Growing up in our community, the rest of the city felt so far away. As a child of the suburbs in the 80’s, most of my life existed within a few square kilometres. Often, I would find the right spot to gaze at the CN Tower; it seemed as far away as the moon.
My mother would take me to Ontario Place in the summers. We would get on the subway at Wilson and stand at the front of the train looking down the dark tunnel beginning at Eglinton, waiting for the light of the next station. Getting out downtown was like entering another world. A place full of sounds and smells and lots of people, with towering buildings all around.
When our community was built in the 1960’s, Line 1 of our subway system came only as far north as the current Eglinton Station on Yonge Street. From there, it headed south to Union Station on Front Street before looping north to St. George Station on Bloor. In the 1970’s, downtown inched closer to us through the openings of Finch station under Yonge Street (1974) and Wilson station at Allen Road (1978). It was another 18 years before the futuristic looking Downsview Station (now called Sheppard West Station) opened its doors in 1996.
Throughout the years, new bus routes were created through our community and more buses were added to the system. Today, when I groan at a 15-minute wait for a local bus, I often forget what it was like during my teenage years when an hour wait was not uncommon.
The plan to bring the subway through our community became a reality after I began working with Councillor Anthony Perruzza at City Hall in late 2006. The news was like a dream come true. Contracts were awarded in 2008, associated infrastructure work (moving sewers, etc.) began that same year, and drilling was commenced in 2011 and completed in 2013. Throughout the construction, my work afforded me the great privilege to be a part of this incredible project. There were years of setting up consultations about everything from station designs to traffic patterns, meetings with engineers, tours of tunnels and stations at various stages of construction, and much more. On December 16, we held a special open house at Finch West Station where members of our community explored the station. The feeling of anticipation was palpable.
Sunday, December 17, 2017 will forever be a special day in history, for it was the day that the subway through the heart of our community entered operation. On that day, we truly became one with the rest of our city and beyond, and thousands upon thousands rode for free and shared in the feeling of wonder and excitement.
I think for all of us though, the most important day was the Monday after the official opening. On that day, and for the first time ever, I walked a brisk 20 minutes to a subway station to get to work. It was a day that my daily life got a little better, and my smile lasted all the way to Queen Street.