Shuttles, ride-sharing could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in GTA, Hamilton: report
Study by MaRs and The Atmospheric Fund said commuter shuttles, ride-sharing could be key to cutting emissions by 588,000 tonnes over five years.
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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.”