Interest high at open house for subway expansion to York

To Peyman Askari, a third-year computer science student, an extension of the Spadina subway line to York University “would be great” because students would have easier access to downtown Toronto. He currently takes his car to York, but “I wouldn’t drive if there was a subway.”

That message came through loud and clear to Toronto Transit Commission and City of Toronto representatives on hand for a well-attended open house on April 22 at the Keele campus. The event, held in the Central Square Bear Pit, was designed to show off proposals for a subway extension from Downsview station to York and an interim bus-only route, and get feedback from the York community.

According to Stephanie Rice, a senior project coordinator with the TTC’s engineering and construction department, people were most interested in the subway route, the station locations and funding for the extension. “We’ve seen generally positive support for the project from Downsview to York,” she said. Rice was one of several TTC representatives ready to discuss the TTC’s plans with students, staff and faculty who attended the afternoon open house. 

“It’s really exciting to be at the stage where we can see actual plans of both an interim bus line and a subway extension to York,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “Judging by the large number of people at this open house, it’s clear there is strong support for these critical and long overdue projects.” 

The open house was part of the environmental assessment process required before the TTC presents recommendations for city and provincial approval. .

Right: Gary Carr, left, and Lorna R. Marsden

“Attendance was better than we expected,” said Gary Carr, TTC’s chief operations and planning engineer. “I talked non-stop for four hours” to a steady stream of interested students, staff, faculty and even members of the general public about the bus-only route, he said. Carr spoke at length with Marsden. “It’s encouraging to see how involved in and available the president is for these issues.”

Marsden also had an extensive conversation with Thomas Middlebrook, chief engineer of the TTC’s engineering department responsible for expanding the subway from Downview through York to the proposed York Region transit gateway on the north side of Steeles Avenue. The environmental assessment, which will take up to two years for completion and approvals, will focus on selecting the appropriate route and station locations. Thursday’s consultation was the first of several planned as part of the environmental assessment of the subway extension. The next consultation at York is expected in the fall when more details of alternate routes will be presented.

Meanwhile, construction could begin next year and be completed by 2006 on an express bus service linking Downsview station and York, if the TTC’s proposals receive government approval this year. A bus-only route to York is an interim solution to ease traffic congestion and provide faster, more reliable service in the Dufferin-Finch-Keele corridor until a subway can be built, which the TTC’s Rice suggested could take nine years.

The TTC’s “best-solution” for an express bus service to York from Downsview travels along existing – and already fast-moving – curbside bus lanes to just north of Finch; west along a Hydro corridor to the southeast corner of York’s Keele campus, then up to the bus stops in the Common and out to Steeles Avenue. The details of this part of the route are still being developed in consultation with the University. To bypass the congested intersection at Allen and Sheppard, the plan is to build a bus-only turn going north and a bus-only lane in the median going south through the intersection for entry into the south end of the station. Buses will still make one stop at Finch, though not in the existing loop.

Those attending Thursday’s open house could make comments in writing about the proposed express bus route. A summary of the comments will be included in the presentation of the proposal.

“I didn’t expect many negative comments from the University crowd because they quickly understand the benefits of such a project,” said Carr. He spent most of his time clarifying details about the proposed express bus route. “There was nothing that we heard that would suggest we need to change our recommendation.” 

Right: Thomas Middlebrook, left, with Marsden

After one more public meeting on Tuesday, May 4, at William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute, 20 Tillplain Road, TTC engineers will seek approval for the bus project from the TTC, the City Works Committee, Toronto City Council and finally Ontario’s Ministry of Environment.

For further information on the bus route environmental assessment, click here, and on the subway extension, click here.

Below: Some of the people who attended the TTC-York open house