What’s not to be excited about in Toronto with today’s announcement, at long, long last, of the extension of the subway to York University – and beyond into the neighbouring municipality of Vaughan? The federal government has come on board, as an equal funding partner of the project, with the provincial and municipal governments.
Kids in grade six today might be able to commute by subway to their first classes at York University in 2013 or 2014. Of course this announcement, a revision of plans past, should have been followed through years ago when, instead, former Mayor Mel Lastman opened his pet project in 2002 – the 6.4 km Sheppard line, to practically nowhere, between Yonge Street and Don Mills Road. (See the purple line at the top of the complete subway system map.)
The new subway extension (from Downsview in the upper-left corner of the same system map) will be 8.7 km long with six stations, including Downsview Park, Keele at Finch and the all-important York University stop, and will actually travel (with three station stops) into Vaughan, stopping near Steeles and Jane, Highway 407 and Jane, and ending at the Vaughan Corporate Centre at Highway 7 and Jane.
Toronto’s highway and street gridlock has, for years now, been bad enough to have completely blurred the distinctions between morning and evening rush hours. It’s costing the economy billions in lost productivity which, perhaps, is what got the attention of the federal Conservatives. Even with millions of riders on the Toronto Transit Commission’s subways, streetcars and buses (it’s North America’s third-largest transit system) the individual, almighty car, with no passengers, still rules the roads.
Today’s announcement – the subway extension, dedicated surface transit routes in the suburbs, etc. – is welcome news indeed. However, as big city mayors will make clear (even if they do not use my analogy), the heart problems affecting Toronto, and other urban area, commutes require major bypass surgery not mere stents, helpful though they will be, in a couple of arteries. Governments, those calling themselves ‘new’ and otherwise, need to develop better overall heart health policies. This includes long-term, stable funding of mass transit systems.
Municipalities, too, have a major role to play. Slowing low-density, suburban sprawl – as if there was unlimited land to develop, consequence-free – is just one solution that needs more attention.