Metrolinx plans along several of its corridors have provoked community opposition and proposed alternative schemes, but Metrolinx has been quite intransigent about “just getting things built”, the mantra of the Ford government at Queen’s Park. Opposition is not merely steamrolled, but is painted as anti-transit, out of touch, and nimbyist in preventing the wider population from enjoying the benefit of new transit lines.
This does not endear Metrolinx to many groups (and they stretch well into the 905, not just central Toronto), but Metrolinx does not care. For them, it’s all about managing the message. Most communities just roll over and give in to an unstoppable force trying to make the best of a bad situation. “Consultation” amounts to picking the colour of the tiles for a bathroom reno, and hoping that the contractor actually installs the ones you selected.
Several sites along GO corridors and the Ontario Line have been subject to tree clearing either to open construction sites, or to remove trees that will conflict with electrification infrastructure. A small grove at Osgoode Hall, although far from the largest area Metrolinx has cleared, received much publicity because of its location. The northeast corner of Queen and University is a park beside one of Toronto’s oldest buildings, a green space complementing the square at City Hall just to the east and a more recent arrival, Campbell House, to the west.
Although the park was owned by the Law Society of Ontario, the portion Metrolinx requires was expropriated for the Ontario Line. The community around Osgoode Hall (a mix of the legal profession, the local BIA, residents and heritage advocates) convinced Toronto Council to undertake a review of Metrolinx plans in comparison with alternative designs that would preserve the treed parkland.
This report was produced by a consulting firm, Parsons, and was posted on the City’s website on February 4. It exists in two formats:
- Ontario Line Osgoode Station Headhouse Location Review
- Ontario Line Osgoode Station Headhouse Location Review Presentation
An interim injunction, in force until February 10, paused the felling of trees at Osgoode Hall for a time. Other locations have not been as lucky, nor have they had groups like the Law Society capable of taking on Metrolinx.
An important distinction for this site is that it also contains a heritage building, and there are concerns for potential damage Osgoode Hall might suffer from the overall construction plans. However, the injunction itself only applies to the trees, and it is not clear whether the wider issue of construction effects will form part of the broader argument when the application is heard.
Among the legal issues will be whether a heritage site with mixed ownership (the Law Society, Metrolinx and Ontario) can be treated as “indivisible” for the purpose of heritage preservation so that one owner, the LSO, can prevent changes on property of another owner, Metrolinx. There is also the question of whether Metrolinx can even be bound by an injunction as it is one of many agencies that are exempt from many provincial regulations.
- An interim injunction pauses work until February 10, with possible extension, pending further review.
- The Parsons report commissioned by the City was published at the last moment, and was seized upon by Metrolinx to justify commencement of work on the same day as the injunction hearing.
- Parsons concurs that the Metrolinx proposal is the best of those analyzed, but suggests that an alternative using the Campbell House site should be studied in more detail.
- The Campbell House option would effectively displace the house from its location, and it is doubtful that it could return in as harmonious a setting as it has today.
- Parsons does not afford the same treatment to the Osgoode Plaza proposal even though this is the major contender among the alternatives.
- The City’s inaction on the proposed Osgoode Plaza is an (almost) missed opportunity to make the new station and the intersection into a major site downtown. If this is to be pursued, prompt action by the City is needed so that Metrolinx could adjust their construction plans accordingly.
If City Council, and most importantly Mayor Tory, are serious about an alternative to the Metrolinx plans for Osgoode Station, they should proceed as quickly as possible to endorse the Osgoode Plaza scheme and work with Metrolinx to adjust construction plans for Osgoode Station on the basis of road space on University Avenue that the plaza will free up.
In the presentation accompanying the report, the Osgoode Plaza option is shown first, and it is dismissed for various reasons notably the absence of detailed studies because the City has not yet embraced the proposed reconfiguration of University Avenue. Rather than recommending that the potential of this scheme be examined in greater detail, Parsons rejects it. This effectively prejudices the report to endorse the Metrolinx scheme as the only viable option, with a faint hope alternative that is worse than the original.Continue reading