Long before the first shovels ever break ground, design excellence is being fully baked into new transit facilities ultimately ensuring Metrolinx builds transit ridership and community pride. For transit builders like Metrolinx it’s more than just good design – it’s a real, tangible commitment to design excellence that catalyzes urban growth and ensures public dollars produce thoughtful and cost-effective results.

But that’s just the start of what Metrolinx’s Design Excellence program will bring to projects across our region. It brings sensible urban design that supports the community where projects are being built. In essence, this investment in design thinking spurs growth, increases building sustainability, durability, and vital lifespan, increases ridership, improves passenger comfort, safety and pride in transit, and reduces maintenance costs.

As a strong supporter of design excellence, Metrolinx has brought to the forefront resources and policies that guide infrastructure using a design excellence lens, through a variety of documents that help to shape project builds. Through the Eglinton LRT Design Excellence Principles document, Metrolinx worked with stakeholders to include design excellence as a key requirement of Project Specific Output Specifications (PSOS) and bid evaluation, and effectively established clear design criteria on which to assess bid compliance, and ultimately project execution.

As a result of these new criteria, which resulted from extensive collaboration with stakeholders, the Crosstown line will have new and identifiable station buildings that support city building, clear signage and wayfinding, streetscaping to beautify the neighbourhood – it will feature trail and pedestrian connections, including bike lanes, and outdoor platforms with built-in snow melting that will not only reduce snow clearing costs, but reduce the need for salt. The Davenport Diamond overpass is another example of how design and design excellence can help Metrolinx connect with people living in communities and bring many public realm improvements. This project, which will allow for more service on the Barrie line, initially caused some anxiety with local residents given its size and proximity to residences. Thanks to the hard work of both staff and the community, the benefits being proposed have changed the tone and feelings about the project. The public realm improvements for this project also include a significant integrated art piece commissioned for the elevated rail portion.

Although historically design excellence has not been a core component of the transit industry in Ontario, in this major regional transportation expansion, Metrolinx, with strong support from Infrastructure Ontario, has made great strides to change this by incorporating the concepts of design excellence in architecture, interior, urban and landscape design in the development of its transit projects.

It’s clear that design excellence goes beyond the visual – it knits together all aspects that make an effective transit system that is customer friendly and sets a high-standard for the traveller experience, and the adjacent community. Improving the quality of architecture, urban design and landscape architecture throughout the regional transit system, helps to deliver a higher quality, seamless experience that makes transit the preferred mode – a commitment that Metrolinx strives to continue to meet.

This article is presented by Metrolinx, proud supporter of this year’s Urban Transit Infrastructure conference. Learn more here.