Alex Marques, one of the community connectors speaks with local businesses in Hamilton.

Community Connectors changing how Metrolinx talks transit

Transit agency takes a personal approach to talking transit, LRTs and construction.

Aug 1, 2018

When Sulema James walks into the local grocery store, she’s not there to buy milk or eggs, but speak to the small business owner about the future transit that will be running in front of their shop in Hamilton.

This good neighbour approach is what the Community Connectors program is all about: reaching businesses and residents along the Metrolinx Light Rail Transit (LRT) routes in Hamilton and Mississauga and Brampton, keeping them in the know and listening to their concerns.

“Knocking on 2,324 doors, at least twice a year, provides a personal level of support and has led to thousands of great conversations about construction and transit,” said Jamie Robinson, the director of community relations at Metrolinx.

One Palestinian restaurant business owner in Mississauga, was worried about how future construction would impact his customers. Having a diverse multilingual staff to speak in this owner’s native language made him feel more comfortable asking questions, leading to a meaningful discussion about the project.

Community Connectors on the Hurontario LRT project are hired from the local community. Therefore it’s not surprising the groups speaks many different languages, helping ensure residents and business owner can be informed about what’s to come.

Construction was top of mind for one specialty baker in Hamilton, who was worried how customers will access his establishment and if they’ll want to – during Hamilton LRT construction. Sharing their own experiences, Alex Marques and Sulema James, two Community Connectors, empathized with this small business owner and provided examples of how Metrolinx works to support businesses before and during construction.

Through this one-on-one approach, Metrolinx not only helps residents and business owners gain a better understanding of the project and what to expect in the short term, the benefits new rapid transit will bring to these communities is better explained as well.

The success of this innovative public engagement model is becoming the new way of doing business. By engaging with those who live and work in these areas before construction begins, it helps to both prepare and build support for expanding transit throughout the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

The Community Connector program was originally launched in 2016, by the City of Hamilton in partnership with Metrolinx. It was quickly adopted for the Hurontario LRT project in Mississauga and Brampton as well.