Scarborough commuters get smart

Map of Smart Commute programs

Smart Commute announced its expansion into Scarborough at the University of Toronto Scarborough’s (UTSC) second annual Eco Summit on April 12.

The group is bringing car pooling and other services to the area in an effort to reduce commute times for local drivers, executive director Glenn Gomulka told the conference.

The organization has also launched campaigns from Hamilton to north Toronto and is planning to launch its next venture in Etobicoke in the fall, according to its presentation.

The organization’s first partners in Scarborough are UTSC, the Toronto District School board, Telus, and the Bank of Montreal. They’re joining the effort to combat low productivity due to long commutes that have employees spending an average of 82 minutes per day going to and from work. That number’s predicted to increase to 109 minutes per day in the next 25 years, Smart

Evergreen representative Angela Chien gives a presentation on the benefits of permeable concrete (Corey Savard/Scarborough Observer)

Commute representatives said.

Companies are also backing the expansion to Scarborough because it will cut costs, they said.

Smart Commute’s case study in Liberty Village showed $6 million was lost in combined transportation costs and loss of productivity to area businesses in 2009 alone.

The summit also featured representatives from Evergreen, a national charity that integrates nature into the infrastructure of Canadian cities, conservationists and urban farmers.

A representative from Metrolinx was also present and was the recipient of the majority of questions from Scarborough residents during the open discussion period.

Issues brought up ranged from creating designated GO bus routes on Kingston Road to having 24-hour GO train service on busy lines.

Toronto currently has the third-most congested roads in North America.

Antoine Belaieff, director of innovation at Metrolinx, the Crown Corporation that operates the GTA’s GO trains, says public transit plays a large role in Toronto’s future in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“I heard a member of Parliament say we weren’t doing anything — well, Union Station is a war zone,” said Belaieff in reference to the construction being done as part of the Union Station Revitalization Project, one of five projects currently laid out in Metrolinx’s “big move.”

The big move was announced in November by Bruce McCuaig, president and CEO of Metrolinx. It involves shortening commutes, expanding service with the new Finch LRT line and Eglinton Crosstown LRT line set for completion in 2020, as well as finding greener solutions to all forms of transportation.

Construction is already underway on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT that will extend the existing line from Kennedy Station to Conlins Road.

UTSC’s Eco Summit’s goal is to spark discussion between local residents, local environmentalists, and business leaders in order to find green solutions in order to reduce the eastern GTA’s carbon footprint.