At long last, the subway to York University has arrived!

Open at last! York University Subway Station

Open at last! York University Subway Station

I arrived at York University in 1990, to start a job as an assistant professor in Biology. I was returning to Toronto from six years in England, at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, doing doctoral research, and afterwards, holding a couple of junior research fellowships (post-docs). I was excited to join York, a new university, because I was fed-up with being at very old institutions.

There was a lot of talk that the Spadina line subway would soon be extending to York University. As an undergraduate at the University of Toronto, St. George Campus, I remember taking a bus to Keele Campus from Wilson Station in 1980, for an arctic ecology workshop. That bus ride seemed to go on forever, as it crawled towards the northernmost reaches of Toronto -- Steeles Avenue! So, I was very excited at the prospect of the subway in 1990.

Since then, I have watched the subway, and public transit in Toronto, be treated as political footballs. Steve Paikin recently wrote about Greg Sorbara, the current York University Chancellor's role as the subway champion. At York, my Geography and Faculty of Environmental Studies colleague, Professor Ted Spence was a key advocate for many years.

I grew up in London before I emigrated to Canada as a teenager, and started taking the underground unaccompanied, at the age of 10. I love subways/metros/undergrounds! I've celebrated each new tiny stretch of TTC subway track that has opened over the years.

But, by the late 2000s, I had given up on the idea that the subway would ever come to York. It takes me from 1.25 to 2 hours to take public transit to York, depending on the time and day of the week. In contrast, the car trip runs about 45 to 60 minutes. So, TTC hasn't ever really been a viable option for me to come to campus daily, for 8 to 10 hours a day. I tried taking the TTC when a 2015 back injury prevented me from driving, but I gave up. I have come to hate the increasing Toronto gridlock, and the GHG emissions that go with them, that I experience in the car, even though I now ride-share.

Riding the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension on its opening day was thrilling. It's a dream come true, and I spent most of Sunday exploring three of the six new stations. Not everyone thinks that this is the public transit improvement that Toronto most needed. This includes my local city councillor. I'm not sure if the critics are taking account of the greenhouse gas emissions from all the cars, buses and trucks coming to the campus, and factoring this into their analysis. Christopher Hume compares the 27k riders at York University station with 65k passengers on the King streetcar, which is my local, residential line. The key consideration here is the mean journey distance being travelled by those passengers, and the availability of other viable travel options. I often cycle to downtown destinations, but this isn't an option for my commute to York University. The TTC has now become a viable option for me, while the King Street car has always been one of several routes that I could take.

As Toronto gridlock gets even worse, if that's possible, we are going to need many more investments in public transit.