Leon Wassser: The Green Transportation Plan for York University
For 14 years I served as a constituency representative on the york University Presidential Advisory on Parking, which as the name suggests, was the sounding board for a diversity of faculty, student and university administrative offices designed to proactively address parking related issues.
in succession I represented the Department of Physical Resources, the administration of the university’s Glendon campus located at Lawrence Avenue and Bayview Avenue and the York University Business Operations. For much of this period the highly capable Tom Arnold served as the Manager and then Director of Parking Services.
In 2004 I was chosen by the 20 person committee to serve as the committees Chair, despite my high profile administrative role. It was a time of turbulence in the post secondary educational sector in general, and York University in particular. It was a period of rapid growth for York University as when in addition to its progressing annual growth, York University was awarded the bulk of the spots for new undergraduate students as Grade 13 was eliminated in Ontario and the university welcomed most of the resulting so called “Double Cohort.
Because of my understanding of university planning, transportation issues generally and my broad understanding of transportation and green sustainability issues, Tom and I took on the task of developing what became know as The Green Transportation Plan for York University. The following were some of the priciples of the plan:
- University land was too valuable a resource to squander vast amount of it to accommodate and ocean of surface parking when that space was needed for other university purposes, particularly the development of more academic facilities, and the ancillary operations required for the rapidly growing campus community.
- Most York University students, faculty and staff would continue to commute to the campus for the indefinite future since there was no possibility of developing sufficient housing on or beside the campus.
- Many members of the campus community were traveling increasingly longer distances to the university as Toronto’s hinterland suburbia grew ever larger and more spread out increasing travel times dramatically
- Because the Keele Campus was located literally on the edge of the Metro Toronto regional municipality served by its wholly own Toronto Transit Authority, there was some TTC transit serving were the university, including a rapid bus connection to the end-of-line Downsview Station, but transit service to the where most of our new students, faculty and staff were coming from was virtually nil.
- If the university could build multi-story parking facilities close to the campus core, some members of the university community would be willing to pay a substantial premium for parking in conveniently located, weather protected, well lit premium parking structures.
- From its inception, the Keele campus was lacking a physical and social centre of the type that most universities, and indeed most communities had – The creation of the Harry W. Arthurs University Commons was carved out of the most central, popular and well used surface parking lots of the universities, and many other surface lots need to be diplaced to accomodate new university buildings including Vari Hall, the Student Centre, Schulich School of Business, the Centre for Fine Arts and York Lanes Mall and Office Building.
- Similarly, the parking situation needed to address the planned changes in the campus infrastructure starting with the road alignments, new building locations etc.
- New transit options needed to be generated and quickly to address the looming challenges.
- More transportation alternatives ranging from car pooling, changing work schedules, encouraging
- Most of all it was determined that transportation issues needed to be addressed in a comprehensive and strategic manner.
- Whatever recommendations that were to be developed, they had to first be accepted and endorsed by the members of PACOP as well as their constituent bodies. Only after this step could the plan be voted on by the committee of the whole and then presented to the President of York University to whom the committee reported.
The reality is that the draft was presented to the members of PACOP who then reviewed and amended it, and then brought the updated consensus back to their constituencies, including student governments, unions, faculty groups, major campus businesses and university administrative offices. The process took well under year, to ensure that we could maintain the well informed and socially coherent and mutually trusting colleagiality that we had worked so hard to achieve. The plan was eventually ratified by PACOP, presented and accepted by the President of York University and then was implemented with the following measures.
The following were the outcomes of the Green Transportation Plan for York University