The Ontario Line sees a steady flow of ongoing public feedback – but what happens to it once it’s received?

Earlier this year, Metrolinx reached out to people living along Toronto’s proposed Ontario Line route to share information and gather feedback. This was the first of continuing opportunities for dialogue – and there was lots of conversation.

Metrolinx asked.

And you’ve responded.

Every major transit project is built on a bedrock of feedback from the neighbourhoods it runs through, as well as the response from customers who will one day climb onboard.

Even during this health pause, consultation and dialogue are important to the future of transit.

People gather in a church for a public meeting.

In this image, taken before COVID-19 changed the way we meet and interact, Toronto residents gathered for a Ontario Line community meeting. (Scott Money photo)

A newly released Engagement Summary Report – you can find that by clicking here – documents the views expressed in a series of recent public consultations, as Metrolinx advances plans for the Ontario Line.

It was prepared for Metrolinx by infrastructure firm AECOM.

“The Metrolinx team tasked with undertaking the Ontario Line is attuned to the sensitivities of preparing to build in such a vibrant city,” said Franca Di Giovanni, Metrolinx director of community relations for Toronto region. “We take people’s comments very seriously, and making this report public is part of an open and ongoing dialogue around Ontario Line planning.”

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CLICK HERE TO SEE HOW YOUR FEEDBACK IS USED

The report breaks down online comments as well as written and verbal feedback collected at the first series of open houses, held between Jan. 23 and Feb. 5. Residents came to five locations – the Ontario Science Centre, Ryerson University, the Metropolitan Community Church, Exhibition Place and Estonia House.

More than 1,400 people took part.

“They were really, really well attended and we heard a lot interesting questions,” said Carrie Sheaffer, Metrolinx senior manager, environmental program.

“We met people with very reasonable concerns looking for more information.”

These sessions were launched in January to get public input early in the Ontario Line planning, while environmental investigations are still underway. At the next round of consultations, to be held this spring, Metrolinx will have more details to share.

Early environmental reports will be available for public review and comment this fall, long before a contract is awarded for construction in 2022.

Metrolinx routinely uses open houses and other public meetings to get input into its construction projects. These events have a history of impacting certain elements of Metrolinx plans.

“When we hear from the public, sometimes it turns our minds to something new and additional studies to stress test ideas,” Sheaffer said.

People gather in a room.

In this file photo, taken before COVID-19 changed public meetings and interactions, residents gathered to share ideas for Ontario Line. (Metrolinx photo)

For example, local suggestions influenced the design and location of the new Cedarvale station for the Crosstown light rail transit line, being built under the existing Eglinton West subway station, said Di Giovanni.

First, residents asked for an entrance on the south side of Eglinton, opposite the existing station, so pedestrians would not have to cross a busy street. Then, after plans were drawn with the entrance on the site of a park, Metrolinx accepted the suggestion that it could instead be placed in a parking lot.

As planning proceeds, the Ontario Line dialogue will eventually reach that level of detail. At this stage, opinions are being collected on the broader vision of the proposal.

Five overall themes emerged from the feedback – budget costs and timeline, community impacts, environmental impacts, technology used for Ontario Line and alignment.

Here’s what’s been asked:

  • What is most important to you about this project?
  • What would you like to hear more about?
  • How would you like to hear from us going forward?
  • Is there anything we missed? Any additional thoughts or concerns about the Ontario Line?

On the Metrolinx Engage website, people also responded to these same questions, and their feedback is also factored into the report.

Through the rest of 2020, and into 2021, environmental investigations and reports will be conducted, along with additional public and stakeholder engagement activities.

The investigations and reports will establish baseline conditions, complete impact assessments and develop mitigation measures for the archaeology, noise and vibration, soil and rock, and cultural heritage considerations along the proposed route.

“We went out to present the project in the early, early stages,” Sheaffer said about the first round of open houses.

”We want to hear what you say about it, what some of your concerns are, and what you would like to see going forward, so that can inform the next round of consultations.

“Hopefully we will have more of your questions answered the next time out, when we are further ahead in the design,” she added.

Keep reading Metrolinx News to learn more about the Ontario Line and future open houses. Because you have more to say, and we have lots more to report back to you.

In fact, now that we have your attention, to see other Ontario Line stories, just click here.

Story by Mike Winterburn, Metrolinx Senior Advisor