York University, the City of Toronto, and the Yorkdale Shopping Centre have become the first three workplaces in Canada recognized for meeting a standard of excellence in commuter services—on par with the likes of Google and Harvard University.
Toronto was Canada’s first city to earn recognition from Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC), a North American group devoted to creating targeted commuter solutions. The City gained notice for its efforts to support remote work, its Emergency Ride Home program, and its “healthy initiatives to encourage cycling and walking via the Smart Commute program,” BWC said in a release.
Heralded for its “wayfinding management system,” its 100+ bicycle parking spaces, and its excellent transit access, the GTA’s Yorkdale Shopping Centre has been recognized as Canada’s first Best Site for Commuters.
And as Canada’s first university to be recognized by the BWC, York University joins United States institutions like Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton universities, writes Excalibur, York’s community newspaper.
“Achieving the BWC’s standard of excellence is a notable success for an institution as vast and multipart as York,” Excalibur writes. “To earn membership in the BWC, a university must offer one primary benefit, for instance, employer-paid tax-free transit and three supporting benefits, such as shuttles to and from transit stations. In addition, a BWC-acclaimed institution must offer access to a free or low-cost ride home in case of an emergency, which at York is a staff-only service.”
York secured its BWC credentials thanks to its Glendon-Keele campus shuttle, which operates from 7:10 AM to 10:45 PM. The university also offers other benefits like bike share, onsite transit connections, and electric vehicle charging stations.
Responding to criticism that York’s bike lane system is not accessible for e-bikes in winter, the university’s chief sustainability officer, former Toronto councillor Mike Layton, proposed that the best path to truly sustainable transport is to “make public transit the preferred option for students and staff by making sure it’s more affordable and convenient.”
A recent Metrolinx announcement on ending double fares for GO Transit-TTC rides is a step in that direction, Excalibur writes.
But Layton also acknowledged that many students prefer to take two wheels to school and pointed to ongoing efforts to improve that transport mode, including cycling safety apps.
Most important to advancing York’s commuter goals, however, will be the upcoming formation of a sustainability subcommittee for transportation. “The committee will be made up of faculty, operations staff, and students, who will develop strategies and proposals for York to continue to promote sustainable transportation on our campuses, in our communities, and around the world,” Layton said.