Other than the lightbulbs, not much has changed at Woodbine station since it opened in 1966.
But by the fall of 2016, Woodbine will be the latest Toronto subway station to get elevators for easier access and a second exit for improved fire safety.
The upgrades, which start this fall, also include new signs, lights and landscaping, a wheelchair-accessible fare gate and sliding doors to the street and bus platforms.
“It means a better station in the end,” says Anna Pace, director of strategic partnerships for the Toronto Transit Commission.
But getting to that upgraded station is no easy task. Like the similar upgrades planned for Donlands, Greenwood and Coxwell stations, building a second exit for Woodbine means demolishing a nearby house first.
Buying out or expropriating private homes is the hardest part of the second exit projects, Pace said. And she admits it is an area where the TTC has a poor track record.
In October, City of Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean found a “total failure” by the TTC to meaningfully consult people living near the Donlands and Greenwood stations about plans for second exits.
The first time those residents heard their houses might have to be torn down was a one-page flyer addressed “To Occupant” with a map showing red boxes where the TTC already planned to build. One man got an hour’s notice before the public meeting where the expropriation of his house would be approved.
After public protests and the ombudsman’s report, Pace said the TTC has learned its lesson.
“We need to talk to the community earlier,” she said, speaking at an April 18 open house at the Danforth Mennonite Church about the Woodbine upgrades.
Under new guidelines released in February, Pace said the TTC has to show residents clear criteria for choosing a particular building site. The TTC will also consult all the potentially affected homeowners at once, she said, to avoid putting a wedge between residents who want to sell and those who don’t.
But the TTC’s new approach comes too late for Stephanie Nasello, who lives next door to the site of the second Woodbine exit at the northwest corner of Woodbine and Strathmore Boulevard.
“It’s going to be really hard on us,” Nasello said, adding that Enbridge workers have already dug a hole in front of her driveway to move a gas line.
“I came home yesterday and I got yelled at,” she said. “They had a gas leak, so it was an emergency, but I got screamed at.”
Besides years of similar construction hassles, Nasello worries that subway riders leaving the finished exit will cut through her front yard.
“I don’t want to leave this area, but what choice do I have?” she said. “I don’t want to live next to a TTC exit.”
Nasello is also concerned that her house, owned by her father and by her grandparents before that, may one day be expropriated if the TTC expands the second Woodbine exit into an entrance – something the TTC has considered and a move that several residents at the open house were calling for as a way to reduce jaywalking and sidewalk traffic in the area.
For more information on the Woodbine upgrades, including traffic plans for Strathmore Boulevard and updates on how the 91 and 92 buses will be rerouted during construction, visit the TTC’s project website at www.ttc.ca or call TTC community liaison Lito Romano at 416-397-8699.