Buses begin to run along entire route of Rapid Busway to York

Above: From left, Councillor Joe Mihevc, York Vice-President Academic & Provost Patrick Monahan, Oak Ridges-Markham MP Paul Calandra, Ontario Minister of Energy & Infrastructure Gerry Phillips, Mayor David Miller,  Councillor Anthony Peruzza and Councillor Howard Moscoe cut the ribbon opening the Rapid Busway  to York

The Rapid Busway to York’s Keele campus finally opened in full Friday with representatives from all three levels of government rolling into the Harry Arthurs Common on a bus that made its way from Downsview Station, via the hydro right-of-way north of Finch and along a new dedicated bus lane, for a short ceremony to mark the occasion.

Immediately after they stepped off the bus, Toronto Mayor David Miller, Ontario Infrastructure Minster Gerry Phillips and Oak Ridges-Markham MP Paul Calandra, cut the traditional ribbon to signify that the six-kilometre route was open.

Left: Patrick Monahan

“This is an historic day, a tremendous day for the University,” said Patrick Monahan, York vice-president academic & provost, “but more particularly, for the men and women who go here every day and travel here, our students first and foremost, and our staff and our faculty, many of whom rely upon the transit.” Monahan brought thanks on behalf of York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, who was travelling on University business and unable to attend.

Calandra, representing the federal government, noted that York’s reputation as a world-class campus continues to grow. “Faculty and students depend on transit," he noted. "The global economy doesn’t wait for people who are stuck in traffic and that’s why we are investing in public transportation. We can’t afford to let congestion slow down either our workforce or our education system.”

“What a great day this is for York University,” said Phillips, minister of energy & infrastructure and chair of the provincial cabinet. “It’s going to be a terrific asset for all the students who come here and the staff – and, I might add, we have our brand new Ontario archives here and an awful lot of people will visit it, so I feel it’s an added bonus.

“Our children and our grandchildren will look back on this era of investment in the City of Toronto and the GTA and say those people made a wise decision,” Phillips said.

Left: David Miller steps off the first bus from the Rapid Busway, followed by Gerry Phillips

Miller thanked all his colleagues at the other levels of government, saying, “It shows what we can do when we partner on behalf of the people.” The mayor went on to thank transit workers for their role in providing service to York and the City of Toronto. “The Toronto Transit Commission is the least subsidized, most efficient, best run major transit system in North America [and] one of the best in the world because of the work of these great men and women,” Miller said, pointing to a number of TTC drivers and supervisors in attendance. “I’m very proud of them.”

“Finally, I do want to thank York University for their partnership on these projects,” Miller added. “This busway, which we are actually opening today… is not going to just benefit York University and the approximately 30,000 people who ride 1,600 buses here every day, it will benefit the whole community, the 905 and the 416 by linking buses from Viva, York Region Transit, the TTC to the subway. York University worked very closely with us to ensure its success and Provost Monahan, I want to thank you for that partnership.”

The Rapid Busway runs from Downsview station north on Dufferin past Finch in a bus-only lane, then west via the hydro right of way, across Keele to Murray Ross Parkway, then north on a dedicated busway past the Village at York University and through the Keele campus to York Boulevard. The route is designed to cut travel time to and from Downsview station to about 13 minutes from the current 20 minutes or more. The busway will be an interim facility to improve transit until the main event in late 2015, when the subway extension through the Keele campus is expected to be completed.

Monahan noted that when Wilson station opened in 1978, the bus to York took 20 minutes, and now, 31 years later, it takes longer than that to get from Downsview station, due to the growth in business and traffic. “What this is going to mean for the thousands and thousands of people who ride the bus every day is less time sitting on the bus, more time either working here, working in the library, going to classes and less time sitting on the road being unproductive. So it’s a tremendous, tremendous day for this University and…we are tremendously grateful to all three levels of government.

“And we’re very grateful for, of course, the subway because we’re waiting for the subway to open here in six years – and I do think it should be six years, not seven or eight or nine – six years, right over here," he said, indicating the planned stop nearby. “We look forward to continue to work with you on this and other projects,” Monahan said as the first buses rolled by into the Common.

Above: From left, Paul Calandra, Gerry Phillips, David Miller and Patrick Monahan wait their turn to speak as Howard Moscoe (behind Monahan) and Anthony Peruzza look on

“York University is a commuter hub for York Region, and this busway will help significantly reduce travel time, not only for our students but for people living and working in the community,” Shoukri said in remarks prepared for a media release. “This is an important interim measure until the subway extension is completed.”

Other guests at the opening included TTC vice-chair Joe Mihevc, Councillor and former TTC chair Howard Moscoe, Anthony Peruzza, councillor for Ward 8 York West, Bud Purves, president of the York University Development Corporation, and members of the TTC’s planning staff.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the busway took place last year (see YFile, July 28, 2008) but unforeseen construction delays along the route kept it from opening as planned. The York portion of the busway opened in September and was used, while construction crews dealt with complications caused by the location of several pipelines across the hydro right-of-way (see YFile, Sept. 3).

In the joint media release for the event, it was noted that the Government of Canada contributed $9.7 million to the City of Toronto for this bus rapid transit project. The Province of Ontario’s funding for the project was provided in the 2007 Ontario budget, through a one-time payout, which the city could use towards projects under the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund agreement. In total, the TTC has allocated $9.7 million in provincial funding to this project. The City of Toronto contributed $18.4 million to the project.