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.