ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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AODA Alliance Chair Resorts to Freedom of Information Application to Unearth the Story on How and Why Metrolinx Designed the New Eglinton Subway with Barriers to Disability Accessibility and Safety

August 27, 2014

Summary

On August 22, 2014, David Lepofsky, who serves as the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, resorted to submitting a Freedom of Information application to Metrolinx. The key part of that application is set out below. In it, he asks Metrolinx to make public important information and documents concerning Metrolinx's controversial decision to design several public transit stations on Toronto's new Eglinton subway line with barriers to disability accessibility and safety.

Last week, on August 19, 2014, we made public, and the Toronto Star and Global TV News each reported, that several public transit stations on the new Eglinton line now under construction, will have a centre platform, with tracks on both sides. Metrolinx has chosen not to use a clearly safer and more accessible "side platform" design in those stations. In a station with a "side platform" design, the tracks are in the middle of the station. There is one platform for passengers on either side of the tracks.

Lepofsky emphasizes that the centre platform design is less accessible and safe for people with certain disabilities, such as those with vision loss. In a station with a side platform design, each platform has a wall, running the length of the platform. It is a safe distance from the tracks. The wall can be safely trailed or "shore-lined," without a person having to come close to the platform edge. A station with a centre platform design also presents a safety concern for passengers with no disabilities, who want to stand as far back as they can from the edge while waiting for a train.

On August 11, 2014, the AODA Alliance wrote Metrolinx, to ask it to reconsider this decision. Metrolinx is the Ontario Government agency leading this public transit development. 

We also asked Metrolinx in that letter to make public important information on how and why it decided on this troubling design for these public transit stations. Metrolinx has not answered that letter. Instead, it has told the media that it has consulted on accessibility for these stations, and that the station design is safe.

As a result, David Lepofsky resorted to filing his Freedom of Information request. Through this, he is trying to find out such things as:

* Who within the Ontario Government took part in the decision to create these barriers to accessibility and safety, using public money?

* Who was consulted on disability accessibility and safety, before or after this decision?

* What expert advice, studies or feedback has Metrolinx received on this issue?

* What options for addressing these accessibility and safety concerns did Metrolinx consider?

* Why did Metrolinx or the Government decide to proceed with creating these barriers to accessibility and safety?

* What information does Metrolinx have has on the costs of designing these public transit stations with or without these barriers to accessibility and safety?

* Any such information that post-dates its decision to design these stations as it did.

"In this year's election, Premier Wynne promised not to use public money to create or perpetuate disability barriers, and to be open and transparent in how her Government uses public money, especially in such large projects," said David Lepofsky. "We hope that the Government will quickly come forward with all the information we have sought, and won't put barriers in our way in our effort to get this information which the public has a right to know. We repeat our call for the Minister of Transportation and the Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure to immediately intervene with Metrolinx to fix this accessibility and public safety issue."

We emphasized the following in our August 19, 2014 AODA Alliance Update:

"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."

All the information we seek would be important for use by the Ministers of Transportation and of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. Since Metrolinx has announced that it consulted on this, and that its design is safe, it should be able to quickly locate the information we seek. This subway is costing the public some 5.3 billion dollars. It is important for the Government to get it right when it builds it.

We will keep you posted on progress on this issue. To read the Toronto Star's August 19, 2014 report on this accessibility/safety issue, and the AODA Alliance's correspondence with Metrolinx to date

Below we set out:

* David Lepofsky's August 22, 2014 Freedom of Information application and

* The text of the August 19, 2014 Global TV News item on this issue.

Of course, the Accessibility Clock keeps on ticking. A problematic 282 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-eight 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, 364 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. There are only 317 days until the 2015 Toronto Games begin.

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MORE DETAILS

Text of David Lepofsky's August 22, 2014 Freedom of Information Application to Metrolinx

Christina Macdonald Rudder
Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Coordinator
Metrolinx
97 Front Street West
Toronto Ontario M5J 1E6

Dear Metrolinx,

I hereby apply under Ontario's Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act for access to information in the control of Metrolinx, specified below. I seek access to general records (non-personal information).

I apply for the information and records listed below. Where I refer to "the Eglinton line public transit station platform design," I refer to any decision of how to design the layout of passenger platforms adjacent to tracks in a public transit station, including whether there will be a centre platform design (one platform in the station centre, with one set of tracks on either side, for trains going in two different directions) as opposed to a side platform design (tracks in the station's centre, with two passenger platforms, one on either side of the tracks).

1.         When was the decision made to use a centre platform design on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line?

2.         Was it Metrolinx that made this final decision regarding the Eglinton line? Or did Metrolinx make a recommendation and the final decision was made elsewhere within the Ontario Government? If elsewhere, who and which part of the Ontario Government made the final decision on the Eglinton line public transit station platform design?

3.         What role or input, if any did the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and/or the Ministry of Infrastructure have in the decision over the Eglinton line public transit station platform design?  

4.         Was the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario invited to give input into the Eglinton line public transit station platform design before Metrolinx reached any decision or finalized any recommendation regarding that public transit station platform design? If so, what input did the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario provide?

5.         Whose approvals within Metrolinx were obtained regarding the Eglinton line public transit station platform design?

6.         What approvals if any did Metrolinx obtain from any other organization or individual (outside Metrolinx, whether within the Ontario Government or outside the Ontario Government) before the decision was finalized regarding the Eglinton line public transit station platform design?

7.         Before Metrolinx decided on or made any recommendations to the Ontario Government on the Eglinton line public transit station platform design, what consultations on accessibility for persons with disabilities (including, without limitation, persons with vision loss)and/or safety were conducted by Metrolinx, or at Metrolinx's request, or to Metrolinx's knowledge? This includes consultations with anyone, including Ontarians with disabilities, the public, experts on accessibility and/or safety, or any other source. Included as part of this request, I ask:

a)  Who was invited to take part in any such consultations?

b) How were individuals or organizations notified about, or invited to take part in these consultations?

c) What documents or information about the Eglinton line public transit station platform design was provided to those whose input or advice was sought?
  
d) When was input sought into the Eglinton line public transit station platform design?

e) When were any such consultations held and when were they completed?

8.         What input, feedback or advice was received or did Metrolinx become aware of, and from whom, on the topic of accessibility for persons with disabilities (including, without limitation, persons with vision loss) and safety, regarding the Eglinton line public transit station platform design, before Metrolinx made any final decision or recommendation on platform design?

9.         I ask for the same information and records as are referred to in (7) and (8) above, in relation to any consultation conducted or feedback or advice or input received, up to the time this application is fulfilled,  that took place after Metrolinx made any decision or recommendation on the Eglinton line public transit station platform design, and up to the time this Freedom of Information application is fulfilled.

10.       Without limiting the scope of any of the above requests, I request any reports, studies, analyses or minutes of meetings  or other records of input, feedback or advice requested or obtained by or on behalf of Metrolinx on the issue of whether to use a centre platform design or a side platform design in any or all public transit stations on the Eglinton line, and its implications for the accessibility and safety of those stations for people with disabilities, including, without limitation, persons with vision loss. I request this for the period during which the Eglinton line was being planned and designed, and for any time after that up to the time this Freedom of Information application is fulfilled.

11.       Any other documents which include any discussion of the options for ensuring the accessibility and safety of public transit platforms, from the perspective of people with disabilities including, without limitation, persons with vision loss, including any consideration of the accessibility and safety implications of using a centre platform design for public transit stations.

12.       What accessibility safety guideline or standard, if any, did Metrolinx use when deciding upon the Eglinton line public transit station platform design? Please provide copies of these.

13.       What were the reasons for Metrolinx choosing or recommending a side platform design rather than a centre platform design for any or all of the underground stations and/or any surface stations on the Eglinton line?

14.       What options did Metrolinx consider or investigate at any time for ensuring accessibility for persons with disabilities (including without limitation, persons with vision loss) and/or safety in the Eglinton line public transit station platform design? When were these considered or investigated? Who, if anyone, within Metrolinx, or to the knowledge of Metrolinx, within the Ontario Government, advised against the use of a centre platform design?

15.       Any document or record setting out Metrolinx's decision or final recommendation to the Ontario Government on the Eglinton line public transit station platform design.

16.       Any studies or calculations of the comparative costs and/or environmental impact of using a centre platform design or a side platform design for any or all stations on the Eglinton line conducted by or on behalf of Metrolinx either before or after any decision on platform design.

17.       Did Metrolinx, or, to the knowledge of Metrolinx, any other organization within the Ontario Government take any steps to reconsider the Eglinton line public transit station platform design after Metrolinx made its decision or recommendation on this, in connection with accessibility for persons with disabilities (including, without limitation, persons with vision loss) and/or safety? If so, please provide the same information relating to this as are requested in (1) through (16) above.
 
18.       In his July 17, 2014 letter to me in my capacity as chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, Mr. Bruce McCuaig, President & CEO of Metrolinx stated regarding the decision to use a centre platform design in certain stations on the Eglinton line:

"This design has been incorporated in subsequent procurement documents and cannot be altered at this time."

The text of that letter is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda /0819 2014.asp)

In what specific procurement documents has the centre platform been incorporated? Please provide copies. Please also disclose:

a) with whom each document was entered and on what date;

b) who issued the procurement document; and

c) who inside or outside Metrolinx approved the inclusion of a centre platform design in each such document before it was issued or agreed to.

19.       In his July 17, 2014 letter to me, the Metrolinx CEO and President advised that Metrolinx is now developing accessibility guidelines for design of public transit stations. Regarding this, please provide a current draft, if any now exists, of that guideline, and please disclose:

a) When did Metrolinx begin its work on the development of those guidelines and when are they scheduled to be completed?

b) Who was invited to give input and when?

20.       Which above-ground station on the Eglinton line is planned to use a centre platform design?

21.       For what other public transit infrastructure subways, rapid transit lines, LRTS or other like projects in Ontario is Metrolinx either responsible or involved? Regarding any of those projects:

a) In which case has the design of any or all public transit stations been decided upon, with a focus on the platform design?

b) For those public transit stations whose design has been decided upon, what is the platform design being used? In which cases if any is a centre platform design being used?

22.       For the Eglinton line, to what extent have the tunnels or excavation for the underground stations been completed? When is their excavation scheduled to be completed?

Please communicate with me at the above address. I prefer correspondence to be sent to me via email. I request that where possible, this information be provided to me in an accessible electronic format, such as text in MS Word documents. PDF format documents should be considered not to be accessible. I am totally blind, and use JAWS for Windows as my screen-reading software in the Windows environment.

Please provide any requested information as soon as available. In other words, please do not hold back all requested information until it is all assembled. If some information can be quickly provided, while other requested information may take longer, please provide the immediately available information as soon as possible, and do not hold it back until all other requested information is sought and obtained.

If some requested information would require extensive efforts to collect and provide, please contact me. I am open to adjusting, clarifying or refining the request for information to reduce the time and cost to the Government of complying with this request, so long as I can obtain the substance of the information I am seeking.

I am not seeking disclosure of any privileged legal advice sought or obtained by or within the Government.

I seek records and information from no further back than October, 2003. I am happy to narrow the time frame in discussions with Metrolinx, so long as that does not delay Metrolinx's compliance with required time lines for answering this Freedom of Information application, and so long as it covers the entire process of developing plans for station design, right up to the time this application is fulfilled.

I am fundamentally interested in information and records that pertain to the development of the design of public transit stations in which Metrolinx has any involvement, with a major focus on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT line, and particularly, in the disability accessibility and safety of public transit stations' platforms.

I hereby ask that any fee for this application, beyond the $5 application fee (which is enclosed) be waived. I am applying as an individual, in the public interest. In her May 14, 2014 letter to me in my capacity as chair of the voluntary, non-partisan Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised that public money would not be used to create or perpetuate any disability accessibility barriers. That letter is publicly available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/2014-election-pledges-Kathleen-Wynne.asp   

Premier Wynne has also promised the public to make the Ontario Government open, transparent and publicly accountable, especially in the way it uses public money.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.

Text of the August 19, 2014 Global TV News Item on the Eglinton LRT Line Transit Station Accessibility and Safety Issue

Global TV News
August 19, 2014 6:58 p.m.
Posted at http://globalnews.ca/news/1516383/visually-impaired-man-questions-accessibility-of-eglinton-crosstown/

Visually impaired man questions accessibility of Eglinton Crosstown
By Sean Mallen, Reporter

TORONTO – David Lepofsky, a visually impaired lawyer, is concerned the platforms of the new Eglinton Crosstown LRT won’t be accessible.

He took a Global News crew down into the College Street subway station, loudly tapping his white cane as he worked his way down onto the platform.

It is familiar territory to him, close to his law office and despite its age has a design advantage for the visually impaired that he says is mostly absent from the Eglinton Cross LRT currently under construction.
 
“When there’s a side platform, there’s maximum safety,” he said, running his hand along the wall. “I can follow this wall, using my cane.  The wall is my shoreline.”

We took a southbound train on the Yonge-University-Spadina line to Osgoode Station to make a point. It has a centre platform, with only pillars as opposed to a full wall.

For Lepofsky, it makes for uncertain footing.

“There is no safe shoreline that I can safely navigate to, so that I know I’m a safe distance from the edge,” he said.

The demonstration was to explain why he is livid at the design of the underground stations on the new, $5.3 billion Eglinton Crosstown LRT.

All 12 of the stops have centre platforms.   Lepofsky wrote to Metrolinx in June to warn them of the problems with this kind of design and was told it is too late, the boring of tunnels is well underway and they are configured for centre platforms.

Unconvinced, he is now loudly calling for change, refusing to believe that the station design cannot be amended.

“Blind people were not just invented last week,” he said. “And the risk that’s presented to us by centre platforms didn’t just arise last week. They didn’t do the proper planning and consulting in advance.”

It is criticism rejected by Metrolinx spokesperson Jamie Robinson, who said the agency did extensive outreach with disabled groups in preparing the designs, with many accessibility features built into the stations.

“(The stations) are very safe for all passengers, including those that are visually impaired,” he said.

Lepofsky is a long time activist for accessibility in public transit.  In the 1990s, he fought a long battle with the TTC to convince it to announce stations on trains.  He won.

Now he has written to the Ministers of Transportation and Infrastructure, as well as the premier, reminding them of the Liberal election promise that all major infrastructure projects would be accessible.

Sean Mallen is a reporter with Global News in Toronto.