‘A tremendous boost’ – York applauds Ontario’s subway plan

York University yesterday applauded the Ontario government’s investments in public transit, post-secondary education and research and innovation, announced in the latest provincial budget.

The government’s $670-million commitment to public transit through its Move Ontario initiative will enhance accessibility for York’s 65,000 students, faculty and staff, via extension of the Spadina subway to Highway 7 in Vaughan.

Right: Once the line is built, subway trains will stop near the Seymour Schulich Building 

“The subway extension will be a tremendous boost to York University students and our community – it will ease gridlock both on and off campus, reduce pollution, and preserve the academic core by providing a much-needed public transit alternative for the tens of thousands of people who travel here every day,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. “Today’s announcement is recognition of York’s position at the heart of the GTA, and that public transit should not end at artificial barriers, but must be built to serve the realities of where people live, work and study.”

The subway extension will offer significant community-building benefits. The Black Creek area has been identified in Toronto’s Strong Neighbourhoods Report as one of the most underserved areas for social services, and transit is essential to improving that access. Traffic congestion on area roads impairs not only the timely movement of people to the University, but throughout the area as well.

The creation of the Greater Toronto Transit Authority is another important step towards ensuring the integration of the public transit system across the GTA. “We also welcome the announcement of further transit investments in York Region’s VIVA and in the GO bus network. More than 85 per cent of our students have home addresses in the GTA and many of our students live in the 905 area. These investments will have a very positive impact on their commutes and their well-being,” said Marsden.

The extension of the Spadina subway line was not the only positive news in the new provincial budget. The Ontario government is holding firm to its commitment to inject $6.2 billion into the higher education sector over five years.

The government’s plan, Reaching Higher, will expand graduate education through $70 million in funding, growing to $220 million annually by 2009-2010, resulting in 14,000 new spaces. “This is in line with York’s goal of growing graduate student enrolment to 11 per cent of the University’s full-time enrolment by 2009,” Marsen said.

“The province’s commitment to graduate education is essential to advancing Ontario’s competitiveness. We must increase the number of people who pursue a university education for undergraduate degrees and for graduate programs as well if Ontario is going to be a player in the global economy.”

Marsden also said the announcement of research initiatives – including $17 million for three new awards to recognize new research and innovation talent – continues the momentum of recent years.

Earlier this month, Minister of Training, Colleges & Universities Chris Bentley announced improvements to post-secondary access. Particularly significant is the extension of Access Grants, providing more assistance to students from low- and middle-income families. Book and supply allowance increases, frozen since the mid-1980s, also directly assist students.

“One of York’s founding goals was to reduce barriers, and we will continue to work with our colleagues and with the province to meet that goal,” said Robert Tiffin, York’s vice-president students. “The province has taken significant steps to ensure that all eligible Ontario students have the financial support they need to access a university education.”

“This is a good day for Ontario’s universities, municipalities, and for York,” Marsden said. “The University shares in Ontario’s commitment to excellence.”