Toronto

New subway service is transforming Vaughan, but not all stations are busy, TTC figures show

The recently opened Toronto-York Spadina subway extension is being credited for driving "transformational" growth in downtown Vaughan, though some of the new stations appear to be suffering some early growing pains, according to the latest ridership numbers from the TTC.

Spikes in transit ridership, new development being credited to new extension

The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre opened in December 2017. It is expected to be a major hub of the city's future downtown core. (David Donnelly/CBC)

The recently opened Toronto-York Spadina subway extension is being credited for driving "transformational" growth in downtown Vaughan, though some of the new stations appear to be suffering some early growing pains, according to the latest ridership numbers from the TTC.

The line, which opened in December 2017, includes six new stations stretching from Downsview Park to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

According to figures provided to CBC Toronto by the TTC, 57,100 riders boarded trains at the new stations during a week of service in May, though the TTC notes that the York University strike may have lowered those numbers.

"Subway service in the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre (VMC) has been transformational," according to York Region Transit.

"What we've seen to date is a significant increase in ridership," said Ann Marie Carroll, the general manager of York Region Transit.

'I think everything we need for the future is starting to be put in place,' says Ann Marie Carroll of York Region Transit. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Since the subway extension opened, York Region has recorded an 11 to 12 per cent increase in transit ridership in the areas around the new stations.

"We've also seen an increase in ridership coming from the city of Toronto into York Region," Carroll said, adding that the major challenge for the region has been figuring out new, post-subway ridership patterns.

Riders in York Region who spoke to CBC Toronto are giving the extension positive reviews. 

"I think it's an excellent addition to the subway lines," said Zafar Khan, sitting inside the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station. "It's very, very beneficial for many people in this area."

"The stations are really nice and clean and big and spacious, not like some of the older ones," added Caroline Samuel, who travelled from York University. "I'm surprised; there's more buildings here than I thought."

A future downtown core

The bump in ridership and new visitors is also believed to be fuelling a major spike in development in the area around the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station, which is being envisioned as the city's future downtown core.

Ongoing construction projects will create some 3,300 new residential units in the neighbourhood, along with a 110,000 square foot YMCA also under construction.

The 360,000 square foot KPMG office building also recently opened.

"I think the subway is basically what draws people into this neighbourhood," said realtor Lisa Sinopoli, who has lived in Vaughan since 1982.

Realtor Lisa Sinopoli says the new subway is the driving force behind new residential developments in downtown Vaughan. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

By 2031, Vaughan is hoping to add 25,000 new residents and 11,500 jobs.

The subway is expected to play a major role if the city reaches those targets.

"We've been waiting for [the subway] for a long time," Sinopoli added. "I think this is the reason why everything is kind of going on around here."

Growing pains

The TTC says the current number of passengers on the line is 74 per cent of the expected ridership once the extension "matures" in 2021.

Two of the new stations will also have some catching up to do.

According to the TTC's ridership figures, only 2,000 daily riders boarded at the new Downsview Park station during the latest sampling. The Highway 407 station, one stop south of the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, saw just 2,900 daily riders. Both figures rank near the bottom of all TTC subway stations.

An expanse of open space near the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, where multiple condos are under construction. (Nick Boisvert/CBC)

Riders south of the extension have also pointed to an increase in delays and crowding, though official figures from the TTC were not available at the time of publication.

"Every time we've taken it during rush hour there's always delays," said transit advocate Sabrina "Butterfly" Gopaul, who boards at the new Finch West station.

With nearly 17,000 daily riders, Finch West is the busiest stop on the extension.

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