ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

Sign Up for AODA Alliance Updates by writing: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Learn more at: www.aodaalliance.org
United for a Barrier-Free Ontario

Toronto Star Reports that Metrolinx Designed Underground Eglinton LRT Stations with Troubling and Preventable Barriers to Disability Accessibility and Safety -- Metrolinx Refuses to Change These plans Despite the AODA, the Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights, the Government Ten-Year Infrastructure Plan's Accessibility Guarantees, and Premier Wynne's Election Pledge Not to Use Public Money to Create New Accessibility Barriers

August 19, 2014

Summary

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE 
UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

The August 19, 2014 Toronto Star includes a powerful article on disability accessibility. It reports that Metrolinx has designed the underground subway stations on the new Eglinton LRT line now under construction, with troubling barriers to disability accessibility and safety. Metrolinx is the Ontario Government agency overseeing this huge new publicly-funded transit infrastructure project. We have discovered this major accessibility problem and made it public. In this Update, we now make public the entire paper trail that documents troubling Government public transit plans. 

In all the underground transit stations in Toronto's new Eglinton LRT line, and in one of the surface stations, Metrolinx plans to have the passenger platform in the centre, with tracks on either side of the platform. This "centre platform" design presents troubling accessibility and public safety concerns, especially for people with vision loss.

We have unsuccessfully urged Metrolinx to instead situate the tracks in the centre of each station, with the platforms on either side of the tracks. This "side platform" design would ensure that passengers can safely stand away from the tracks, with their back against the wall, until a train stops in front of the platform. It enables passengers to walk the length of the platform, if needed, alongside the wall, always a safe distance from the tracks. The far worse "centre platform" station design leaves passengers on the platform with a dangerous drop-off on either side of the platform, and no continuous wall running the length of the platform, a safe distance away from the tracks.

Metrolinx has written the AODA Alliance, stating in substance that it refused to change these plans to ensure full accessibility and public safety. The AODA Alliance then wrote Metrolinx,    calling on the Government to change its plans and to halt construction, to ensure that it doesn't make things worse before it fixes this mess. Metrolinx has given only vague and unacceptable excuses for its actions.

Moreover, Metrolinx has revealed to the AODA Alliance that it is only now belatedly working on developing an accessibility standard for the design of public transit stations. Metrolinx was wrong to first design some if not all of the Eglinton line's stations, and then only later design its forthcoming accessibility standard on the design of public transit stations. To ensure station accessibility, a major Government organization should know better then to get it backwards!

This is an extreme misuse of public money. It flies in the face of the Charter of Rights, the Ontario Human Rights Code, the AODA, the Government's Ten-Year Infrastructure Plan (which promised that all new Government-funded infrastructure would be disability-accessible) and Premier Wynne's May 2014 election promise not to use public money to create new barriers against people with disabilities. Moreover, as explained further below, the serious design flaw we have unearthed and revealed creates a safety risk for all public transit passengers, not just those with disabilities. The Toronto Star reports that the Eglinton line is costing 5.3 billion dollars.

Below we provide a full explanation of this accessibility and public safety issue and our efforts to date to get the Ontario Government to address it. We then set out the Toronto Star Article and all the letters between the AODA Alliance, Metrolinx and the Ontario Government on this important issue. We set out:

* the August 19, 2014 article in the Toronto Star

* The AODA Alliance's June 18, 2014 letter to Metrolinx

* Metrolinx' s July 17, 2014 letter to the AODA Alliance.

* The AODA Alliance's August 11, 2014 letter to Metrolinx, and

* The AODA Alliance's August 11, 2014 letter to the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Accessibility Clock keeps on ticking. A troubling 274 days have now passed since we revealed that the Ontario Government was not enforcing the AODA, and that there have been rampant AODA violations in the private sector. The Government still has not made public its promised plan for the AODA's effective enforcement. One hundred and eighty days have passed since the Toronto Star reported on February 20, 2014 that the Government would be publicly posting that new enforcement plan "in short order."

To read our November 18, 2013 revelation that the Government was failing to effectively enforce the Disabilities Act despite knowing of rampant private sector violations, and funds on hand for enforcement.

To read the Government's February 20, 2014 pledge to publish in "short order" its plan for enforcing the Disabilities Act.

As well, 356 days have passed since the Government unveiled its plans for the legacy of the 2015 Toronto Pan/ParaPan American Games. Yet it has still not released details and specifics of a comprehensive disability accessibility legacy for the Games.

Send your feedback to us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

To sign up for, or unsubscribe from AODA Alliance e-mail updates, write to: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Please "like" our Facebook page and share our updates.

Follow us on Twitter. Get others to follow us. And please re-tweet our tweets!! @AODAAlliance

Learn all about our campaign for a fully accessible Ontario

MORE DETAILS

A Closer Look at Yet Another Inexcusable Accessibility Battle We Now Face

The August 19, 2014 Star article effectively summarizes the accessibility and safety issue that we have raised:

"The issue is the transit agency's decision to build centre-loading platforms in all 12 of the new LRT line's underground stations.

Centre platforms, which sit between the tracks, are dangerous and less accessible to passengers with vision loss than side platforms that have a wall at the back, Lepovsky said.

"You put your back to the wall and wait to hear the subway, then you know you're safe to walk out," Lepofsky said. "With centre platforms, you don't know where you are on the platform and it's a drop off either side."

John Rafferty, president of the CNIB, formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, agrees, saying the organization "supports the critical need for all public transit stations to have side platforms to assist spatial orientation rather than centre platforms."

Side platforms provide clearer walkways free of obstacles like support columns, trash cans or benches in the middle of the passenger waiting area."

On June 18, 2014, the AODA Alliance first wrote Metrolinx about the accessibility of its plans for new public transit stations across Ontario. We presented the design of the public transit platforms as one example of accessibility issues that public transit stations need to address. We illustrated why this is important for persons with disabilities. We also explained that the "side platform" design serves not only the accessibility and safety needs of passengers with certain disabilities, but the safety of all public transit passengers, including those with no disability. We wrote:

"In any public transit stations for subways, trains, light rapid transit lines, and the like, there are two options for a platform. By the first option, the "centre platform" option, there is one passenger platform in the middle of the station. On either side of that platform are tracks, and transit lines. There is no wall along the length of the platform, because it is open on both sides to tracks.

By the second option, the "side platform" option, the tracks are in the centre of the station. There are two passenger platforms, one on either side of the tracks. Each platform has a wall running the length of the platform, on the side of the platform that is opposite from the tracks.

We want Metrolinx and the Government to ensure that all new public transit stations only use the side platforms option. The "centre platform" option must never be used.

Here are our accessibility concerns. The centre platform option is harder and riskier for people with vision loss to navigate. Even when the platform floor is properly marked with tactile walking surface indicators, including tactile demarcations near the platform's edge, the environment presents a significant challenge for safe navigation for a person with vision loss who has good orientation and mobility skills. For people with vision loss who lack those skills, e.g. due to having recently lost vision, this is even more problematic.

The resounding echoes in these stations, and the noise created by incoming and outgoing trains, make the situation even more challenging.

In sharp contrast, where the side platforms option is used, a person with vision loss can align themselves with a wall, a safe distance from the platform's edge. They can use this as a safe shoreline for walking along the platform, confident that they are a safe distance from the platform's edge. They can safely approach an inbound train, after squaring off against that wall.

The side platforms option benefits many others, as well. For people with balance difficulties, or who walk slowly, the side platforms option provides more safety and security. For people without disabilities, who want to keep far from the platform's edge for safety reasons, this option is far better. For those accompanying small children, the safety benefits of the side platforms option are also manifestly obvious.

The only advantage for passengers of the centre platform option is that they can more quickly cross from one train to the other. However, that is a matter of mere convenience, not the more important consideration of accessibility and personal safety. Moreover, the only passengers who might benefit at all from the centre platform option are those who accidentally missed their own stop, and need to backtrack. We anticipate that this is a very small minority of passengers."

Metrolinx took a full month just to answer. Metrolinx wrote back to the AODA Alliance on July 17, 2014. In that letter, Metrolinx admitted that it plans to use the problematic centre platform design in all Eglinton line underground stations, and in one surface station. It claimed that it cannot now change its plans. It wrote, in part:

"The decision to provide centre platforms in the tunneled sections of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT had been made a number of years ago, for a variety of reasons. This design has been incorporated in subsequent procurement documents and cannot be altered at this time. Side platforms will be used at all surface stops except for one where they are not feasible due to the track layout and other environmental constraints at the location."

On August 11, 2014, the AODA Alliance wrote again to Metrolinx. We called on Metrolinx to change its LRT station design to ensure full accessibility and public safety. We asked Metrolinx to make public detailed information on how it got Ontario into this mess. We also took issue with Metrolinx designing some or all of the Eglinton line stations before it developed a standard for the design of public transit stations. We concluded:

"We urgently ask that you address all of our questions and concerns now. Your plans for using a centre platform design in a number of stations on the Eglinton subway line fly in the face of the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the accessibility requirements in the Government's 2010 Ten-Year Infrastructure Plan, and the Premier's 2014 election commitments not to use public money to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. It is an enormously irresponsible misuse of public money and disservice to public transit passengers, including those with disabilities."

On August 11, 2014, we also wrote Ontario's new Minister of Transportation, Steven De Luca, and Ontario's new Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Brad Duguid (who is also responsible for leading the implementation and enforcement of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act). We urged them to intervene with Metrolinx to fix this problem.

Neither Metrolinx nor the Government has answered our most recent letters.

The August 19, 2014 Toronto Star article revealed more of Metrolinx's reasons for this seriously troubling station design than Metrolinx told us in its July 17, 2014 letter to us. The new information in the Toronto Star article also reveals Metrolinx's fundamental misunderstanding of disability accessibility. The Star article included:

"That "variety of reasons," according to Metrolinx spokesperson Jamie Robinson, includes lower construction costs and, ironically, better "accessibility."

"Overall, the station width is less, so you're going to have reduced land take and therefore capital costs," Robinson said.

"If I'm any person - let alone a person with an accessibility issue - and I happen to get on the wrong train, I don't have to go to the next station and up around and down to reconnect.""

In this passage Metrolinx reportedly makes a bald claim that a subway station with the less accessible and less safe centre platform design costs less. It has revealed no costing data to support this bald claim. It has not shown how that unspecified cost is impossible to prevent or reduce through creative station design. It has not shown how that this unspecified added cost provides a defence to Metrolinx's actions under the Ontario Human Rights Code and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It has not shown what other options it has explored to fully and effectively ensure accessibility and public safety.

Metrolinx's claim reported in this article, that the less accessible and more dangerous centre platform design for a transit station is somehow more accessible, wrongly catapults the mere and marginal convenience of the few who miss their station over the accessibility and safety needs of all.

Toronto Star August 19, 2014

The Toronto Star August 19, 2014
Posted at: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/08/18/planned_eglinton_lrt_platforms_dangerous_and_inaccessible_says_blind_human_rights_lawyer.html
Greater Toronto

Blind lawyer challenges TTC; New centre-loading platforms unsafe for the visually impaired

Blind lawyer David Lepofsky says centre platforms are dangerous for the vision impaired as it's a "drop off either side."
Bernard Weil/Toronto Star

David Lepofsky prefers his back to the wall over his feet on the edge.

The blind Toronto lawyer, who 20 years ago launched a landmark human rights case against the TTC, forcing it to implement stop announcements on its vehicles, is sounding the alarm on accessibility again. This time he's taking the fight to Metrolinx over construction of the $5.3-billion Eglinton Crosstown light rail line.

The issue is the transit agency's decision to build centre-loading platforms in all 12 of the new LRT line's underground stations.

Centre platforms, which sit between the tracks, are dangerous and less accessible to passengers with vision loss than side platforms that have a wall at the back, Lepovsky said.

"You put your back to the wall and wait to hear the subway, then you know you're safe to walk out," Lepofsky said. "With centre platforms, you don't know where you are on the platform and it's a drop off either side."

John Rafferty, president of the CNIB, formerly the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, agrees, saying the organization "supports the critical need for all public transit stations to have side platforms to assist spatial orientation rather than centre platforms."

Side platforms provide clearer walkways free of obstacles like support columns, trash cans or benches in the middle of the passenger waiting area.

The CNIB estimates there are 116,000 people living with severe vision loss in Toronto, nearly all of whom rely on public transportation to get around. Blind since his teen years, Lepofsky chairs the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance (AODAA). The group is tasked with keeping the province on track to meet its 2005 targets before their 2025 deadline.

Due at the end of 2020, the Eglinton LRT project could be a major accessibility showpiece for the Ontario government. But the AODAA chair said the platform decision has knocked the project's accessibility goals off track.

Lepofsky wrote to Metrolinx in June asking the agency to abandon centre-platform designs for all future transit stations, not yet knowing of the Eglinton line decision.

Metrolinx president and CEO Bruce McCuaig broke the bad news to the AODAA in a letter the following month.

"The decision to provide centre platforms in the tunnelled sections of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT had been made a number of years ago, for a variety of reasons," McCuaig wrote in a letter provided to the Star. "This design has been incorporated in subsequent procurement documents and cannot be altered at this time."

That "variety of reasons," according to Metrolinx spokesperson Jamie Robinson, includes lower construction costs and, ironically, better "accessibility."

"Overall, the station width is less, so you're going to have reduced land take and therefore capital costs," Robinson said.

"If I'm any person - let alone a person with an accessibility issue - and I happen to get on the wrong train, I don't have to go to the next station and up around and down to reconnect."

All Toronto subway stations use textured tiles at the platform edge to warn passengers of the dangers of falling over or being hit by an incoming train.

But those common yellow warning strips are no more than a single stride deep for Lepofsky and are easily skipped over with his cane.

In addition to the warning strip, Toronto's centre platform stations feature a similarly textured tile path meant to lead those with poor eyesight along a safe route across the platform.

However, these paths are easily missed as they weave between support columns and around benches - not to mention passengers - and are often mistaken for the no-go zone at the platform's edge, Lepofsky said.

"Once I feel that, I freeze," he said, tapping his white cane with uncertainty on the safety path at York Mills Station's busy centre platform. "Because the cost of getting it wrong is very, very scary."

Rafferty agreed, saying textured tiles are useful but are a small step on the road to accessibility.

Janelle Rooplall, 23, was blinded by a childhood disease and, as a recent transplant to Toronto, has been relying on the kindness of strangers to help her through the city's subway system. "It's not accessible at all," Rooplall said, finding her way aboard a southbound train to College Station, where she took the arm of a stranger who eventually hailed her a cab on the street. "I have to get strangers to help me everywhere."

Todd Coyne Toronto Star

Text of the June 18, 2014 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Metrolinx

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

June 18, 2014

Via Email:

Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO
Metrolinx
97 Front Street West,
Toronto, ON M5J 1E6
Email: ceo@metrolinx.com
 
Dear Sir,

Re: Accessibility of New Public Transit Stations for People with Disabilities

We are writing to learn about Metrolinx and the Ontario Government's specific plans for ensuring that all new public transit stations built in Ontario are designed in advance to ensure that they are fully accessible to all people with disabilities.

We are interested in receiving all plans, guidelines or requirements for the accessibility of these new stations. However, we want to highlight, as one example, a specific accessibility design requirement that we have not before seen the Government publicly address. We want to know Metrolinx's and the Government's current plans in this regard.

In any public transit stations for subways, trains, light rapid transit lines, and the like, there are two options for a platform. By the first option, the "centre platform" option, there is one passenger platform in the middle of the station. On either side of that platform are tracks, and transit lines. There is no wall along the length of the platform, because it is open on both sides to tracks.

By the second option, the "side platform" option, the tracks are in the centre of the station. There are two passenger platforms, one on either side of the tracks. Each platform has a wall running the length of the platform, on the side of the platform that is opposite from the tracks.

We want Metrolinx and the Government to ensure that all new public transit stations only use the side platforms option. The "centre platform" option must never be used.

Here are our accessibility concerns. The centre platform option is harder and riskier for people with vision loss to navigate. Even when the platform floor is properly marked with tactile walking surface indicators, including tactile demarcations near the platform's edge, the environment presents a significant challenge for safe navigation for a person with vision loss who has good orientation and mobility skills. For people with vision loss who lack those skills, e.g. due to having recently lost vision, this is even more problematic.

The resounding echoes in these stations, and the noise created by incoming and outgoing trains, make the situation even more challenging.

In sharp contrast, where the side platforms option is used, a person with vision loss can align themselves with a wall, a safe distance from the platform's edge. They can use this as a safe shoreline for walking along the platform, confident that they are a safe distance from the platform's edge. They can safely approach an inbound train, after squaring off against that wall.

The side platforms option benefits many others, as well. For people with balance difficulties, or who walk slowly, the side platforms option provides more safety and security. For people without disabilities, who want to keep far from the platform's edge for safety reasons, this option is far better. For those accompanying small children, the safety benefits of the side platforms option are also manifestly obvious.

The only advantage for passengers of the centre platform option is that they can more quickly cross from one train to the other. However, that is a matter of mere convenience, not the more important consideration of accessibility and personal safety. Moreover, the only passengers who might benefit at all from the centre platform option are those who accidentally missed their own stop, and need to backtrack. We anticipate that this is a very small minority of passengers.

The Toronto subway line provides an excellent proving ground for this concern. Some of its stations commendably use the side platforms option. Others regrettably use the less accessible and more risk-prone centre platform option. I would be pleased to take you on a tour of these two alternatives, on the TTC subway line, under blindfold if you wish, to demonstrate the point we raise here.

Please let us know as soon as possible what specific accessibility criteria Metrolinx and the Ontario Government are requiring for any new public transit stations to be built in the future, or that are now under construction. Included in this request, but not limited at all to this issue, we want to know if any stations now under construction, or to be built in the future, will use the centre platform option, rather than the side platforms option. We want an iron-clad assurance now that all stations under construction, or to be built in the future, will only incorporate the side platforms option, and will never incorporate the centre platform option.

For example, we want to know about plans in this regard for the new Eglinton subway line in Toronto now under construction, and any other public transit lines in Ontario now under construction or on the possible future drawing board. If the new Ottawa LRT service is within the Ontario Government's reach and purview, we include it in our request.

As you know, disability accessibility is required of all government agencies in Ontario by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights and freedoms. As well, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requires Ontario to become fully accessible by 2025. It requires the Ontario Government to lead us to that goal on time.

To achieve full accessibility in public transit, it is, of course, vital that all public transit stations are designed to be fully accessible. Thousands of people go through those stations every day. Once a transit station is built, it remains in operation for many, many decades. It is essential to carefully and comprehensively build accessibility in to the design of these buildings in advance. It costs more to retrofit for accessibility after the fact than to incorporate accessibility when designing the building.

Regrettably, the Ontario Government has not yet enacted detailed regulations or accessibility standards to ensure the full accessibility of public transit stations, and to address concerns like those which this letter identifies. The transportation provisions in the Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation, enacted under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2011, do not sufficiently address transit station design and construction. Similarly, the general accessibility provisions in the Ontario Building Code do not sufficiently cover the accessibility needs of people with disabilities in the design of a public transit station. It is therefore not enough for Metrolinx, the Ontario Government, or a local public transit authority, to simply say they will comply with AODA accessibility standards and the Ontario Building Code.

At present, there is major infrastructure spending taking place in Ontario, using the taxpayer's money, with the involvement of Metrolinx. In the recent Ontario election campaign, Premier Wynne pledged in her May 14, 2014 letter to us:

"We will continue to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to create or perpetuate barriers against Ontarians with disabilities. Our current mandate fully supports responsible governance and we will continue to pursue objectives that align with this belief."

The Ontario Government has promised massive new public transit infrastructure spending. In the race for Toronto's mayor, public transit is figuring as a very prominent issue. Yet in the recent past, we have seen too many instances of public money used to create entirely preventable new barriers.

We wish to emphasize that a public declaration by Metrolinx or others of their deep commitment to accessibility, while appreciated, is not what we are looking for, and is certainly not enough. As you will recall, the Ontario Government team that devised the Presto SmartCard technology, replete with foreseeable and preventable accessibility barriers, made those kinds of strong accessibility commitments. It then forged ahead by creating new disability barriers, using public money even after it was forewarned about those barriers.

We are writing to you because of your organization's leading role on public transit infrastructure. We are also copying our letter and our request to the Ontario Government care of the Deputy Minister of Transportation, as well as both the deputy and assistant deputy ministers at the Economic Development, Trade and Employment Ministry (responsible for the AODA's implementation and enforcement). We want to avoid any risk that our inquiry falls between the administrative cracks.

We would be pleased to discuss this with you at your convenience. Since construction, e.g. on the new Eglinton subway line, is already underway, we consider this a matter requiring immediate attention.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O. Ont
Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc:       
Premier Kathleen Wynne, email kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Carol Layton, Deputy Minister of Transportation, email carol.layton@ontario.ca
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, email: wendy.tilford@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email: ann.hoy@ontario.ca

Text of the July 17, 2014 Letter from Metrolinx to the AODA Alliance

Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky,

RE: Accessibility of New Public Transit Stations for People with Disabilities

Thank you for your letter dated June 18, 2014 detailing your concerns regarding planning and station accessibility.

I would like to draw your attention to Metrolinx’s comprehensive Multi-Year Accessibility Plan and Accessibility Status Report. These documents serve as the guiding roadmaps for accessibility planning, including our compliance with the applicable accessibility regulations.

Your letter correctly points out that public transit stations are not specifically addressed within the Integrated Accessibility Regulations of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As a reflection of Metrolinx’s commitment to convenient use of our services by people who have disabilities, which involves exceeding some aspects of AODA regulations, we are currently in the process of developing accessible design guidelines for passenger facilities provided by Metrolinx. For this we have contracted leading experts in universal design to inform our work. To ensure these guidelines are developed with appropriate input from various community stakeholders our Accessibility Advisory Committee, supplemented by representatives from the TTC’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit, has also been extensively involved in the development and review stages of this document. We will reach out to our network in the accessibility community for comments on the draft document before it is finalized.

These guidelines will provide direction for more specific design requirements and standards for future Metrolinx construction projects. They will be reviewed periodically to ensure they evolve with the needs of users as well as the advances in available technologies and best practices.

With regard to use of centre and side platforms, we appreciate the increased confidence that a side platform may provide for travelers with vision loss. The guidelines will reflect this as a consideration in the station design. In a specific situation this will be considered along with other factors including the overall station circulation requirements and ease of wayfinding, provision of reliable vertical access, technical feasibility, etc.

Metrolinx is committed to ensuring that stations, regardless of the platform layout, are safe and accessible for all users. The wayfinding provisions of the guidelines currently in development include a tactile path along the length of each platform, as well as the tactile warning strip along the platform edge.

As the design guidelines have been developed we have been applying the findings to facilities under design, including the requirements for remaining aspects of design included in the Eglinton Crosstown procurement. The decision to provide centre platforms in the tunneled sections of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT had been made a number of years ago, for a variety of reasons. This design has been incorporated in subsequent procurement documents and cannot be altered at this time. Side platforms will be used at all surface stops except for one where they are not feasible due to the track layout and other environmental constraints at the location.

We thank you for your letter and the thoughtful recommendations you have provided. The enclosed documents will help further illustrate our plans and sincere commitment towards accessibility.

Sincerely,

Bruce McCuaig
President and Chief Executive Officer

Enclosed: Metrolinx Multi-year Accessibility Plan
Metrolinx Accessibility Status Report

Text of the August 11, 2014 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Metrolinx

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

August 11, 2014

Via Email:

Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO
Metrolinx
97 Front Street West,
Toronto, ON M5J 1E6
Email: ceo@metrolinx.com

Dear Sir,

Re: Accessibility of New Public Transit Stations for People with Disabilities

Thank you for your July 17, 2014 letter regarding the request that any new public transit stations, including passenger platforms, should be designed to ensure full accessibility and passenger safety.

Your July 17, 2014 response is very troubling. Our June 18, 2014 letter to you explained that in any public transit stations for subways, trains or light rapid transit lines, there are two options for passenger platforms. By the first option, the "centre platform" option, there is only one passenger platform. It is in the middle of the station. On either side of that platform are tracks. There is no wall along the length of the platform, because it is open on both sides to tracks.

By the second option, the "side platform" option, the tracks are in the centre of the station. There are two passenger platforms, one on either side of the tracks. Each platform has a wall running the length of the platform, on the side of the platform that is opposite from the tracks.

In our June 18, 2014 letter to you, I asked for an iron-clad assurance now that all stations under construction, or to be built in the future, will only incorporate the side platforms option, and will never incorporate the centre platform option. Your July 17, 2014 letter does not give that commitment, or anything close to it. Regarding the Eglinton subway line in Toronto, you stated:

"The decision to provide centre platforms in the tunneled sections of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT had been made a number of years ago, for a variety of reasons. This design has been incorporated in subsequent procurement documents and cannot be altered at this time. Side platforms will be used at all surface stops except for one where they are not feasible due to the track layout and other environmental constraints at the location."

We repeat our request that no transit stations be built with a "centre platform" design, including on the Eglinton subway line. We specifically ask that the plans for any stations on the Eglinton line or elsewhere, now under construction, be altered to include a side platform design, rather than a centre platform design. We specifically ask Metrolinx and the Ontario Government to stop any construction work that would lock us into a centre platform design, to ensure that this change can be made. This is an urgent request. We ask that you act on this immediately. We do not want things to be made any worse while these stations are under construction.

Our June 18, 2014 letter to you explained why it is important to use a side platform design rather than a centre platform design in a public transit station, for important reasons of disability accessibility and individual safety. Your July 17, 2014 letter to us did not dispute the accuracy of those concerns.

Your July 17, 2014 letter states that the decision to use a centre platform design on the new Eglinton subway line's tunnelled stations was made a number of years ago. Please let us know who made this decision. When was it made? Who was consulted on this decision? Of special importance, who was consulted on the human rights, accessibility and public safety aspects of this decision? What specific consideration was given, when adopting that design option, for the impact of that choice on disability accessibility and public safety?

Your July 17, 2014 letter to us states that this decision was made "for a variety of reasons." What were those reasons?

Your July 17, 2014 letter stated regarding the new Eglinton line:

"Side platforms will be used at all surface stops except for one where they are not feasible due to the track layout and other environmental constraints at the location."

Which station does this refer to? What construction has already been undertaken at that site? Please explain what you mean by track layout and other environmental constraints at the location. We want to fully understand the reasons for having made that decision.

We want to know what responsibility Metrolinx has for this decision, and what responsibility falls to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, and/or the Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure, and/or any other organization inside or outside the Ontario Government.

To repeat, your July 17, 2014 letter states: "This design has been incorporated in subsequent procurement documents and cannot be altered at this time." Who, within the Ontario Government, entered into those procurement documents or agreements? Who are the other parties to those procurement documents or agreements? Whose approvals within the Ontario Government or elsewhere were obtained before those procurement documents were finalized? What provisions are there within those procurement documents or agreements to alter the design of these transit stations to incorporate a side platform design or other design changes?

This is no excuse. The fact that you or some others within the Ontario Government have unwisely entered into agreements or issued procurement documents is no justification for creating barriers to accessibility and public safety. Metrolinx and the Ontario Government more generally cannot contract out of their duties under the Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights, and the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Your July 17, 2014 letter states that Metrolinx is now in the process of developing its own accessibility guidelines for design of public transit stations. It is, of course, commendable for Metrolinx to undertake to develop such accessibility standards and to consult with the public, including with persons with disabilities, on them, before finalizing them.

When are these accessibility guidelines or standards planned to be finalized? Why is it that, in the second half of 2014, Metrolinx is still in the midst of its process of developing these? Ontario is almost at the halfway point in the twenty years that the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 allowed for Ontario to become fully accessible for all persons with disabilities. Why did Metrolinx not finalize these accessibility guidelines or standards before it made major design decisions about massive new public transit projects such as the Eglinton subway line?

In the recent Ontario election, the Premier and the Government made public transit infrastructure spending a major election platform plank. We want to know what parts of that new public transit infrastructure is under Metrolinx's purview. We also want to know what parts of that new public transit infrastructure spending is, in your view, already so far underway that your forthcoming accessibility guidelines or standards, once finalized, would be too late to fully apply to them.

Your July 17, 2014 letter does not give an assurance that your future accessibility guidelines or standards will disallow the use of a centre platform design in transit stations. Your letter only states that this will be a consideration in station design. Why won't you give the clear commitment sought in our June 18, 2014 letter? Your letter equivocally states:

"With regard to use of centre and side platforms, we appreciate the increased confidence that a side platform may provide for travelers with vision loss. The guidelines will reflect this as a consideration in the station design. In a specific situation this will be considered along with other factors including the overall station circulation requirements and ease of wayfinding, provision of reliable vertical access, technical feasibility, etc."

We urgently ask that you address all of our questions and concerns now. Your plans for using a centre platform design in a number of stations on the Eglinton subway line fly in the face of the requirements of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Charter of Rights, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, the accessibility requirements in the Government's 2010 Ten-Year Infrastructure Plan, and the Premier's 2014 election commitments not to use public money to create or perpetuate barriers against persons with disabilities. It is an enormously irresponsible misuse of public money and disservice to public transit passengers, including those with disabilities.

We are copying this letter to Ontario's Minister of Transportation and Ontario's Minister of Infrastructure (who is also responsible for the AODA's implementation and enforcement) and to the Ontario Premier. We are asking them to immediately intervene to ensure that no new public transit station incorporates the centre platform option, due to the problems it presents for disability accessibility and public safety. We are also asking them to intervene to ensure that all new public transit stations built as part of the major Ontario infrastructure initiative are indeed truly disability-accessible, including, for example, along the new Eglinton line.

We ask that you respond to this letter via email with detailed answers to each of our questions as quickly as possible.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.,
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc:
Premier Kathleen Wynne, email kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Steven Del Duca, Minister of Transportation, email sdelduca.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Carol Layton, Deputy Minister of Transportation, email carol.layton@ontario.ca
Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure, email Brad.duguid@ontario.ca
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, email wendy.tilford@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Anthony Tibbs, President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians email tibbs@blindcanadians.ca
John Rafferty, President, Canadian National Institute for the Blind email john.rafferty@CNIB.ca

Text of the August 11, 2014 Letter from the AODA Alliance to the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
1929 Bayview Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8
Email: aodafeedback@gmail.com
Visit: www.aodalliance.org

August 11, 2014

Via Email: sdelduca.mpp@liberal.ola.org; Brad.duguid@ontario.ca

Hon. Steven Del Duca
Minister of Transportation
77 Wellesley Street West
Ferguson Block, 3rd Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 1Z8

and

Hon. Brad Duguid,
Minister of Economic Development, Employment & Infrastructure
Hearst Block
900 Bay St, 8th Floor
Toronto ON M7A2E1

Dear Sirs,

Re: Accessibility of New Public Transit Stations for People with Disabilities

Congratulations on your appointments as Ontario's new Minister of Transportation and Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure respectively. We write to ask you both to immediately take effective action to ensure that all new public transit stations built in Ontario, and especially those which are part of Ontario's major new transit infrastructure strategy, are fully accessible to persons with disabilities. We are seriously concerned that Metrolinx is not ensuring this. Your intervention is needed to take corrective action.

We wish to present two bases for our concerns. Both arise from the July 17, 2014 letter to us, from the Metrolinx President, enclosed with this letter.

As the first basis for our concern, the Metrolinx president advised us in his July 17, 2014 letter that Metrolinx is now still in the process of developing guidelines or standards for the accessibility of public transit stations. He wrote:

"As a reflection of Metrolinx’s commitment to convenient use of our services by people who have disabilities, which involves exceeding some aspects of AODA regulations, we are currently in the process of developing accessible design guidelines for passenger facilities provided by Metrolinx. For this we have contracted leading experts in universal design to inform our work. To ensure these guidelines are developed with appropriate input from various community stakeholders our Accessibility Advisory Committee, supplemented by representatives from the TTC’s Advisory Committee on Accessible Transit, has also been extensively involved in the development and review stages of this document. We will reach out to our network in the accessibility community for comments on the draft document before it is finalized.

These guidelines will provide direction for more specific design requirements and standards for future Metrolinx construction projects. They will be reviewed periodically to ensure they evolve with the needs of users as well as the advances in available technologies and best practices."

What this means is that in the second half of 2014, over nine years after the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005 was enacted, and just over ten years before that law requires Ontario to become fully accessible to people with disabilities, Metrolinx does not yet have in place an up-to-date, comprehensive standard or guideline for ensuring that any new public transit station is fully accessible to people with disabilities. This is so despite the fact that Metrolinx plays a leading and pivotal role in implementing Ontario public transit infrastructure policy, and is well-aware of the need to ensure accessibility of public transit services. Moreover, Metrolinx confirmed in its letter to us that it knows the existing transportation accessibility standards enacted under the AODA do not spell out comprehensive detailed accessibility requirements for public transit stations.

This is a very serious problem. No new public transit stations should be built until and unless it is ensured in advance that it is fully accessible for people with disabilities. Public transit stations cost enormous amounts of money. Once built, they remain in operation for many, many decades.

As the second basis for our concern, the July 17, 2014 letter from Metrolinx reveals that it is now in the process of implementing a public transit station design in a number of stations on the new Eglinton subway line that includes a serious problem from the perspective of disability accessibility and public safety. On June 18, 2014, we wrote the Metrolinx President to ask about this. We enclose a copy of that letter. In our letter, we explained the issue as follows:

"In any public transit stations for subways, trains, light rapid transit lines, and the like, there are two options for a platform. By the first option, the "centre platform" option, there is one passenger platform in the middle of the station. On either side of that platform are tracks, and transit lines. There is no wall along the length of the platform, because it is open on both sides to tracks.

By the second option, the "side platform" option, the tracks are in the centre of the station. There are two passenger platforms, one on either side of the tracks. Each platform has a wall running the length of the platform, on the side of the platform that is opposite from the tracks.

We want Metrolinx and the Government to ensure that all new public transit stations only use the side platforms option. The "centre platform" option must never be used.

Here are our accessibility concerns. The centre platform option is harder and riskier for people with vision loss to navigate. Even when the platform floor is properly marked with tactile walking surface indicators, including tactile demarcations near the platform's edge, the environment presents a significant challenge for safe navigation for a person with vision loss who has good orientation and mobility skills. For people with vision loss who lack those skills, e.g. due to having recently lost vision, this is even more problematic.

The resounding echoes in these stations, and the noise created by incoming and outgoing trains, make the situation even more challenging.

In sharp contrast, where the side platforms option is used, a person with vision loss can align themselves with a wall, a safe distance from the platform's edge. They can use this as a safe shoreline for walking along the platform, confident that they are a safe distance from the platform's edge. They can safely approach an inbound train, after squaring off against that wall.

The side platforms option benefits many others, as well. For people with balance difficulties, or who walk slowly, the side platforms option provides more safety and security. For people without disabilities, who want to keep far from the platform's edge for safety reasons, this option is far better. For those accompanying small children, the safety benefits of the side platforms option are also manifestly obvious.

The only advantage for passengers of the centre platform option is that they can more quickly cross from one train to the other. However, that is a matter of mere convenience, not the more important consideration of accessibility and personal safety. Moreover, the only passengers who might benefit at all from the centre platform option are those who accidentally missed their own stop, and need to backtrack. We anticipate that this is a very small minority of passengers.

The Toronto subway line provides an excellent proving ground for this concern. Some of its stations commendably use the side platforms option. Others regrettably use the less accessible and more risk-prone centre platform option. I would be pleased to take you on a tour of these two alternatives, on the TTC subway line, under blindfold if you wish, to demonstrate the point we raise here."

Much to our distress, in his July 17, 2014 response to us, the Metrolinx President stated that several stations on the new Eglinton subway line will in fact use the problematic centre platform design. He in substance said that this cannot now be changed. He wrote:

"The decision to provide centre platforms in the tunneled sections of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT had been made a number of years ago, for a variety of reasons. This design has been incorporated in subsequent procurement documents and cannot be altered at this time. Side platforms will be used at all surface stops except for one where they are not feasible due to the track layout and other environmental constraints at the location."

The Metrolinx President also told us that the issue of preferring the side platform option will be included in their as-yet-uncompleted accessibility guidelines for future transit station design, but only as a consideration, not as a requirement. He wrote:

"With regard to use of centre and side platforms, we appreciate the increased confidence that a side platform may provide for travelers with vision loss. The guidelines will reflect this as a consideration in the station design. In a specific situation this will be considered along with other factors including the overall station circulation requirements and ease of wayfinding, provision of reliable vertical access, technical feasibility, etc."

We have today written to the Metrolinx President. We copied you on that letter. In that letter, you will see that we explain why Metrolinx's position is unacceptable. We ask Metrolinx to reverse its position, and to ensure that all new transit stations, including for example all stations on the Eglinton subway line, will incorporate a side platform design, not a centre platform design. We ask Metrolinx to give us important information on how it has approached this issue. We (and no doubt, you) will want a prompt response from Metrolinx on the information we have requested.

Each of your new ministerial portfolios bear directly on this issue. The Minister of Transportation has ultimate responsibility for Ontario's public transit infrastructure initiative, including the activities of Metrolinx. Ontario's Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure Minister has joint responsibility for the AODA's implementation, and for Ontario's infrastructure projects (including compliance with Ontario's Ten Year Infrastructure Plan). We ask you each to intervene to ensure that Metrolinx immediately reverses its plans to build several stations on the Eglinton subway line using the centre platform design. We further ask you to ensure that in any new public transit stations in Ontario, the centre platform design is not used. Finally, we ask you to intervene with Metrolinx to ensure that it finalizes and makes public its comprehensive guidelines or standard for accessible public transit stations, after consulting with the public, before any new public transit stations are designed and built. It is inexcusable that Metrolinx has not already done so. Moreover, Metrolinx's actions, as summarized in this letter, fly in the face of the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Charter of rights, the goals and requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, the Government's accessibility pledges in its Ten Year Infrastructure Plan, and Premier Wynne's 2014 election pledge not to use public money to create or perpetuate disability barriers.

We welcome the chance to do whatever we can to assist the Government with this. May we hear back from you as soon as possible on this important issue.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky CM, O.Ont.
Chair
Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

cc:
Premier Kathleen Wynne, email kwynne.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Carol Layton, Deputy Minister of Transportation, email carol.layton@ontario.ca
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment, email: wendy.tilford@ontario.ca
Ann Hoy, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, email: ann.hoy@ontario.ca
Anthony Tibbs, President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians email: tibbs@blindcanadians.ca
Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO Metrolinx email: ceo@metrolinx.com
John Rafferty, President, Canadian National Institute for the Blind email: john.rafferty@CNIB.ca