Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fighting the System: Congratulations West Toronto Diamond Community Group

On February 3rd, the West Toronto Diamond Community Group received a ruling in their favour from the Federal Court of Appeal regarding their opposition to GO's request for a Stay of the Canadian Tranportation Agency ruling, which regulates the use of quieter methods for piledriving. Their initial request was simple - would GO/Metrolinx use vibratory piledrivers, and augers, when possible, instead of diesel hammer piledrivers, please? The diesel impact hammers are making it impossible for us to enjoy our lives, and damaging our community. The group had already received the CTA ruling in their favour, but Metrolinx found it necessary to contest it, although they had recently purchased equipment to be more considerate. Their contention? That these less intrusive methods would add to the length of the project, and costs, although these were not proven in court.

It says volumes about the integrity of Metrolinx/GO that they contested what is common courtesy, the use of quieter construction methods, and spent thousands of dollars of legal fees to fight the rights of citizens so that they could pound this project through without checks and balances. It is emblematic of the ruthless, shortsightedness of GO/Metrolinx' project design, and extends to every aspect of its implementation. Congratulations to the West Toronto Community Group, and their lawyer, David Baker, for coming forward and demanding what is right. Legal costs were granted by the Federal Court of Appeal to pay Mr. Baker, confirming that it was a vexatious appeal.

People often ask me what is wrong with Metrolinx' plan for rail expansion, and the answer is that it is Quick, Dirty, Diesel, Divisive and Destructive as opposed to building a Corridor which is Livable, Electrified and Accessible for all Neighbourhoods. Try as I might, I cannot come up with a clever acronym like CLEAN for the Metrolinx' version of transit planning as I doubt they thought through their public relations campaign in advance.

This project planning is so quick that it is not integrated with TransitCity's Light Rail Transit in the City of Toronto, so duplicates future services. It is so dirty that it requires three air monitoring stations to analyze air pollution close to childrens' playgrounds. It uses diesel locomotives, which no one else in the world would use for inner city corridors. It is divisive, so requires very long and very high walls for sound mitigation as the noise from the volume of traffic will far exceed 10 db. These massive walls will run like the Berlin Wall through neighbourhoods. Finally, it is destructive to established neighbourhoods, with beautiful historic properties, and vibrant arts communities, such as the Junction, Queen Street West, Liberty Village and Weston, and runs roughshod over residents with its lowest grade practices for its construction. GO engineers are on record saying that these twelve communities are 'marginal' to justify this corridor's frantic imposition on west-end communities.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about, and teaching, human-centered interaction design and systems theory. Whether interactive systems, or transit systems, their ultimate goal should be to serve people. The Big Move, the document upon which the GSSE/UPRL is based, has never considered anyone other than the willynilly development of subdivisions in the 905, and the running of executives through our communities to the airport, racetrack and casino. I marvel at a project which would double its ridership, efficiency and value if it included those along the corridor by being redesigned to incorporate broader, integrated, electric transit initiatives. I shake my head at project timelines which do not include a far reaching vision for environmentally sound design, coordination with municipal transit systems, and analysis of the impact of its construction and operation on surrounding communities.

The West Toronto Diamond Community Group, and their lawyers, were the courageous, first line of defense in a fight which will continue along the tracks, as Metrolinx/GO begins construction on the Davenport Diamond, which requires three times more construction than the West Toronto Diamond. Let's hope this ruling is the beginning of standards to be set for methods of quieter construction in the future, and finally includes us, those who will be impacted by every decision made, for the first time.

The Decision: This is the ruling regarding Metrolinx/GO vs the West Toronto Diamond Community Group and the City of Toronto Its brevity speaks volumes.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


THE STAY OF THE CTA RULING WAS NOT GRANTED BY THE FEDERAL COURT OF APPEAL, and diesel impact hammers have been halted. For more information, go to