Stakeholder Advisory Group Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: October 23, 2017
Start Time: 6:00 p.m.
Project Name: Eglinton West LRT
Location: Martingrove Collegiate Institute – Library
Regarding: Stakeholder Advisory Group Meeting #1
Minutes Prepared By: Tiffany Dionne, AECOM

Overview

On Monday, October 23, 2017, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., the City of Toronto and Metrolinx, along with their partners TTC, hosted a Stakeholder Advisory Group (SAG) meeting for the Eglinton West LRT. The purpose of the SAG is to provide organizations representing a broad range of interests with the opportunity to learn about and provide input into the study. This first meeting focused on:

  • Project history and overview of the Eglinton West LRT;
  • Current work, including stop locations, grade separation analysis, Martin Grove and Eglinton study, traffic analysis and connection to the airport; and
  • Next Steps.

Fifteen SAG member organizations were represented, and 4 Councillor’s offices.
The format of the meeting included a presentation, a general Q&A session, followed by two (2) separate discussion groups. The minutes below outline the questions, comments and feedback received during the SAG meeting.

Attending

SAG Member

  • Glen Agar Residents Association (GARA) – Janice Charles
  • Glen Agar Residents Association (GARA) – Dan Charles
  • Cycle Toronto – John Taranu
  • Weston Village Residents Association – Luisa Bada
  • Richmond Gardens Rate Payers Association – John Disaluo
  • Richmond Gardens Rate Payers Association – Zach Suntres
  • Friends of Silver Creek – Peter Pearson
  • Friends of Silver Creek – Karl Egenberger
  • Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit (ACAT) – Raymond Dell’Aera
  • Richview Taxpayers Association – Tony DelRosso
  • Richview Rate Payers Association – Frank Pallotta
  • Lanterra Developments – Linda Warth
  • CodeRedTO – Moaz Ahmad
  • West Park Healthcare Centre – Mariela Castro

Staff

  • City of Toronto – Stephen Holyday
  • City of Toronto – Councillor John Campbell’s Office – Christine Hogarth
  • City of Toronto – Councillor Nunziata’s Office – Jennifer Cicchelli
  • City of Toronto – Councillor Ford’s Office – David DiPaul
  • City of Toronto – Mike Logan
  • City of Toronto – Maria Doyle
  • City of Toronto – Liora Freedman
  • City of Toronto – Nish Bala
  • City of Toronto – Diana Chu
  • Metrolinx – David King
  • Metrolinx – David Phalp
  • TTC – Eric Chu

Consultant Support

  • USi – Craig Lametti
  • USi – Neil Loewen
  • HDR – Cheryl Murray
  • AECOM – Alicia Evans
  • AECOM – Tiffany Dionne

Introduction and Presentation

Mike Logan (City of Toronto) opened the meeting, provided an overview of the agenda, and invited all attendees to introduce themselves and the organization that they represented. A presentation about the project was then delivered by Maria Doyle (City of Toronto).

Question and Answer Period

Following the presentation, Mike Logan noted that the general Question and Answer period would begin and encouraged anyone with a question to raise their hand. The discussion captured during the question and answer period following the presentation is summarized below. Questions are noted with a “Q”, comments with a “C” and answers with “A”. Answers were provided by Mike Logan and Maria Doyle from the City unless otherwise specified.

Q1: How would an at-grade LRT function from a traffic control perspective? Could you compare this to St. Clair streetcar? The at-grade messaging was not clear in the presentation.
A1: The Eglinton West LRT would travel down the middle of the road, using its own right-of-way with its own signals, which is why the City was asked to look at grade separations as an option LRT. Stops are further apart than streetcar stops, and the LRT vehicles are much bigger (as one LRV train is similar to three (3) streetcars linked together).
The biggest impact on general traffic would be related to how automobiles turn left across the LRT tracks. There are a couple of options to address the left turns: 1) Keep left turns as they normally function at the intersection, 2) Implement Michigan Lefts – where drivers would pass through the intersection, make a U-turn and then turn right. A better comparison to the LRT operations would be the Queen Street streetcar in the west end south of High Park, where it travels in a dedicated lane along The Queensway and has its own signals, allowing cars to make left hand turns like normal.

Q2: Would the Michigan Left option stop traffic or affect traffic flow? Synchronizing the lights in the Martin Grove area must happen because traffic becomes a standstill by 6:00 a.m.
A2: Once we address the grade separations, we will be working to optimize the corridor as a whole. The Project Team is currently taking a closer look at how traffic currently operates in the Martin Grove area with the goal of optimizing traffic for everyone.

Q3: It seems like many responses to our questions are ‘we’re going to do further studies’. If that is the case, then what are we talking about today?
A3: The Project Team is here to present the analysis of grade separations as directed by Council. We cannot optimize traffic along the corridor unless we know if the LRT will be at-grade or grade separated at various points along the corridor.

Q4: How has a cost-benefit analysis been conducted if left-hand turns and traffic management have not been dealt with yet? How do we know that the LRT will operate at full capacity? If the LRT is linked to the airport, it will be much different than if it is not linked to the airport. Has safety been considered?
A4: The numbers provided in the cost-benefit analysis are based on reasonable assumptions. We welcome feedback on the analysis. For each intersection, the consultants studied the feasibility of going above or below grade. Once the feasibility was determined, designs were developed for each grade separation and the costs were determined based on those designs. The cost and benefits provided are related to each specific structure at each grade separation location. The consultants took one (1) grade separation in isolation in the traffic model. The model determined the travel time for the LRT to travel along the corridor. The travel time for automobile traffic along the corridor was then calculated, which was done six (6) times over – once for each grade separation location. Then the difference in time savings was calculated for each grade separation compared with the at-grade option.
Additional modelling to update ridership estimates will be completed once this phase of analysis is completed and we determine the project alignment. We have a very robust computer model that shows how automobiles and the LRT behave if grade separations were in place. Our modelling shows that grade separations have benefits, but the benefit is low because there is not much time savings based on the model.

Q5: How many Michigan Lefts would be implemented? Would we lose traffic lanes?
A5: The traffic analysis conducted did not assume any Michigan Lefts: we used only standard left turns for this work because we know that the community has not been in support of Michigan Lefts in the past. There might be some benefit to implementing Michigan Lefts which we will not study There is room to construct the LRT in the middle of the roadway and keep all existing traffic lanes intact.

Q6: How were the benefits calculated? How do you go from time to dollars?
A6: The model shows some delay with the LRT restricting left turns. That delay was measured per day. The ‘per day’ delay was used to calculate the delay over one year The Project Team had to assume how much money time is worth and calculate the value (in$) of the delay of the whole.
(David King, Metrolinx) Every person has a perception of what their time is worth – usually an hour of their time is worth their hourly wage at work. The average value of time from large scale surveys conducted every five (5) years is able to determine the average value of time and converts the minutes into dollars. The benefit shown in the presentation is the benefit over the lifecycle of the Project which is a 60-year period at present-day value. There have been some assumptions made and overall they are good assumptions and are included in the standard process that is used for all Metrolinx projects and in projects across the world. Therefore, we add the delay to vehicles per day, multiplied per year, multiplied by the life of the Project. Then, the statistical value of what an hour of time is worth is calculated for the lifecycle of the Project. Then final benefit shown is for the lifecycle of the Project (60 years) and is a net benefit and net cost.

Q7: Does the model that was used increase the average earnings per year?
A7: (David King, Metrolinx) Yes, there are forecasted growth rates over time used in the modelling.

Q8: Are impacts to north/south movements captured in the model?
A8: (David King, Metrolinx) North/south movements are captured in the model. When the LRT is taken out of the centre of the roadway and placed above or below ground, Eglinton becomes narrower – with less time required for crossing, giving more time for the green light signal. This can improve north/south movements but in some cases there is also a detriment to the north/south movements.

Q9: Were the costs and benefits of grade separations modeled individually? Why were they not modelled in combination of the entire system?
A9: There were six (6) options at each of the six (6) arterial roads. The Project Team took the approach of looking at each one (1) individually. If anyone (1), two (2) or more grade separations were showing benefit, they would be modeled together. However, as of right now, there are not enough significant benefits to take the further step in modelling them together.

Q10: Is the City not prepared to absorb the $90 million cost to change the grade? Is $220 million a discounted value or an immediate cost? Is there a total cost versus a total benefit?
A10: The analysis is suggesting that the cost is not a good economic choice. The $220 million is the incremental cost for this estimate of work, which is what it would cost to build today. What also needs to be included is risk, land acquisition, and contingencies, among other extra costs. The number shown on the presentation is the lowest value. Numbers were presented as net cost and net benefit.

Q11: Why can’t the LRT be completely underground?
A11: The City was directed by City Council not to carry this option forward. In 2010, the original EA examined a subway or elevated section and it was determined that the expected future travel demand on Eglinton Crosstown LRT corridor is well below what would be required to justify the high costs. In the SmartTrack Western Corridor Feasibility Review in 2016 it was identified that tunneling underground limited the number of stops that could be provided – significantly reducing community benefits. And again, through the Initial Business Case (IBC), it was determined that a completely below-grade option should not be considered due to the limited community benefit, and high cost. There are also existing flood plains at Scarlett and Jane that would require extremely deep tunnelling at to be feasible which would significantly raise costs.

C1: As residents, we have the right to know the cost to go completely above or below grade and we deserve options. It is hard to justify why certain options were not considered.

Q12: If I call my Councillor tomorrow, will he be able to tell me what a below grade option for the entire LRT corridor would cost?
A12: The total cost of the grade separated option has reported in the Initial Business Case (IBC) in June 2016 is 2-3 billion dollars plus 800 million for operation and management. At the time the Project Team reported to Council, we were directed to only study the six (6) grade separation locations.

Q13: There would be a benefit to people who are riding the LRT, whether it be above, below or at-grade. Is this benefit included in the analysis?
A13: (David King, Metrolinx) The benefit is very minimal for above and below grade versus at-grade because the LRT would have its own right-of-way no matter what. The transit travel time savings numbers were also captured in the model. People travelling in buses, automobiles and on the LRT all receive a benefit to travel time for every grade separation but under this analysis, the benefits are not significant when compared to the cost.

Q14: There are three (3) below-grade options shown in the presentation. Is there a reason why either above-grade or below-grade options were chosen at each location? What about the entire LRT corridor being above-grade?
A14: (David King, Metrolinx) Yes, the full analysis provided in the Stage 1 Report which outlines why above- or below-grade options were chosen for each location. If the LRT corridor were to be fully above-grade, there would only be three (3) stops in total. Providing only three (3) stops does not provide good access for the local community.
(Maria Doyle, City of Toronto) In addition, if the entire LRT corridor was above-grade, there are some areas where the LRT would be running alongside windows of apartment buildings or overlooking neighbourhoods.

Q15: It seems unrealistic to say that a completely above-grade LRT has only a minimal time savings when compared to the at-grade option because of traffic. If the LRT is above-grade, it is not competing with any other traffic. The UP Express for example saves a lot of time because it is not competing with traffic. Please explain the time savings analysis.
A15: (David King, Metrolinx) UP Express is completely in an exclusive right-of-way but it is also has only a few stops. For the Eglinton West LRT, we are looking at isolated intersections. By-passing one (1) red light is an insignificant amount of time savings that is not worth the significant cost.
(Mike Logan, City of Toronto) The LRT is also required to stop at all of these locations for passenger pick-up and drop-off, so eliminating the red light is of even less benefit.

Q16: When the traffic we’re facing today in this area is being considered, it is hard to understand how the $6 million benefit at Islington Avenue is so low. All economic cost must be considered (i.e., lost business for being late). Can you explain?
A16: The benefits that are being measured are based on the benefit the grade separation has over and above the operation of an at-grade LRT and are not related to making existing traffic better that it is today.

Q17: Is there also a stop at each of the six (6) grade separated locations?
A17: Yes.

Q18: Is the Stage 1 Report available online?
A18: The Stage 1 Report will be posted on the project website but the Project Team wanted to discuss it with the SAG first. There is also a hard copy of the report available here for viewing. The Project website will be live in the next week or so with more information. All previous materials are currently available online on the SmartTrack website and new materials will be posted to the new Eglinton West LRT website. (Due to AODA compliance rules, materials not AODA compliant will not be posted on the website, but can be requested directly by emailing or calling the project team)

Discussion Groups

At 7:30 p.m., Alicia Evans (AECOM) introduced two (2) discussion groups and asked SAG members to choose one (1) group in which to take part. Alicia Evans and Tiffany Dionne (AECOM) and Liora Freedman (City of Toronto) facilitated a discussion about the Eglinton corridor visioning; Maria Doyle, (City of Toronto) facilitated a discussion about the grade separation analysis evaluation criteria.

Grade Separation Analysis Evaluation Criteria
A discussion was facilitated to gather input into the grade separation analysis evaluation criteria. Maria provided brief explanations for the eight (8) evaluation criteria which include: social equity; experience; choice; healthy neighbourhoods; shaping the city; public health and environment; affordability; and, supports growth.
The following comments were provided by participants in this discussion group:

Experience

  • Above and below grade concepts create barriers and limit mobility 
  • Ensure at least two elevators are available at each stop 
  • Stop and shelter design should be consist with Crosstown – user should not notice transition from Crosstown and Eglinton West LRT 
  • Shelter design should be protective in all weather conditions

Healthy Neighbourhoods

  • Ensure stop design meets Metrolinx design excellence
  • All glass facade will benefit community because it’s more aesthetically appealing
  • Have entrance doors away from townhomes 

Other Comments 

  • Stop at Wincott Drive is not needed as it will create more congestion 
  • At grade level option will increase traffic congestion

Corridor Planning
A discussion was facilitated to gather input into the corridor vision and options for the community in the future. Alicia asked the group the following questions with their own personal experience today in mind:

  • What do you like about the corridor today? 
  • Where do you go through the corridor, what are your frequent destinations? 
  • When you think about the corridor 20 years into the future, what would you like to see? 
  • With the LRT in place, how can we create a benefit for people living and working in the area?

The following comments were provided by members of the group: 

  • The Project Team must consider the area of West Park Healthcare Centre. By 2021 the hospital will be expanding and a new entrance will be implemented off of Emmit (between Jane and Scarlett). Many people travelling to this destination would have accessibility issues which must be considered. 
  • There is a 50% increase in population expected with the new development of the hospital which must be considered in the stop location analysis 
  • Request for stops at Widdicombe and Wincott due to new developments 
  • Consider implementing rest stops and protected areas for groups such as seniors and people with disabilities due to proximity of hospital 
  • This LRT would cut my travel time in half and would dramatically improve transportation in the area 
  • Pedestrian access in this area is lacking and there are large intersections and heavy traffic 
  • Must consider airport worker shifts 
  • The LRT will not help traffic if many people are still choosing to drive – suggestion for the Project Team to encourage members of the public to take alternate modes of transportation (i.e., walking, cycling, transit) 
  • Request for bike share options and bike parking 
  • Many members in the group expressed a desire to be able to meet their daily needs without having to drive if the option was made available to them i.e. being able to walk to the LRT stop; having stores/shops/services co-located with the LRT stops. 
  • There needs to be something interesting between stops such as locally serving amenities within walking distance 
  • Living in the area, we use resources nearby (i.e., soccer fields, libraries) but we don’t actually use Eglinton as it is too busy. With the LRT, we are concerned that traffic will start infiltrating all side streets because of increased traffic. 
  • Want to maintain north/south access through the local community 
  • Concerned about potential impacts to residents once LRT is built 
  • The cost/benefit discussion seems to be based around City Council’s perspective, not the community’s perspective 
  • Saving 90 seconds at each intersection along Eglinton is a benefit worth considering, a completely above-grade transit system sounds like a good option 
  • World class transit means a subway system 
  • Having locally serving amenities within walking distance of transit stops 
  • A strong desire to be able to combine cycling and transit trips with the LRT. To do this they expressed a need for bicycle routes to the LRT stops, secure bicycle parking at LRT stops, bike-share options to begin / end the LRT trip, and the ability to bring a bicycle on the LRT 
  • A main street condition on Eglinton West that is less urban than downtown Toronto, but more diverse in terms of a mix of uses than it is currently today – the ideal balance could be somewhere in between the two 
  • The only solution is a subway system

The following questions were asked by members of the group:

Q1: Who will this LRT serve? Who is the target market? Are you looking to improve the time efficiency of people moving?
A1: (Eric Chu, TTC) Having rapid transit on a corridor such as Eglinton provides everyone with options on how to travel to and from different areas of the City, whether it’s the airport, to work, to travel, etc. This LRT would complement the subway system and build onto our growing transit network.

Q2: Is the Project Team looking at implementing similar connections to cycling and pedestrian movements compared to Eglinton Connects?
A2: (Liora Freedman, City of Toronto) Yes. Through the Corridor Planning Study we are looking for ways to improve the public realm and connectivity of different modes of transportation. This study is similar to Eglinton Connects.

Q3: By the time this LRT is running, self-driving vehicles will be on the streets. Has the Project Team considered how these types of vehicles will interact with pedestrians and transit in the area?
A3: (Eric Chu, TTC) Yes, the TTC is looking into interactions with self-driving vehicles. There is a separate study being conducted City-wide related to this topic.

Q4: Does the TTC have ridership numbers for the buses running in the area?
A4: (Eric Chu, TTC) There are approximately 7,000 daily customer trips on the 32 Eglinton West between Mount Dennis and Renforth, and there are approximately 4,000 daily customer trips to the airport from the 192 Airport Rocket. Currently, the frequency of bus service along Eglinton is every five (5) minutes.

Q5: Will the signal be maintained at existing signalized intersections?
A5: We will be optimizing the signal timing in the corridor.

Q6: Have Michigan Lefts been removed from the concept or just parked for now?
A6: (David King, Metrolinx) Michigan Lefts have not been removed. They are part of a study that will be published in 2018.
Michigan Lefts were only proposed as part of the 2010 EA, however they were not definitive and the EA directed staff to do further study on left turns for the corridor. This work will be conducted once we have determined the final project concept – i.e. whether we have grade separations at any locations or if the project is fully at-grade.

Meeting Adjournment

Following the Q&A period, Mike Logan (City of Toronto) thanked all SAG members for attending the meeting and provided information regarding the upcoming Public Meetings, taking place November 13 and 15, 2017. Mike also provided next steps, including reporting to council in late November and in December. He then asked if there were any high level thoughts regarding tonight’s discussion.

The following comment was provided by Councillor Stephen Holyday:

There are a lot of smart people in the community who will think about this Project. The more studies made available to the public, the better. If more information can be provided to the public prior to the Public Meeting, so that they have time to digest the information, it would make the Public Meeting more beneficial.

No further comments or questions were raised.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:20 p.m.