Huricane Juan
Toronto Star
  • GTA, Hamilton greenhouse gas emissions could be slashed through shuttles, ride-sharing: report

    More than 588,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions could be eliminated in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area over the next five years, according to a new report by MaRS and The Atmospheric Fund.

    That’s the equivalent of taking 25,000 passenger cars off the road for five years, according to Sasha Sud, a senior manager at MaRS Data Catalyst who led the development of the report.

    The answer presents, itself, in commuter shuttles and ride-sharing services such as UberPOOL and Lyft Line, Sud said.

    “We think consumers are becoming more comfortable with sharing services with the presence of services like UberPOOL, even just generally in the marketplace with things like Airbnb,” he said.

    “We think that’s an opportunity we can leverage to drive more shared services to address issues that are faced in the GTA today.”

    The report, released Monday morning, examined how effective implementation of microtransit would influence greenhouse gas emissions in the GTHA. It defined microtransit as “commuter shuttles, currently operating in certain areas based on demand, and ride-sharing, including services that allow a passenger to share a ride with others nearby who have a similar destination.”

    Sud said the reports authors identified nine areas where ride-sharing services could have a major impact after they “looked at major travel patterns within the GTHA and . . . spoke to academics and service providers in the transit agencies.”

    The categories include school drop-offs, airport drop-offs, entertainment event transportation and trips originating in low-density neighbourhoods, such as suburbs.

    The potential GHG reductions for each category were calculated through the use of secondary market research, literature review, primary research with microtransit practitioners and GHG modeling.

    Researchers examined past examples of microtransit in other cities, including shuttle operations to and from Silicon Valley by Google and other tech companies, and ride-sharing services such as UberPOOL and Lyft Line.

    “Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the province and it’s growing,” said Ian Klesmer, grants manager and policy advisor for The Atmospheric Fund.

    “The share of daily trips by car is rising in Canada; it was 68 per cent in 1992 and then it rose to 74 per cent in 2005.

    “We’re having this big discussion about how we can reduce congestion on the Gardiner and this is one more tool to help us use our road network more efficiently.”

    Improved microtransit could have far reaching influence beyond greenhouse gas emissions, according to Klesmer; it could affect traffic congestion, public transit ridership, parking and air quality.

    A number of factors will have a significant influence on whether the lofty GHG reduction goals are reached; these include the size of travel patterns being addressed, the willingness of consumers to share rides and the occupancy rate of vehicles used.

    Consumer conversion rates will have a significant impact, and they are difficult to predict because of lack of data on them.

    The numbers are “very much estimates,” according to Klesmer.

    “This was really intended to be a scoping exercise and it’s based on modelling,” Klesmer said. “Within the report, MaRs, kind of, identifies other areas of research that could help us define those estimates, but they really are very much estimates, at this point, to tell us what the potential benefits could be.”

    Klesmer said the report will help get the conversation around microtransit started.

    A meeting will be held on Monday morning with key stakeholders, including representatives from the City of Toronto, Uber, the Toronto Transit Commission and others, to discuss the research and how it could be put into practice in the GTHA.

    “We think it’s a really good opportunity,” Sud said. “I think without spending too much money, and, just by nudging social behaviour and consumer behaviour, we can see a lot of results in a really compressed time frame.

    “So that’s why we would like to start this conversation and see if we can drive some change in the transportation space.”

  • Young people facing drop in job quality, wages, StatCan study finds

    OTTAWA—A new study from Statistics Canada says young people have seen their job quality decline over the last four decades, even as the unemployment rate has remained virtually unchanged.

    In a report released Monday, the national statistics office says fewer young Canadians, who are not full-time students, are working in full-time jobs today than in 1976, a result driven mainly by the rise of part-time work rather than increases in unemployment rates or decreases in labour force participation.

    The youth unemployment rate in both 1976 and 2015 was 2.3 times higher than the rate among those aged 25 and older.

    Researchers say the declines in full-time work for those aged 17 to 24 have been almost even across the country and mirror international trends of rising part-time and temporary jobs as a share of total employment since the mid-1980s.

    Full-time workers aged 25 to 34 were also more likely to hold temporary jobs, but the study says they have been less affected than their younger counterparts.

    The study says people under age 25 who were employed full-time have seen their wages fall behind the cost of living since the early 1980s.

  • Residents concerned development will negatively impact heritage of Sunshine Valley

    Tucked away in a corner of East York, lies a quaint neighbourhood that, with its small wooden houses and manicured lawns, seems almost frozen in time.

    The houses are a warm reminder of a postwar Toronto, but some have struggled to stand the test of time over the past 70 years. Should these homes — called charming by some, dilapidated by others — be protected?

    Many of the houses that line the streets with such names as Valor Blvd., Warvet Cres. and Vicross Rd., were built in the 1940s for veterans coming home from the Second World War. And they share many of the same features: wooden framing, cladding, a steep roof, close to the sidewalk, with a separate garage in the backyard.

    Some residents are concerned that new proposed developments for larger, modern houses will ruin the character of Sunshine Valley, a small enclave of the Topham Park neighbourhood, and want the area to be designated a Heritage Conservation District.

    Designed by architect Bruce Haken Wright, the area is a distinct departure from Toronto’s grid subdivisions. The streets are laid out diagonally, with a grand boulevard with a central median, and four locations where houses stand around open green spaces. When they were first constructed in the 1940s, the 197 houses were staggered on the street in waves.

    Last week, Ward 31 Councillor Janet Davis hosted a meeting attended by about 30 residents to discuss what options they have to try to stop the development of what she called “monster homes.”

    Residents said they wanted more accountability and consistency from the Committee of Adjustment, which considers applications for minor variances on developments. Many raised concerns that some developments they consider to be “monster houses” are passing through the committee without serious consideration.

    “We’re losing heritage buildings all the time,” an angered resident said.

    Some residents also want the city to move ahead with the Heritage Conservation District study, which would determine whether the neighbourhood should receive the designation and the additional rules that consider characteristics of an area when it comes to new developments and upgrades.

    “People tonight said we reject this model of development for our neighbourhood. They want to preserve green spaces and the smaller frame homes they chose when they moved here,” Davis said last week.

    Although some houses in the neighbourhood that have been torn down and rebuilt still reflect the esthetic of the postwar homes, over the past several years, new developments in Sunshine Valley have been met with heavy skepticism and, in many cases, outright hostility.

    Dave Duncan and his wife moved into a small, one-and-a-half storey home in Sunshine Valley seven years ago. When it was just the two of them, it suited them perfectly, but two kids and a dog later, the limited space was too much to handle. They decided to demolish and rebuild.

    Duncan hired a local architect, who lives in Sunshine Valley, to design a home that would fit in with the neighbourhood. He met with concerned residents, showed them plans for his home, and still had letters submitted to the Committee of Adjustment over his development — including one letter from his city councillor, Davis.

    “I found the process to be a lot less stressful and taxing than others have experienced, but part of that was we did a lot of ground work with our neighbours,” he said.

    Duncan said although it’s important to maintain the character of the neighbourhood — something he went out of his way to do — the community needs to be realistic when it comes to development.

    “I’m torn because one of the things we love is the character of the neighbourhood. But, on the other hand, if I buy a car, I can make it any colour I want. If I own property, I can put in a nice, modern house, if that’s what I really want.”

    Duncan hopes the Sunshine Valley residents will be able to have a constructive conversation as more people move into the neighbourhood.

    “I hope we can move forward as a community in a way that both respects the heritage but also respects the fact that development is a reality, and it’s not a bad thing.”

    Aristotle Christou, a planning consultant, testified at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) on behalf of the owner of 98 Squires Ave., who wanted to take down the existing property — a small home totalling less than 600 square feet — and build a substantially larger brick home.

    Christou’s client’s requested variances were rejected because the mass of the house “would overwhelm its near neighbours and the adjacent neighbourhood and therefore would not ‘fit into the existing character.’ ”

    Christou called the OMB decision “unfair” and dismissed the heritage value of the neighbourhood, saying that “because something is old and dilapidated, it does not automatically have to be preserved in perpetuity.”

    “These are very inexpensive houses that were built to reflect the needs of the people of the time. People didn’t have cars, people didn’t have high expectations, they only had a need to house themselves,” Christou said. “Things have changed over the past several decades. People like to have a bit of luxury in their homes.”

    He said new development and higher density homes are needed now more than ever because of Toronto’s housing crisis.

    “If that designation goes through, there won’t be any changes and that is really detrimental for the renewal of an area where the houses are 90 years old,” Christou said. “This area needs renewal and reinvestment.”

    When Clevys Monasterios first saw the cute house on Merritt Road 19 years ago, she fell in love with it. The house featured original details — glass door knobs, hardwood flooring, a cast iron bathtub that she adored, plenty of light, and a spacious backyard. It was the modest home she’d always wanted. She felt like she was in a small community, despite the fact that downtown Toronto is a relatively quick drive away.

    Monasterios attended last week’s meeting because she wants to see what can be done to maintain the area’s charm/character.

    “If we don’t pay attention, this charm is going to be lost,” Monasterios said. “It’s not that I’m against progress. There have been some changes that are great and really go with the neighbourhood, but now they are coming in with new kinds of construction that really don’t belong.”

    She believes that going forward, new construction should be a compromise.

    “It’s OK to build, but they should be respectful to the neighbourhood,” Monasterios said.

    At the meeting last week, Davis and other city representatives explained how residents can engage in the planning process through the Committee of Adjustments and then the OMB.

    “Neighbours have seen too many bad examples of inappropriate development,” she said.

Arts & Letters
Sunday, 12 August 2007