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Moscoe questions need for York U subway

Cites stadium cancellation, lack of high-density housing

Area a commuter hub for York Region, university counters


The rationale for extending the Spadina subway line to York University is “evaporating” because of the university’s actions, says Toronto Transit Commission chairman Howard Moscoe.

But a university spokesman says the university is addressing Moscoe’s concerns.

Only five months ago, the TTC declared that building a subway to the university was the top priority for the system.

Now, Moscoe is questioning the call, although he says he’s doing so in his role as a city councillor — not as head of the TTC.

In a letter to York president Lorna Marsden, Moscoe notes the university’s decision this week to cancel plans for a soccer stadium on the campus.

He goes on to criticize York’s sale of lands on the south side of the campus for low-density housing.

Transit is best in areas with high-density development, writes Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence). But on the south side of the campus, “I note … low-rise residential (housing) is now being constructed on almost all of these lands.”

“It would seem to me that one of the major justifications for spending billions of dollars on a subway is evaporating, and that the root causes of this are business decisions that have been made by the university itself.”

Moscoe said in an interview he still supports the subway, but wants York to justify its actions.

Ted Spence, senior policy adviser to Marsden, said the university was surprised by Moscoe’s letter.

An environmental assessment of the proposed subway extension is under way, and the university is working closely with it, along with TTC officials, he said.

The now-cancelled stadium was never a factor in justifying a new subway, Spence said.

The university has earmarked property for high-density development close to two proposed stations for the new subway line, Spence said.

He also said that York University is not the sole reason for the subway extension. The area is a commuter hub where people from York Region catch buses to the Downsview subway station, Spence said.

“This should be described as a subway to York Region, not a subway to York University,” he said.

York has lobbied hard for a new subway, but the issue has provoked some bitter exchanges between Moscoe and Marsden.

The two clashed last fall over a TTC plan to build a $40 million bus-only route to provide express service to York from the Downsview subway station.

The TTC wanted the busway to extend into the campus. University officials complained that the route would cut the campus in half and create too much noise. Moscoe snapped they “ought to be ashamed of themselves” for refusing access. The busway is now proceeding.