Bus rapid transit to York from Downsview ‘an excellent thing’, says mayor

Toronto Mayor David Miller said he’s an enthusiastic supporter of the $25- to $30-million bus rapid transit project that would sharply lower travel times between Downsview subway station and York University, the Toronto Star reported July 14. The Toronto Transit Commission was due to decide whether to endorse the plan, in which buses would travel on exclusive lanes along Allen Rd., Dufferin St. and a hydro corridor just north of Finch Ave.

Rush hour travel times would drop to 13 minutes from up to 30 minutes now, and ridership could double to 20,000 trips daily, TTC staff said in a report recommending the project go ahead with tripartite government funding. “It’s an excellent thing,” Miller told the Star. “Reserved busways are a fairly simple way of bringing rapid transit to a community.” The project would improve service quickly while study continues on a $1.4-billion subway extension to York University and beyond, Miller said.

The staff report said it could take nine years under even the most optimistic scenario to study, design and build a subway. “Significant improvements to transit service in this corridor are required now, to offer a more attractive alternative to the automobile and to build up ridership in advance of a subway,” the report said.

York University supports the bus project as an interim step to reduce delays caused by traffic congestion, said Ted Spence, senior policy adviser to York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden. “We see it as a modest investment until the subway comes,” Spence said. “It’s an interim solution, and our students would certainly see it that way. This is not a substitute for the subway.”

Miller said a subway extension remains his long-term goal. “The great thing about that subway line is that it can be built into the 905 and become a key inter-regional transit link,” he said. “But in the meantime, the busway is very, very important and a critical initiative for the TTC.” Miller added he’ll be looking for ways to shorten the required environmental approval process for the busway plan. “It’s very important to respect the environment but transit by definition is good for the environment. I hope we can work with the province to make it much easier for us to build transit.”

How the race was won

The Globe and Mail on July 14 published a detailed analysis of a daily survey conducted during the federal election by York’s Institute for Social Research. “Our survey, which polled random samples of respondents on each day of the campaign, reveals that there was a Liberal surge in the very last days of the campaign,” said the article’s authors, five Canadian academics who directed the survey. “But what prompted this shift so late in the day? Did the Liberal attack ads hit their mark? Was voter anger over the sponsorship scandal finally spent? Or did NDP supporters jump ship at the last minute to prevent a Conservative victory? The answers to these questions are somewhat surprising.”

In essence, the group concluded that while all of these factors were at work, they were not as conclusive as conventional wisdom has made them seem. Much happened in the final days. “What the final attack ad may have done is help to deflect, but not defuse, voters’ anger over the sponsorship scandal,” they said. Some 40 per cent of voters were very angry about the sponsorship scandal and almost as many were at least somewhat angry. “There was a last-minute surge in Liberal support on the part of those who were only somewhat angry. It seems that a number of these voters decided to set their anger aside and vote Liberal,” the group said. Strategic voting was not a major factor, and numbers of voters who perceived the Conservatives as too extreme remained stable throughout the campaign, they said.

“Conventional wisdom is clearly right on one count: Many voters remained undecided about their vote choice until the very end. On the eve of the election, around 20 per cent of our respondents had still not decided how to vote. More importantly, fully a third of those who indicated that they were intending to vote for a given party also said that they could still change their mind.”

Interviews by the Institute for Social Research started on the day the election was called (May 23) and ended the day before the election (June 27). In total, 4,300 30-minute interviews were completed. Directing the study were Elisabeth Gidengil of McGill University, André Blais and Patrick Fournier of the University of Montreal, Joanna Everitt of the University of New Brunswick (Saint John) and Neil Nevitte of the University of Toronto.

Rules for healthy living

In a letter to The Globe and Mail July 14, Dennis Raphael, undergraduate program director of the Atkinson School of Health Policy & Management, took issue with a commentary by Saskatchewan’s former finance minister. “Janice MacKinnon underestimates the importance of living conditions as compared with health care as a determinant of health,” Raphael wrote. “Most relevant scholarship places living conditions as four to five times as important as health care in predicting health outcomes. She also confuses the issue of individual choice in health outcomes by calling for individuals to make ‘better choices’.

“David Gordon of Bristol University in Britain has outlined, based on available research, what some of these important choices might be: Don’t be poor; don’t have poor parents; don’t work in a stressful, low-paid, manual job; don’t live in damp, low-quality housing; don’t become unemployed; don’t live next to a busy major road or near a polluting factory.”