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Few in the city have heard of Bessarion subway station, and even fewer people can pronounce it.

Now, as the neighbourhood around Toronto's second-least-used subway stop is readying for major expansion, transit advocates worry decades-old decisions could still curb ridership growth — an instance of "bad planning" that some say offers lessons for future transit and community development.

Condominium development in the Bayview Village neighbourhood has skyrocketed, with the bulk of new units being built by Concord Adex. It's set to become the largest planned community in Toronto since the CityPlace development began in the early 2000s.

The project aims to put up 17 new buildings, two schools, and one of the largest community centres in North York, which is slated to open late 2019.

It could also mean an influx of at least 9,000 more residents, but some say that might not translate into increased subway ridership, thanks to a deep-rooted car culture and previous planning decisions.

"Bessarion was built in a car-oriented location and it takes decades to build the kind of density to actually support the ridership of that subway," said Cherise Burda, executive director of the Ryerson City Building Institute.

Opened in 2002, the TTC stop along the Sheppard subway line — also known as Line 4 — still has fewer than 3,000 daily riders. And it's no surprise: a stroll through the neighbourhood reveals strip malls, constant car traffic, and ample parking.

For perspective, Burda said, the entire Sheppard line carries about 50,000 riders a day, compared to the King streetcar, which travels though bustling and walkable downtown neighbourhoods and carries more than 80,000 riders.

"A subway is built to carry a tremendous capacity," she added. "But it's way under capacity."

More people could mean more drivers, not transit riders

The team at Concord Adex doesn't believe their massive new development project could change the course any time soon.

David Shepherd has worked for the developer as a condominium inspector for the past five years and, every weekday morning, ends his subway commute at Bessarion.

"There may be more people as a result of this development, but a lot of people drive up here," he said.

"It is not as transit-friendly because everything is accessible in a car. It is the mentality of the people who live in North York: Most people just drive everywhere."

If there weren't as many surface parking lots, he added, "people probably wouldn't drive as much."

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