Fewer cars coming to York, thanks to Smart Commute

Janet Lo is leading a quiet transportation revolution in the northwest section of the city, reported the Toronto Star May 5. Business by business, person by person, Lo is trying to talk people out of their so-called “single occupant vehicles” and into other modes of transportation, be it car pools, public transit, bicycles or walking. It’s a hard sell in an area where the subway doesn’t run, where the car is king and where York Region’s border meets Toronto’s, with Peel not too far off. Nevertheless, Lo’s group – Smart Commute Black Creek – celebrated its third anniversary May 4. Mayor David Miller, York Region Chair Bill Fisch and York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden praised Lo’s association, which has helped the University battle gridlock, and commuters and surrounding businesses find their way. “The fact that the population of York University has grown by 10 per cent over the past couple of years, but the number of cars coming here has actually gone down, is superb,” Miller said. “It shows with some organization, a little bit of funding, you can really make a difference.”

At York University, for example, 3,000 fewer cars are coming to the campus compared to 1997, even with growth in the student population. Convincing GO Transit, the Toronto Transit Commission and York Region Transit to add bus routes, for GO to build a transit station near the university, and encouraging students to take transit, helped boost ridership to the point where two new large parking garages at the school that would have cost $33 million did not need to be built, reported the Star.

Students lead cheer for York University subway

Newspaper coverage continued May 5 of York’s ad campaign launched May 3 at St. George subway station.

  • The North York Mirror described St. George subway station bathed in a sea of red as York University students took it over as a means of touting what the school has to offer, enhancing the school’s reputation and pushing for a subway running up to the North York school. Over 50 students filled the subway station, greeting commuters and ensuring that their school got some high-profile recognition, reported the Mirror. “We wanted to do something creative and different and edgy,” said York University spokesperson Nancy White, director of York’s Media Relations. “It was an opportunity to really focus on York’s reputation in the GTA and redefine what’s possible at a university.” “It’s a rallying cry for the university; something both students and faculty can feel proud of,” said Doug Robinson, principal of the doug agency, a marketing group which helped devise and facilitate the subway domination campaign. “The key insight we tapped into was York’s interdisciplinary approach, the nugget that differentiates York from other academic institutions,” explained Robinson. York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden noted that students were eager to participate because the campaign had their interests at heart as well as those of the school. “This campaign is for students,” she said. “Its purpose is to raise awareness of York in the community and to encourage students to come to York and take pride in the university and its unique qualities.”
  • The National Post’s Peter Kuitenbrouwer also covered the launch: York University took its show on the road, and launched its new ad campaign in a Yorkville pub, while renewing its plea for a subway to the school, he reported. Alas, even in coming downtown, York could not escape a long-simmering feud between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian campus groups. As he explained to reporters on the pub steps, third-year York political science student Dan Freeman-Maloy received a letter on Friday at his parents’ home, suspending him from the school for three years for “use of an unauthorized sound amplification device.” At the bar in the overcrowded pub, Marsden called her discipline of Freeman-Maloy “rustication, an old academic form of discipline.” She said the student had twice used a megaphone during protests in the school’s Vari Hall. “You can’t disrupt the academy,” she said. “It’s all written down in rules that are very, very old. The decision comes to me. He cannot appeal.” The crowd then headed to St. George subway station. While awaiting its own subway stop, York has taken over the main University of Toronto station in what’s known in advertising jargon as a “domination,” with pillars painted in the York colours, red and white, and posters for York blanketing its walls. So give them their damned subway already! Everybody can march in favour of that, concluded Kuitenbrouwer.
  • Marketing Daily, the online edition of Marketing magazine, said May 4 that York University is launching a campaign to show how people can view a university from a variety of angles. The initiative aims to convince the provincial and federal governments to build a Toronto Transit Commission subway extension to the university, while improving York’s profile in the GTA and recruiting new students. The school has completely branded the St. George subway station in downtown Toronto. York purchased all advertising space at the station, and added applications on stairs, pillars, walls and floors. Ads depict a common object and three different ways people may view it. One ad shows a cup of coffee with the lines: “A psychologist sees an addiction. A student sees an all-nighter. A kinesiologist sees a miracle.” Text below the picture further explains the possible views. Richard Fisher, York’s chief communications officer, said the challenge was to make York stand out. “Ads for universities in general tend to show a big picture of a building, a picture of students, or a picture of students in the building,” said Fisher, who has been with York for one and a half years following an 18-year career in advertising. “But they don’t tell you what kind of university it is.” York’s print ads will also appear in The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Metro and Report on Business magazine until June. A direct marketing campaign will be executed in May. 

The job: a 20th-century relic

We’re a society that remains fixated on that 20th-century social artifact – the job – when, in fact, it is being replaced by other forms of employment in the new world of work, wrote employment consultant Rob McCowan in the Globe and Mail May 5. According to a September 2003 report from York University, almost 40 per cent of Canadians are earning a living as temps, part-timers, contract workers or self-employed consultants, and their numbers are growing.

Divorce rate will remain stable, says prof

“Till death do us part” seems to be having more resonance among Canadian couples, as new figures show the national divorce rate in decline after three consecutive years of growth, reported the Globe and Mail May 5. “I think that the earlier decades of extreme liberalism and laissez faire with respect to marriage and divorce have come and gone,” said Anne-Marie Ambert, a sociology professor with York’s Faculty of Arts and one of the nation’s foremost experts on marriage. “People have seen that divorce is necessary in some situations and in other situations it’s not,” Ambert said. “A lot of people are far worse off after the divorce than they were when they were married.” So when it comes to parting, “they think twice about it,” said Ambert, who predicts the national divorce rate will remain relatively stable over the coming decade.

Barbie-shaped women more fertile

Large-breasted, narrow-waisted women have the highest reproductive potential, according to a new study, suggesting western men’s penchant for women with an hourglass shape may have some biological justification, reported New Scientist May 4. “The results are extremely intriguing,” said Maryanne Fisher, a PhD candidate in psychology at York whose study of Playboy centrefolds over 50 years revealed a drift in western men’s tastes. She points out an ongoing debate over the relative importance of waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) and body mass index (BMI) as features used by men to judge female attractiveness. She says women who have a “great” waist-to-hip ratio may not necessarily be attractive if they also have a high BMI. Fisher’s study of Playboy centerfolds showed that over 50 years men’s preferences had moved from voluptuous to more androgenous models who had higher WHR but were thinner.

Control freak role was a mean feat for Rachel McAdams

As the blond queen bee in the hit Mean Girls, York theatre grad Rachel McAdams is making a name for herself, reported the National Post May 5. She’s the 25-year-old actress who’s incredibly proud, but amazingly modest, about the glowing reviews she’s received playing a 17-year-old manipulative control freak. She knows how fortunate she is, promptly landing a role when she moved to L.A. two years ago. “I was that self-absorbed cheerleader,” she says of The Hot Chick. Before that, she was based in Toronto and had won a Genie for her part in Perfect Pie, the movie version of the Judith Thompson play. It was her first film role after graduating from York University with a fine arts degree in 2001.

On air

  • Parenting columnist Karen Horsman interviewed Jennifer Connolly, psychology professor with York’s Faculty of Arts, about parents’ and peers’ influence on kids, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” May 4.
  • Mayor David Miller promoted smart commuting at York University, reported Global TV’s “Global News at Noon” May 4.
  • Jana Vizmuller-Zocco, professor of Italian linguistics in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed Italian literature at the Italian Cultural Centre, on CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” in Toronto May 4.