Design is a relatively small part of the budget for Public-Private Partnership (P3) infrastructure projects, but when design is used strategically the impact can be catalytic. DIAC took up an invitation from the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to organize a tour and talk on the Eglinton Crosstown, as part of the Toronto Urbanism Symposium. We wanted to explore aspects of the design process in Canada’s largest transit project; we wanted to understand the steps taken towards Design Excellence; and we wanted to begin to highlight the lessons learned. For the hard hat tour at Mount Dennis, the intermodal transit hub at the west end of the line, Crosslinx Transit Solutions, (the construction consortium established to build the project) organized senior members of their team to guide the tour, along with the architecture leads from IBI Group. Following the tour, we travelled by bus to the offices of IBI for a presentation on the design concepts and the Systemwide approach to station architecture by IBI, and an overview of the strategic approach to signage and wayfinding, led by Entro partner, Vincent Gratton. Alex Bozikovic, architecture critic of the Globe and Mail, then moderated a cross-disciplinary panel discussion on the anticipated impacts of the project. DIAC invited three external panellists to participate: Marianne McKenna, partner, KPMB and Metrolinx board member; Adam Nicklin, Principal, Public Work; and Joanna Kervin, Third Party Technical Director, Crosslinx. They were joined on the panel by senior members of the IBI team: Trevor McIntyre, Regional Director, UK/Ireland & International, and Charlie Hoang, Director, Transit Architecture.
Here are some of the critical questions the panel discussed:
To what extent did the City’s work with Metrolinx on pre-planning set the vision for the project?
How can we create a Social Agenda for transit?
How could the region move towards a model for transit-oriented development that could help to off-load some of the costs of new transit? (For example, London, UK has developers building parts of new transit stations linked to their development projects.)
How can cross-disciplinary teams, including design teams, working on this kind of project help to shape models for growth at the policy level?
How can the lessons learned from Eglinton Crosstown be translated to other P3 projects?
The organizers and participants in the Inside Eglinton Crosstown tour event would like to continue the conversation. We recognize that for Ontario the P3 model in infrastructure construction is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. For DIAC, the question is: Could the design associations working with DIAC secure enough influence to tweak the process in order to create more scope for good design? This would benefit all stakeholders involved.