Community groups who feel railroaded by province’s fast-tracked transit plans to hold a protest over ‘reckless’ tactics

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What do homeowners in Thornhill, nature lovers in Don Valley, and community advocates in Thorncliff Park have in common? They all say that they are being tougher than Metrolinx.

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A coalition of community groups from across the GTA is due to hold a protest in Queens Park on Wednesday to oppose the provincial agency’s approach to building transit projects.

The group, which includes Save Jimmy Simpson, Transit for Pep Area Concerned Citizens and Keep the Subway on Yong, say they support the creation of the Transit, but have described the province’s “unilateral and reckless” strategy as their strategy. Unite in opposition. . They express a range of concerns about the effects of transit construction, ranging from environmental destruction and physical damage to property to systemic racism.

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“The Ontario Line, the Yonge North Subway Extension, and their plans for the GO expansion will irreversibly damage our greenspaces, small businesses, schools, and homes,” the group says in a press release for the Build Transit Better rally, where Green’s Leaders of the Ontario Party Mike Schreiner (Guelph) and NDP MPP Peter Tabens (Toronto-Danforth) are also due to speak.

“I think some of those are legitimate concerns, I think some of them are few,” said Tricia Wood, director of the graduate program in geography at the University of York, about Metrolinux’s group’s criticisms of the group. She said NIMBY-fueled concerns about property values ​​are probably behind the objections of some groups.

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But Wood acknowledged that Metrolinux had not done enough of a public consultation. She said part of the problem is the organization, a provincial crown corporation with no direct representation from cities or communities, hinders its projects. “I think they’re very disconnected,” she said.

It also said that Metrolinux’s adamant approach leaves it open to criticism. The agency has defended its controversial decision to build parts of the 16-kilometre Ontario Line above ground as a way to control costs, while requiring billions of dollars of additional spending to build projects such as the Eglinton West LRT Underground. have also been planned. “They don’t have the credibility they need because they are so inconsistent,” Wood said.

Metrolinux spokeswoman Anne Marie Aikins said the agency actively consults with all communities affected by its projects, including online and site tours, technical briefings and mail drops. It has also recently opened community offices so that it can resume in-person consultations.

But she acknowledged that “building large, long-overdue transit projects in densely urbanized cities like Toronto can be challenging,” especially for those living close to construction. “We work with the community as much as we can to reduce that impact,” she said.

The Ontario government, which has passed legislation to fast-track “the most ambitious subway expansion plan in Canadian history,” said community input remains a priority as it supports Premier Doug Ford’s $28.5 billion GTA subway program and a major pursues expansion. Go Transit.

“Our government fully expects Metrolinx to remain accountable to the communities they serve and to provide thoughtful, meaningful consultations,” said Natasha Tremblay, spokeswoman for Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney.

Take a look at some of the groups staging the Build Transit Better protest, what they’re fighting for, and Metrolinux’s response.

save jimmy simpson

Area: Leslieville and Riverside

Claim: GO’s plan to build a section of the $11 billion Ontario line above ground via the Lakeshore East Rail Corridor would “destroy” five local parks, and cause “dangerous levels of noise, vibration and pollution.” Save Jimmy Simpson wants the line underground.

Feedback: By building the line within the rail corridor, there will be less disruption to the surrounding areas, and no park will be lost. The electric trains used for the line will be quieter and less polluting.

save tea park

Area: thorncliffe park

Claim: The 175,000-square-meter Ontario Line train yard planned for the area would displace small businesses, eliminate scarce community space, and damage the economy of an already vulnerable, largely immigrant neighborhood. The group accuses Metrolinx of “environmental racism”.

Feedback: The site selected has the least potential impact on the surrounding community, and Metrolinx is consulting with local residents to determine whether it may include greater benefits for the neighborhood. This facility will create 300 jobs.

don’t mess with don

Area: don valley

Claim: A layover to store GO trains heading east of the Don Valley would damage the environment, disrupt wildlife migration and interfere with the residents’ enjoyment of the Lower Don River Trail.

Feedback: Metrolinux changed the location and reduced the facility’s footprint in response to community feedback. Access to the trail will be maintained, and landscaping will blend the layover into the surrounding green space.

Friends of Small Creek

Area: Upper Beach and East Danforth

Claim: The addition of a fourth track on GO’s Lakeshore East Corridor would result in the “destruction” of ecologically sensitive urban green spaces in Small Creek and Williamson’s ravines. The group wants Metrolinx to re-evaluate its plans to widen the corridor, and to produce a proactive environmental management plan.

Feedback: Many of the trees that will be cut down are invasive species, and Metrolinx will plant as many native varieties as possible to replace them. The retaining wall design being used is the least intrusive option.

put the subway on the yong

Area: Thornhill, York area

Claim: Revised plans to move the Yonge North Subway extension away from Yonge Street to run under the Royal Orchard residential neighborhood would damage homes, and have “adverse environmental, economic, health and social impacts”.

Feedback: Subway tunnels would be at least 20 meters below the ground, and any sounds or vibrations would be “practically imperceptible.”

Ben Spur is a Toronto-based reporter who covers transportation. Contact him by email at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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