Building transit in a large, urban landscape is a big challenge. With the region decades behind on building much-needed subways, getting shovels in the ground and keeping priority transit projects on track is more important than ever. Here’s what it means to those living and working near some major transit projects around Toronto.
Building transit quickly and efficiently means using the right tools.
This feature is about one of those important tools – ‘transit corridor lands’. Created under the Building Transit Faster Act, 2020,transit corridor lands will help Metrolinx ensure priority subway projects stay on track.
Many who own or occupy these lands will likely experience little to no impacts. For others, it may mean a small change to business as usual.
Let’s review the landscape first.
Over the next 10 years, Metrolinx will add more than 40 kilometres of new subway lines, almost 50 kilometres of new light rail transit lines, more than 200 kilometres of new GO train tracks and upwards of 100 new stations and stops to help people move throughout Toronto and the Greater Golden Horseshoe Region. These new connections will be crucial in supporting the nearly 10 million people who are expected to live in the region within the next two decades.
But before these benefits can be realized, these projects need to be built. When building transit, construction can be disruptive and frustrating, both for those living and working next to construction sites and those who need to travel through them. Preventing delays known to slow down transit construction can help reduce this disruption and ensure that communities enjoy the benefits of rapid transit sooner.
To avoid the types of delays that have bogged down transit projects in the past, areas called transit corridor lands are being created around for four priority transit projects – the Ontario Line, the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension, the Scarborough Subway Extension and the Yonge North Subway Extension.
“The creation of transit corridor lands will ultimately help Metrolinx shorten planning and construction timelines for these projects, meaning fewer community disruptions in the long run,” explains Jason Ryan, vice-president of pre-construction services at Metrolinx.
“These changes will give us a better understanding of what work might be happening along the transit corridor so that we can avoid unnecessary construction delays and give property owners more certainty about the changes and improvements they want to make to their properties.”
The boundaries for the transit corridor lands are set by looking at the existing local infrastructure, the route and design of the transit line, and how each line will be built. A 30-metre buffer area is then set around the lands to allow for any other needs that come up through further design and construction work.
WORKING WITH THOSE NEARBY PROJECTS
People who own or occupy property within the transit corridor lands and the 30-metre buffer areas will receive written notification, which will provide further details about what the transit corridor land designation means for them. Letters will be going out shortly to those along the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension and Scarborough Subway Extension corridors, with notifications to those along the Ontario Line and Yonge North Subway Extension following a little later this year.
The reality of building transit in developed urban areas means Metrolinx planners and builders need to access properties to conduct studies and gather important information before starting construction. They may also need to remove things that might cause a safety issue once construction is underway, like trees or hedges.
Just like today, Metrolinx will work with property owners to come to an agreement on when these sorts of activities can take place. However, on occasion, owners and occupants may receive notice of the activities that need to take place, which will allow workers to be on site. These notices would be given at least 30 days in advance and only if an agreement can’t be negotiated within project timelines. None of the work will occur inside anyone’s home.
Another new condition that applies to those on or within 30 metres of transit corridor land is to coordinate with Metrolinx for certain construction work on their property. The goal is to provide property owners, whether it be a large condo developer or the owner of a detached home, with more clarity and certainty around any property improvements they may be planning. These property owners will now work with Metrolinx to get permits directly from the organization before carrying out certain kinds of work on their land. While it may sound like additional red tape at first, it will actually help ensure that planned projects are properly coordinated and will not interfere with each other.
“Previously, there were no requirements to notify Metrolinx of any construction next to its transit projects,” Ryan explains. “This meant delays not only to transit construction, but also challenges for property owners undertaking improvements to their property who might have had to change plans or redo work that had already been completed.”
Construction of things like an extension on a home, a new deck or a pool are examples of the kind of work that would require a permit from Metrolinx. Work on the interior of a home, like a kitchen renovation or adding a new bathroom, would not.
OPENING THE LINES OF COMMUNICATION
Consider the before scenario: You are planning to build an in-ground pool, or an addition on your home. You’re not aware that it may actually conflict, or be somehow impacted by, planned construction of a new transit line that will serve your community. You finalize your plans and you start building, only to find out that you may need to pause your work because it poses a design, structural, or safety risk to you or for nearby transit construction.
Now with these new policies, Metrolinx can help property owners avoid this situation because they’ll check in with Metrolinx early on in their own planning processes to ensure the designs and manner of construction are compatible, and to see what permits they might need. This important new step will help transit construction stay on schedule, make sure families and neighbourhoods aren’t disrupted any longer than they have to be, and give property owners certainty about the improvements they can make. Getting plans approved and properly lined up early on will help people save time and avoid extra work.
Planning and building transit can be long and disruptive, and finding ways to do things better and faster will cut down on the time people have to deal with construction impacts. If you think of it in terms of short-term pain for long-term gain, these changes will ensure any pain is even more short-term so communities can spend more time benefiting from efficient transit.
For more information about owning or living on land near Metrolinx transit projects, attend one of two virtual question and answer sessions that will be held – one on March 30 for the Scarborough Subway Extension and another on March 31 for the Eglinton Crosstown West Extension.
You can find out more about those sessions by visiting Metrolinx.com/ScarboroughSubway or Metrolinx.com/EglintonWest. You can also find more information about property and transit construction at Metrolinx.com/property.
Story by Kimberly Murphy, Metrolinx senior advisor, Subways