Transit relief in sight for York

The $1 billion funding announcement by the governments of Canada, Ontario and the City of Toronto for improvements to the Toronto transit system is a step in the right direction for York University.

Right: An artist’s rendition of the better way at York

News of yesterday’s much-anticipated funding for a subway environmental assessment and an interim “busway” from Downsview station has all the right markers for transit-stressed riders.

“We welcome the announcements by all three levels of government in response to the urgent need to extend the Spadina subway through York University and to provide interim bus rapid transit to York,” said York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “This is wonderful news for our students and the more than 55,000 commuters to York’s campus who have already demonstrated their willingness to switch to environmentally-friendly public transit. This extension through York will make an immense contribution to reducing some of the worst traffic gridlock in the city and will provide a transit gateway to the northwest quadrant of the GTA.”

Left: Large numbers of students use the TTC to get to and from York’s Keele campus every day

The York University community of over 55,000 amounts to 2.5 per cent of the population of the GTA. These numbers guarantee a high level of transit use by the approximately 47,000 York students and 7,500 faculty and staff – as well as more than 7,000 students, faculty and staff who attend classes in the Seneca @ York building located on York’s Keele campus. More than 1,000 buses a day service the campus, a large proportion of which come from Downsview station, yet there are still line-ups and traffic delays. At peak periods, an average of 34,000 car trips are made to the Keele campus. 

So what will the latest news mean to York’s commuters? The funding announced yesterday by Prime Minister Paul Martin, Premier Dalton McGuinty and Toronto Mayor David Miller will permit an environmental assessment of the proposed subway route from Downsview Station to the Keele campus. This represents the final hurdle in the campaign to approve the extension and begin work on building the line.

The funding for interim bus rapid transit will improve service for York commuters in the immediate short term. Until the subway is built, the bus rapid transit improvements are expected to streamline access into and out of the congested Downsview station. Buses would then be able to travel up Dufferin St. in the existing bus lane and continue north of Finch Ave. to a new road proposed to be built through the hydro corridor, eliminating the necessity to travel along heavily used Finch Ave. 

“We are pleased to have the funding to construct interim bus rapid transit to York to deal with the immediate needs of the York community until the subway can be completed,” said Ted Spence, senior policy advisor and executive director of institutional research and analysis. “We expect the bus rapid transit to be operational in 2005 and we hope subway construction can begin within 24 months.”

Other transit improvement include streamlining bus stations to reduce congestion, the purchase of hybrid or alternatively powered (green) buses and an integrated ticketing system for GTA transit systems that will allow travellers to move more seamlessly from one transit system to another.

Right: A portion of a 2002 map showing the proposed subway routes (in red) that will run through York University

“Today marks a historic day for York students and the York community,” said Paul Cooper, president of the York Federation of Students. “We are very pleased with the funding commitment that will result ultimately in the extension of the subway to alleviate gridlock and allow students to travel to campus faster and more efficiently. This is good news for the University and the entire region.”

On April 22, the TTC will hold an afternoon open house at the York Keele campus in the Bear Pit in Central Square. During the open house, the TTC will present the final recommendations for the rapid bus transit lanes and the terms of reference for the environmental assessment for the subway.