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Liberty Village and “The Tunnel”: How to get the crowd moving faster

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What is the answer to the congestion issues near Exhibition Station and in Liberty Village?

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Columbus Crew at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Liberty Village is loved by plenty of Toronto FC fans, especially the multiple passionate supporters groups that are based there.

In a heavily-criticized article by Lauren O’Neil for blogto.com, one in which Toronto FC fans are accused of being “a lot of drunk, yelling, scarf-wearing soccer people clogging up Liberty Village,” O’Neil argues that thousands of Toronto FC fans crowd the area before and after matches, much to the annoyance of the residents. Sure, there is certainly an increase in traffic from the crowd of fans, but this is to be expected when you live within 2 kilometers of a stadium that can hold 30,000 people. I’m not arguing that the fans don’t cause delays on matchdays, but I would like to come to the defence of the fans, from the perspective of one. Toronto FC fans have a history of being passionate but respectful, a far cry from the hooliganism seen in England in the mid-to-late 20th century. To be fair, O’Neil does mention that not all fans cause problems, and that most are respectful, but she also says that other fans “take the opportunity of being wasted after a soccer game to kick over garbage cans, spit on people and yell about their genitals.” I can assure you that citizens of Liberty Village and the fans that walk through it will both agree with me in saying that any individuals that take part in such actions are not true fans of the club, and deserve any and every punishment thrown their way. One fan, Lucas Mossa, summed it up perfectly.

“It’s crucial to have easy access to BMO Field,” he said. “We don’t want to get in anybody’s way, we just want to watch TFC.”

There will be the occasional idiot that does something regrettable, but to say that there are a group fans doing this on a regular basis is simply untrue.

As a member of the Red Patch Boys, and rider of the GO train system, I have walked in the tunnel under the GO train tracks to get to Shoeless Joe’s in Liberty Village, and to the westbound platforms at Exhibition Station many times. Thousands of other fans make a similar journey, quickly filling the tunnel after the final whistle, on their way to their next destination. For many fans, that is the only way to go and they are forced to join the crowd. The tunnel gets so full that there are times where the line isn’t moving because the tunnel is beyond capacity (not to mention the mass of people trying to get in). Although it can be a fun experience as chants of “T-F-C! T-F-C!” ring around following a victory for the Reds, wait times can be ridiculous and fans have been calling for a new way to get between Liberty Village and BMO Field for a while now. The waiting times certainly suck but another concern is the safety of the fans inside the tunnel, as there is a risk of a serious incident occurring until another way is built. One fan had a good description of being in the tunnel: “The crowd, always loud, are usually on their best behaviour but it would only take a few to put many trapped people at risk.” The tunnel is so full, that it would only take one smoke canister or flare to start a panic that could cause serious harm to those in the confined space.

On April 3rd, it was finally announced that the city will start to build a bridge, after years of planning. The construction will begin this summer on the multi-million dollar bridge and ironically, will include many delays and parking restrictions around the area as they build the bridge over the tracks. You can read the official release and see artist renderings of the bridge on the City of Toronto’s website.

The bridge will certainly improve access to and from Liberty Village, but might not make a huge difference to those in the area itself. Liberty Village is full of restaurants, pubs and other attractions like Lamport Stadium, so the congestion caused by the passionate TFC faithful isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.