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Thursday 29 July 2021

Time to reclaim the Sunnyside Bus Terminal: Toronto's forgotten bus station

The Toronto Coach Terminal's closure earlier this month was a reminder that the TTC used to operate an intercity bus service called Gray Coach, until it was sold off in 1990. Much like the GO Bus system today, Gray Coach served much of southern Ontario (as far west as London) and even had a route to North Bay. The Toronto Coach Terminal, known for years as the Grey Coach Terminal, was owned and operated by Gray Coach and when the bus line was sold, the TTC retained ownership of the station (ownership was transferred to the City of Toronto on July 8, 2021, days after the terminal's last bus departed.
However, what isn't generally known is that the TTC retains ownership of a second former Gray Coach Terminal at the intersection of the Queensway, Roncesvales, and Queen in Toronto's west end.
The Sunnyside Bus Terminal opened in 1936 and remained in operation until 1992 - two years after the TTC sold Gray Coach. Like its sister station on Bay Street, Sunnyside was designed in the Art Deco style and just as the Bay terminal had the Ford Hotel operating across the street, Sunnyside had the equally seedy Edgewater Hotel operating next door.
Sunnyside was originally a popular destination due to its proximity to Sunnyside Amusement Park and Bathing Pavillion as well as providing a convenient transfer to the CNR via the Sunnyside Train Station across the street. The station also served as a second Toronto stop on Gray Coach's routes between the Bay Street terminal and Niagara Falls and Buffalo. Passenger use of Sunnyside declined with the closure of Sunnyside Amusement Park in 1955 to make way for the Gardiner Expressway. With the construction of the Bloor-Danforth subway in the 1960s, Islington Station replaced Sunnyside as a stop on Gray Coach's route to Kitchener and London, Ontario In 1967, GO Transit opened and took over CN's Toronto-Hamilton route choosing to bypass the Sunnyside rail station, ending Sunnyside Bus Terminal's role as a transfer point between Grey Coach and the rail system. The station remained in service until 1992 when Gray Coach was sold to Greyhound and was ended as a seperate bus line. The TTC retained the building, which is adjacent to the Roncesvalles streetcar yard. The former bus terminal was rented out as a donut shop for several years and is now used as a McDonalds. It's a shame though. It's a charming building and could be used as a public building and rented out to, say, the West End Food Co-op which has been homeless for several years, or as a public market. Stalls could be rented out to individuals or local groups to sell food, or to farmers to sell produce, or to members of the community to sell other goods and services. It would be good if the TTC transferred ownership of the property to the city, as it has done with the Bay Street terminal, and if the city then put the building to a better community use than its present role serving Big Macs and fries. The question is, though, what are the terms of McDonald's lease with the TTC. If it's one of those 50 or 99-year leases that the city sometimes commits itself to, it may be sometime before the property could be reclaimed for public use.
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