Eglinton Crosstown LRT an ‘inevitable part of growth’ – Toronto Star

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By Andrew PalamarchukReporter

Thu., Oct. 14, 20213 min. read

A Light Rail train leaves the Science Centre station along Eglinton Avenue on a test run for a media preview tour Oct. 12.

“Epic.”

That’s how transit blogger and commentator Steve Munro described the Eglinton Crosstown during a virtual town hall that looked at the community impacts of the LRT line Wednesday evening.

“Epic really is the term for it. I’m looking here at … the original schedule for Transit City and not only Eglinton but all of the Transit City lines would have opened by now if we had actually started them when they were planned to start,” Munro said. “And it’s something of a sad testimony to planning and transit funding and the politics of transit in Toronto that we’re still waiting for the first one to open, never mind all seven of them.”

The 19-kilometre Eglinton Crosstown, which is expected to open in 2022, will have 25 stops between Kennedy Road and Mount Dennis.

The town hall, moderated by toronto.com journalist David Nickle, was hosted by Metroland Media Toronto, which publishes toronto.com along with three community newspapers – the Etobicoke Guardian, North York Mirror and Scarborough Mirror. Last month, the local news-gathering organization published a series of articles looking at the future of some of the communities along the Crosstown route (which can be accessed here).

About 25 people took part in the online discussion, which featured three panellists: Munro, former City of Toronto chief planner Paul Bedford and Kumsa Baker of the Toronto Community Benefits Network.

The Crosstown has been a part of Toronto history long before a shovel ever hit the ground, said Nickle, noting that in the mid-1980s Eglinton was identified as the east-west route to do something with.

“There was a brief attempt to make a subway in the mid-‘90s that the Bob Rae government began and the Mike Harris government filled; they actually filled in the tunnel,” he said. “And finally former mayor David Miller and (former) Premier Dalton McGuinty cobbled together something called Transit City, which did include this line. It was 12 years ago that work got started on this line, and it’s been a long haul for these communities.”

Bedford said the Crosstown is an “inevitable part of growth and change,” adding the city’s population is nearly 3 million and that it’s expected to reach 4 million by 2050.

“This is going to be an important part of that transit network.”

Baker discussed the community benefits agreements that are included in large scale infrastructure projects like the Crosstown.

“We advocated to Metrolinx to negotiate and sign a community benefits framework that would apply to the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project and that included commitments around local and equity hiring, especially when it comes to apprenticeships and getting good careers in the construction industry,” he said.

“There have been 439 specific hires through the Community Benefits Program, so about 212 hires in apprenticeships and another 227 in professional, administrative and technical positions. Metrolinx has also reported about $8 million has been spent supporting local businesses along the Eglinton corridor through different purchases of goods and services.”

But Baker stressed the project has also had negative impacts on businesses along Eglinton, especially in Little Jamaica. “Metrolinx and the city, I think, have a lot to learn from that in terms of coming up with more concrete business support plans.”

Baker suggested it’s also important to build affordable housing along the route.

“There hasn’t been a lot of details that have been shared around what affordable housing will look like as part of these large-scale projects. Our city is in a housing crisis and this type of grown is needed, but how do we ensure that this grow is responsible and equitable?” he said.

“There’s definitely a role that the development industry can play as well as the city in terms of planning policies that can really help to guide and ensure that the gentrification that happens does not turn into any sort of widespread displacement of local residents and businesses, and we’ve seen some of that already through the development of the Eglinton Crosstown project.”