The daily commute for thousands of York University students got more expensive and less convenient this weekend, after GO Transit discontinued its bus service to the school’s Keele campus.
As of Saturday, bus routes that used to terminate in the heart of the north Etobicoke campus have been diverted to Highway 407 station on the new TTC subway extension, about 2 kilometres away.
Students taking GO Transit buses to the school now have to pay a second fare and transfer to the subway, which stops directly at the campus. For adult Presto fare card users who don’t have a monthly TTC pass, the additional subway ride costs $1.50 each way.
The change affects seven GO bus routes and about 575 daily bus trips to and from the university that are used by about 8,600 riders every day.
Among them is Jaskarn Duhra, a 19-year-old commerce student whose trip to school requires him to take a MiWay bus to Square One Shopping Centre in Mississauga, then a GO bus, and now a TTC subway.
“Now I actually have to accommodate more time to my commute,” said Duhra, adding he worries about being late for exams and other important events.
“It just makes it a lot more frustrating,” he said.
Sébastian Lalonde, vice-president of campaigns and advocacy for the York Federation of Students, said the organization has received “non-stop” emails from students complaining about the change.
The GO service adjustments come on the heels of York Region Transit deciding last fall to divert its bus routes from the campus to nearby Pioneer Village subway station.
Lalonde complained that students were never consulted about the changes despite their having a direct impact on their daily lives.
“These were all closed door conversations,” he said. “This is outrageous.”
The federation is calling on GO Transit and YRT to reinstate campus bus service.
Anne Marie Aikins, a spokesperson for Metrolinx, the provincial agency that operates GO Transit, said it “has always been part of our plan” to divert bus routes to Highway 407 station once the subway extension opened.
She said the new route to the subway could improve service reliability, as buses travelling directly to campus often encountered gridlock that could delay them by about 20 minutes.
The subway extension entered service in December 2017, but according to Aikins GO bus service to campus was maintained for the following year “to minimize financial impact to York University students.”
The school’s administration said it wants GO buses to come back.
“We have made this clear to the Ministry of Transportation, Metrolinx and the York community. At this time, Metrolinx has advised the university that it will not consider reversing its decision,” said York spokesperson Yanni Dagonas in an email.
Both the students federation and the school administration say they support integrating fares between GO Transit and the TTC — a move that would allow passengers to ride both services on a single fare.
But although last January the former Ontario Liberal government introduced $1.50 adult fare discounts for transfers between GO and the TTC, full integration, which would likely require a significant subsidy from Queen’s Park, has yet to be put in place.
According to Ted Spence, who was a senior policy adviser at York University until 2007, the need for fare integration between the TTC and other transit agencies serving the extension was apparent before the subway was even under construction.
“The issue was clear at least 10 years before the subway opened but there was no resolution at the political level,” he said.
In a written statement Monday, Ontario Transportation Minister Jeff Yurek said the Conservative government considers fare integration to be “important not only to York University but to the entire region.”
He didn’t say if or when the government will implement such a policy.
Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr