Jason Paris has two great loves: broadcasting and urban planning. It was his affection for the latter that saw him lace up footwear, dress in warm clothing, and head out of his downtown Toronto home to walk the length of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT route.
Jason Paris’ connection to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT began before major construction.
It was 2012, and Metrolinx had launched a tunnel boring machine naming contest for the 19 kilometre, 25 station line that would run along Eglinton Avenue between Mount Dennis (Weston Road) and Kennedy Station.
The four winning submissions were announced in 2013: Dennis and Lea, for the Mount Dennis and Leaside neighbourhoods, and Don and Humber, for the community rivers.
Paris, who submitted the winning Dennis and Lea names, was offered the opportunity to witness the launch of the giant machines at Black Creek Drive in spring 2013.
“I felt a little bit of ownership,” he said of the project. “I would have followed (the project) anyway, but now it’s with a little more heart than if I hadn’t won.”
The transit enthusiast grew up in a one-car family in the Malton area of Mississauga, with his dad taking the car to work downtown and his mom, who didn’t get her license until Paris was 10, using public transit to get herself and her children around.
“I never had a fear of transit,” said Paris, who works for CBC as a podcast coordinator.
As he grew, so did his interest in transit, and before he knew it, the idea of walking the entire length of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line was born.
“I had heard of (project) delays and business struggling,” Paris said. “I had been along Eglinton in a car and on transit. I needed to see what’s up there.”
A cyclist, Paris knew the best way to gain an understanding and appreciation of construction and how the project would transform Eglinton Avenue was to walk it.
The trek was broken up into four legs: Kennedy Road to Pharmacy Avenue in February; Pharmacy Avenue to Laird Drive in March; Laird Drive to Cedarvale in early April; and the final leg of Cedarvale to Mount Dennis, which was completed Easter Sunday.
Paris, wearing layers and switching between hiking boots and running shoes, solely relied on the businesses he came across for food and water.
“I was at the mercy at what I found along the route,” he said.
And what exactly did he find?
A smorgasbord of international cuisine, from Colombian (Paris stopped for empanadas near the future Fairbank Station, noting a #ShopEglinton sign hung behind the counter), to Filipino (a bite of the Asian cuisine happened just west of Little Jamaica).
He was also surprised to find a lot less strip malls in Scarborough than he thought there would be, and single-family homes with front and backyards in Leaside.
He was also able to locate a mosque just south of the future Mount Dennis Station for his friend, who had accompanied him on one of the legs, to do his prayers.
“The midtown skyline is interesting,” Paris said. “When you live downtown, you can (look south) and see the bigger buildings. Don Mills has a skyline, Yonge and Eglinton has a skyline, maybe Mount Dennis will have a skyline. You can see the potential for wayfinding tools. Once I walked (the Eglinton Crosstown LRT route), it was easier to visualize all the transit options that will open up. You start to see the city a little differently. Your mind already sees that map permanently. For me, it’s about connecting with neighbourhoods inside the city.”
Paris, who is toying with walking or cycling the Ontario Line and Eglinton Crosstown West Extension routes, said the Eglinton Crosstown LRT route reminds him, in some ways, of transit found in New York City.
“I’ve travelled to New York City many times and the 7 train to Queens is known as the ‘International Express’,” he said of the nickname given to the line that runs through diverse neighbourhoods.
“Walking the Crosstown makes me feel like the Crosstown can be our International Express.”
Story by Fannie Sunshine, media relations advisor