York University, Canada’s 3rd largest university, is home to almost 67,800 students, staff, and faculty (including Seneca@York) and is an excellent example of success made possible through smarter commuting.
In the late 1990s, York University was experiencing parking and infrastructure challenges. 70% of commuters were driving alone while 30% were taking alternate modes. To address these challenges, the University undertook a number of initiatives in partnership with the City of Toronto, including the establishment of the Black Creek Regional Transportation Management Association (BCRTMA) at York University’s Keele Campus in 2001. The organization was incorporated in 2003, and was subsequently re-named Smart Commute – North Toronto, Vaughan (NTV) in 2005 to reflect its expanded service area.
In collaboration with Smart Commute NTV, York University carried out a strategic plan including the following highlights:
- significant increases in daily bus service to campus (approximately 144% increase from 2001-2006)
- addition of a York University GO Transit Highway 407 bus (approximately 12,000 rides/day)
- shuttle service between York University’s Keele and Glendon campuses
- a York University GO Transit rail stop (approximately 350 rides/day) with shuttle service to Keele campus
- discounted TTC monthly passes and GO Transit student identification cards
- establishment of increased cycling and carpooling amenities
These service improvements resulted in a change which now sees 60% of commuters taking alternate modes to/from campus, such as transit, cycling, carpooling, and walking. The population growth and increased traffic demand at York University between 2001-2006 (approximately 28%) was effectively absorbed by transit, carpooling, cycling, and walking.
- plans to build two parking garages were deferred (approximately $80M saved)
- nearly 44,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions were eliminated
- nearly 16,000 daily vehicle round-trips to campus were avoided
- In collaboration with York University, Smart Commute NTV currently offers successful campus programs including an active Bicycle User Group (BUG) with more than 300 members, carpool-matching service with approximately 800 registered users, and an Emergency Ride Home (ERH) program for university staff and faculty.
The successful partnership between York University and Smart Commute NTV has shown that achieving success requires a long-term commitment with collaboration between key stakeholders, as well as strong champions to conduct joint advocacy, service improvements, marketing, and community outreach. The positive financial and ecological impacts are clear: Smart Commute is good business in the short and long term. York University is an indicator of the impact Smart Commute network could have on the entire region in the not so distant future, through persistence and collaboration.