Metrolinx Fast Tracks Environmental Assessments

I received the following note from Tony Turritin that fits in with earlier threads about streamlining the Environmental Assessment process:

Just a note to mention that Metrolinx published Statutory Notices in the Toronto Star on January 7 and 9, 2008 regarding their Regional Transportation Plan study.

By my reading of the notice, transit advocates better get on the stick, because if it ain’t in the plan in just the right way, there is no or little hope for any alternative. The Notice states that the RTP will constitute Phases I and II of any future EA that flows from any element of the RTP as it is implemented.

The Notice states:

“Once completed, the RTP will provide the background for any required future Environmental Assessment (EA) studies. It is intended that the recommended RTP will have fulfilled the requirements of Phases 1 and 2 (i.e. problems/
opportunities and evaluation of alternatives to the undertaking/ selection of the preferred transportation system) of all applicable Class EAs and individual EAs that may be required for projects identified in the RTP. The selection of the preferred transportation system will identify the need for the facilities, the recommended network corridors, and possibly the preferred technology for each corridor.”

This is right out of the traditional way that MTO used to do, and still does, highway EAs. First they would do a “needs” study, those straight-line projects that always show increasing traffic, particularly truck traffic. Then when an EA came along, and people objected saying, where was the comparison with the rail alternative (say trucks on trains), the reply always was, the needs study has already been done, and the road is needed. And Oh, by the way, in a needs study there is no obligation to look at other alternatives.

In perspective, it is clear that an EA is a very very poor tool to attempt to rectify any bad road, transit, rail infrastructure adventure that the transport bureaucracy decision-makers come up with.

Metrolinx’ Regional Transportation Plan is more than a plan — it legally constrains future environmental assessments too.

We are on the verge of a situation where a master transportation plan that will affect the GTA for decades to come may act as the de facto planning process for dozens of lines. The MoveOntario2020 plan was itself a grab-bag of every plan that was sitting on a shelf when it was announced, but at least there was a clear statement that the announcement was a first cut, and fine tuning would follow.

We may find that the “fine tuning” comes by way of the Regional Transportation Plan from Metrolinx that could occur without the sort of fine-grained local input people, at least in the 416, are accustomed to.

All the more reason to stay in touch with what is brewing at Metrolinx.

7 thoughts on “Metrolinx Fast Tracks Environmental Assessments

  1. Something’s been churning in the back of my mind which is kinda related to this. I’ve been wondering just how much any future LRT systems independent of the TTC will be developed in technical isolation. Will Metrolinx and/or the Province see fit to push for compatible specifications to allow for the possibility of regional integration/interlining? I have to ask, does it make sense given the move towards ‘border-busting’ of city boundaries and co-operation between neighbouring transit systems to develop LRT systems that are physically incompatible with each other? On the other hand, do we carry on with the TTC’s unique track guage and expand it into new systems just because it was here first?

    I’m not suggesting that we should be trying to allow for long-distance, inter-city LRT routes, but if we build systems that terminate and interchange passengers at existing city boundaries aren’t we forever sticking ourselves with the status quo? It seems to me that if Mississauga Transit has been willing to operate numerous bus routes far inside the Toronto border for most effective system interchange then the same thing would likely make sense for some LRT routes. And rather than have these routes run in their own isolated corridors it would make sense to have an operable routing directly over future TTC trackage.

    Has anyone ever studied this kind of arrangement between proposed systems outside the Toronto border? What about travel patterns and whether they support this? I think spreading out system interchange over a certain distance would help avoid the kind of near-gridlock that monster interchange points like Finch Station generate just in transit vehicle traffic alone.

    One issue raised in the press recently is that high Canadian content for new LRV purchases is impossible without great expense or a larger local market for similar vehicles. Wouldn’t similar or compatible vehicles for multiple cities at nearly the same time create an opportunity to achieve what the CAW is fighting for? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be like Calgary and Edmonton, whose similar vehicles made it possible to share repair parts when necessary? Or does this just set us up for a ‘Province-knows-best’ home-grown technological and financial boondoggle?

    And finally, are we forever doomed to suffer with inter-city/interregional BRT (if you can actually call them that) and a GO system that will never, ever mature beyond its ‘infantile’ fixation on am/pm rush period, hourly headway, Toronto-centred service policies?

    Steve: The carhouse study for Transit City is already taking into account the need for a joint TTC/Mississauga facility somewhere in Etobicoke. Also, Metrolinx proposes that it be set up as the standards authority for vehicle specification and procurement. In practice, this means buses because the spec for the TTC subway car is already well-established, and the LRV contract is in the RFP stage. Further out, a new generation of “Transit City” LRVs will obviously set the regional standard, and unless someone at Metrolinx is terminally stupid, these cars will build on the “city” cars as a starting point.


  2. Hi Steve and Dalton McGuinty:-


    Let the GTTA that you created report first for crying out loud!!!!



  3. Yikes – thanks Steve, and Tony. If the system had more of the planning that went on a few decades ago, that might be hopeful. But the FSE/WWLRT me$s is making me wary of the quality of existing plans, though I would like to have effective transit expedited to attempt to alleviate the climate carisis. But why not just add another 10% of taxes to the gas prices and tolls ahead of the many big and smaller projects that we need…

    Steve: If the Metrolinx RTP is to be the bible for transportation plans in these parts, let’s see whether it has an FSE or not. I don’t think there is much appetite for building a small local expressway downtown when the 905ers are crying for more road capacity in their territories.


  4. When Tony says “Then when an EA came along, and people objected saying, where was the comparison with the rail alternative (say trucks on trains), the reply always was, the needs study has already been done, and the road is needed.”

    you have to use common sense and think about what your saying! If they are building the 400 extension towards Sudbury then is there any density anywhere to support any kind of transit? No. Would it be safer for everyone if the highway was built? Yes. Would it also allow Coach Buses to make smooth trips from Toronto to Sudbury or whatever Routes they take? Definately. Is a Coach Bus a form of Public Transit? Yes.

    Is there enough track capacity to add in any more freight? No. Is the cost justifiable in building more track for long-haul freight? No. Most of all, is freight on trains flexible or affordable for small-medium business? Most definitely not.

    Steve has said it again and again in the context of Transit City, A solution for one area won’t work for another.

    I’m sure those EA’s are not for any urban freeways but rather rural style ones with wide grass medians. Why would anyone be opposed to that? Outside of the GTA and the Ottawa Region, no area in Ontario has the densities for transit! Road prevails and it is the only way….deal with it.

    Sorry i had to go a little off-tangent but i just had to address that.


  5. Steve comments: “The carhouse study for Transit City is already taking into account the need for a joint TTC/Mississauga facility somewhere in Etobicoke.”

    Is there any material on this study available online? I did a bit of poking on the TTC and Transit City sites without any luck.

    Steve: No. I am aware of this from comments made in passing at TTC meetings when Transit City issues have been discussed.


  6. As far as the joint Mississauga LRT/TTC Transit City carhouse in Etobicoke goes, there are strong vibes going out today in the news that in the future, the TTC and MT (and other GTA transit agencies) will not exist as separate entities. Ultimately they will be merged into Metrolinx with a uniform route structure, etc. etc.

    And, there is talk about taking just the subway system — anything with regional consequences.

    Steve: There is more hot air than meaningful statements floating around on this issue, and everyone in sight is backing off furiously, assuming they had sounded even vaguely interested beforehand.

    McGuinty is getting ahead of his own Metrolinx organization. Moreover, any scheme to cherry pick just the rapid transit lines doesn’t make sense if what we want is an “integrated” system. Who would still be running the local services?


  7. Well there’s alot about the entire process of transit planning, construction, etc. that needs to be fast tracked. I understand that you can’t exactly just go out and turn every last proposal into reality at the drop of a hat but all over North America the process of getting anything going at all has gotten much to convoluted and cumbersome. Now absolutely no one knows better than I do that Rome wasn’t built in a day but it had to have been built much faster than it ever would today! Sure, you want to do things right but it does seem to me that there may be more harm than good done with regard to the total cost and other factors in any given project.

    Steve: When the new express road to handle truck traffic comes right through your bedroom, be sure to send me a copy of your defence of fast tracked studies. These days, everyone looks to Madrid as an example of how to get things done quickly. What they ignore is that Madrid has not one mega-plan setting in concrete everything to be built for decades, but a series of plans co-inciding with the term of office of the President of the State. All of this was done in a context where transit improvements were seen as important municipal and national concerns, not as sops for the folks who don’t want to drive.

    MoveOntario2020 contains a grab-bag of plans dating over several years from many agencies. These may or may not support each other or our regional goals for transit improvement. We must not, in the name of speed and efficiency, preclude future debate and fine tuning of the Regional Plan.


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