Finally – a subway to York University

The news conference scheduled yesterday morning to announce long-awaited funding for transit improvements in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) got started later than originally planned. It seems that Prime Minister Stephen Harper was stuck in traffic.

Right: Prime Minister Stephen Harper

When the prime minister did arrive at the conference site in Downsview Park in North York, he was quick to announce funding of up to $962 million for public transit infrastructure projects in the GTA. The biggest of those projects is the long-awaited expansion of the Spadina subway line through York’s Keele campus to the Vaughan Corporate Centre. The federal pledge was the final contribution needed to get the $2 billion subway project underway. Provincial and municipal funding had already been agreed.

And if the synchronicity of traffic delays and transit funding wasn’t enough, the announcement, which had been delayed by over a month, also coincided with the 65th birthday of York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden, who has long campaigned for the subway extension.

"By improving the inter-regional transportation links among the City of Toronto and the neighbouring regions of York, Peel and Durham, the federal government has made a significant contribution to environmental sustainability and continued economic prosperity in the Greater Toronto Area," said a delighted Marsden. "It will provide a much-needed public transit alternative for the tens of thousands of people who travel here every day."

More than 1,600 buses and thousands of cars bring York students, faculty and staff to the University daily. It is anticipated that the subway extension and the creation of a regional transportation hub will help ease congestion at York and the surrounding area. It will also provide better access to the University for future students, community members and the general public.

"We’d like to thank all those that finally made this a win-win for everyone," said Marsden. "The subway will help reduce congestion, improve movement of people and goods and ultimately enhance productivity and competitiveness. We’ll be able to truly expand our knowledge-based economy in this area and we look forward to York University being at the heart of this expansion."

Harper made the announcement as part of FLOW, the federal government’s new long-term transportation action plan for the GTA. Joining the prime minister for the announcement were federal Finance Minister and York alumnus Jim Flaherty (LLB ’73), Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Ontario Finance Minister and York alumnus Greg Sorbara (BA ’78, Glendon and LLB ’81, Osgoode).

Left: The preferred route for the Spadina Subway extension

"Traffic congestion in the GTA has given rise to some of the longest commuter times in North America," said Harper. Gridlock and the "endless lines of creeping cars on GTA highways", said Harper, is having a detrimental effect on family life, the environment and results in $2 billion a year in lost productivity to Ontario’s economy.

The new plan is designed to reduce gridlock, improve the environment and increase economic growth in one of the fastest growing areas in Canada. Harper said that FLOW is "about ensuring the free flow of people, traffic and goods right across the GTA. It’s about cutting the commute, improving the economy and cleaning the air."

"Our government will make substantial investments in the region’s public transit infrastructure needs including an extension of the Spadina subway line through York University to the Vaughan Corporate Centre; rapid transit projects in Brampton, Mississauga and York; and, the development of transit service plans in Durham Region," said Harper to cheers and applause from those present.

"This announcement will make public transit more accessible and efficient, improve traffic flow and reduce the flow of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the air," said Harper.

"This is good news for Ontario’s economy and environment and a great example of what can happen when we work together to build up our greatest strength – our people," said Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. "Working together, Ontarians are building growth that’s green, and growth that lasts."

The transit projects to be funded through the announcement include:

  • the extension of the northern section of the Spadina subway line to Vaughan Corporate Centre;
  • the development of the Brampton AcceleRide;
  • the construction of a Mississauga bus rapid transit corridor;
  • the enhancement of the York VIVA rapid transit system; and
  • funding to develop regional rapid transit in the Regional Municipality of Durham.

Along with its joint investment with the Government of Canada on the public transit system, the Province of Ontario has agreed as a part of Tuesday’s announcement to invest in three key highway projects: Highway 407, Highway 404 and Highway 7.

Harper said that FLOW will improve Ontario’s competitive advantage and attract new businesses to the GTA by creating a seamless transportation system with improved access to highways and more public transit options.

The province’s role in the partnership builds on its commitment to infrastructure, as first announced in the 2006 provincial budget under Move Ontario, a major, one-time $838-million investment in the province’s public transit systems. The Ontario government has allocated an additional $400 million under Move Ontario, which municipalities may use for improvements to municipal roads and bridges.

Right: The York University subway station alignments

The existing Spadina subway line will be extended by 8.6 kilometres through York University’s Keele campus to the Vaughan Corporate Centre. The Government of Canada is committing up to $697 million toward project costs. The Province of Ontario has already provided $670 million into a trust for this project. The City of Toronto and Regional Municipality of York previously committed their contributions and will be responsible for the remainder of the project costs.

Along with funding by all three levels of government, the City of Toronto and the Regional Municipality of York will be exploring opportunities for alternative financing and procurement, such as public-private partnerships.

The project will get underway after completion a due diligence review, the negotiation of a contribution agreement and the proponent’s adherence to conditions put forward by the federal ministers of finance and transport, infrastructure & communities. In other words, the construction start date has yet to be set.

The project is expected to be completed by 2015.