centre or west along the Bloor-Danforth line.
The connection had been placed in GO’s 2002 capital plan, but construction was delayed as a result of a funding dispute between the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Services Board. Once the dispute was resolved, construction began on a platform adjacent to the TTC’s bus loop. The connection with the TTC is off of an existing underground walkway leading from the mezzanine level.
Kennedy GO station is wheelchair accessible and has a ticket vending machine. There are no manned ticket booths. The connection serves two inbound and two outbound trains to Stouffville and one inbound and one outbound train to Markham. As connections go, it pales against Union station, and even Kipling, but as service increases in the future, so too will the usefulness of this connection.
Downsview Park Station (Barrie Line/Yonge-University-Spadina Subway) (Coming late 2017)
The extension of the Spadina subway from Downsview to York University and Vaughan Metropolitan Centre includes an intermediate station south of Sheppard Avenue, west of Chesswood, where the GO Barrie line crosses Sheppard Avenue. Downsview Park station would serve the nearby park, but would also provide a connection with the Barrie GO Train at a new GO station which will open once the subway extension opens. This station would replace GO York University station, as access to the University would be more convenient by the subway.
Future Oriole/Leslie Station (Richmond Hill Line/Sheppard Subway)
This connection was to have been in place once the Sheppard Subway opened between Yonge and Don Mills in the summer of 2002. The current Oriole GO station is located a few hundred metres southeast, where the tracks cross Leslie Street. The plan called for GO to reconstruct the station further north, at Sheppard Avenue, to provide a link with the new Leslie station. The TTC was to build a 220 metre pedestrian walkway, with lighting, to run from the Leslie station bus terminal to the edge of CN’s property on the Bala Subdivision.
Something fell through, however, and the station was never relocated. This was likely the result of a spat between the City of Toronto and the Greater Toronto Services Board about the city’s portion of GO’s budget. This dispute continues, and plans to relocate the station continue to languish. The walk between Leslie station and Oriole is lengthy, open to the elements, and passes beneath the noisy highway 401.
Original plans also called for ticket booths and possible alternate exits at Sheppard Avenue and Old Leslie Street.
The connection would serve four inbound and four outbound trains to Richmond Hill, putting it just behind Kipling’s connection to the Milton line in terms of the number of trains used to serve it. The connection would represent a significant improvement for commuters heading into Toronto from Richmond Hill, however, giving them an alternate route to North York’s downtown, and other destinations along the Sheppard and Yonge subway lines.
Future Dixie Station (Milton Line/Bloor-Danforth Subway)
Some long term plans for the Bloor-Danforth subway (which are not strongly supported by the TTC or the City of Missisauga) call for the line to be extended west from Kipling station, south of the CP railway tracks to Sherway Gardens. From there, the line could continue further west and north, angling back up to the CP tracks and terminating in the area of the Dixie GO station. Should this happen, a new connection would open up between the subway and the Milton GO line.
Given that Milton already has a convenient connection with the subway at Kipling. The only benefit for GO commuters would be improved access to the Sherway Gardens area of Toronto - for destinations on Bloor Street east of Kipling, it would be faster for commuters to stay on the GO Trains and change at Kipling. However, the driving force behind the Dixie proposal is not its GO connection, but possible connections with Mississauga Transit. It is expected that thousands of commuters from Mississauga could board the subway at this point either from Mississauga buses, or from large commuter lots, some of which are already in the area.
The area around the current Dixie GO station is primarily warehouse industrial, with few residents and businesses to support subway development. Mississauga itself is lukewarm to the proposal to extend the subway, refusing point blank to pay for the construction. It is unlikely that we will see this connection come about anytime soon.
Future Mount Dennis Station (Kitchener Line/Eglinton LRT)
Plans for the Eglinton West subway called for it to terminate at Black Creek Drive, near the proposed York Centre development. This stop would be close to the CN Weston Sub and the Georgetown GO line, and a new GO station was planned in this area to connect with the Eglinton West subway.
The plans for York Centre station show a large parking lot and a bus terminal separated from the Weston Sub by Photography Drive. The GO platforms would likely be on the other side of Photography Drive, and a connection made via a crosswalk. No plans for a dedicated underground connection are shown.
Had the connection been built, commuters from Georgetown and Guelph would have been given better access to destinations along Eglinton Avenue and points along the Spadina subway. This would have been more convenient than the current connection with the Bloor subway at Dundas West.
The connection was given new life with the launch of Eglinton LRT, operating from Jane Street east to Kennedy. A stop near Black Creek Drive would include a connection with the GO Kitchener line and a new stop on the Union Pearson Expres.
Future Caledonia Station (Barrie Line/Eglinton LRT)
When the Eglinton West subway started construction, the planned Caledonia station was located close to the CN Newmarket Sub and the associated Bradford GO Train. A connection between subway and GO train suggested itself there, and such a connection was considered during the early stages of planning for the Eglinton West subway. However, as the plans for the subway progressed, the idea of a connection was dropped. Likely it was felt that (at the time) the Bradford GO line’s two trains did not justify the expense of a connection.
When the Eglinton West subway gave way to the Eglinton LRT, the plan to build a station at Caledonia returned. In the interim, GO trains to Bradford and been extended north to Barrie, and new trips had been added. Even so, a connection to a new GO Train station is not planned for when the Eglinton LRT opens in 2020, although provision will be made for such a connection in the future.
Future Bathurst North/Fort York Station (GO Kitchener/GO Barrie/Possible Downtown Relief Subway Line)
In 2007, the Ontario Government set up the crown agency Metrolinx to look at ways to dramatically improve public transit throughout the Greater Toronto Area. It committed immediate support for several major projects, but required Metrolinx to assess and prioritize projects that would be started after the “Big Move” was complete. In 2012, Metrolinx released a report on future travel patterns at Union Station, and highlighted a potential problem come 2031.
Metrolinx anticipates that, by 2031, Toronto’s Union Station will have reached its service capacity, such that it would be physically impossible to run enough GO trains through the station to serve the demand funnelled there. The problem, they noted, was not with the station itself, but a choke-point in the tracks at John Street, where the Rogers Centre prevented expansion. Metrolinx looked at a number of possible solutions, including building a large tunnel beneath the current tracks, effectively double-decking the network. However, the most cost-effective solution they found was to build a satellite commuter station at the current site of GO’s Bathurst North Yard, south of Front Street and between Bathurst Street and Spadina Avenue.
The station would serve trains coming in from Barrie and Kitchener, keeping them away from the John Street choke point. However, Bathurst North station would be at the western edge of Toronto’s downtown, a long walk from most destinations, and possible connections at Union Station. To rectify this, Metrolinx suggested that Bathurst North station could also be the western terminus of the Downtown Relief subway line. The subway, which already rated highly among Metrolinx’s priorities for reducing pressure on the Yonge subway, could distribute passengers arriving at Bathurst North to points across Toronto’s downtown, and would represent a short trip to Union Station, where passengers could pick up other GO trains if needed.
The proposal has been set aside for further study.
Future North Toronto/Summerhill Station (Possible Midtown GO Line/Yonge-University Subway)
In the long term, GO wishes to route some of its trains along the CP main line through midtown Toronto. This would take some pressure off of Union station and open up more of the city to GO commuters. Should this happen, an obvious destination for this service would be old North Toronto station. This architectural masterpiece on Yonge Street would be an impressive stop for commuters, and it would give them easy access to businesses on Yonge Street north of Bloor and south of St. Clair.
Should the plan come to fruition, the obvious connection with the Toronto subway is at Summerhill station, located just to the north of the site. A second exit would be constructed at the south end of the subway platform to provide this connection.
Although plans have been around for some time for the use of North Toronto station by GO Trains, it is unlikely that we will see such service anytime soon. GO’s Milton line is the exception to the rule in that it operates on CP tracks. GO would have a hard time negotiating with CP rail to borrow its heavily used main line through midtown Toronto. And there is some question as to the usefulness of such a line. Commuters coming downtown to Union can take the subway north to their destinations and be moving against the general flow of commuter traffic on the subway. Here, GO commuters are making use of spare TTC capacity. GO commuters completing their trips downtown via Summerhill station are following the general flow of commuter traffic, where the subway has generally reached its capacity. GO commuters completing their trips to points north of Summerhill station would have their journeys shortened, however.
North Toronto’s main usefulness is reducing the pressure on Union station, and the proposed renovations to Union station may increase its capacity to such a degree that North Toronto station may not be needed for this purpose for some time.
The TTC, however, may end up building its portion of the connection, anyway. A recent report identifies the single exit from the Summerhill station platforms as a potential fire hazard. A secondary exit at the south side of the station would be very close to North Toronto station. The TTC is looking into taking part in the commercial redevelopment of North Toronto station to provide a secondary exit through that station.
Future Casa Loma Station (Possible Midtown GO Line/Yonge-University-Spadina Subway)
In a recent GO wish-list/plan for its next fifteen years of operation, GO Transit proposes all day rail service along the CP midtown Toronto line from Kipling station to Markham Road. Intermediate stops would include North Toronto station and a new station at Spadina Avenue. Here a connection would be made with the Spadina subway at Dupont.
Such a service would provide a quick bypass for many commuters on the Bloor-Danforth subway, giving them quick access from the west end of the city to points downtown and north of the station, including Yorkdale shopping centre and possibly York University in the future.
Future Agincourt Station (Stouffville Line/Possible Midtown GO Line/Sheppard East LRT)
When plans for the Sheppard subway called for an extension east of Don Mills station to the Scarborough Town Centre, the extension would have run beneath Sheppard Avenue as far as Kennedy, and would then start to turn south towards the Scarborough Centre. Just east of Kennedy, the extension would have passed beneath the Stouffville GO line, very close to the current Agincourt station. It is likely that a station stop would have been built there (or a connection built to a Kennedy North station further west) between the subway and the GO train.
When the Sheppard East subway extension became the Sheppard East LRT in 2007, plans for such a complex connection were dropped. When construction began on an underpass taking Sheppard Avenue East beneath the Stouffville train tracks, provision was made for Sheppard LRT trains to travel along the median. Once the Sheppard East LRT is built, it’s likely that the connection with the GO Train will occur at the surface.
Sunnyside Station (Lakeshore Line/Queen Subway)
Tom Box writes with the following information: Another possibility occurred to me for your list of GO/TTC connections: Sunnyside on the GO Lakeshore West line, and Roncesvalles on the TTC Queen subway.
Sunnyside ceased being a CN passenger station at the same time GO was created: May 1967. The last trains to stop there were two CN Hamilton-Toronto commuter trains that were replaced by GO trains.
A couple of years later, a TTC planning document identified the Queen subway as a high priority, and said that GO might be interested in reopening Sunnyside to provide a connection to the subway.
Most traces of Sunnyside station have vanished, but the four tracks of the Oakville Sub spread apart at that point (just east of the footbridge over the Oakville Sub and Gardiner Expwy), and there’s a grassy patch between tracks two and three with some broken pieces of concrete that might be remnants of the station platform.
As you can see, the issue of connections has not been addressed seriously by the TTC and GO Transit in the past, but it is a priority both systems have identified in the future. Only five connections exist today between the Toronto subway and GO Train lines, but many more may appear in the future, if all goes right.