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Proximity Guidelines and Best Practices – Implementation Required!

by on February 14, 2011

In June 2007, Canadian Parliament passed much-needed amendments to The Canada Transportation Act to address serious concerns with railway noise and vibration.

It was the first step in re-regulating an industry that, over the course of the seven previous years, missed a golden opportunity to prove to both the government and to communities impacted by its operations that it was capable of regulating itself and building better community relationships as a result.

Shortly after, The Railway Association of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities issued a reprinted version of the joint initiative “Final Report – Proximity Guidelines and Best Practices,” a study providing detailed information about the role that proximity can play in noise and vibration concerns between railways and residents.

This report stated that it:

“is in Canada’s economic interest to succeed in negotiating appropriate relationships between railways and communities, to plan ahead and resolve problems before they occur, and also develop dispute resolution mechanisms for resolving unanticipated problems.”

Rail/municipal proximity issues typically occur in three principle situations: land development near rail operations; new or expanded rail facilities; and/or road/rail crossings.”

“Municipal and railway stakeholders are encouraged to review and update as necessary their respective planning instruments and company practices/procedures, with a view to undertaking further specific research as necessary and/or implementing relevant components of the recommended guidelines, policies and regulations.”

“Inform and influence federal and provincial governments, with respect to the development and implementation of applicable policies, guidelines and regulations.”

“All stakeholders are encouraged to have regard for this document in their respective operations and practices.”

Overall, we think that the RAC and the FCM made some very positive strides in working together in producing this report. The detailed information this study provided in terms of specific recommendations for minimum distances between rail and residential areas, and suggested noise mitigation measures in certain circumstances was very encouraging.

Our question to the RAC and to the FCM:

Why is there still so much development taking place by both sides – both cities/municipalities and railways – in distances that are, in some instances, so close to each other to virtually assure a recipe for conflict between rail and residential interests?

How many railways who are members of the RAC have formally adopted a policy to stop expanding their operations closer to homes, according to the guidelines established in this report?

How many cities and municipalities who are members of the FCM have formally adopted the proximity recommendations contained in the guidelines and put a stop to development approvals that do not conform to the minimum standards contained in the report?

What is the Railway Association of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities doing to promote the adoption of the core findings of its jointly-issued report amongst its own respective members?

As almost four years have passed since the Best Practices report was reprinted, we think that it’s time for the RAC and FCM to follow up on what appears to be a somewhat stalled implementation process.

Perhaps the RAC could survey its members to provide information as to how much new development by rail companies falls within the issued guidelines, and how much new development undertaken by rail does not meet the minimum stated distances away from resident homes.

For rail developments that do not conform to proximity objectives, what noise mitigation measures have been put in place to avoid what is otherwise a likely problem with noise and vibration from its operations?

The FCM could then similarly share information on residential development that has been approved that meets proximity criteria, (and potential noise mitigation) and those that don’t – and why.

We’re pretty sure that we already know the result of such a review, if it ever were to take place: that too much building is continuing too often too close to either railways or homes, depending on which interest is doing the building.

The “Final Report – Proximity Guideline and Best Practices,” needs a full commitment by its members to act upon the guidelines jointly established to help avoid future noise and vibration conflicts between residents and railways, in order to be truly meaningful and effective.

Residential developments that meet the Best Practices criteria could be given informal joint recognition by the RAC and FCM, in order to promote the adoption of its recommendations on a community level for new construction projects in particular.

This would help promote the goals set out by the Railway Association of Canada and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, by creating better awareness amongst the public about railway proximity issues, who might otherwise find themselves living too close for comfort.

© Copyright 2011

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