New Second Exits at Donlands and Greenwood Rouse Community Ire (Update 5)

Updated July 15, 2010 at 11:00 am:

With luck, this will be the last update in this thread.

At the TTC meeting on July 14, there was a long presentation and discussion of the issues at Donlands and Greenwood Stations.  The presentation materials are not yet online as the project pages are being updated by the TTC to reflect recent changes.

Greenwood Station

TTC staff recommended and the Commission approved that the community’s alternative proposed second exit route be used.  This route passes through the back yards of numbers 11 and 15 Linsmore rather than through a site now occupied by any house.

The first version of this scheme included the expropriation of the house now under renovation at 9 Linsmore.  A newspaper report of the affected landowner gives some idea of the background and suggests that his 7-year renovation project is a long-standing annoyance to at least some in the neighbourhood.

In any event, it appears that other owners on Linsmore may be willing to sell, and one way or another, that’s where the exit will go.  The only remaining issue for the TTC is to determine the location of a sewer that may interfere with the proposed route to the exit, and the feasibility of diverting this sewer to suit the new construction.

Donlands Station

The situation at Donlands is more complex than at Greenwood.  TTC staff did a much more thorough job at the Commission meeting, compared with the public meeting a few days earlier, of explaining the standards and calculations used in evaluating the alternatives.  Their target for the path length from the point where an exit stair meets the platform to the surface is two minutes.  This keeps the total exit time, including getting to the exit on the platform, within the overall code targets.

The original group of exit proposals by the community fails to meet the exit time criterion.  However, a new alternative came to light at the Commission meeting.  This would link into the east, rather than the west, end of Donlands Station.  The exit passages would all lie under roads rather than houses, and the exit building would be on the north-east corner of Donlands & Strathmore where there is now a school parking lot and a vent shaft to the subway.  TTC staff will report back on this option once they have a chance to review it.

The most contentious part of the discussion turned on whether the TTC would give approval to any plans on July 14, or would wait until their August 23 meeting to finalize their choice.  The community, understandably, does not trust the TTC, and a deferral would have been a sign of good faith from the Commission.  Such an action would not have slowed work because the Council meeting at which expropriation will be considered is not until August 25.  A TTC recommendation could be taken to Council as supplementary information, a routine process.

On a split vote of 6-3, the Commission decided not to delay approval, and decided to give staff the authority to proceed with the three proposals now on the table:  (a) Donlands & Strathmore, (b) the new TTC alternative with a building in the Dewhurst road allowance and (c) the original scheme using property now occupied by 1 & 3 Strathmore.

Staff assured the Commission that they will report back in August with the outcome of their review.  More generally, there is a recognition at TTC that a public consultation process is needed for “small” projects that don’t trigger formal Environmental or Transit Project Assessments.

Updated July 12, 2010 at 10:30 pm:

At a public meeting this evening, the TTC presented a review of the options they had originally examined for Donlands and Greenwood Stations’ second exits, as well as comments about alternative schemes put forward by the community.  This material is not yet available online, but I hope that it will appear on the TTC’s site in the next few days.

At Greenwood Station, the TTC has accepted the community’s proposed option that would take a tunnel south from the station under the back yards of 11 & 15 Linsmore Cres. emerging in a new exit building to replace the derelict house at 9 Linsmore.

At Donlands Station, the TTC proposes to shift their original planned exit building, which would have required the taking of the houses at 1 & 3 Strathmore Blvd., about 10m to the west.  This would place the exit building partly within the roadway of Dewhurst Blvd.  This option was not well-received by the community who have argued for various alternatives, notably a point slightly further south and on the west side of Dewhurst.

An issue affecting several of the alternative schemes is that the TTC wants the distance from the platform to the street not to be too long, but they have not defined exactly what this means or cited the standard that would produce an acceptable or unacceptable rating.

When this comes to the TTC for a decision on July 14, there will likely be an effort to split the vote so that each station option is dealt with separately.  The Greenwood scheme would proceed, while Donlands would be held back for further consultation.  Whether the split-vote tactic will be succeed depends on the lobbying efforts of each side in the debate.

Staff would prefer to get approval for both sites right away and continue consultations afterwards.  That, however, effectively says “we are not going to change our minds”.

From the TTC, a request to expropriate property (and any other necessary changes such as narrowing Dewhurst) would go to the August 25 Council Meeting.

I will update this article following the Commission Meeting.

Updated July 7, 2010 at 1:30 pm:

Minutes of the first community meeting have been posted on the TTC’s website.  Also available are pages for the Donlands and Greenwood sites, but these show only renderings of the proposed exits, not the details of the below-grade links to the subway or the property requirements.

Updated July 6, 2010 at 11:00 pm:

The TTC will hold a follow-up meeting at Danforth Collegiate & Technical School, 800 Greenwood Avenue, on Monday July 12 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm.  The purpose, as stated in the notice is:

This meeting is to provide residents of the local community with more information, discuss construction impacts and to consider community proposals, and review alternative options that were previously considered.

Updated June 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm:

A community meeting on June 29th brought TTC staff, Councillors Giambrone and Ootes, and the communities around Greenwood and Donlands stations together for a meeting that ran just over three hours.  To everyone’s credit, the discussion stayed focussed and didn’t degenerate into a shouting match between the audience and the presenters.

First off I must congratulate representatives from the two communities whose presentations of neighbourhood concerns and proposed alternative schemes were as good as if not better than those given by the TTC.  From my experience with other public participation schemes that have been much more community focussed, I think that starting off with a polished presentation by both sides set the tone for an actual conversation, although at times it was quite animated.

A major concern, separate from the actual design, was the process by which people, especially those whose homes would be expropriated, learned of the TTC’s plans.  Sending a general mailing with a drawing that just happens to show your house as a future station entrance is the height of insensitivity, but that’s just what the TTC did.  To its credit, the TTC team, headed up by Chair Giambrone, committed to a complete review and improvement of the way they handle this type of situation.  Less clear is the role of Councillor Ootes who expressed displeasure with events, but failed to explain why, even though he knew of the plans at least in March 2010, if not earlier, he did not inform the affected homeowners or organize community meetings.  He will be gone from Council after October’s election.

The proposed alternatives will be reviewed by the TTC who will meet with community representatives to go over these and over any other schemes the TTC might have considered but discarded.  The information will be brought back to another public meeting, likely on July 12, with the intention of still taking a recommendation to the July 14th Commission meeting.

Donlands Station

The proposed exit requires the demolition of a house on the southeast corner of Strathmore and Dewhurst.  There are three alternatives proposed for consideration by the TTC:

  • Relocate the exit building to the site of an old garage just south of the lane on the west side of Dewhurst opposite number 17.
  • Build a tunnel under the lane dividing numbers 14 and 26 Dewhurst to a point where the exit would surface in an existing municipal parking lot behind 14 Dewhurst.
  • Build a tunnel south under Dewhurst so that the new exit would surface on Danforth Avenue at Dewhurst.

There are variations on each of these, but broadly this is what community representative have suggested.  Their presentation is not yet available online.

Greenwood Station

This station is a trickier situation because the station lies in the middle of a residential block and the new exit cannot be placed at an intersection.

The proposals here are:

  • Shift the new exit to the west so that the north-south passage would lie in the back yards of 11 and 15 Linsmore, and the exit building would replace 9 Linsmore which has been unoccupied and under renovation for a considerable period of time.
  • Tunnel the north-south passage to Danforth Avenue and emerge through a store front.

My own point of view is that the first of the proposals in each case has a chance of being accepted because each of them stays fairly close to the station and are likely to meet both the distance and cost criteria for the projects.

The second Donlands option (a tunnel under the lane separating 14 and 26 Dewhurst) will likely fail on distance criteria.

Exits on the Danforth itself have problems with distance from the station, but also in the case of Greenwood Station, a tunnel would be required under existing houses to reach the Danforth property.  Such a tunnel is not likely possible given that it would be close to the surface (between the roof of the subway station and the street) and would pass under houses that are likely quite difficult to underpin for this sort of construction.  Any house that would be tunnelled “under” would almost certainly have to be demolished.

Another consideration, particularly for an exit to Danforth itself, is that the building should include entrance turnstiles given the prominent location.

Further news on this subject awaits the next round of meetings with the TTC.

Original Post from June 23, 2010:

An obscure report at the recent TTC meeting authorized the release of confidential plans for Donlands and Greenwood Stations as a means of aiding public discussion in the affected neighbourhoods.  The actual implications are not mentioned in the TTC report, and even the version released after a letter to the General Secretary’s office doesn’t give much detail of what is going on.

I was recently contacted by representatives of both neighbourhoods who found in their mail notices of the impending projects.  A few found that there would be substantial easements for construction and new underground structures.  A few more found that their houses would be expropriated.

They were not amused.

What is rather odd is that on the same agenda, there was a report about the second exit planned at Woodbine Station which does include detailed drawings including notes about the property taking that would be required.  This is not as extensive as in the proposals at Donlands and Greenwood for which no drawings were shown.

As a public service (and because the TTC will only release the info to those who ask for it), here is the material sent to the communities around Donlands and Greenwood Stations.

Donlands Area Plan

Donlands Site Plan

Greenwood Area and Site Plans

Public Meeting Notice

In both cases, residents have come up with alternative schemes that may prove less intrusive to their neighbourhoods than those put forward by the TTC.  I will not discuss these here as the plans may still evolve, and each community is responsible for its own affairs.  They have two separate websites.

Donlands Second Exit Website

Greenwood Second Exit Website

I hope that the TTC will actually listen with an open mind to alternative proposals for both stations.  The organization has a bad history of “knowing what’s best for you” and dismissing critiques and suggestions out of hand.  Considering that this is the first anyone in the two neighbourhoods heard of the proposal, the TTC owes people a fair and honest hearing.

99 thoughts on “New Second Exits at Donlands and Greenwood Rouse Community Ire (Update 5)

  1. I actually agree with the TTC to taking over 9 Linsmore. The man who owns the property is a selfish, ignorant person who hasn’t even lived their for years according the The Star article. and has been slowly making renovations. I really don’t even know why he’s complaining. This property can be use for better things (I would even support putting bike racks their) because this is clearly a vacant lot. I (hesitantly) applaud the TTC on this one.


  2. Sorry to take up so much “airtime”, and distract from the Greenwood/Donlands issue, but this fire safety thing is really bothering me. I was in a cottage fire many years ago that was successfully put out before the cottage burned down due to some quick thinking and level-headed reaction. It’s a very frightening experience having to escape a burning building, and I’ve paid close attention to safety plans ever since. Years later I was in an office building during a bomb threat where the normally extremely professional security guard “panicked” and locked everyone IN the building. Later I was in a downtown office building in temporary offices in the basement (which were considered to be “up to code”) during the eastern seaboard power outage, where the entire floor went pitch black. It was over 10 minutes (the time it took to manually switch over to generator) before the emergency exit lights went on. I then became floor warden and found that, reviewing our disabled evac plans, we were the only floor in the building that wasn’t “listed” for evacuation with the fire department. And that, because of the floor design, in some locations you could follow the “Emergency Exit” signs around in a circle for ages before stumbling onto the way out. When I escalated to building management to get battery operated emergency lights and fluorescent strips to point the way to each exit, I came back to find electricians wiring in more emergency exit signs that just added to the confusion: “because that’s the code”. Finally hauling everyone’s butts (both building and company: management, security, safety, Disaster Planning, etc…) down to our floor and walking them through the exits got some change.

    From all that I learned that you can’t do safety planning based on some arbitrary code on a piece of paper – you have to walk the situation and see if and where it applies, and where it is missing important considerations. And I learned that the way people act in emergencies is not the way they act day to day, and that you have to make emergency instructions ABSOLUTELY CLEAR AND IMPERATIVE WITH NO AMBIGUITY. When there is ambiguity people who aren’t paid to think from the larger picture make mistakes: like that security guard who locked us in. And like Security at the WTC, who without consulting management, told the people in the second building (who tragically were in the process of evacuating) that they had to go back up.

    What’s interesting is that familiar surroundings can make it harder to evacuate, because you feel safer and often have less urgency. What we discovered, having to navigate our way through a very complex set of twists, turns, doors and stairways, are that the most important things, and the things people automatically fixate on when it counts, are the big shiny highly visible signs that enable you to get out of an emergency “freeze” state, and into an automatic don’t-think-just-walk “calmy proceed” state: “EMERGENCY EXIT”, “FIRE DOORS”, “THIS WAY OUT ===>”, etc… And in appropriate spots: “ALTERNATE EXIT ==>”.

    Oh, and that a tunnel can be an extremely poor emergency exit if it doesn’t have fire doors. They don’t call them “Fire Doors” for nothing…

    Daily use exits don’t do any of that, just by virtue of being used daily. Just because I exited the Queen subway through The Bay every workday for 5 years doesn’t mean that’s where I should go in an emergency.

    I would have felt more confident about the TTC Greenwood/Donlands strategies if we had actually heard from Fire, EMS or Police emergency personelle about the viability of the Second-entrance plans for actual emergencies. For instance, do they feel that evacuating 600-1200 people onto the middle of a residential street is a good thing or not? I’d like to know how the Fire Dept. feels about a TTC design that prefers an emergency exit without fire doors. Perhaps they’d prefer that, but we didn’t hear either way.

    All told, these projects appear to have less to do with passenger safety than they do with ticking off boxes and making second entrances.

    Steve: I hate to throw cold water on this (somehow appropriate to a discussion of fire exits), but the issues at Donlands Station are not going to be solved in the larger context of deciding exactly what changes should be made to either the Building Code or the TTC’s interpretation of it. There are horror stories everywhere including disasters such as the WTC, but many other structures where old layouts are grandfathered or somebody makes a well-meaning change (often in the name of “security”) and causes a previously clear exit to become unusable.

    The TTC has not done anywhere near as good a job as they could in explaining what their standards are and where these come from, let alone the specifics of how they apply to various proposals. Having said that, any discussion of subway fire safety needs to be in a much larger context, not the heat of the moment at Donlands.


  3. @Karl Junkin and Richard White
    Thanks for the info about the Fire Department and the Sheppard Emergency Exits. I didn’t see your comments (I got distracted, and forgot to refresh before I posted).


  4. It’s shocking to read in today’s Star that the guy whose property is going to be expropriated at 9 Linnsmore was not informed by the TTC or the community before yesterday.

    It’s particularly galling that the community group that proposed his house be demolished hadn’t bothered to mention it to him, given that one of their biggest complaints was that the TTC had failed to communicate with the owners of 245 and 247 Strathmore Blvd. Given how much I heard the community group go on about this incessantly at the first meeting, I am shocked at their hypocrisy!


  5. Unfortunately this whole situation tells me what I feared from the start is true. This is a NIMBY case, or specifically niMby case. So long as it is not YOUR house – it is someone else’s house – it is fine.


  6. @NF
    It is quite fair to say that the TTC need to put a lot more work into their communication efforts, and this man very definitely has a right to feel angered at the process – just the same as the residents at the originally proposed location.

    However, that Toronto Star article is quite misleading.

    At the meeting on the 12th TTC stated that they attempted to contact him, but didn’t hear back from him. However members of the Strathmore group did speak with him last week, so it’s a little disingenuous to say he didn’t know anything at all about this. In addition, it’s not his “home”, it’s his “house” (I believe he lives somewhere nearby). That building has been uninhabited, and in a somewhat derelict state, for over 7 years now. One of his Linsmore neighbours spoke up at the community meeting and said that he was very happy about the community proposed plan, as this house attracts vandals and poses a hazard to his family.


  7. Something seems to be wrong with Nick’s link. The Star article about the owner of 9 Linsmore is here.

    It is somewhat ironic that the TTC made the same mistake in not warning this owner before marking a big “x” on his house. However, I don’t agree with those commenters who are saying it is lousy for the neighbours to have targeted this guy’s house to save their own. Given that the house has been vacant for 5-10 years, he’s not exactly a “neighbour”.

    But most importantly, this location makes so much more sense than 245/247 Strathmore. The TTC actually should have come up with this design in the beginning rather than the ridiculous idea of putting an exit in the middle of a long block parallel to the Danforth.

    Expropriation is sometimes necessary. The owners won’t be thrilled, but eventually they should be compensated. But it is hard to fault this outcome when (a) it is a much better location for the exit and (b) the house has been vacant for ages.


  8. Here’s a pic of the emergency exit at Langara-49th Station on the new Canada Line in Vancouver – a hut popping out into the street median. (Granted, it’s a lower capacity system.)

    And the emergency exit at Vancouver City Centre Station:

    Pics from Tafryn Palecloud’s website

    Steve: Neither of these would meet the specs for flow rate required to evacuate a TTC subway station and at least one train load of passengers. Both the door and the stairway are too narrow.


  9. It seems to me that the ideal layout of a station would be to have exits at each end of the platform. In whichever direction the fire is, go the other way.

    A lot of stations have exits in the middle; even one additional set of exits will be at one end or another, leaving a “blind” end of the platform.

    Looking at the Subway Efficiency Guide, the following stations are the worst, having a single exit at one end of the platform:
    Dundas West

    Stations with a single exit fairly close to one end of the platform:

    I wonder if Donlands and Greenwood were picked because of the chance a train with problems doesn’t *quite* make it to the Y and Greenwood yard before bursting out in flame? (This is a post-facto attributation of prioritization, I know.)

    I’d hate to be trapped in Dundas West station if a disabled train didn’t quite make it Vincent yard, and caught fire at the west end of the station!


  10. NF wrote, “It’s shocking to read in today’s Star that the guy whose property is going to be expropriated at 9 Linnsmore was not informed by the TTC or the community before yesterday.”

    I have mixed feelings on this, but I am not so sure there is hypocrisy on the part of the rest of the community. On one hand, that property owner is just like any other property owner and deserves the same treatment. On the other hand, the unaddressed mailing that went out should have gone to his property like any others, which tells me that he is not around very often. From what I have gathered in following this story, this guy has been taking a very long time to renovate the property, with little interaction with neighbours. While it is his right to take as long as he wants to renovate his property, he owes it to his neighbours to keep them informed as they have to look at it in the state it is in.

    I am looking at this situation from the point of view of that property owner. Having built my own home, doing about 85% of the work using evenings, weekends, and vacation time over a period of 18 months, our property looked abandoned much of the time during that period. Before we broke ground, I knocked on every door that was visibly close to our property to speak with each neighbour about what we were about to start. Those that were not available were left a letter with contact information.

    I also installed a mail box at the edge of the property so that the carrier would not have to enter the construction site, which is reason for Canada Post to suspend delivery to a property. The point is, I made myself visible, or at least easy to contact, to anyone in the neighbourhood who had a concern. I suppose that is the reason why no one ever had an issue. If construction had just started and much of the time anyone passing would have thought the property was abandoned, I am sure there would have been issues.

    If one is going to “exercise their right” to act that way, one should not be surprised when a property must be expropriated and the rest of the neighbourhood all points to that property.


  11. @ NF

    I suspect the group tried to contact him but how do you find out who owns a house that looks abandoned because it has been under construction for many years? I pass by this house daily, at all times, and I have never seen anyone in or near it. I would be inclined to hire a lawyer because I have no idea how to track down a property owner. And then it would probably take time to go through the records, etc.


  12. NF, the Star article does indicate they ‘attempted to contact him’. I can’t speak for the exact circumstances of that, but if he had not been on-site recently and the neighbours of this empty house were unaware of the details of his actual residence, it may have simply been that hard to get in touch.

    The problem here seems to be how slow he’s proceeding with this renovation – it’s piecemeal enough for the area residents to consider the place ‘derelict’. If he hasn’t engaged with the community on his plans, this is what results.


  13. It’s easy to throw the NiMBY term around, especially if you don’t have all the information in hand. Thanks to Steve for providing so much info on this.

    With the TTC hellbent on the July 14th date for a vote, all of these instances of people finding out things at the last minute are bound to happen. I heard (and Steve, if you were at the meeting you would know for sure) that other property owners on Linnsmore are in fact willing to sell. So the owner of #9 may indeed not be affected.

    The bigger issue here is a city-wide one. We all need to pressure the TTC (perhaps via the mayoral election?) to take community consultation far more seriously. This project was a very small one for them. They have huge numbers of big projects coming up that will affect enormous groups of people/communities.


  14. What Karl Junkin said @ July 13, 2010 at 8:24 pm – an exceptional amount of common sense expressed with relatively few words.


  15. “I suspect the group tried to contact him but how do you find out who owns a house that looks abandoned because it has been under construction for many years?”

    Given the Toronto Star managed to do it in a few hours, it doesn’t seem to have been difficult.

    Surely one could just go down to the registry office, look up who owns that property, and then look him up in the phone book. There’s only 5 Vagenus’s listed in the entire city, and only 1 G Vagenus … who you can see in the phone book is just north of Greenwood station on a sidestreet off Linnsmore. This is very likely exactly what the Toronto Star reporter did, and simply dialed the number that matched the name shown at the registry office. TTC or the community group could have done the same.

    There does seem some confusion about whether the community group contacted him … all the same, the group does seem to have misrepresented the situation to the TTC.

    Steve: There are various stories about this including a comment earlier in this thread suggesting that some members of the community had talked to the owner of 9 Linsmore before the recent public meeting.


  16. Question … what gave the residents the authority (or the right) to propose that someone ELSE’s house be torn down? If I was that homeowner, I’d be furious.

    Steve: They pointed out that it was empty, and had been under renovation for a long time. If a house somewhere was going to be taken, better it be one that is vacant. The way this was proposed leaves something to be desired given that there is some debate over how easy it was to contact the owner, and I suspect some animosity may exist given that some consider his house to be a neighbourhood eyesore and hazard.


  17. I question the fact that the house at 9 Linsmore is an “eyesore.” I walked by the house last night – it is clearly undergoing renovations, which is apparent by the fact there are building permits posted in the windows (a fact that also undermines the claims of it being “derelict,” the implicit assumption being that it is abandoned).

    And given its location directly across the street from always-lit Greenwood Station and a 30-metre walk to the traffic and lights of the Danforth, it is not as though this one house is a sore thumb in an otherwise tranquil oasis. I’ve walked by numerous times before this issue became public and never noticed anything out of the ordinary about the house or the street.

    Claims about the house’s state of dereliction are just cover for the neighbours throwing the owner of 9 Linsmore under the bus to save their own houses.


  18. “Looking at the Subway Efficiency Guide, the following stations are the worst, having a single exit at one end of the platform: Dundas West, Museum, Summerhill”

    Intriguingly, Dundas West and Summerhill both have proposals for second exits (and entrances) based on connections with possible GO service (GO-Bloor in Dundas West’s case and North Toronto station in Summerhill’s case). Dundas West should have had a second entrance installed a while ago, but Crossroads Mall has been obstinate, complaining about a loss of space in their parking garage. They’re really shooting themselves in the foot, in my opinion. Such a feature, if built into their dying mall, could increase foot traffic.

    I believe provisions for a second exit at Summerhill have been roughed in as part of the area’s renovations, but nothing further has been done, and won’t unless North Toronto station is reactivated as a passenger station for GO trains.

    As for Museum, we’ve heard talk about a second exit (leading onto Queen’s Park North), including complaints that the much ballyhooed renovations to the interior did not take this feature into account. But, again, this has been identified as a problem, and I expect it will be fixed at some point in the future.

    Regarding Dundas: I can see more exits being required simply for capacity’s sake. How is the proposed link-up between the station and Ryerson to be done? Or how long of a passenger tunnel would it take to give Dundas an exit at Queen’s Shuter Street entrance? 😉

    Steve: I have a set of drawings of the North Toronto to Summerhill connection that shows a knockout panel for a future connection in the basement of the station. As for Dundas, that design is already in progress and is, I believe, to be co-ordinated with the new Ryerson building.

    At Museum, the scheme is to come up from the south end of the platform into the north end of Queen’s Park. The original scheme involving the proposed condo on the Planetarium site fell apart when that project was cancelled.


  19. Reading between the lines, there does seem to be an undercurrent of animosity between the affected homeowner and his neighbours. However, this is probably more of an internal community issue. One side claims they tried to contact the individual, the other side said he heard nothing. It’s hearsay versus hearsay. How much of an issue can we really make of this if, for the most part, the community is happy?

    The fact remains that the city does have the power to expropriate property. If it is wrong for a community to step back and allow a particular house to be expropriated, is it better or worse than if the city stepped forward and expropriated one of their own houses. The debate you end up getting into is the morality of expropriation, full stop. Is it moral?


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