Updated February 17 at 11:00 pm: At today’s TTC meeting, despite a very long series of deputations from residents of the Mt. Dennis area and a number of local political representatives, the Commission decided to proceed with the staff’s recommended alignment for the Eglinton LRT.
Although I have supported this project and Transit City, today’s meeting ranks among the worst travesties of “public participation” I have ever seen. This fell on the same day as the launch of the TTC’s vaunted “Customer Service” project showing just how threadbare that scheme already is.
Deputations at the TTC are to begin at 2 pm, but there were many presentations early in the meeting, and the Eglinton item didn’t really get underway until nearly 3. Staff began with a presentation that completely ignored the specifics of the objections raised by the community, and presented the situation as a choice between two options:
- An all-surface option with a station at the intersection of Black Creek Drive, and an island-platform station west of the Weston/Eglinton intersection.
- An all-underground option with a station under Eglinton west of Black Creek, and a station under Eglinton west of Weston Road.
One critical point about both designs is that they require a wide tunnel structure around Weston Station and the demolition of a row of houses at Pearen Road. The TTC did not address the question of moving the station east of Weston Road to reduce or possibly eliminate conflict with the houses and to improve a future connection to GO Transit at the rail corridor.
After the deputations, during which Chair Giambrone had to be reminded by one speaker to pay attention to the public and stop playing with his Blackberry, came a brief discussion between Commissioners and staff. A few amendments were proposed to the recommendations including a scheme to seek supplementary funding (this might be called the “faint hope clause” for transit projects), but these failed.
In his concluding remarks Giambrone told the assembled crowd, many of whom had been in the meeting room for well over four hours, that in fact the TTC could not change the selected alignment because it had already been approved by Council and was sitting at Queen’s Park for review. In effect, Giambrone said that all of the public consultation since early December, 2009, when Council approved the Transit Project Assessment, was for naught because the decision had already been taken.
In fact, the TPA process includes an option for amendment, and the TTC plans to use this once they finalize the alignment at Pearson Airport. Why isn’t this option available for a change elsewhere in the design? Why was the TTC still holding public meetings on details of project design when there was no intention of entertaining changes?
Some speakers addressed the use of the Kodak lands for the proposed carhouse, and asked that alternative schemes be considered. Part of this relates to a proposed “big box” development on the land. However, Council approved the acquisition of this property, by expropriation if necessary, in December.
I could understand the TTC simply saying “look, Council has decided, there’s only enough money for the recommended option, sorry, but that’s how it’s going to be”. At least that would be honest. It would not string the community and their Councillors along with the idea that the design might be altered.
This is a classic abuse of process by a public organization, and shows all too clearly the problems introduced by the new “speedy” TPA. Although there is an appeal mechanism, the grounds for an appeal are very limited. This is not Transit City’s finest hour, and it damages the credibility of the TPA process generally.
Councillors would be well-advised to be less quick in granting approval to TPA reports lest they give away their last chance to modify a project proposal.
The earlier information in this article follows the break.
Updated February 16 at 10:45 pm: Information in the original post about community opposition to the use of the Kodak lands as a carhouse do not reflect a unanimous position. Please see the comment left by Rick Ciccarelli for details. Rick reports that there is a developer, the current owner of the site, who wishes to develop it for big box retail.
On Wednesday, February 17, the TTC will consider a report on the public participation process in the Eglinton LRT project. Among other items in the report is a discussion of the alignment options in the stretch west of Keele through to Jane Street. The report does not address issues raised at a recent public meeting because it was written before that meeting took place.
Last Thursday, February 11, two local Councillors hosted a meeting regarding the Eglinton LRT. I was unable to attend, but a friend who contributes here regularly (Robert Wightman) did, and I have used his remarks in preparing this article. Any additional feedback from people who were there would be appreciated.
The Evolution of Plans
The original summer 2008 open houses showed only a general view of the line and included notes about several areas requiring further study, including the section from Keele to Jane.
By June 2009, there were five proposals for the section through Weston Station (see Display Boards starting at page 29 of the pdf, display panel 28).
- Completely on the surface with stations at Black Creek and on Eglinton, west of Weston Road.
- Elevated structure south of Eglinton crossing Black Creek including a station west of Black Creek Drive. Underground station on Eglinton west of Weston Road.
- Similar to option 2, but with the elevated structure north of Eglinton.
- Underground structure through the entire area with stations west of Black Creek and west of Weston Road.
- Elevated structure north of Eglinton, but no station at Black Creek. Weston Station underground between Weston Road and the rail corridor.
By November 2009, only the preferred all-surface option 1 remained in the presentation (see Display Boards at pages 2-3 of the pdf, display panels 27-28).
The Situation Today
In the TTC report (linked at the top of this post), only two options are shown — the preferred surface alignment (1) and the underground alignment (4). Both of these place Weston Station west of Weston Road, and not immediately beside the rail corridor. This issue is important on two counts. First, a good connection to a future GO and Air Rail Link station are an obvious requirement, and would make this one of Metrolinx’ “mobility hubs”. Why would we build a brand new line with such an inconvenient walking transfer? Second, houses on the north side of Eglinton west of the intersection are right at the sidewalk line and would be demolished to make room for either of the proposed alignments.
Move the station further east, one might say, but the TTC would like to have a three-track section west of the station as a turnback point. This would require a wide box structure west of the intersection (and affecting the houses) even if the station were further east. It is baffling why the TTC can’t simply place a crossover east of Weston Station, where there will, in any event, be special work for the access tracks to the carhouse planned for the Kodak Lands east of the rail corridor.
As a side note, the TTC is planning to use automatic train operation for the Eglinton LRT rather than wayside signals. If there were concerns about any safety issues, ATO should address them regardless of the track configuration.
For Black Creek Station, the design must take into account the planned new Community Centre to be built here. Simply skipping over the station is not an option.
The following notes are by Robert Wightman. He describes additional options beyond those appearing in previous schemes, and it is odd that these are not discussed in the TTC report on the February 17 agenda.
No matter what option they use, the pocket track to the west of the underground station or the end of the station will require a 22 m wide tunnel in a section where the road is 23 m wide. There are 18 houses on the north side of Eglinton that are within 2 m of the edge of the cut which will have to be expropriated. The west side pocket track appeared to be placed so as to cause the maximum amount of expropriation of buildings on the north side of Eglinton.
The underground station options all had curves from the car house that entered Eglinton by running under the buildings on the north east corner of Weston and Eglinton. These seemed to be 300 to 400m radius versus the curves that ran from the street into the car house.
The project manager from the TTC could not figure out what anyone’s question was, kept answering the wrong question, and said the tail track had to be at the west end of the last station on the totally segregated ROW to allow for automatic train operation.
The difference in price between the underground option and the above ground one was $110 million at the last meeting but is now $300 million. Going elevated across Black Creek ups the cost by only $200 million.
Many people noted that the reported difference in price last fall was about $110 million but is now $200 to 330 million. They think that this price has been cooked to make it more expensive.
The totally underground option 6, which everybody seems to want, will not have a stop at Black Creek beside the new $26 million rec centre and all the parks. This did not please the residents.
There was an option shown that had the station between Weston Rd. and the rail alignment and that ran on an elevatetd north of Eglinton over Black Creek and went back underground just before the York Civic centre. Just south of the civic centre there is, or will be, some centre which will draw a lot of people and they were worried about the surface line coming out of the tunnel portal blocking pedestrians from crossing the street.
The at grade station at Weston will widen the road by 8 to 10m. This is a busy pedestrian interchange with lots of school children and seniors using it.
Last Summer a car apparently made the west to north turn at Eglinton and Weston Rd on a red without stopping and wiped out a family of 4. Right turns are banned on reds but people who don’t even slow down won’t have time to see that the turn is banned. The intersection has bad geometry that makes west to north turns especially difficult but all right hand turns have limited visibility. Car traffic on Eglinton is very heavy through here, especially at rush hour and it is dangerous for pedestrians. A lot of children and seniors use it.
When questioned about the ability of older pedestrians to cross the 10m wider Eglinton without getting run over, one of the engineers said that the Right of Way would provide an “Island Of Refuge” where pedestrians could wait for the next light. People soon figured out that it would take twice as many lights to cross and were not happy. Others then questioned these “Islands Of Refuge” and wanted to know if there would be shields to protect them from road spray or out of control cars. It went down hill from there.
The Mt. Dennis community is angry with the TTC for taking away a potential jobs site with their bus garage and LRV maintenance and servicing facility. Apparently there was going to be a large retail commercial development going in on the Kodak site. [See the comment left by Rick Ciccarelli regarding this. The large retail development is opposed by the Mt. Dennis community because of its impact on the viability of businesses on Weston Road, and because jobs at the development will be low-wage retail.]
People asked why the car house couldn’t be lowered and the development go on top but the TTC guru’s could seem to figure out what they meant. From the reaction of the TTC types you would have thought they were asking to have it built on the moon. The city property people seemed to comprehend but they are not TTC and were not going to comment on political decisions.
The uncertainty about expropriation is apparently affecting property values and the ability of people to sell their properties. There was a couple there who wanted to sell ther business and use the money for their retirement but no one will buy the business or the property. Expropriations won’t occur until 2012 so they, and others, are not happy.
At least 18 properties will be completely expropriated and 4 would have partial easements taken no matter what they do. Those 18 houses are so close to the sidewalk that you could probably knock on their door while standing on city property.
The meeting started at 6:30 and ended when we were all thrown out at 10:30. It would still be going on if they would have let us stay. The most competent appearing people were the two who were from the land expropriations department.
This will certainly be a challenge for the TTC’s newfound initiative to be pleasant to the public. Design issues like these are never easy to solve, but I can’t help the impression that different versions of the proposal are concocted to suit the meeting of the moment. The report on the TTC agenda completely misses the complexity of the discussion.
Several community representatives will attend the TTC meeting and speak to the issue. I only hope that the Commission actually listens to their concerns and asks for a consolidated report including the effect of various possible changes in the scheme. This is the sort of event that gives “public participation” a bad name, even if the TTC’s heart were in the right place. Weston has lots of experience with this, thanks to GO Transit.