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York U unions' Save Transit Now petition headed to Queen's Park

The seven unions representing students, faculty and staff found support from a local NDP MPP, who will submit their petition to the provincial government, along with their demands for on-campus service and fare integration for the campus that sits on the border of Toronto and York Region

A transit petition launched by seven unions representing York University students, faculty and staff has landed at Queen’s Park.

New Democratic Party (NDP) MPP Tom Rakocevic, who represents the Humber River-Black Creek riding in which the university’s Keele Campus is located, told NewmarketToday he’ll submit the petition to the provincial government early next week and read aloud the requests made by its petitioners.

The York University unions launched the Yu Ride, Save Transit Now petition in response to last September's shuttering of York Region Transit’s on-campus bus stops, as well as an announcement by provincially run GO Transit that it, too, is pulling its bus service out of the campus beginning January 2019. 

Within about one month, the petition has collected 17,248 signatures.

“If you take transit from one side of Steeles Avenue to the other, you’re forced to pay two fares and that’s not right. I think people deserve seamless transit between the regions,” Rakocevic said. “We’re willing to reach out to stakeholders to see what’s possible and how we can make this (fare integration) happen. Of course, there’s a Progressive Conservative government and they seem to be very interested in cutting back, and that’s the reality we’re facing and we see that every single day.”

Rakocevic went on to say the provincial government needs to pitch in more funding for the various municipal transit operations.

'An additional fare isn't fair'

“We support fare integration that doesn’t increase fares for riders, that would help improve the lives for students at York University,” he said. “They’re paying punishing tuition rates, the cost of living continues to go up, and for people to have to pay an additional fare isn’t fair. We need integration between regions, and it’s something we’re fighting for and talking about.”

Newmarket resident Michelle Galloro, who takes public transit to her job at the Keele Campus, said she hopes the Ontario government will “take action on behalf of Toronto and GTA commuters by pledging to ensure better and more efficient transit service, particularly with regard to commuting to York University’s main campus”. 

“Metrolinx was created to deliver long-term sustainable transportation and better transit for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area,” she said. “The petition forms that are being brought forward, addressing the halting of YRT and Go Transit services to York University are in direct violation of Metrolinx’s intended purpose and goes against provincial and municipal initiatives to make transit more efficient and a viable alternative to driving.”

The petition calls for the immediate return of YRT/Viva buses to campus, a commitment from GO Transit to continue its service, as well as other transit agencies, such as Brampton’s ZUM, to maintain its campus bus routes and, an undertaking from the Ontario government, area MPPs and municipal politicians to work toward fare integration between all transit providers.

The issue for commuters such as Galloro is that riders in York Region are forced to pay an additional fare when transferring to the TTC to get to the campus.

York Region Transit general manager Ann-Marie Carroll said in a recent interview there are technical issues that don’t allow the cross-boundary ability to integrate fares from the 905 area and the TTC.

“Our link is Metrolinx and fare integration is part of our regular conversation with them,” said Carroll. “We do need the province to assist us and, likely, that includes funding, as well.”

A separate petition also launched in September by York University students at Change.org calls on the university itself and York Region Transit to bring back its buses, as well as keeping GO on the campus. It has so far garnered 394 signatures.

As a reason for signing, petition supporter Lisa KL wrote: “I take the Viva Purple bus to school every day, and it previously would take me between 1 and 1.5 hrs to get to campus. Now, it will have me take over 2 hours to get to class, with over 30 minutes of walking, including in the winter time, and the fares have already increased from last year. This is unreasonable.”