Fun Toronto neighbourhoods close to a boring GTA neighbourhood?
December 15, 2010 12:19 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a fun Toronto neighbourhood. Special constraints: commuting to Markham.

So, I might be moving from Vancouver to Toronto. I'm a little tired of Vancouver and I'm really excited by this possibility.

Unfortunately, my potential employer is based out of Markham in one of those huge suburban office parks. Is it possible to find a fun urban neighbourhood in Toronto with a manageable commute to Markham (more specifically, the Warden Viva station)?

I'd rather not drive, which does limit my options. It looks like I could bus from Finch Station or Don Mills Station to work in about 35 minutes. I'd be willing to put up with a total of 1 hour each way on transit (awful, I know - but smartphones help ease the pain and occasional telecommuting is an option).

Assume that I'm in my early 20s, into live music and weird art, and want to live around similar people (think Vancouver's Mount Pleasant or Commercial Drive) or at least be a short transit trip away from them.

I looked into Yonge & Eglinton, and it seems mostly good but I get the impression that it's full of yuppies. If I'm wrong, please correct me.

Quick summary:
-assume that I'm overlooking important details in my question, because I know very little about Toronto
-need a sub-1 hour commute to the Warden Viva station
-bus from Finch or Don Mills is 35 minutes
-into live music, indie scene, hipsters, etc.
-want good transit to most destinations in the city

Does a perfect neighbourhood for me exist in Toronto? Thanks in advance!
posted by ripley_ to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
Which (approximate) intersection in Markham are you thinking of? Transit has dead spots in Markham, and if you're off the TTC/YRT/Viva lines, you're just not getting there by transit. I was at Leslie and Highway 7 for a bit, and I was looking at 90+ minute commutes.

You may have to put up with living near the subway to get to somewhere hip. PBR's banned north of Bloor, I hear.
posted by scruss at 12:46 PM on December 15, 2010

Dragging and dropping pointers on Google maps with transit directions on it looks like you can't go much south of St. Clair on the Yonge Line and West of Woodbine on the Bloor-Danforth line.

I'm not sure if the perfect neighbourhood for you exists. If you're willing to stretch your commute another 10-20 minutes it will open up a lot of options. Also if you're willing to travel 10-20 minutes to your perfect neighbourhood.
posted by samhyland at 12:47 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Trying to commute across Steeles Ave is what makes this a giant -- and expensive -- pain in your ass. You're basically having to travel via both TTC and York Region transit, which just don't sync well, generally speaking. I wouldn't trust the transit planners assessments of time to be accurate, because the chances of missing connections are great. Plus, the distances up thataway can be enormous -- if your employer isn't right on the bus line you're riding, you might find that what looks like half a block of walking on a map is half a mile once you get up there.

Coming up from Finch is definitely one possibility, and then you can live anywhere on the Yonge subway line without particularly affecting your commute. Of course, living on the Yonge subway line is usually fairly pricey in and of itself, and most of the stuff that's immediately on the subway line is kind of yuppie condo hell.

The other is taking the Warden bus straight up Warden, which has the advantage of being a single bus, after you get off the subway, so there's no issue with missing connections. That gives you the Bloor subway line to play with, which gives you more choice in terms of types of neighborhood, but the overall commute is likely to be longer.

And yes, Yonge & Eglinton is full of Yuppies.

Your best bet might be to try living somewhere near Finch Station itself, as sort of a sucky concession to both halves of your life. It's not horrible for work, and at least you have easy access to the subway, and a night bus if you need it (it's not recommended for anything but the most dire circumstances, however, as it's nicknamed the 'vomit comet' for a reason).

Having worked in various places not far from where you're headed, I would strongly urge you to reconsider the merits of driving.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:59 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, the office is definitely within walking distance of the Viva bus stop at Warden and Enterprise.

I'm not sure if the perfect neighbourhood for you exists. If you're willing to stretch your commute another 10-20 minutes it will open up a lot of options. Also if you're willing to travel 10-20 minutes to your perfect neighbourhood.

Okay, how about St. Clair? West Queen West is a little too far from there, but are there any other worthwhile neighbourhoods 10-20 minutes from the station?

Thanks for the replies everyone, I'm not familiar with Toronto (at all) so this is really helpful.
posted by ripley_ at 1:06 PM on December 15, 2010

Response by poster: Having worked in various places not far from where you're headed, I would strongly urge you to reconsider the merits of driving.

Every time someone's described Toronto highways to me they sounded nightmarish - do you know if they're significantly better for a reverse commute like this? It looks like a 30-minute drive on Don Valley Parkway and the 407.
posted by ripley_ at 1:11 PM on December 15, 2010

I do a reverse commute. Heading east out of Toronto, I've had speeding tickets. That's how fast the traffic goes.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:15 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's slightly better for a reverse commuter but not by much. (On preview I only have experience doing this west of the city) That said I'd still seriously consider driving.

If you insist on transit you might want to look into The Annex. It's becoming increasingly upscale but still has culture. A very very long commute to your work but two possible routes in case of subway delays and closures.

Okay, how about St. Clair? West Queen West is a little too far from there, but are there any other worthwhile neighbourhoods 10-20 minutes from the station?

I like St. Clair between Bathurst & Landsdowne but it dosen't have the music scene you're looking for and would be an even longer commute.
posted by samhyland at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're willing to drive and you've got any ability to commute off-hours, that'd really help, but yeah, in general, going North is easier than going South. The DVP is still bad in either direction, though, but it's fine North of the 401.

I used to do this commute in about 35 minutes, by not leaving my house until 9AM. Doing it to arrive before 7:30ish would be about the same.

If you aimed to live around Bathurst & Bloor, you'd be competing with UofT students for places, so it might be a tad pricey or studenty or both, but your Northeast-bound commute would be non-horrible by car, at least outside of the very worst of rush hour. And from there, you'd have really good transit access to all the interesting parts of the city.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:57 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Looks like Finch Station or the Annex with a car might be my best options. Lots to think about, thanks for the help!
posted by ripley_ at 2:36 PM on December 15, 2010

Best answer: You are pretty much screwed if you a) want some neat culture, b) think Yonge/Eglinton is full of yuppies (which it kind of is), and c) want a commute under an hour. You MIGHT be able to get most of the way there if you live near Bathurst/St. Clair, as it's close to multiple transit lines and has a certain charm that would appeal to you, given your preferences for neighbourhoods in Vancouver. But you won't get a commute under an hour if you're heading to Warden and 7, unless commuting upstream saves you a lot of time—when I commuted from Leslie and 7 to downtown, it took about an hour and a half.

To give you some rules of thumb: taking Viva Pink from Leslie/7 to Finch station usually took about 30 minutes at rush hour, and the subway ride down to Bloor took another half-hour or so. If you live at Yonge/St. Clair, which is less hip than Bathurst/St. Clair, then an hour is doable assuming no major traffic snafus and perfect transfers between various forms of transit. Depending on your definition of "close," you will be reasonably close to indie venues and the like; Bloor and Queen serve as east-west axes in this regard, and by subway you're only about 15-20 minutes away from Queen and less to Bloor. (Bus/streetcar is a different story, though there's 24-hour service up Bathurst so getting home shouldn't be a huge hassle—it'll just take longer.) But it's not exactly "oh sweet I can walk home from the show" close. For that, you pretty much want West Queen West. But then you're looking at a 1.5-hour commute each way. It'd almost be worth it, except three hours out of your day is a lot for a twenty-something who wants to go see gallery openings and indie shows and whatever.

Another option is to live on the east side and own a car. If you do it right—say, living around Leslieville—you'd have close access to the DVP (which exits by Woodbine, a suburban stone's throw away from Warden) and easy 24-hour streetcar access to the west-end nightlife via the Queen car, plus possible access to the subway via the King car (which goes up Broadview). But without the car, the plan kinda falls apart.

Avoid living around Finch. Yes, it's a compromise option, but there's nothing around there if you don't own a car, it's depressing as hell, and you'll still have to travel a half hour to get ANYWHERE, work or play.

One final note: your smartphone will be useless in the subway. We don't have them fancy trains in the sky like in Vancouver, which means no cell reception. And since it'll take up at least half your commute... well, you should probably get acquainted with our lovely library system, is all I'm saying.
posted by chrominance at 6:25 PM on December 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

hi, i'm not going to totally solve your problem but i can at least help you come up with your ideal neighbourhood, and then you'll see if you can handle the commute.
i think you really want to live in Parkdale, which is part art scene, part new families trying to gentrify, part homeless/ underhoused people who haven't gotten kicked out yet. however, it's not ideal for the transport situation. you can find decent housing for a cheap price, you're close to the water, it's still a neighbourhood, it's got lots happening. Anyways, wherever you live, you'll be spending time in this neighbourhood if you end up going out at night.
other neighbourhoods to consider are:
the Annex
little italy
bathurst/st clair
near chinatown
leslieville (which is east, most of the other stuff i mentioned is west)

basically if i was you i would live anywhere between Roncesvalles to the West, Sherbourne to the East, King Street to the South, and St Clair to the North. or around leslieville. Anything within that range is right where good cool stuff is happening, and subway access is not bad.

actually, if there's a bus that goes straight up warden (sorry i didn't check) then you could live at warden and danforth and you'd be on a subway line, and even if your commute was longish, you'd be the first on at the bus stop so you could just read the whole way or whatever. it would be long but uninterrupted. which counts for a lot when you're trying to sleep on the bus.

mostly, i think your dream of living in a cool neighbourhood in toronto and getting to markham in under an hour is unrealistic. sorry. i used to live at dovercourt and bloor (about 2 seconds from the subway, which, by the way, if you can live near a subway stop is the best thing EVAR) and it took me 45 minutes to get to my work at yonge and eglinton during the week. not so far. commuting in toronto is as natural as breathing (but still sucks, don't get me wrong.)
posted by andreapandrea at 7:54 PM on December 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think living as near as you can to one of these TTC stations is your best bet:
OK- Lansdowne, Dufferin, St George
Good- Ossington, Christie, Bathurst, or Spadina

At all of those stations, you'll be within a quick bike or streetcar ride of tons of cool places to hang out, but- importantly- your commute will be MUCH easier if you live close to a TTC station, rather than if you live in a cooler neighbourhood along Queen.

Avoid having to take an East-West streetcar as part of your commute- especially the streetcars along College, Dundas, or Queen- they are very slow and make commuting quite horrid. Taking a TTC vehicle to get to the subway makes commuting hellish. Being able to walk quickly to the subway is ideal.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:59 AM on February 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

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