From Ontario Line to digital signs – Scarborough takes center stage with transit conversation during latest Metrolinx town hall

Talk about engagement – the open-mic line to talk with Metrolinx leaders was impressive and the event went half an hour longer than expected, due to feedback.

The questions were – like the transit services themselves – in-depth and crossed the map.

Metrolinx held another in their continuing series of town hall community meetings in Scarborough last night (Dec. 5), and the queue was so long to speak to the provincial agency’s senior leadership, the event ran into overtime.

The rotunda of Scarborough Civic Centre was transformed into an auditorium for the tenth installment of the ongoing town hall series.

A sign points the way to the Metrolinx town hall

There were questions about Ontario Line, and how the massive transit project will be built.

Some of the feedback centred on the south and north end of the new Toronto subway line. One resident wondered whether Metrolinx will need to build above ground tracks and whether the transit agency is considering underground alternatives for portions, specifically south of Eastern Avenue.

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said an above ground track would help connect to the future East Harbour station. It’s a hub that will serve and connect two important, emerging districts – the east side of the Don River and the West Don Lands. Verster emphasized that community engagement will be vital as teams advance plans for this important project.

A camera points at Metrolinx CEO, Phil Verster, as he answers a question.

Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster answers a question from the floor. (Nitish Bissonauth photo)

Other audience members wondered about some train runs with few passengers on weekends and the whistle cessation along the Stouffville Corridor. Residents from Markham made the trip to the Scarborough Civic Centre to talk directly to senior transit brass about the issue of noise.

“We have whistles for safety,” said Verster, who explained Metrolinx is working with Transport Canada and the City of Markham.

“Some of the safety work wasn’t complete and we are reviewing the work that needs to be done. What you’re asking for is very practical and reasonable.”

Verster said the work is nearly complete.

Phil Verster motions to the crowd, as others listen while seated in a large room.

The rotunda of Scarborough Civic Centre was turned into a town hall. (Nitish Bissonauth photo)

On the issue of some trains running with low numbers of riders, the transit leader noted, with the introduction of any new service, it takes time to build ridership. But Verster said the need is there.

“Build and they will come,” he said. “Ridership will grow.”

Mark Childs, Metrolinx’s chief marketing officer, took the microphone to answer questions about reduced fares for off-peak ridership.

“I’m really pleased to share that last Sunday we launched a pilot called Sunday Funday, which allows customers to ride across the region for $10,” he told the crowd.

Childs said the initial introduction of the pilot has seen great results and will run through February.

PRESTO Executive Vice President, Annalise Czerny, also weighed in on the future of the fare payment system, saying investment is being made for new machines across the system.

Community members and transit customers had suggestions as well as questions. There was a call for digital signage on board trains to help with announcement for those who are hearing impaired, as well as a shuttle network to get to GO stations. Both ideas were well received by members of Metrolinx senior management.

An engineer looks over a monitor as the town hall takes place.

An engineer records the town hall. (Nitish Bissonauth photo)

The town hall series hits the road again and will be heading to Hamilton and Niagara in 2020. To learn more, just click here.

Story by Nitish Bissonauth, Metrolinx bilingual spokesperson, media relations and issues specialist.