TTC approves York bus rapid transit – next stop, city council

A fast bus service along an exclusive busway to York University could be running by the start of classes in September 2006, reported the Toronto Star July 15. The Toronto Transit Commission on July 14 unanimously endorsed the $25- to $30-million project, which would take passengers from Downsview subway station to the campus in 13 minutes – a trip that now takes up to half an hour. The link, which would include bus-only lanes along Allen Rd. and Dufferin St. and run through a hydro corridor north of Finch Ave., goes to city council for approval in September.

The project needs to pass environmental assessment. And routing through York‘s campus remains to be ironed out, the Star said. “Depending on approvals, our intention would be to start construction in the beginning of 2005, we hope, and complete it by September of 2006 in time for the university’s new [academic] year,” TTC planner Gary Carr said in an interview.

“We remain very supportive of the project,” said Ted Spence, senior policy adviser to York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “We want to see this project succeed.” Spence cautioned that the routing on the campus needs to be evaluated to protect wooded areas and not disrupt classes.

Mayor David Miller, a TTC commission member, said separating buses from regular traffic is key to speeding up transit. “I think it’s very important as much as possible to get transit away from cars, and have essentially an overland subway,” Miller said.

The busway is one of the projects in the $1.05-billion, five-year transit funding plan announced March 31. Ottawa, Queen’s Park and Toronto are contributing $350 million each.

If the TTC gets its wish, the busway would end up being replaced by a subway extension from Downsview station that would serve the University and the 905 area to the north. The TTC says it could be 10 years before a $1.4-billion subway link opens, but Miller said that timeline may be shortened. The mayor said he attended a York University function in February at which Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara spoke about building the subway sooner rather than later. “He [Sorbara] indicated to all of the assembled people from York University that the subway will be completed in four years,” Miller said. “He was very clear about it.”

Carr said the busway is intended to improve service, and help build transit ridership in advance of a subway. “We would not need this…when the subway opens,” he said.

The Toronto Sun July 15 also quoted Carr, saying this is a stop-gap measure for one of the busiest routes that will only get busier as the area develops. “This will build ridership toward the subway,” he told the Sun. “We have to spend money to get people vastly improved transit, and that’s what this does.” The TTC meeting was also reported on CFTO-TV and CP24-TV news programs July 15.

NDP must put the heat on Martin, says Laxer

The Toronto Star July 15 said the NDP plans to put Prime Minister Paul Martin’s election promises on social issues to a “litmus test” as it looks for early action on health care, child care and cities. James Laxer, a political science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, said “putting the heat on Martin” to deliver on his election promises is exactly what the NDP has to do to flex its muscle in the minority Parliament.

From Rwanda to the bar, via York

Despite being surrounded by friends, family and a growing pile of congratulatory gifts celebrating her call to the Ontario bar, the day wasn’t about herself, insisted Alphonsine Munyampundu-Mukankusi, according to the Ottawa Citizen July 15. It was about her father, Francois Munyampundu. After all, he was, and remains, her greatest inspiration. “I dedicate today especially to my father and all my other relatives who died during the Rwandan genocide,” she said, her eyes moistening.

In 1993, Munyampundu-Mukankusi arrived in Canada. While the others remained in Rwanda, she lived with two sisters in Windsor and eventually moved to Toronto, where she attended York University and received a BA in economics from Glendon in 1999. She later moved to Ottawa, where she now lives, to study law at the University of Ottawa.

Hopes for David McGuinty

Canada’s political landscape is peppered with environment-friendly public figures, delegates to the 8th Biennial Scientific Conference of the International Society for Ecological Economics in Montreal were told, The Gazette reported July 15. Among them is David McGuinty, the most recent executive director of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, who was just elected to Parliament. McGuinty, who represents an Ottawa-area riding, is brother to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. “We hope that David will be successful in bringing some of these ideas [about ecological economics] into government,” Peter Victor, a York environmental studies professor and conference participant, told The Gazette.

Osgoode grad steers Weston Foundation 

The Globe and Mail and the National Post published paid announcements of the appointment of former corporate lawyer Kevin I. Munro as executive director of The W. Garfield Weston Foundation, a major Ontario-based charity. Munro graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1985.

On air:

  • City-tv’s “CityPulse” news program on July 14 talked to York student Azim Lila, founder of Support to Learning Disabled Students. Anchor Gord Martineau described Lila, a fourth-year business student in the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, as a man who overcame a learning disability and is trying to help people like him to achieve a higher education.