Cycling is a mode of transportation that is not only good for your waistline and health but also for the environment. Recognizing the significant role cycling infrastructure plays in creating safe places for people to cycle, in 2016 the City of Toronto approved a 10-year Cycling Network Plan to connect, grow and renew infrastructure for Toronto’s cycling routes. In 2019, Toronto City Council approved the Cycling Network Plan Update, which revised the timeframe and introduced an approach with short-term programming and long-term planning, designed to improve road work coordination, accountability, and implementation. The Cycling Network Plan supports TransformTO’s goal of encouraging the use of active transportation for 75% of the total trips under five km by 2050.
As part of the 2019 update, Transportation Services used the City of Toronto’s corporate Equity Lens tool to begin incorporating equity considerations in transportation planning. To advance this, Transportation Services used the Equity Index and associated Neighbourhood Improvement Areas identified by the Social Development, Finance & Administration Division to identify locations for more targeted infrastructure investments going forward.
Neighbourhood Improvement Areas (NIA) have Neighbourhood Planning Tables which are made up of residents, local agency representatives, the councillor’s office and a community development officer. The equity index prioritized these neighbourhoods based on economic opportunities, access to social, cultural and recreational services, health factors and physical surroundings. Through the NIA Planning Tables, Transportation Services seeks to learn more about transportation barriers in neighbourhoods and where people want or need to travel to regardless of their mode of transportation.
In 2020, the City of Toronto Transportation Services Division began developing a Capital Program Prioritization Tool to guide future decisions on capital investments. Evaluation criteria were used to provide a risk-based assessment of capital programs, identify their potential impacts, and develop an annual budget as well as program prioritization scheme to reflect the values and achieve the strategic objectives of the division. Since the City of Toronto’s corporate Equity Lens tool does not include an established process to evaluate capital programs against equity, Transportation Services started developing a more specific Transportation Equity Lens tool to identify and remove transportation barriers faced by equity-seeking groups to support equitable planning and capital programming practices.
Transportation Services also convenes an Equity Working Group – a cross-divisional team that aims to improve the Division’s work on equity, inclusion, and accessibility in Toronto. Staff present ongoing projects to the Equity Working Group to share information, review best practices and provide feedback and advice on improving transportation opportunities within priority neighbourhoods.
Future efforts to advance equity-related analyses for Transportation Services include a framework that covers new emerging layers related to health such as traffic-related air pollution and overcrowded transit routes. Moving forward, Transportation services will incorporate overlapping priorities and take a step beyond the traditional biases and assumptions that have habitually been a barrier among equity-seeking groups.
In conclusion, applying an equity lens and engaging with residents of NIAs has been very helpful towards establishing more equitable transportation planning practices in the city. Recent analyses show that the rates of road rehabilitation are similar across NIAs and non-priority areas. However, the road conditions of major roads in NIAs are worse in comparison to those in non-priority areas, and this means that the benefits of road rehabilitation are inequitably translated in terms of the conditions of the road. To learn more about NIAs and the Equity Lens tool within Transportation Services in the City of Toronto, check out this webinar.
By Juliet Rennick, Outreach Coordinator, Clean Air Partnership