West Hill Collegiate Institute Youth Engagement
On October 2nd, 2018 City of Toronto staff along with Maximum City and Dillon Consulting visited West Hill Collegiate Institute on Morningside Avenue in Scarborough to listen to and talk with students about their ideas for planning and designing the Eglinton East LRT corridor. Consultation activities with students at West Hill C.I. were designed to inform and stimulate discussion about the Eglinton East LRT corridor. The youth engagement portion of the consultation work was also undertaken with the aim to diversify and expand participants in the consultation process, and hear from the future end users and stakeholders of the LRT corridor.
Key to the engagement activity was informing students of the context and future of the Eglinton East LRT project, as well as understanding the perspectives and priorities of youth, based on their lived experience along the LRT corridor now and in the future. The use of context maps and activity boards was successful at stimulating conversation among students, and generated significant feedback.
Students were asked to annotate context maps with questions, comments, likes, and dislikes, about places they know and use. Second, students were asked for their ideas about places, sites, and activities they would like to see in the future to improve their experience of the corridor. Three geography classes (two Grade 9, one Grade 12 World Issues) totalling approximately 75 students participated in the engagement activities for 75 minutes each.
The activities first informed West Hill C.I. students of the Eglinton East LRT project then solicited ideas and feedback based on lived experience. The team learned from students about their experiences with the Eglinton East LRT corridor and surrounding neighbourhood, specifically how students travel within and use the area, and their vision and aspirations for the corridor moving forward. Student voices provided the project team with youth-based ideas to consider in the planning of the sites, experiences, and activities along the route. The consultation with West Hill C.I. students highlighted the appetite and need for continued discussions with youth to build awareness and capture the perspectives of future users of the Eglinton East LRT.
Activity Comments Conversation Feedback and Map Comments
Summary of Themes
During the West Hill C.I. consultations, the project team heard comments specific to the planned LRT corridor and comments related to concerns within the broader community. There were questions about what an LRT is and how it is different from a streetcar, and comments that an LRT with better reliability, speed and capacity would improve their experience of the corridor. Key themes that we heard during the West Hill C.I. consultations that related specifically to the Eglinton East LRT and its corridor included:
● Safety: There was a general concern of safety in the area but particularly around undesirable activities such as gangs, drugs and violence, cars speeding, crowded bus stops/stations
● Transit Frequency: Students discussed frustration with the current transit schedule, wait times and highlighted the need for more buses during peak times and in the winter
● Connectivity: Students were concerned with how the LRT will integrate into other transit systems in the area including buses, highway 401, and Kennedy station; students expressed desire for more bike infrastructure in the area to connect places; students expressed desire for more stops closer to schools, and improved connections to destinations such as downtown and Scarborough Town Centre
● Wayfinding and Information Sharing: There is a need for more signage regarding where bus routes go and real time displays for bus and LRT timing; students expressed confusion at numbered route system and lack of easily accessible information about service/frequency
● Pedestrian Accessibility: More safe street crossings are needed along the route and stoplights at busy intersections are not often long enough to allow pedestrians to cross the street which results in people crossing the street unsafely
● Stop/Platform Design: There is a desire for larger platforms to accommodate crowds, bigger shelters and providing Wi-Fi and charging stations at stops
● Nature/Environment: There is a desire for increased greening and natural presence along the planned route, such as more trees on Eglinton Avenue and green roofs
The consultation team also heard many comments about the surrounding community, including safety, community spaces, placemaking, traffic congestion, overcrowded buses, construction, and environmental initiatives. Students were concerned with the violence in certain areas surrounding the planned LRT corridor, and remarked that they often feel unsafe. They were also aware of stigmas that surround some neighbourhoods. This led to suggestions about more surveillance at transit stops and along the route, security presence on transit vehicles, and additional social programs and services as proactive measures and safeguards. Additionally, there is a desire for more community spaces–e.g., libraries, community centres, etc.–in the area, and better uses and activities to attract youth to places like Malvern Town Centre, which some students feel is not youth-friendly and not engaging.
Students at West Hill C.I. discussed the need for more recreation and sports amenities, such as basketball courts and soccer fields. The West Hill C.I. principal visited the last 10 minutes of the final class session, and asked about community representation on the project team, the impact of ongoing construction (particularly on Morningside Ave.), community benefits program, and a covered pedestrian connection to the EELRT and Guildwood GO Station.
Next Steps: West Hill C.I. would like to stay informed about project next steps and future events/meetings. This can be done via the school principal and or a faculty member.