• Christel

Livechat summary: Toronto is creating an innovative mobility ecosystem for urban areas

Updated: Oct 18, 2018

Summary of the livechat led on Convercities mobility channel on July 17th, 2018.

Dewan Karim is a Senior Transportation Planner and project manager for several large transportation planning projects. He manages transportation master plans and complex development projects to assess future transportation needs for short and long-term horizons.

He presented the impact of sharing economy and innovative transportation on Toronto’s urban policy to Convercities’ members.

The drawbacks of Mobility-as-a-service

Mobility-as-a-service offers greater flexibility to citizens but is criticized for its flaws. If not handled properly by the authorities, MaaS can result in:

  • less inclusive cities: carshare companies typically focus on downtown areas. When they provide services in suburbs, they often have pick-up points which require to walk a mile or so in these areas. Our members - including staff from the City of Vantaa, Finland and from the City of Murcia, Spain - explained that cities must push shared mobility operators to cover the city as a whole. Toronto has already taken action. Its staff suggested the creation of well designated, comfortable waiting areas to find a bike-share station, car-share vehicle, or wait for a ride-share driver. They called it Ecomobility multimodal hubs, after an expression first used by Dewan Karim. Such infrastructure has the potential to address the “first and last mile” problem via a one-stop service point. In order to maximize the transit network capacity, the city wants to implement these hubs at strategic locations (based on mobility demand), in recently approved secondary planning areas, as evenly distributed as possible, so citizens can walk 2/3 minutes to multimodal access point. Car2Go - hourly car rental system without return stations – decided to leave Toronto because of the restrictive on-street floating carshare interim policies. In the case of bike-sharing, a concrete action would be to force operators to evenly distribute their fleet explained a mobility manager from Spain.

An example of a shared mobility hub. | Image by Sophia Von Berg
  • increased congestion : rideshare companies drivers don’t care much about where they are dropping passengers without designated places or proper waiting area facilities and as a result, they often block lanes,

  • safety concerns: rideshare companies may as well drop women/parent with children in loading zones or gas pump locations. This raises security concerns. Toronto is working on systematic and designated drop-off locations within every 50-100m, mostly on-street or on the building corners that the city is currently redesigning for key planning areas.

Urban design and regulations need to evolve with new transportation modes

Our members are demonstrating that, if regulated properly, MaaS’s drawbacks can be mitigated with innovative planning and creative design solutions. Imposing strict conditions and regulations to rideshare or bikeshare or care share companies is the most visible part of municipalities reactions to the emergence of new mobility modes. It is “easy” for a city to make carshare officially legal and tax it but there remain many urban challenges for city planners, especially in urban design perspective.

For example curb space (areas where careshare services drop-off people) design is critical for getting safe and comfortable access to vehicles. There are very few cases of well-designed multi-modal curbsides, which is now a key challenge for mobility city planners. Dewan Karim explains 3 ways his city is implementing to increase curb space.

  • the city narrowed typical local street width to add curb extensions, enhanced public realm or amenities and green street features (avoiding taking space from pedestrian or park corners or public realm),

  • the city convinced real estate developers to provide multi-modal curbside infrastructure through adjustment of vehicle parking space and numbers, greater flexibility accommodating density at major transit station areas, flexible street design and numerous travel demand management options to reduce expansive vehicle infrastructures. Regulation usually ties the city’s hands but Toronto started all these projects under pilot schemes. When the outcome is positive, then regulation may change. Best example is Toronto Green Standards which was recently updated to accommodate and shared mobility, low-emission vehicle requirements. The Toronto Green Standard has even made mandatory some items under Tier 1 for new mid-or high-rise development projects which were effective from May 1, 2018,

  • it is following NACTO guidelines for designing curb space,

Toronto organized working groups to foster rational multimodal mobility planning approaches. It has now published carshare interim policies and currently working towards carshare practice guidelines to inform stakeholders like carshare companies, developers and planners about how to deal with carshare "networks-wide approach”. In a recent report on the largest residential and second largest business complex in Toronto, the City wrote, as part of redesign options, that the owner should “provide a minimum of twenty five (25) publicly accessible car-share spaces on site, in locations satisfactory to the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning”, and will provide funding for bike share-stations totalling $250,000. It “will also create publicly accessible rideshare drop-off spaces (…) for each mid-rise and tall building. The owner was asked to develop a “transportation demand management plan” in the next two years for the site and surrounding area. This multi-year TDM plan will be implemented before building occupancy and will include priority spaces for bike-share, carpool, bikeshare and car-share.

The city of Toronto already published bikeshare expansion plan, technical guideline, and working on publishing planning and design guidelines for bikeshare services or companies. Behind the scenes, the city is identifying bikeshare expansion areas to spread bikeshare in the whole city and improve pedestrian and cycling connections.

Urban planning in the Mobility-as-a-Service era is a big challenge for cities who are looking for the right approach to keep citizens safe and happy while offering the conditions for private companies to reach profitability. The City of Toronto has found bold and innovative approaches to address these issues which will hopefully inspire many Transportation and Mobility departments throughout the world.

Stay tuned for the next live chat and updates on innovative transportation on Convercities mobility channel.

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