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Politicians revisit Vaughan subway plan

Extension would pass through York University

Leslie Ferenc

Politicians in York Region and Toronto have joined with York University to resurrect a estimated $880 million proposal to extend the subway to Vaughan and help bust highway gridlock choking that area.

The politicians, working as the Spadina-York Subway Extension Committee, plan to lobby the federal and provincial governments to help fund an extension from the Downsview station to Vaughan’s planned city centre at Jane St. and Highway 7, said Vaughan councillor Mario Racco, the chair of the committee.

The 8.8-kilometre extension would pass through York University and would include five new stations.

Within 20 years, more than 5,000 people would be riding the extended subway line during morning rush hour, the committee predicts.

Building the subway to York University has been discussed for several years and a Vaughan extension has also been suggested before. The committee stresses now it’s time to act.

At an estimated cost of $100 million a kilometre, Vaughan can’t pay for it all, Racco said at a Vaughan press conference yesterday.

The committee is proposing the cost be funded in equal shares from the federal, provincial and municipal levels of government. The municipal share would come from Vaughan, York Region and Toronto.

Growth in York Region has meant more traffic snarls and commuter headaches on all roads to Toronto, as well as on highways 400 and 407. Estimates that the region will double in size in the next two decades will mean more congestion and the only way to handle it is better transit, Racco said.

He suggested that revenue from gasoline taxes could be funnelled into the subway extension.

Bill Fisch, chair of York Region Council and the Greater Toronto Services Board’s transportation committee, said the GTA’s economic strength will be threatened unless transit improvements such as the subway extension are made quickly.

Fisch said York will pay its share of the subway through development levies.

The City of Vaughan has stopped any development of land in the vicinity of the proposed subway.

It has also included the extension as part of its plans for a new downtown core, along with other transit improvements such as a bus lane along Highway 407.

Toronto councillor Peter Li Preti said Mayor Mel Lastman is committed to helping fund the extension.

Li Preti criticized Queen’s Park and Ottawa for offering millions of dollars to redevelop Toronto’s waterfront in hopes of getting the 2008 Olympics, but not yet funding the subway extension.

To nail down Toronto’s support, the subway committee will have to bring in guarantees that all levels of government are on side with money in hand, Li Preti added.

Toronto Councillor David Shiner said putting more buses on the roads won’t make it easier to move people efficiently.

“Buses can’t get anywhere when roads are clogged,” he said.

A subway to York University would serve more than 40,000 students who come to the main campus daily and help relieve massive traffic congestion and parking problems there, president Lorna Marsden said.

“The only way to alleviate that is through public transit,” she said, noting some 40 per cent of students are from the 905 area - many of them York Region residents. She described the subway extension as the school’s “number 1 priority.”

Hasrat Gafoor, president of the student union at York, said improving transit connections will make life a lot easier for thousands of students. He urged the committee to invite a student to join their team.