Metrolinx signals Sheppard Avenue West subway extension ready for next step

Toronto could finally close the subway line loop along Sheppard Avenue West by building an extension to the current line that would run to Downsview Park Station. According to provincial transit agency Metrolinx, that expansion, along with several others, is taking the next step and could soon become a reality.

Metrolinx is embarking on a comprehensive study to extend rapid transit along Sheppard Avenue in both its eastern and western directions, signalling a potential transformative change for transit connectivity in Toronto’s north end. The ambitious Sheppard Extension project aims to enhance mobility, ease congestion, and facilitate faster travel within Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

It’s a project that has been on the city of Toronto radar for years including a decade-long push from the city councillor in that region, James Pasternak.

A few years ago, when the study initially surfaced, Pasternak, who had been serving at City Hall for a decade, expressed his unwavering commitment to advocating for the construction of the line. He described the extension as an indispensable transportation link.

“It connects both north-south subway lines and re-connects tens of thousands of York University students living east of Bathurst Street with their campus and connects with the Sheppard subway east of Yonge Street,” said Pasternak, at the time. “Sheppard Avenue is traffic gridlock now and we must give people the option to get out of their cars and into high level transit.”

“At one time Sheppard Avenue West did not have the density and congestion to support a subway — well it does now,” he added.

By extending rapid transit in the east and west directions, the Sheppard Extension would not only bridge existing transit gaps but also establish new connections to the Line 1 and Line 2 subways. Furthermore, the project would intersect with up to three GO Transit train lines, significantly improving east-west travel options across the region.

Beyond its transportation benefits, the Sheppard Extension project holds the potential to stimulate economic development and job growth in the area. By providing more efficient transit options and enhancing connectivity, the extension is likely to attract business investment, stimulate local economies, and create new employment opportunities.

There is also a massive development dubbed the Hangar District, which is the size of an average Ontario city, being planned for nearby Downsview Park that would add a massive influx of residents and employment, which could coincide with the construction of the extension.

The Sheppard Extension project is currently in its initial phase, the Initial Business Case (IBC), within Metrolinx’s project planning and development process. The IBC serves as the foundation for the project, assessing it at a high level to determine how it addresses identified problems and opportunities.

Metrolinx is actively seeking community input to ensure that the Sheppard Extension aligns with the needs and expectations of the local population. Public involvement and feedback will play a pivotal role in shaping the project’s direction and ultimate success.

Of course, Metrolinx has had an abysmal record in terms of building public transit within the city of Toronto with the years-late Crosstown LRT and the also-way-behind Finch West LRT. So a healthy dose of scepticism is only natural.