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'Transformative' Subway Extension To Vaughan Opens

A party atmosphere reigned at the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre subway stop Sunday as the station marked opening day. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Premier Kathleen Wynne Mayor John Tory TTC Vaughan Line 1
TTC's Josh Colle, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Toronto Mayor John Tory and York Region Chairman and CEO Wayne Emmerson inspect the new University subway line extension.

Thousands of commuters, Christmas shoppers and the curious mingled with musicians, portrait painters and jugglers while TTC workers handed out info and souvenirs. 

On the subway itself, it was standing-room only as passengers took advantage of the TTC’s day of free travel to crisscross the entire six-stop University Line extension. Many stayed on board to make the entire 43-minute trip to Toronto’s Union Station.

“This is really going to change people’s lives,” said Sandra Kaiser, vice president of corporate affairs for SmartCentres Inc., which has offices adjacent to the subway entrance. 

“It’s a transformative experience for Vaughan.”

Vaughan Metropolitan Station TTC subway station
A large crowd was on hand for the opening of the new Vaughan Metropolitan Centre.

And Toronto as well. A VIP ribbon-cutting for the $3.2B, 8.6-kilometre extension Friday brought out not only Toronto Mayor John Tory, but also Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, all touting the historic nature of the moment. 

“We’re proud to join with our municipal and provincial partners to celebrate the long-awaited opening of the new subway line,” Trudeau said at the ribbon-cutting. “This is the first rapid transit line to cross the city of Toronto boundary. This means that folks who live in the suburbs will benefit from unprecedented accessibility to key downtown areas at a lower cost.”

The new extension — built with federal, provincial, city and municipal funds — not only cuts travel to downtown for Vaughan residents who drove by car close to an hour, it also is expected to create 36 million additional transit trips a year, and 30 million fewer car trips.

The oft-delayed, over-budget project also marks the largest subway development in the city in nearly 40 years, and the first of any kind in 15. 

“[It is] the biggest subway expansion in a generation,” Wynne said, adding that the project was "a milestone. It’s not a finish line.”

University Line Extension subway car TTC Vaughan Metropolitan station
Crowds packed the new University line extension on Sunday.

The talk at the ribbon-cutting was as much about what comes next as what had been accomplished. Tory, who has made transit a priority of his government, said projects like the much-debated Scarborough subway extension and expansions to the city's LRT network are on the way. 

“We’re going to do this over and over again," Tory said. "I hope we’re all here to be doing it because it’s necessary."

For Vaughan, though, the effect of the subway extension will be felt immediately, and even more in the not-so-distant future. The line — as well as the opening of the adjacent VivaNext rapid transit station — makes the suburban city a much more viable living option for people working in downtown Toronto. 

"There have been stations that have not lived up to their potential. We went into this with our eyes wide open," said Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, who estimates ridership could reach 20,000 daily.

"The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will definitely be a winner."

Potential residents will not have to stray far from the subway. Just outside the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre door, SmartREIT’s massive, 100-acre, 17M SF residential and office community is coming into focus. 

Dubbed SmartCentres Place, the project currently is represented only by the 15-storey KPMG complex. Another 220K SF mixed-use building, which will include a 100K SF YMCA and library, broke ground early this year.

“[The subway opening] is very exciting,” said SmartREIT Vice President of Development Paula Bustard, who has been working on the SmartCentres Place project for more than a decade. “We’re not quite there yet ourselves, but we’re starting to mobilize.”

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre KPMG SmartCentres Place TTC
The six-stop University Line extension ends at Vaughan.

Enthusiasm for this planned community already appears high. Three 55-storey condo towers adjacent to the subway, dubbed Transit City, have sold out their 1,700-plus units, though construction is not set to begin until next year.

More residences, office and retail buildings are planned as well in the next five to seven years. Bevilacqua said the area could witness a population growth of 30,000 and 11,000 new jobs in the near future.

"You get the feeling this is a city coming of age," he said.