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Subway Related Properties Page

Text by James Bow
With thanks to Nathan Ng

See Also:

Yorkdale subway station is a stop at the north end of the SPADINA subway line. It is known for serving the Yorkdale shopping mall complex, and for its domed glass ceiling. Although it offers no direct connections to surface TTC routes (only the 47 LANSDOWNE comes close to the station), the adjoining Yorkdale Bus Terminal serves as a major hub for GO Transit and Ontario Northland buses serving cities to the west and the north of the city. This, plus a parking lot for 1,010 commuters and the nearby Lawrence Manor neighbourhood brought 19,150 passengers through the station on an average weekday in 2015. Its history highlights the transformation of the area from a purely car-oriented suburban development into an important link in the public transportation network of the Greater Toronto Area.

The Mall That Built the Neighbourhood

The area now served by Yorkdale station used to be primarily rural, up until the mid 1950s. Then, urban development, held back by two decades of depression and war, sprawled out from the old City of Toronto. By the end of 1952, the provincial government opened the Toronto Bypass highway, one of the first segments that would become Highway 401, and the City of Toronto began planning an expressway that would connect from that highway near Dufferin Street south to the north end of Spadina Road.

Highway 401 would eventually be built, while the Spadina Expressway would run into controversy, and terminate at Eglinton Avenue. In the meantime, by the late 1950s and early 1960s, plans were in place for a major interchange between the two highways (construction would begin in 1963). Around this time, T. Eaton & Company purchased 40 hectares in the area as part of its plans to build a massive new store on what it believed would soon be prime real estate. The rival Simpsons’ department store chain followed suit with the purchase of 8 hectares, and plans solidified for the construction of one of the largest shopping malls in the world.

The Trizec Corporation was given the task of building and operating the overall development, which cost $40 million. Yorkdale opened to the public on February 26, 1964, featuring over 1,000,000 square feet of retail space. In addition to being the largest mall in Canada, it was the first Canadian mall to feature two major department stores under the same roof. The opening was celebrated by large crowds and considerable coverage in the local media.

Yorkdale shopping centre was a development built exclusively around the automobile. The closest transit users could get to the mall was via the 29 DUFFERIN bus on Dufferin Street, or to Ranee Avenue on a branch of the 14 CHAPLIN; even then passengers would have to walk across an expansive parking lot to get to the stores. Service to the door of the mall itself didn’t materialize until May 12, 1974, with the extension of the 18 CALEDONIA east along Yorkdale Road. Most patrons were expected to drive to the mall via the Spadina Expressway.

The Mall Becomes a Transit Hub

However, the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto had plans to extend subway service along the Spadina Expressway, taking a page from Chicago, which found that building subways in the median of expressways could save construction costs and get more use out of a particular length of transportation infrastructure. With provincial approval for construction of the SPADINA line granted on January 18, 1973, plans moved forward for a station that would serve the mall.

Plans also moved forward for the construction of a regional bus terminal in the same location. As the SPADINA line was being built, the provincial government was building GO Transit, and moving away from just commuter trains into a network of intercity buses. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation felt that a bus terminal near the Spadina/401 interchange would be effective in serving buses coming in from the north and the west of the city, with easy connections provided via the 401 to Highway 400. Approval to build the Yorkdale Bus Terminal came in 1975, with plans to connect to Yorkdale subway station via a bridge.

Station Design

As with the other stations on the SPADINA subway, Yorkdale departed from the unified architectural styles that marked the previous expansions of the Toronto subway network. Architect Arthur Erickson was given the task of designing the station (as well as Eglinton West station). This up-and-coming architect envisioned a glass cathedral, with a 600 foot long vaulted glass roof. After the glass, concrete and stainless steel predominate. The architect emphasized the symmetry of the station, building exits with escalators and stairs at both ends of the station (with the southern, automatic entrance leading to Ranee Avenue).

In the words of the architect himself, “The Yorkdale project… …is a multi-leveled concrete and steel structure. There is an enclosed pedestrian bridge incorporated into the existing bridge structure, which supports the train tracks crossing the street below. Located in the median of a major expressway, the main structure consists of a 500-foot long central platform covered by a 600-foot semi-circular skylight. The platform level was constructed with precut concrete panels in an inverted ‘v’ position, punched out for windows at the height of the train cars. The panels are clad in stainless steel for protection against salt spray from passenger cars in winter.”

Erickson’s work on Yorkdale was awarded one of Canada’s highest honours when, in 1982, the structure received a Governor General’s Medal for Architecture. The station is now considered part of Toronto’s inventory of heritage properties.

Yorkdale also boasted an artistic highlight in the form of “Arc en Ciel”, by artist Michael Hayden. A series of neon lights were attached to the struts of the skylight, creating a spectacular rainbow display that would shift and move as trains entered the station. Again, in the words of Arthur Erickson, “The colours start with deep blue at one apse and graduate through the spectrum to red at the centre, returning to blue at the other apse. A computerized controller scrambles patterns so that at one instant colour sweeps from one end to the other, or it pulses in segments, or it spurts sporadically, and on and on. When a train is about to enter the station, movement of light stops and all tubes are lit. When a train is about to enter the station, movement of light stops and all tubes are lit. Once the train is in the station, the rhythms start once again.”

Unfortunately, the Arc en Ciel installation did not last more than a few years. Leaks in the roof and a lack of maintenance from the TTC meant that the installation broke down regularly. It was eventually unceremoniously removed by the early 1990s, although artist Michael Hayden is in talks with the TTC about restoring the art piece, using sturdier and more energy efficient LEDs. An agreement was reached in principle in July 2016 to restore the artwork but, as of the time of this writing (June 2017), work has not yet begun.

The Connections Come Later

Yorkdale station opened with the rest of the SPADINA subway on January 28, 1978. The station’s connections to the mall, however, were unfinished. The building containing the Yorkdale Bus Terminal hadn’t been built yet, and a pedestrian bridge over an on-ramp to the Allen Expressway ended abruptly at a stairwell and exit. Getting from there to Yorkdale Mall required pedestrians to cross an expanse of parking lot, exposed to the weather. Construction of the office tower and bus terminal continued into 1979, opening to the public on September 17. Even with the building complete and linked to Yorkdale station by the pedestrian bridge, the building was not linked to the main mall building. It would take until an expansion of the mall in 1985 before TTC patrons could walk from the subway to the shops without going outside.

The Yorkdale Bus Terminal served GO buses heading north and northwest, serving Newmarket and Barrie via Highway 400, and Brampton and Georgetown via Highway 401. The facility also served Gray Coach (later Greyhound) buses heading west on Highway 401, and Ontario Northland buses coming into Toronto via Highway 400. It was a stop on the way for regional buses heading west from York Mills station, and served Airport Express buses from Gray Coach and Pacific Western until 2000. The facility also saw TTC buses operating on the 18 CALEDONIA (and later 47 LANSDOWNE) route. This arrangement continued until July 10, 1995, when the TTC abruptly pulled its buses out of the terminal, stopping on Yorkdale Road near the station entrance. The facility was owned and operated by GO Transit, which charged other operators fees to use it; after a fare increase, the TTC felt that it was not worth its while to remain inside.

The Yorkdale Bus terminal features escalators leading to and from the level above and the connecting path to Yorkdale subway station. A glassed-in waiting area features benches, a refreshment stand, a ticket kiosk and doors leading out to thirteen bus platforms. Buses enter the terminal from the access ramp from Yorkdale Road at the northeastern corner of the terminal and run through the terminal clockwise. As of 2017, York Region Transit connects one of its express bus routes to the terminal (this would end after the SPADINA subway was extended into York Region in December 2017), while GO Transit buses provide connections to Square One, Bramalea, Brampton, Georgetown, Guelph, Bolton, Canada’s Wonderland, Oshawa and Newmarket. Ontario Northland and Greyhound stop in at Yorkdale on their way north towards Muskoka, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie and Western Canada.

Yorkdale’s connection to its namesake mall dominates the public perception of the station. Less well known is the station’s connection to the Lawrence Heights and Lawrence Manor neighbourhoods through its exit onto Ranee Avenue. The entrance is automatic, so those neighbours who don’t have tokens or Metropasses to enter the station have to follow pathways through Baycrest Park to the north end of the station. In 2010, the community group Artstarts commissioned murals to be designed and painted by local youth on the support pillars beneath the Allen Expressway.

The mural on the Range side of the station is entitled “Love or Love”. The artistic statement says, “Love or Love is a community mural created by youth from Lawrence Heights under the mentorship of public artists Sean Martindale and Joshua Barndt. Inspired by a popular local expression, Love or Love communicates a shared sentiment of compassion, hopefulness and determination as the neighbourhood prepares for major changes promised by the upcoming neighbourhood revitalization. This affirmative intervention is juxtaposed with the word ‘HOME,’ reflecting the community’s ongoing relationships with place, family and belonging. Finally the westerly underpass walls together state ‘Limitless Heights’, reflecting the amazing potential of this great community.”

Other Features

In spite of the large parking lot surrounding Yorkdale Mall, no parking was given over for TTC commuters until August 1985 when, as part of the mall’s expansion, the mall built a multi-level parking garage near Yorkdale Road and the station entrance, and the TTC leased space within. This lot served TTC commuters until January 5, 2014, when further expansion saw the mall demolish and rebuild the parking structure. TTC commuters were routed to Wilson and Downsview stations’ parking lots instead. Work had been planned to be finished by the end of 2015, but it wasn’t until February 1, 2017 that a new TTC lot featuring 1,010 spaces opened to commuters. The TTC occupies levels P3, P4 and P5 of the new garage, which is monitored by the mall’s security staff. Just as Yorkdale’s commuter parking lot re-opened, the TTC shut down one of its parking lots at Wilson and declared it surplus and a candidate for redevelopment.

Yorkdale Mall has not been content to rest on its laurels. Opened as the largest mall in Canada with over a million square feet of retail space, it underwent several multi-million dollar expansions in the years following to add another 700,000 square feet of retail space. While the mall retains over 7,200 parking spaces, it has relied more heavily on its connection to the Toronto subway at Yorkdale station over the years. Yorkdale Mall today is now the fourth largest shopping mall in Canada, and features the highest sales per square foot.

Yorkdale Mall has defied trends across North America which have seen sinking sales and closing stores in suburban malls. It has done so by aggressively keeping itself relevant to shoppers and serving all of the shoppers that wish to come to their stores, regardless of how they travel. As Yorkdale Mall continues to grow and develop, so too will the ridership at Yorkdale subway station and Yorkdale’s bus terminal.

Service Notes (as of November 26, 2017):

  • Off-site Resources:
  • Address: Yorkdale Road and Yorkdale Service Road (no street address)
  • Opened: January 28, 1978
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 22,860 (2018), 19,150 (2015), 22,600 (2014), 25,500 (2013), 29,080 (2012), 25,830 (2011), 24,490 (2010), 24,930 (2009), 23,280 (2008)
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Union/Finch: 5:47 a.m. weekdays, 5:59 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:43 a.m. Sundays.
    First Train to Vaughan: 6:29 a.m. weekdays, 6:32 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 8:37 a.m. Sundays
    Last Train to Union/Finch: 1:23 a.m. every day.
    Last Train to Vaughan: 2:16 a.m. weekdays, 2:10 a.m. weekends/holidays.
  • Entrances: 3
    • Yorkdale Service Road Main Entrance: located on the south side of Yorkdale Service Road, 33 metres east of Yorkdale Road. Exterior stairs lead up to station entrance and concourse level, with stairs and escalators to the platform.
    • Ranee Avenue Entrances (Automatic): one located on the north side of Ranee Avenue, 100 metres east of Flemington Road, the other on the south side of Ranee Avenue, 100 metres east of Flemington Road, connected to the north-side entrance via stairs and passage over Ranee Avenue. An automatic entrance provides stairs and elevator access directly to the subway platform.
  • Wheelchair Accessible?: No (tentatively planned for 2019)
  • Escalators (click here for maintenance schedule):
    • Ranee Concourse To Train Platform - South End (Down At All Times)
    • Ranee Concourse To Train Platform - South End (Up At All Times)
    • Main Concourse To Train Platform - North End (Up At All Times)
    • Main Concourse To Train Platform - North End (Down At All Times
  • Parking: 1010 spaces
    • Enter the lot from the South Service Road, near the west Allen Road on ramp. The entrance is at the east end of Yorkdale Mall, Parkade E on levels P3, P4 and P5.
  • Washrooms: None
  • Token vending machine
  • One centre platform

Regional Connections

  • Greyhound
  • GO Transit
  • Ontario Northland
  • York Region Transit

TTC Surface Route Connections:

  • 47 LANSDOWNE (Transfer required, north end of station)
  • 109 RANEE (Transfer required, south end of station)

Former TTC Surface Route Connections:

Document Archive

Yorkdale Station Image Archive

<< WILSON | Yonge-University-Spadina | LAWRENCE WEST >>
<< Brampton/Georgetown/Points West | GO Transit 401 Services | YORK MILLS >>
Subway Related Properties Page


  • Arthur Erickson.” Arthur Erickson. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2017.
  • City of Toronto Archives
  • Ng, Nathan. “Yorkdale.” Station Fixation. N.p., Aug. 2015.

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