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York University/Vaughan Subway Likely Confirmed


Image courtesy Spacing’s Wire

Reports are circulating that Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty will be announcing federal funding for the proposed extension of the Spadina subway from Downsview, past York University, to the intersection of Jane and Highway 7 in Vaughan. The federal contribution of $697 million represents a third of the cost of the project and is contained within a billion dollar announcement featuring other initiatives including bus lanes in York Region, Brampton and Mississauga. These measures will likely be contained in the Conservative government’s federal budget.

The money still has to be approved in the federal budget before the dollars can flow, and there is some suggestion that a federal environmental assessment may be required before shovels can get in the ground. It’s likely, though, with elections looming for both McGuinty and Harper, that this measure will be fasttracked.

This announcement is not the permanent source of funding city mayors are asking for, although it is likely that Harper’s response has cut the mayor’s strategy at its knees.

Commentary: The railfan in me likes funding for subway extensions as much as the next individual, and York University is the natural terminus of the Spadina subway, but I cannot help but feel that this project has been elevated way above the level of priority it should have. Earlier this month, the TTC approved a capital budget of $700 million in order to address pressing maintenance issues and replace aging buses, streetcars and subways. It’s likely that, for the next five years, budgets of $800 million will be required to keep up with current ridership growth and implement the Ridership Growth Strategy. The federal government does not seem interested in providing money for this initiative, and it’s possible that the York University extension could crowd out other provincial commitments to public transit in the City of Toronto proper.

Activist Steve Munro has more to say about this announcement, and I agree with him. The Ridership Growth Strategy improves transit for people across Toronto immediately, not for a limited set of commuters in 2014. It’s unfortunate that our senior politicians remain addicted to expensive projects based on the photo opportunities they provide, rather than the number of people they actually serve.

What’s your opinion? Join the discussion over at Spacing’s Wire.