Corp Comm Connects

Extend the Yonge subway now
What the critics of the subway extension don't understand is that traffic congestion doesn't respect municipal borders
Wayne Emmerson
March 13, 2016

The time to extend the Yonge subway north from Toronto’s Finch Station to Richmond Hill is now. To be more specific, the time to begin the preliminary engineering and design work is now.

Consider this, a project of this scope and magnitude will take at least 10 years to complete — so when the ribbon is cut to officially open the Yonge north subway extension, the new segment of the Spadina subway (which isn’t open yet) will have been in operation for at least a decade and Regional Express Rail/SmartTrack will be servicing thousands of commuters daily.

Demand for an extended Yonge subway is not an issue. Currently, there are 2,500 bus trips a day required to service this section of Yonge Street. Yes, that’s 2,500 bus trips a day on sections of Yonge Street between Finch and Highway 7. This subway extension is a critical missing link in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area’s (GTHA) regional rapid transit system.

The main argument against proceeding with this project appears to be capacity. Opponents pointing to recent City of Toronto studies and modelling numbers say Toronto’s main transit priorities have to be funded and completed first, including a downtown relief line.

While it’s true that more capacity is needed and that the GTHA is well behind due to years of delaying critical transit investments — it’s not about our project vs. theirs. Simply put, improvements are also desperately needed outside of the City of Toronto’s borders — traffic congestion doesn’t respect municipal boundaries.

Regional council and transit officials in York Region are relying on the advice of Metrolinx, the provincial transportation authority, to carry out transportation planning for the GTHA.

In a June 2015 study, Metrolinx concluded that the Yonge subway will be under capacity even in 2031, due to the implementation of Regional Express Rail/SmartTrack, the Spadina subway extension, automated train control and other currently funded projects. Therefore, there is no reason the extension of the Yonge subway can’t proceed in parallel with other priority transit projects over the next 15 years.

The fact is that these current additions to the public transit network will work together to offer relief to the Yonge line and open up capacity for Toronto residents working in York and York residents working in Toronto. People live and work all over the GTHA and need properly planned regional transit to get around — that is why Metrolinx exists.

The extension of the Yonge subway north is the top priority of York Region, not only because it will close a vital gap in creating a transit network that seamlessly connects the GTHA, but it will help us keep up with the tremendous growth we are experiencing. It will also improve the environment by virtually eliminating the 2,500 daily bus trips now required, promote intensification, reduce urban sprawl and drive economic growth.

The Yonge subway extension north will include five stations, two intermodal terminals connecting to GO Transit and YRT/Viva and 2,000 commuter parking spaces. As a result, it will lead to increased flexibility and several more transit options for all residents and commuters in this area, not to mention the new development of 23,530 residential units and 25,000 jobs at the Richmond Hill/Langstaff Gateway Urban Growth Centre.

When the Yonge subway extension is complete, Richmond Hill Station will be the equivalent of a Union Station north, offering commuters many transportation choices to get to a variety of destinations throughout the GTHA.

Instead of putting the brakes on progress and the development of other commuter-worthy transit improvements throughout the GTHA, we firmly believe we should be moving this project down the track and looking to the future. That means respecting Metrolinx’s recommendations for advancing all Next Wave projects and extending the Yonge subway north, now.