The TTC’s idea of consultation – Strahmore aveune

Tyler Anderson/National Post

Tyler Anderson/National Post

Lisa Dymond poses for a portrait with her 1-year-old daughter Isobel, in front of their home on Strathmore Blvd. in Toronto, Tuesday, June 29, 2010. The TTC plans to expropriate part of her home, and two of her neighbours, for a second exit to the Donlands subway station

Peter Kuitenbrouwer June 30, 2010 – 7:00 am

National Post Graphics

The Plan

Suppose the Toronto Transit Commission plans to buy your house and demolish it, or dig a tunnel under your lawn, or dig a hole next to your house, with the backhoes belching diesel fumes onto your porch for a few years. Would you like to hear about this plan:

  • (a) After the work is complete.
  • (b) Via a form letter after the decision is made.
  • (c) After city council approves the project?

Please do not say none of the above — i.e., that you would prefer the TTC consult you before all of the planning has been done. Apparently, that is not an option.

Lisa and Brian Dymond of Strathmore Boulevard learned the TTC’s communications techniques the hard way this month, when, on June 17, they received a notice of a June 29 “community information meeting, Donlands & Greenwood Stations Second Exit.”
The form letter included a colour rendering of her block, with a red box over the two semi-detached houses next door, indicating them as the site of a second exit to the Donlands station, and a red line under her lawn.

“They’ve already selected a site, they’re already surveying, and they’ve got a red box over people’s homes,” Ms. Dymond, a project leader with the Boston Consulting Group, said yesterday, sitting at her dining room table, which was littered with the tools of her campaign for respect: BlackBerrys, cellular phones, letters and documents and an IBM ThinkPad.

“That doesn’t smell like consultation. It smells like notification.”

There is still hope, albeit slim: Council must still approve the release of funds needed to buy various properties and building rights.

The Dymonds bought their home more than two years ago, and have a lovely front yard where tiger lilies and hydrangea bloom.

On Tuesday, two surveyors with MMM Group, contracted by the TTC, worked on a topographic survey of the corner of Strathmore and Dewhurst boulevards, marking manhole covers, catchment basins, curbs and signs. A surveyor said he did not know why.

Ms. Dymond, who just completed maternity leave with her daughter, Isobel, is a firm believer in transit. On Tuesday, she caught the subway to City Hall to take a meeting with TTC chairman Adam Giambrone and give him a piece of her mind.

“I felt incredibly shocked and betrayed by the TTC,” she said. “I believe that in order to build a strong city with a strong transit system, you need to involve citizens.”

A letter to the couple from Domenic Garisto, the TTC’s chief property development officer, mailed June 16, says “the TTC has completed a fire and life safety assessment on Bloor and Danforth,” and has to build second subway exits at Donlands and neighbouring Greenwood subway stations. The letter warns that “property requirements … could include:

“The permanent acquisition of an entire property; permanent acquisition of a below- or above-grade portion of the property [or] temporary acquisition of a portion of the property for construction purposes.”

A June 2 TTC document, which describes the property the TTC needs for the proposed second exits, offers a wacky and revealing look at TTC process. “The initial plan was to hold the public information session after the city council approval. However, through the ongoing discussions with city staff on the property acquisition process, it was determined that holding the public information session before city council approval is a better approach in a number of ways. It would enhance the public consultation process throughout the project; encourage public participation and acceptance of the project and impact to their neighbourhood.”

Mr. Giambrone’s office agreed to a meeting with the Post on Tuesday, but later cancelled that meeting. He was expected to attend Tuesday night’s information meeting.

Brad Ross, a TTC spokesman, said, “Clearly people are upset, so our job is to listen and to explain. This is a fire-safety issue and a ventilation issue. To bring it to code, we have to have a second egress.”

On Tuesday, no one answered the door at numbers 1 and 3 Strathmore Blvd., which the TTC plans to demolish for a new station exit. A lock box used by real estate agents was affixed to the balcony of No. 1.

One wonders, sometimes, at the TTC’s strategic direction. Our transit commission is trying to push through its multi-billion-dollar light-rail expansion, build a subway to York University, and order new streetcars, and yet somehow finds time and money to expropriate homeowners at some of its sleepiest subway stations, to install more doors.

If indeed this Danforth project is necessary, the TTC should change its tone, Ms. Dymond suggests.

“It’s an opportunity for the TTC, which has been plagued by PR issues, to develop a leading-edge model for public engagement which they’re going to need as they develop all of these other projects.”  

National Post


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