Toronto-Danforth Councillor to help form city sub-committee tracking Metrolinx’s plans for Ontario Line
Toronto and East York Community Council has unanimously supported the creation of a sub-committee made up of three councillors to monitor Metrolinx’s work on the Ontario Line subway extension
Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher, together with Spadina-Fort York Councillor Ausma Malik and Toronto Centre Councillor Chris Moise, called for the creation of the committee at the Feb. 23 Community Council meeting.
They said community members and political representatives have been left in the dark about the specifics of the plans by Metrolinx, the provincial transit agency, for the building of the Ontario Line.
“This sub-committee will allow the City of Toronto to set clear recommendations to Metrolinx to ensure the best results are achieved for Toronto residents in terms of design, construction and community benefit,” said Fletcher in a news release.
She said that all three councillors involved in the proposal represent the wards that are most affected by the Ontario Line within the Toronto and East York Community Council area.
The Ontario Line, which is expected to be 15.6 kilometres long, was announced by Premier Doug Ford in 2019. It will make it easier for commuters to travel from Exhibition Place to the Ontario Science Centre, running through the heart of downtown along with neighbourhoods in Riverdale, Leslieville and East York.
The aim of the line is to reduce travel by more than half. It currently takes 70 minutes to complete this trip via transit, however, with the addition of this new line, it will now only take 30 minutes for passengers to commute from end to end.
Metrolinx says the Ontario Line, once completed, will also significantly reduce crowding in the current transit network. The line adds connections to “more than 40 other travel options along the way”.
These include the TTC’s Line 1, Line 2, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT, connections to streetcar lines at 10 stations, connections to buses at 12 Ontario Line stations, as well as three GO Transit rail lines.
Although this project will positively impact the city’s network of transportation services—trains arriving as frequently as every 90 seconds during rush hour—many critics have cited issues with some of the construction plans which will now cost between $17 billion to $19 billion.
Most recently, the Law Society of Ontario, which jointly owns the Osgoode site alongside the province and Metrolinx, challenged plans to cut down trees on the historic grounds of Osgoode Hall, at Queen Street West and University Avenue, to build a station on the line.
Metrolinx said the cutting of the trees was a must for the Ontario Line project to proceed. “Building a new subway line through Canada’s largest city means unavoidable impacts to things like trees, buildings, and roads, and Metrolinx makes every effort to mitigate those impacts,” read a statement by Metrolinx on its official website.
Metrolinx said that due to the space constraints at the intersection where Osgoode Hall is located, there was no other viable option where a connection to Line 1 can be built.
For the connection to be efficiently built, Metrolinx said a construction shaft, which will allow for the excavation and construction of large underground complex where commuters can transfer between services, is needed. Metrolinx said the southwest section of the intersection is the only space able to accommodate this.
Some had suggested moving this construction from the northeast corner of the intersection to the middle of University Avenue. However this could potentially halt Line 1 subway service “for several years”, said Metrolinx.
The Law Society of Ontario had a temporary injunction to stop the cutting of the trees at Osgoode Hall, but that is no longer in force.
Fletcher said residents and community stakeholders along many sections of the Ontario Line including the East Toronto sections are expressing “frustration about the lack of public engagement and communication from Metrolinx on construction, traffic, tree canopy, and business impacts of this important new transit infrastructure”.
However, Metrolinx told Beach Metro Community News that they regularly share updates and seek feedback about plans in communities across the city.
“Metrolinx is committed to keeping communities informed as we move through the project,” said a spokesperson for the company. “This means opportunities for community engagement as we reach new project milestones or when we’re looking for input from the community on a specific area of the project.”
Metrolinx didn’t provide specific details about avenues they’ve so far created for public engagement, but they expressed that feedback from the public has been taken into account alongside considerations such as technical feasibility.
“We also continue to work closely with our partners at the City of Toronto, meeting on a weekly basis,” said the spokesperson.
Beginning later this month, the councillors involved are hoping the Ontario Line sub-committee meetings will create a clear line of communication between councillors and Metrolinx.
Residents will also have the opportunity to provide feedback about their thoughts on the Ontario Line and how it impacts their communities.
For more information on the Ontario Line, please visit https://www.metrolinx.com/en/projects-and-programs/ontario-line
Amarachi Amadike, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Beach Metro Community News