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Vaughan Metropolitan Centre

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Text by James Bow

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When it opened on Sunday, December 17, 2017, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station capped off an extension of the SPADINA subway that took the subway north of Finch and into the City of Vaughan. The station, located one block west of the intersection of Jane Street and Highway 7, anchors Vaughan’s new downtown development which, in 2031, the city hopes will be the home to 25,000 residents and 11,000 jobs. It is the culmination of over of eight years of construction and more than two decades of campaigning and planning to try and transform a car-oriented suburb into a more pedestrian-friendly urban environment.

Early History

The decision to create an entirely new downtown echoes similar moves by Mississauga, the City of Cambridge and the old city of Scarborough. These municipalities, which were former townships amalgamated together with a series of smaller villages and towns, worked to create a new urban centre separate from the smaller centres the villages and towns represented. This way, no one older centre such as Woodbridge or Thornhill was favoured, and the new municipality received a civic centre that was central to all residents within the municipality.

The drawback to this concept is that it’s harder to create an urban environment from scratch within a few years than it is to build on the urban form that has developed organically in the smaller centres over decades. Especially in the last half of the twentieth century, such planned downtowns have tended to favour car travel to such a degree that the urban environment was made unfriendly to pedestrians, limiting the development’s success.

The drive to use new subway construction to anchor the development of a new downtown is not new. North York used the same approach when it asked the TTC to build North York Centre station in 1986, and when it pursued the SHEPPARD subway throughout the last quarter of the twentieth century. Politicians know, at least instinctively, that downtowns depend on people, and subways are an excellent way to move lots and lots of people.

Transit Crossroads

Like North York, Vaughan created its new centre around a major intersection, which creates a stronger sense of place, as opposed to Mississauga and Scarborough, which created their new downtowns around shopping malls. However, Jane Street and Highway 7 were retained as extremely wide, high-speed roadways, which reduces the incentive for pedestrians to stick around and wander.

But the SPADINA subway isn’t the only transit infrastructure that anchors Vaughan Metropolitan Centre. Since 2005, York Region Transit has been building its VIVA network of bus rapid transit routes. Its core lines have followed the axes of the region, including Yonge Street from Finch station to Newmarket, and Highway 7 from east Markham to west Vaughan. At first these routes were little more than express buses but, since 2011, York Region has built bus-only rapid-ways along the median of Highway 7 to ensure the rapid movement of these vehicles past congestion.

The transit crossroads supports what Vaughan calls “the largest and most significant development project in Vaughan’s history”. The development area sits on a 179 hectare (442 acres) site and will eventually feature more than 1.5 million square feet of office space, 750,000 square feet of retail space and housing for up to 12,000 residents. At peak development, Vaughan estimates that more than 20,000 people will pass through the station and its bus terminal each day, commuting to downtown Toronto and York University, or arriving for jobs and entertainment facilities.

What’s in a Name?

When the first plans for the subway extension into Vaughan was drawn up, Vaughan’s proposed downtown development in the Highway 7/Jane area was known as the “Vaughan Corporate Centre”, and Vaughan asked that the station be named as such. The TTC complied, and continued to use the name on internal construction documents, but they expected to revisit the issue at a later date. Soon, Vaughan changed the name of its downtown development to Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, and asked that this be the name of the station instead.

At the TTC’s meeting on September 30, 2010, commissioners received a staff report recommending that the terminal name be set as “Vaughan Centre” (other names considered and dropped by TTC staff included “Highway 7”, “Highway 7 West”, “Jane North”, “Edgeley”, “Creditstone”, and “Applewood”). Staff argued that “Vaughan Metropolitan Centre” was branded to a particular development rather than the wider area the station served. They also pointed out that “Vaughan Centre” was in keeping with the names applied to stations serving other regional centres, like “North York Centre”, or “Scarborough Centre”.

Commissioners deferred a decision on the name change until February 2012, when Vaughan’s preference was adopted. Although the full station name was the longest on the TTC’s subway network, the TTC cleverly handled this by taking a design cue from the [UNIVERSITY subway line], where the station names are augmented by a subheading beneath the name (e.g. “QUEEN’S PARK / COLLEGE STREET”). “Metropolitan Centre” was written in smaller font beneath “VAUGHAN”, effectively naming the station after the whole city. While the station name was printed out in full above the station entrances, the destination signs for the subway trains serving the station were also programmed to show just “Vaughan”.

Vaughan also altered the name of the station’s bus terminal, calling it the Smart Centres Bus Terminal after the development consortium who was building many of the office towers around the site. This was the first instance of the naming rights of a portion of Toronto’s subway network being sold off.

Station Design

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station is located north of Highway 7, on the west side of Millway Avenue. A tail track structure will extend north of the station, and a “crossover box” will extend south of Highway 7. A bus terminal has been built one block north of the station’s main entrance, but separate from the station. Passengers have to walk outside to access the main station entrance. The station will also feature a passenger pick-up and drop-off facility, but no dedicated parking. The bus terminal and passenger pick-up and drop-off area will be owned and maintained by York Region.

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station also features tunnel access to a set of stairs and elevators leading up to a pair or rapid-way platforms in the middle of Highway 7 south of the station serving York Region Transit’s VIVA Orange line. This arrangement recalls the transfer-way set up connecting BLOOR streetcars to the YONGE subway at Bloor station, where streetcars in both directions could load and unload quickly before heading on their way. VIVA Orange buses will eventually operate on their rapidly east to Richmond Hill Centre and west to Martin Grove. Brampton Zum buses also stop at the rapid-way platform before turning north to loop through the Smart Centres Bus terminal north of the station.

The station is also fitted with seven knock-out panels through its concourse that will connect to future tunnels leading to accessible secondary entrances within the surrounding developments. The tunnel leading beneath Highway 7 to the rapidway transfer platforms could be extended south to connect with developments in the south end of Vaughan’s new downtown, creating a network of underground retail tunnels akin to Toronto’s PATH network.

The surface footprint of Vaughan Metropolitan Centre station was small, so as not to swallow up too much land from the surrounding developments. The station is designed for an urban setting, so there is no attached parking lot. Instead, its main entrance exits directly out onto the sidewalk of Highway 7 within easy walking distance of nearby amenities. The station is designed to be an impressive gateway, both for Vaughan and for the subway itself.

The station features a number of green features, including a “cool roof” to reduce heating and air-conditioning costs at the main entrance, a green roof over the electrical substation, and a design that maximizes daylight levels within the station to reduce the use of electric lights. LED lighting further conserves power. The station also reduces the impact on the local water table through efficient plumbing features and green storm water runoff features, and soft landscaping including native and drought-tolerant species. There is also space for bicycle parking.

Artistic Statement

The station’s art design was drafted by Paul Raff Studio to be integrated into the domed ceiling of the main entrance building. The art piece is called “Atmospheric Lens”, and is a “diffusion with some panels having a more reflective surface to provide a visual depth, optical richness, and subtle shifts of reflection with movement”. In the words of the artist, “within the dome is a collection of apertures with sloping sides culminating in a skylight providing views to the sky. The skylights are oriented to the solar plane, which is emphasized with a surrounding field of reflective panels. The sides of these apertures will be coloured and angled to match the summer and winter solstices, and the spring and fall equinoxes. A fourth element is a glowing disk mounted on top of the elevator shaft so it is not directly visible to patrons, but will be reflected occasionally in the surfaces of the dome to provide a point of reference.”

Future Development

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre will act as a gateway to one of the largest commercial and residential developments in the Greater Toronto Area. It is an anchor to end the SPADINA subway. However, the tail tracks provide a launching pad for a potential extension further north to Vaughan Mills Mall. Whether that extension is ever built remains to be seen, as York Region is concentrating on expanding its VIVA network and campaigning for the extension of the YONGE subway to Richmond Hill. In the meantime, as many as 20,000 passengers per day will be passing through this station on the way to and from homes and jobs in the area.

Service Notes (as of December 17, 2017):

  • Off-site Resources:
  • Address: 3150 Highway 7.
  • Opening: December 17, 2017
  • Average Weekday Ridership: 14,790 (2018)
  • Hours of Operation:
    First Train to Union/Finch: 5:51 a.m. weekdays, 5:50 a.m. Saturdays/holidays, 7:50 a.m. Sundays.
    Last Train to Union/Finch: 1:04 a.m. weekdays, 1:05 a.m. weekends/holidays.
  • Entrances: 3
    • Main entrance (fully accessible), located in a plaza north of Highway 7, west of Millway Avenue, offering stairs, escalator and elevator access to a mezzanine level and subway platforms.
    • Rapidway entrance (fully accessible), located in the median of Highway 7 west of Millway Avenue, offering direct connections to VIVA buses, with stairs and elevator access to a mezzanine level and subway platforms.
    • Bus terminal entrance (fully accessible), located west of Millway Avenue north of the SmartReit Development, with stairs and elevator access to a mezzanine level and subway platforms.
  • Wheelchair Accessible Since: On Opening
  • Elevators (Maintenance Alerts):
    • Street to Concourse
    • Concourse to Subway Platform
    • Concourse to VIVA Station eastbound platform (YRT maintained)
    • Concourse to VIVA Station westbound platform (YRT maintained)
  • Escalators (Maintenance Alerts):
    • Platform to Concourse (4, pairs in each direction)
    • Concourse to main entrance (2, in pair)
    • Concourse to VIVA Station eastbound platform (YRT maintained)
    • Concourse to VIVA Station westbound platform (YRT maintained)
  • Parking: None
  • Washrooms: Accessible washrooms available
  • One centre platform

TTC Surface Route Connections:

  • None

Regional Transit Connections

  • Brampton Zum
  • York Region Transit

Document Archive

Vaughan Metropolitan Centre Station Image Archive

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