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.