On Monday December 3, 2012 the Toronto Transit Commission held a public meeting from 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at Wilkinson Junior Public School near Donlands Station. Over 120 people attended with 90 people signing in. The meeting consisted of presentations by Andy Byford, Chief Executive Officer, and Anna Pace, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the TTC’s Engineering, Construction and Expansion Department about planned improvements to Donlands and Greenwood station, followed by a question and answer session. Participants had the opportunity to ask questions, speak about their concerns and to provide feedback to the senior management team. TTC Chair Karen Stintz and Ward 29 Councillor Mary Fragedakis also attended the meeting.

Andy Byford had previously notified the community in a letter dated November 27, 2012 that, given the community’s concerns about public involvement in the planning for the Second Exits, further planning for Donalnds  Station improvements (Easiser Access & Second Exit) was deferred for two years and Greenwood Station Second Exit construction was deferred to 2017. The meeting provided an opportunity for TTC to discuss these decisions, and for participants to learn more about the projects and ask questions. Andy Byford emphasized that the primary purpose of the meeting was for the TTC to hear from the community regarding the issues and concerns around the planned improvements to the stations and the approach to consultation with the community.

Notification

The event was publicized to the local community using the following methods:

  • Email and addressed mail on November 16, 2012 to a list of people  who had previously expressed interest in the project;
  • Canada Post mailing of 7200 notices to all properties within approximately 800m of the stations;
  • Door to door notice drop off  in the vicinity of the two stations on Strathmore,  Dewhurst, Donlands, Linnsmore, and Greenwood;
  • Additional email  to the project contact list on Tuesday, November 27;
  • Notice of the meeting was also posted on ttc.ca and via posters at Donlands and Greenwood stations on Tuesday, November 20, 2012.

Community Feedback

TTC staff distributed comment sheets to all participants asking several questions aimed at improving engagement and communications for construction projects. Respondents were asked which form of consultation they favour, with the majority ranking Town Hall meetings as their preferred method of consultation. Facilitated roundtable discussions were ranked second, and online consultations were ranked as the least preferred method.

When asked how they wished to be kept up-to-date about construction projects, the majority ranked email as the preferred method of communication, while social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter ranked lowest.

The vast majority of respondents identified themselves as local residents. All relevant comment sheets and tweets received were responded to directly. Below is a summary of the various issues raised during the meeting, along with the responses.

Location of Donlands Second Exit

Issues:
Participants posed questions related to a Second Exit for Donlands Station. One attendee asked whether the TTC could provide a list of all potential Second Exits (see below, Appendix, A) for the station with a list of pros and cons for each choice. Another participant wondered what standards are being used to determine the placement of the Second Exit.

Several participants voiced opinions about where the Second Exit should be located. One attendee questioned why the TTC is not pursuing a Danforth Avenue location. Several participants brought it to the team’s attention that the church on Dewhurst Boulevard is up for sale, and wondered whether that could be used as a Second Exit for Donlands Station.

Response:
The TTC is committed to a fresh start on the evaluation process, meaning none of the suggested locations for a Second Exit are preferred over any others. The TTC will supply the list of options that was produced previously for Second Exits, including those submitted by local residents.

Easier Access program

Issues:
There were multiple questions regarding the Easier Access (EA) program to add elevators and other accessibility improvements to stations, with several attendees asking why the EA program is not being implemented immediately for the Donlands and Greenwood projects. One participant questioned why the program was being deferred at a time when there is a large group of aging residents in the area and stressed the urgency of the program. Another respondent suggested that TTC should build the elevator for the benefit of the majority of TTC users if the disruption from constructing it is limited to a small area.

Response:
The Easier Access and Second Exit programs are being coordinated to minimize disruption to TTC customers and local communities, to avoid a situation where the station (and local community) is disrupted three separate times for the Easier Access program, then Second Exit and then (in the case of Donlands) potentially for the Downtown Relief Line subway construction.

Community impact

Issues:
A local realtor attending the meeting asked for more information so that the community can move ahead with plans to make important decisions. She asked whether the TTC is currently negotiating with property owners, and if so which properties. She also expressed her desire to see the Second Exit on Danforth Avenue.

Response:
Because this is a fresh start, all options are on the table for both Donlands and Greenwood stations, and new ideas will be accepted. Negotiations are currently underway with several property owners near Donlands station in order to keep all options available. The TTC is in negotiations with the owners of 1 and 3 Strathmore, and these negotiations will continue. This does not mean that the Second Exit will be located in that location; it is one of many options being considered.

Consultation process and community involvement

Issues:
The meeting was well attended by members of the local community, many of whom voiced their desire for more community involvement going forward. One participant suggested that community consultation should include local architects, designers and engineers, some of whom were present at the meeting, who would like to get involved in the design and overall process. Another attendee expressed a desire to provide input into the evaluation process and matrix for decision making, and wondered whether there would be a voting process on decisions.

One participant questioned why no information about the TTC’s new community relations team, established in the Engineering Construction and Expansion department in January 2012, was provided to the community and local councillor.  Another participant asked why the community was not informed of the TTC Commission meeting in December-January where the Second Exit budget was re-instated.

The community also provided feedback and suggestions for the ongoing consultations on construction programs, including:

  • Holding a design charrette
  • Providing cold water and comfortable chairs for all attendees
  • Discussing Donlands and Greenwood in separate meetings rather than together
  • Answering each question as it is asked rather than collecting a number of questions and answering them together
  • There was also a complaint from one attendee that at the last Open House she attended there was no opportunity to speak one-on-one with the project team.

Response:
Because TTC is committed a fresh start, we will not be coming to the community with a pre-conceived design. All options will be considered. There will be an opportunity for community input into the evaluation and decision process and criteria; however final decisions will not be based on a community vote.

The community was not informed about the community relations group because all design and consultation work on Donlands and Greenwood was suspended while the Ombudsman’s report was pending. There was no consultation with the community during the December-January timeline in order to allow the Ombudsman to prepare her report.

The approved 2012 TTC Capital Budget included full funding for Donlands Station  Second Exit and Easier Access projects with construction starting in 2014.

The 2013 TTC Capital Budget approved by the City of Toronto City Council on January 15 and 16, 2013 deferred construction of Donlands Station Second Exit and Easier Access for two years. 

Andy Byford restated that the TTC is committed to a new consultation process with a review of all potential options for a Second Exit location, and if there are additional recommendations we would like to receive them. Suggestions such as the design charrette are exactly the type of feedback that can help improve the overall consultation process.

Ombudsman Report

Issues:
The Ombudsman Report was a frequent topic of conversation during this session. One attendee asked whether Andy Byford accepts the Ombudsman’s report in full, including “issues related to manipulation of data, misleading and lying to the community, requesting urban design consultants to change recommendations, and basing decisions on rules (NFPA) that do not exist such as the ‘two-minute rule?’” Another participant expressed that the community was told that a “two-minute rule” existed, but the Ombudsman report said that NFPA rules were ignored or not interpreted properly. A new resident to the community also stated that he had heard that information was manufactured in the past, and wondered how he could trust the TTC today.

Response (from Andy Byford):
We accept the recommendations in the Ombudsman report but do not accept the report in full. I will provide a response explaining the reasons why I do not accept the report in full, and I reject suggestions that any data was changed to mislead the community. The TTC recognizes that there is no specific “two-minute rule.” The TTC’s interpretation of the NFPA rules during the design and consultation process was poor and not clearly explained, and was regrettably referred to as the “two-minute rule.” The key point here is that we need to provide a safe and speedy exit for our customers while balancing the needs of the local community.

We need a fresh start. In the past, our planning approach placed too much emphasis on policy, scope, technical and environmental feasibility. Going forward, we need to include public and community input and budget and schedule as key decision making factors.

I am new to the TTC as is the unit set up specifically to improve consultation with communities. We are committed to consulting earlier. Ultimately, it is up to us to earn your trust. The future outcome may not be agreed upon by everyone, but we are committed to an open and transparent process that fully involves the community fairly.

Design and construction

Issues:
Respondents asked questions about station design and construction activities, and provided some suggestions. Several participants asked whether the TTC has any “green” standards for their buildings and construction. One participant asked why the TTC held a meeting without an architectural design. There were questions about the Second Exit, including how far the Second Exit must be built from the main entrance and why an entire building is needed for the exit instead of a simple stairwell like on King Street. Other general questions included how noxious materials like asbestos are disposed of during construction, what button scheme or standard the TTC uses on its elevators, and whether more mature trees can be planted as part of the project.

Response:
The TTC follows the Toronto Green Development Standards. It is premature to develop any architectural design at this stage, as there is no consensus on the final location for Donlands or Greenwood as of yet. Once locations are identified, the community has expressed a desire to become involved in the design process.The placement of the Second Exit from the main entrance is based on numerous factors, including passenger and worker safety. We will re-evaluate the design criteria, including the requirement of structures, and will report back on this as well as the request for a stairwell exit. There will be a full re-assessment coordinated with the Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit to develop a new standard layout for the elevator button scheme. TTC commits to providing full and complete information about the requirements for Second Exits with the new consultation approach.

Greenwood Station

Issues:
Some questions at the meeting were specifically about Greenwood Station. One attendee asked whether the TTC will provide timelines for construction at Greenwood. Another commented that the TTC presentation during the meeting suggested that there had been general agreement about a Second Exit location for Greenwood Station, but residents close to the station were not aware of it, and wanted to know where that information had originated.

Response:
We will report back in early 2013 on timelines for Greenwood Station. The TTC is committed to restarting the consultation on the Greenwood Station Second Exit. The last location identified for this exit was 15 Linnsmore, the corner property. However, TTC recognizes that the consultation and conclusion for the location of the Greenwood Station Second Exit was not provided to the public and commits to restart the consultation process.

Pape Station

Issues:
Some respondents attended the meeting to ask questions regarding Pape Station. One attendee asked why upgrades to the station are taking so long. Another wondered whether the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) would mean more construction at the station.

Response:
The delays at Pape station are due to utility complications. The initial drawings did not identify some very old utilities; in future, all projects will define the scope more accurately so that we do not give unrealistic completion dates at the outset. The DRL could potentially mean more construction at Pape Station, depending on whether the DRL terminus station is located at Pape or Donlands.

Downtown Relief Line

Issues:
The recent news of the Downtown Relief Line (DRL) drew multiple questions. One attendee wondered about the timing for the DRL consultation, and another asked whether Metrolinx will be involved in these consultations. Another participant questioned how the study process for the DRL would work, and whether it will include analysis of issues that could impact the community during construction, such as traffic, noise or dust.

Response:
Early consultation on the Downtown Relief Line  is tentatively scheduled for late spring or early fall 2013. Metrolinx, TTC and the City of Toronto have deemed the DRL as a priority project within the next 15 years. However, to date there has not been any funding committed to construction of the project. The Phase One DRL preliminary report is available for review. In addition to Pape Station, Donlands is a potential terminus station for this line. The DRL is part of the Metrolinx Big Move Plan, and Metrolinx is involved in the planning now underway.

The Environmental Assessment or Transit Project Assessment requested by the Province includes an overview of various environmental factors including social, economic and natural environment considerations. This includes health, traffic, neighbourhood issues and certainly construction impacts. Similarly, station related construction such as easier access or Second Exits must assess environmental and community impacts.

Appendix A

List of Potential Second Exits Previously Considered for Donlands Station

TTC Options

  • 1 & 3 Strathmore
  • 9, 10, 11 & 12 Strathmore
  • 14 & 16 Strathmore

Community Options

  • Garage on west side of Dewhurst (south of southern laneway adjacent to 14 Dewhurst)
  • Laneway south of Church  (adjacent to former Westminster Chapel - 14 Dewhurst)
  • In front of Church (14 Dewhurst)
  • TD Bank parking lot
  • On Danforth east of Dewhurst
  • On Danforth west of Dewhurst 
  • TTC Subway station property
  • Laneway north of Church  (14 Dewhurst) 
  • Dewhurst ROW
  • TPA Parking lot
  • Wilkinson Junior Public School
  • Church property with TPA (formerly Westminster Chapel -14 Dewhurst)
  • P2 – 17 & 19 Dewhurst
  • P3 –  Dewhurst curb lane
  • 26 & 28 Dewhurst