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TTC busway a better way to York U

$40 million route will slash travel time from Downsview subway to university by seven minutes

Jul 26, 2008 04:30 AM

Vanessa Lu
Rob Ferguson
Staff Reporters

It’s going to cost almost $40 million to save thousands of York University students seven minutes on their bus trip from Downsview station.

With the planned subway to York University not expected for years, politicians yesterday showcased plans for a new express busway route to the campus that should open next August.

The 6-kilometre, $37.8 million route will give buses a high-occupancy vehicle lane on Allen Rd. and Dufferin St., then let them continue west on a dedicated busway along the Finch hydro corridor before crossing Keele St. onto the campus.

The busway is viewed as an interim step to alleviate traffic congestion in the area until the Spadina subway is extended to the university and beyond, likely in 2015. Work on the subway is expected to begin in September, once paperwork for funding is finalized.

Politicians from all three levels of government arrived on a hybrid-electric TTC bus yesterday to make the announcement in a campus parking lot.

Soil was trucked in so federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, provincial Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman and Mayor David Miller could do a symbolic groundbreaking.

The federal and provincial governments are each contributing $9.7 million and the city, $18.4 million. TTC officials estimate it will take about 13 minutes to travel from the university to Downsview - shaving seven minutes off the typical 20-minute rush-hour trip.

Though it seems a small improvement, the politicians touted the move as a significant step toward building a rapid transit network in the northwest corner of the city

Miller expressed some disappointment that the busway won’t be ready this fall, as first planned.

“Frankly, I wish we had been able to announce it a year ago, so we’re actually opening it today,” he told reporters.

The holdup is blamed on delays in signing agreements with the senior governments as well as waiting for environmental approvals.

Miller emphasized that the application-based funding system - which requires cities to seek federal and provincial dollars for specific projects - can lead to delays.

“Permanent sustained funding, like the equivalent of 1 cent of the GST, allows you to plan and build,” he said, reiterating a key point of his One Cent Now campaign. “And you don’t have to go through this application process.”

He pointed out that the busway, which can carry almost 5,000 people an hour, has a much lower price tag than the subway, a $2.6 billion project. During the academic year, the route sees about 1,700 bus trips each day.

“Busways are frugal. They’re smart,” Miller said. “You can provide rapid transit at a very reasonable cost.”

The subway project will go ahead, he said, but it’s been waiting for the infrastructure agreement between Queen’s Park and Ottawa, which was signed Thursday.

“The ball’s in their court. We’re anxious to get going,” he said.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Ottawa will be happy to pay its $697 million share for the subway extension when the time comes. A York law school grad, he recalled that bus service was poor when he was a student there.

Ontario officials took advantage of the busway announcement to pressure Ottawa to contribute $6 billion to the province’s ambitious $17.5 billion MoveOntario 2020 transit plan, which includes 52 projects in the GTA and Hamilton, such as electrifying GO’s Lakeshore West rail line.

“We need their continued support,” Transportation Minister Jim Bradley said as Flaherty stood nearby.

“We’re very confident we’ll be able to work with them,” Smitherman added in an interview.

Plans for a similar busway along Yonge St. from Finch Ave. to Steeles Ave. are on hold, pending a decision by Metrolinx on its priority projects for the region - including expanding the Yonge subway line north.