Yonge Subway Extension – Can’t Wait

The Yonge Subway Extension (YSE) would extend the Yonge – University Line north on Yonge from Finch to Highway 7 in Richmond Hill. The YSE has been a priority for York Region for over 16 years and is long overdue. The Province of Ontario has committed to fund the project. The federal government, unfortunately, has not.

When I asked the Minister of Infrastructure why the government refuses to invest, her response was they are waiting for a business case.

York Region submitted a business case in 2009 and then again in 2013. In 2017, the Federal Government invested $36.3 Million for a preliminary design and engineering study. Why invest millions if the value of the project is in question?

Asking for a business case in 2020 is not prudent fiscal management it is merely an excuse to delay the project further. The YSE business case is obvious.

In 1945, when the city boasted a mere 925,000 residents, the Toronto Transit Commission report stated “The present congestion of traffic on Toronto streets threatens the very economic life of our city. There must be a gradual separation of public and private transportation vehicles both of which are now trying to operate on narrow city streets.”

With over 1.2 million people, 52,000 businesses and over 636,000 jobs, York Region is already larger than Toronto was in 1945 when the Toronto Subway was approved. Over and above that York Region is one of Canada’s largest and fastest growing municipalities and an integral part of the GTA economic region.

The GTA (City of Toronto and Durham, Peel, Halton and York Region) has a population of 6.8 Million representing 18% of Canada. The GTA is forecasted to grow to 8 Million by 2030 and 10.2 million by 2046 representing 51% of Ontario’s population and 25% of the estimated population of Canada. The GTA is the second largest financial district in North America, and home to 40% of Canadian business headquarters which generate approximately 20% of Canada’s GDP. An investment in the YSE benefits not only York Region, but also the GTA, the Province of Ontario, and Canada as a whole.

The Toronto Subway system has been a centerpiece of economic growth for the GTA. At an average of 1.6 million weekday riders, it is the third busiest subway in North America behind only New York City and Mexico City. The Yonge – University Subway line alone has a weekday ridership of almost 800,000 people with almost 100,000 passing through Finch station each weekday. The Yonge Line is bursting at the seams and the demand only increases. Even with COVID 19 and the changes that might result after the pandemic, there is no indication that will change.

The Yonge Line ends at Finch but the GTA, and commuters in desperate need of a subway, do not. Commuters with a destination north of Finch, are only able to drive or take a bus, and neither option is as fast, seamless or environmentally friendly as a subway.

The statistics in 2011 showed Yonge St congested and slow, with over 40,000 vehicles daily between Finch and Highway 7. Highway 400 and Highway 404, the alternate north south route to the west and east respectively, are increasingly gridlocked.

Taking the bus is an inefficient and time-consuming alternative. Busses are challenged to meet the equivalent capacity and frequency of a subway while also being forced to contend with traffic and weather delays.

The YSE business case is also sound from an economic growth and environmental stewardship perspective. Businesses choose to invest in areas that are supported by good public transit. The YSE is forecasted to create 60,000 jobs and 88,000 housing units and will drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing at least 3,000 busses and countless cars off the roads each day.

The YSE is a priority that will further expand on key elements to reduce congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and further connect GTA communities by investing in a “Union Station of the North.”

The YSE can’t wait and it is unconscionable that the federal government is unwilling to invest.

The real question should not be whether the Yonge Subway line should be extended but rather how do we ensure it continues far beyond Hwy 7, to Wellington in Aurora and Davis Dr in Newmarket ….starting NOW.

Originally Published in the Auroran Newspaper