Transit is a key component of municipal transportation networks. As municipalities continue to grow, there is an increasing emphasis being placed on transit due to its overall societal benefits on a broad scale. This is clearly evident in the identification of significant increases in transit as an integral part of many of the municipal Transportation Master Plans that have been or are being completed.
Prior to adding Part D (Municipal Transit Projects) to the Municipal Class Environmental Assessment parent document in 2007, municipalities did not have a pre-approved planning process under the Ontario Environmental Assessment (EA) Act to plan and implement transit projects. As a result, municipalities used a variety of different mechanisms under the Ontario EA Act, including the following:
|1)||Ontario Regulation 334, which includes provisions that:|
|i)||identify new bus service on an exclusive right-of-way or a new rail transit system, or a new station, terminal or marshalling yard for a rail transit system, being subject to the requirements of an Individual Environmental Assessment (IEA).|
|ii)||exempt projects with an estimated cost of not more than $3.5M (note – this exemption does not apply to projects that are covered by parent Class EA documents).|
|2)||Using the “Linear paved facility” definition (amended in 2004) in the Municipal Class EA|
|3)||Partnering with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and/or GO Transit and then utilizing the transit provisions in their respective parent Class EA documents|
|4)||Undertaking an Individual Environmental Assessment|
With the growing emphasis on transit at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, municipal proposals for a wide range of transit initiatives are escalating. It is recognized that public transit offers many benefits as compared to the private automobile including:
The ability to carry out municipal transit projects under the Municipal Class EA parent document provides proponents with an opportunity to expedite the planning of municipal transit projects since they are EA-approved under the Ontario EA Act. GO Transit and the Ministry of Transportation currently have pre-approved planning processes that allow them to plan and implement inter-regional and provincial transit projects.
Municipalities have identified the need to develop an approach that would allow them to plan and design transit projects in a streamlined pre-approved process that provides for public consultation and assessment of environmental effects. The ability to carry out municipal transit projects under the Municipal Class EA was therefore identified in the Municipal Class EA (2000) 5-year review.
Therefore, in 2006/7, a study was undertaken to add municipal transit projects/activities to the Municipal Class EA parent document. The study itself was undertaken as a Schedule C and an Environmental Study Report was filed on June 27, 2007 for public review. There were no Part II Order requests. Thereafter, MEA submitted a Major Amendment to the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for approval to add municipal transit projects to the Municipal Class EA document. The amendment includes: