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Subway extension not 'if' but `when'

Finance minister pledges partnership

TTC line would continue to York U


It’s only a matter of time before the TTC gets the green light to build its long-awaited subway to York University, says Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara.

“The question is when we’re going to start,” Sorbara said in an interview yesterday. “My preference would be earlier rather than later. We’re working on financial issues with other levels of government, notably the TTC and the federal government.”

Sorbara said the provincial Liberals would be financial partners in the York University subway line � estimated to cost $1.5 billion � and York Region’s 15-year, $1.6 billion plan to widen Highway 7 and Yonge St. to create bus-only lanes.

“Certainly, we will be partners in the next phase of this and obviously in the subway,” Sorbara said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony hailing the arrival of Viva, York Region’s new bus rapid transit system, which began operating Sunday.

“The subway linkage is critical to making not just the city of Toronto’s transit system move more effectively, but Viva as well. It (the York campus) will become one of the major hubs for a better GTA transit system.”

Sorbara, a York alumnus, has long supported expanding the Spadina line north through the university to Steeles Ave., although these were his clearest public statements on the issue since he became finance minister in 2003.

Previous efforts to extend the subway to York have failed because the money was lacking. “We’ve always said that we’d like to expand our system, but we need to make sure we keep our existing system safe and secure,” said TTC deputy chair Olivia Chow. “We have to fix the elevators; we don’t have the money.”

Chow said it’s up to the provincial and federal governments to pay for expansion. By the end of November, she said, the TTC will have a better idea whether an extension is feasible � after it sorts out the income figures, including new gas-tax revenues.

Meanwhile, the city is building a $30 million bus-only route between Downsview station and the university, which should be ready next year. And an environmental assessment for a subway continues, with the TTC expected to announce its preferred route in October.

The subway route will include stops near the university commons and north of Steeles Ave., where York Region plans to build a major Viva station and 3,000-space parking lot.

Many at yesterday’s Viva launch said it was remarkable that York Region had managed to launch Viva in about three years and on budget at $180 million. Others saw rising gas prices, Sorbara’s pro-subway comments and other innovations � including the TTC’s new weekly passes and transferable Metropass � as heralding nothing short of a turning point.

“This can only be the start of a new era of public transit expansion, the beginning of a true renaissance of public transit,” said Michael Roschlau, president of the Canadian Urban Transit Association.