Cities in the Time of COVID-19: What is the Future of Urban Transportation?

Featuring Ahmed El-Geneidy, Professor, McGill School of Urban Planning; Howaida Hassan, General Supervisor – Urban Growth, City of Edmonton; Timothy Papandreou, Founder & CEO, Emerging Transport Advisors; and Tania Wegwitz, Senior Transportation Planner & Transit Lead, Watt Consulting Group

5 Key
Takeaways

A roundup of the most compelling ideas, themes and quotes from this candid conversation

1. Transportation is an essential service

Within a short time frame, transportation services across Canada have transformed in order to meet the continued demand during COVID-19. Most importantly, public transportation ensures that Canada’s front-line workers find their way to work each and every day. Will COVID-19 change the way we value public transportation in the long-term?

2. Transit is an equity issue, now more than ever

Not all Canadians have the luxury of owning a car and as such, there are many Canadians who continue to rely on public transportation. Not all demographics use public transportation at the same rate and this remains true during COVID-19. How can we ensure that public transportation is providing the best service possible for those who need it most?

3. We need to reevaluate the cost of transportation

With reduced ridership and the implementation of free transit across many Canadian cities in response to COVID-19, there are serious concerns about how municipal governments will continue to fund these services.  While the costs of public transit are tangible, it would be valuable to gain a better understanding of the costs of empty roads. Have we been over-subsidizing the private car ownership model?

4. Window of opportunity for active modes of transportation 

With the increased uptake of cycling and other outdoor pursuits, COVID-19 presents a unique window of opportunity for the promotion of active modes of transportation. Perhaps behaviours adopted during this time will continue after social distancing restrictions are lifted.

5. The time for bold ideas is now

As we transition out of this pandemic, there is an incredible opportunity for Canadian cities to pursue new and innovative ideas when it comes to both the use of public space and the provision of public transportation. The time for bold ideas is now.

Full Panel
Transcript

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software. Manual editing was undertaken in an effort to improve readability and clarity. Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to events@canurb.org with “transcription” in the subject line.  

Mary Rowe [00:00:45] Hi everybody, it’s Mary Rowe from CityTalk, I’m the CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute, really pleased to have us all back together where I am in Toronto. Toronto was the original territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Annishnabec, and the Chippewa and the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. And it’s now home to many diverse First Nations, including Inuit and Metis people from across Turtle Island. We also acknowledge that Toronto is covered by Treaty 13, signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit in the Williams treaty, signed with multiple Annishnabec nations. And we always want to commence these broadcasts with a reminder of our debts and our obligation to find ways to reconcile and understand the truth of our our history as settlers and immigrants and newcomers and Indigenous. We try to hold those conversations in recognition of that. At the same time, we also hold these conversations recognizing that there are still thousands and thousands of Canadians around the country and Americans, because, Jim, you’re joining us from the U.S. and Americans who are on the front saving lives, trying to keep people safe. And these conversations are not a substitute or in any way intended to distract us from that struggle that continues, particularly particularly felt by municipal governments and first nations governments around the continent, as CUI has been since COVID, trying to build new forms of connective tissue that allow city builders in different environments to communicate with one another so we can learn and adapt and adjust more quickly to what the challenges are. And we’re joined today by four practitioners who are going to give us their perspective on the ground about what they’re seeing around a very particular topic of transportation and transit and what’s the future of mobility. Urban environments are dependent on mobility, and there are so many topics to unpack here since COVID CUI has been focused on these different platforms. This one is CityTalk Canada. There are two others CityWatch Canada and CityShare Canada. Tim, just in case you didn’t know, we’re in Canada and those platforms all have that route at the end and and the extension “.ca”. And these are powered by volunteers and partners across the country. So if you’ve got capacity to help us, we really would appreciate it. This is an all hands on deck moment. We’ve been very, very fortunate to have hundreds of folks helping, watching cities, sharing what’s going on, trying to make sense of it as these CityTalk things do. I’m completely impressed with the numbers of people that continue to turn out for CityTalk sessions live here, even on nice sunny days. And just so you know, we post these things after the fact on CityTalk Canada, Canurb, you’ll find them there. We post a recording. We post a transcript. We post some takeaways that we have students who are helping us pull out five or six key things from each one. And we also post what people say in the chat. So we would encourage people who are listening and want to participate. You can say you can write questions and comments and you can post resources in that chat function and you’ll see you have a choice in the chat function to send to our panelists and everyone. So if everyone could now go and change that toggle so that everyone sees what you’re posting. And we often find that there’s a whole world of discourse that lives on in the chat, kind of peripheral to what you all are going to be talking about. And that’s really great. And people answer each other’s questions and they put our resources and it’s terrific. But just a heads up that what goes in the chat stays in the chat, so it gets posted. So just be aware that lots of people will read it. And also just saying, you know, we as I suggested we’ve had I think we’re in our jeepers I’ve lost count now. But I think we’re in our twenty fifth of these sessions since COVID started. They’re all being posted and lots and lots of people go back and read them and see them again. They seem to have a lot of shelf life that’s valuable, I think for us to understand how we’ve evolved through the trajectory of this. And it appears as if we’re gonna be in it for a while. So we’d encourage you. And if you want to go out and sit on your balcony and you don’t want to do this midday or early in the morning, you can watch us at 10:00 at night or 11:00 at night and still participate and still engage, these conversations are also just the beginning. We don’t see them as the the finite thing. They kick off interesting discourse that’s going to take a long time for us to figure out. Right. So if you want to continue to participate with us, hashtag CityTalk, use Twitter and whatever social media you have available to you. And certainly you can always e-mail us at COVIDresponse@canurb.org. We often say that when we put when we have these sessions that people here that come on these sessions with us, you’re participating as individuals. So you may have clients, you may have an employer, you may have a constituency that you’re affiliated with. But we always encourage people to feel liberated and not just to talk as individuals. It’s a complicated time for everybody and we’re all just trying to make sense of it. So we we encourage you to speak freely and candidly and similarly that everybody cuts everybody some slack here that it’s pretty difficult to speak on behalf of anyone at the moment because none of us is really sure where this is all ending up. OK, so I think we’ll just start as I suggested, the focus is today on a topic that is on everyone’s minds. We’re viscerally experiencing it. Cities are dependent on connection, different forms of connection. We’re in the connective tissue business at CUI and it’s really true at local neighborhoods. And what is it going to look like if you can’t get around or if you can’t get around the way you used to be able to get around? And what are the implications for that? So I’ve asked everybody here to identify themselves and tell us where they are, where they’re participating from and, particularly, the neighborhood they’re in. And we’ll start with 90 seconds from each of you about what have you been seeing? What do you think is the really dominant thing that is impressing upon you through the crisis? And you can talk about the last 10 weeks, if you like, and you can also talk about what you’re seeing right now. So I think I’m going to go first. And we often do this. We go to our visitor because, you know, we’re we’re polite, hospitable Canadians. We go to our visitor first. So Timothy Papandreeou, your’re there in the Mission District in San Francisco. So… And Tim, you travel all around the world talking about the future of transportation and now you’re going nowhere. So let’s just can you just tell us what you’ve been seeing? What have you been observing and tell people a little about yourself and what you think?

Timothy Papandreou [00:07:13] Yeah. Good morning. Thank you for having me. I really appreciate being here. And yeah, it’s been a really weird time. I’ve had a weird year. I don’t need to hide it. But I lost my mother at the beginning of this year in Australia and I had to go backwards and forwards for a bunch of things there. In the meantime, we had massive bushfires in Australia and we’re coping with that while my mother was in ICU and then COVID was rising really quickly while she was still in hospital, came back to Australia, had to go to had to go to London and come backwards and forwards. And it was a real messy, messy time. March 14th we had locked down in San Francisco, the first municipal region in the country. It really forced the shelter in place. And I haven’t left haven’t really left the neighborhood since. And to be honest, it’s been wonderful to just, like, sit still and just deal with all this stuff that’s happened with the family and everything else while working really diligently on what does this look like for transportation. Everybody around me. So, you know, I think we’ll talk about it in the chat today. The big things are people the people who could work from home are still working from home. People who’ve had to go to work and were deemed essential workers risking their lives for us every day so that we could actually still get our services and things delivered to us. Public transport has been basically decimated. It doesn’t really have the capacity allowance that it used to have before. And people aren’t driving and if they are driving they’re driving very little. One of the things that is really noticeable is on the shared mobility front. That’s the car sharing, the electric bikes and scooters, etc. They basically were either suspended or paused. One of the services in San Francisco was deemed an essential service so people could still use that. They had to quickly figure out how to keep the handlebars sanitary, how to keep their contact minimalize on the public transit system. They didn’t allow people entering their front doors. If you didn’t need an essential trip, you couldn’t use public transport. That’s still the case today. We have a saying here. I stayed home so others can get to work if they need to. And that’s a really big push. We also have a situation here where while some traffic is coming back, it’s not the commuter peak traffic because that other mainly the let’s call them the professional white collar workers who are still asked to work from home and those that are in the office environment, especially in your world, in the urban urban. forum, are really questioning idea of what is commercial real estate going to look like, especially in the central city course where they’re basically bona fide office parks. You know, they’re basically these big oversized office parks. They’re not really neighborhoods. And so will we see a shift in how we utilize these buildings? Many of the companies that I’m working with are struggling in terms of like they can’t have the reduced capacity and bring everybody back into the office building. They also are realizing that these plexiglass shields and things may not actually work. So just redesigning the entire travel journey from home to the destination, but also the journey within the building. So minimizing contact, minimizing touch. And, you know, I’m just saying, we’re social creatures. We love. This is how we thrive. We interact with touch. We handshake. We do all these things. But a lot of that’s gonna have to change if we’re going to have a different approach. So a lot of upheaval, a lot of changes. There’s been a lot of companies that are pivoting, the ride hailing companies like the Ubers. They’re pivoting to deliveries for delivery services. The insta cuts in those kinds of companies they’re doing exceptionally well because they were primed for this this pivot. But who knows how long that will stay for? One thing that we do know in transportation is that there are long arcs of trends and there are short disruptions and bursts. And we’re in a even if this happens for the next 12 to 24, even 30 months, it’s still a short burst compared to the long arc, which is the major trend shifting towards more sharing, more electrification and more automation. And we’ve seen that happen across across the world. So that’s the long term trends. And they’ll still keep moving. But right now, it’s been just abruptly and and shifting because of the the immediate triage that we’re in.

Mary Rowe [00:11:37] Timothy, when you go out your door in the Mission are the are the trolleys running?

Timothy Papandreou [00:11:42] So the MTA has basically suspended all rail services and just using just using buses. And so they have the regular buses or the electric trolley buses, but they’re at a really reduced capacity. They actually over over a weekend restructured the entire transit system and only operated the core services. And they’re like an 85, 90 percent reduction in the actual lines that they’re operating and just focusing on their core lines. It’s given them a really good opportunity to just test and see like what is really the core system. And I think a lot of agencies around the world right now are in that phase or in that triage phase of what does the core network look like and how do we keep that going because of safety, since they can only have a minimum amount of people on the bus so they may actually have to run more frequency just to keep that service going. So, yeah, that’s what we’re seeing in our area. More walking, which is great, more cycling, which is great. We have these low streets that are opening up everywhere and allowing people to a safe distance and so forth. We have, you know, five or six right now and about a dozen in the pipe to be launched. A lot of opportunity to also create open air areas for restaurants that are opening up this week and allowing them more space outside because a restaurant can’t make do on 20 percent capacity. It doesn’t make sense for them. So allow them to have half of the capacity out on the street to me creates an amazing opportunity to reclaim all that space. So with you know, it’s an interesting time because, you know, there are a lot of issues behind that. What works for some communities doesn’t work for other communities. So this whole key thing about talking with the community and finding out what what do they really need and and how does this, if anything, is any of this going to help them or do they really need, you know, economic development tools, which are much more tactical and less transportation related, or are they actually the same in the one?

Mary Rowe [00:13:36] Well, it depends on how you’re defining community, of course, because some people are suggesting that doing what you’re suggesting on restaurants is actually privatizing space and displacing people that actually use the street differently now. So anyway you’ve raised a whole bunch of issues that we will come back to as we go. Let’s now go to Tanya. I’m trying. I’m sort of swinging from the west to the east. So let’s go to Tanya Wegwitz, who’s joining us from I love this neighborhood Tanya, it’s the Independent Republic of Fernwood. So tell us what you’re saying and what what you’ve been observing. And I know your sculpt like tems is broader than just the community you live in. So tell us briefly what you’ve been seeing.

Tanya Wegwitz [00:14:16] Yeah, so I work with them primarily. Transit is something that I focus on. I also do transportation demand management and active modes as well. But maybe I’ll speak to transit and pick up on some of the themes that Tim is speaking to. What we’ve seen for transit systems big and small and I want to reiterate that we often when you’re thinking about transit and the impacts of COVID, that we tend to think of the Toronto’s and Montreal’s and Vancouver’s, but it is hitting transit systems of every scale and every scope. And what we saw was early in April, many of them did rapid reductions, adjustments to service levels, cleaning protocols, becoming fare free, changing their voting procedures. So a lot of change very quickly to adapt to changing travel patterns and also just lower ridership and the need to space people out since that time. Right now, we’re kind of in a phase where at least in many Canadian jurisdictions, the re-opening, as is happening over the last week or so, we’ve seen increases to transit ridership again so in the 16 percent, 17 percent realm.

Mary Rowe [00:15:25] Where is that Tanya? Is that across the country?

Tanya Wegwitz [00:15:27] Well, for instance, 16 percent increase was in TransLink, 17 percent was, I believe in Edmonton. London, Ontario was twelve percent. So these are some of the from the Canadian Urban Transit Association. What we’ve also been seeing too is that so they’re preparing for a return to fares, so across the 54 transit systems in B.C. transit’s jurisdiction as well as TransLink in B.C. fares return June 1st. Boarding procedures are changing whereby plexiglass shields have been installed and now people will be asked to board through the front doors and leave through the rear unless they’re using mobility aids of some kind. But however, there’s some transit systems that are struggling. So what we’re hearing for some for some communities is that you can’t keep up with demand to have those shields installed. And so that is then impacting the ability to return to service there. And also the other piece is looking ahead, what does this mean to revenues? So if funding is a huge piece that communities municipalities are dealing with on all fronts for transit in particular, it’s impacting looking forward and the service levels that you might be able to provide. And where is that missing funding going to come from if the fuel tax revenues are down, fare revenues are down and so forth. And then I think the other piece I think people are just starting to grapple with is transit typically is a longer timeframe in terms of when you start the process here from the public, adapt your service levels and put in a new service. And now what we’re what’s happening is that changes are happening, needing to happen on a far more frequent basis. And we don’t know, you know, post-secondary institutions may or may not return to class levels in September. The commuter peak that we typically see is all gone. And really you’re looking to try and adjust service levels on a week by week basis. And what does that look like and how do your monitoring processes adapt to that and how do you get the word out? And then I guess finally, as well is for all frontline staff, for your passengers, how do we continue to ensure ongoing mental health support, ongoing care, all those things?

Mary Rowe [00:17:47] Yeah. This isn’t easy. Lots of Gordian Knots here. OK. Let’s go next if we can. We’re going to move our way across the country. So to Howaida Hassan, who’s in the Malmo neighborhood of Edmonton. And what’s the weather like in Edmonton today Howaida? What is it?

Howaida Hassan [00:18:08] It’s chilly and rainy. I wish I could say that it was sunny and beautiful, that it’s chilly and rainy, but it was beautiful over the weekend. For those who are celebrating the end of Ramadan. So it was 8:00 on Sunday. And that was beautiful weather for us here. It was a funny socially distance kind of Eid. Normally we would congregate and be at, you know, with other families at Mosque. But that wasn’t happening. But it was still OK. We’re all happy and healthy celebrating at home.

Mary Rowe [00:18:39] How did people get through Ramadan? How did people before you go to the transportation piece,  just tell us how people got through Ramadan in Edmonton. How how were you able to observe it? We heard that the city of Mississauga, for instance, allowed the daily call to prayer to be broadcast through the local population through Ramadan, which was controversial, but I think largely very much supported as a signal of appreciation of diversity. Tell us what it’s been like in Edmonton on that regard. Just take a minute before you do your other thing.

Howaida Hassan [00:19:07] Yeah, for sue. So my other job, not quite a job, but a volunteer position is I’m president of the Islamic Family & Social Services Association here in Edmonton. So we provide social services to the community. We’ve been around for about a quarter century, really great organization so I’ve had the privilege of being on some calls with mosques and that kind of thing, just kind of trying to figure out what we would be doing for Ramadan and there was almost like a, quite a sense of loss and sadness, actually, that we weren’t going to be able to congregate during. And it is about the fast, of course, and you know, that’s that’s a solitary type of endeavor. But you’re part of a larger community when you’re doing it and you know that. And it helps when you can see people at the end of your fast break fast together, that kind of thing. So that was difficult. However, just like some other cities, like you mentioned, Mississauga here in Edmonton our city council permit, also some mosques to have the call to prayer at sundown. And just making sure that they were within the sound bylaw limitations and things like that. So that was really nice actually. I felt like that was a really nice symbolic thing for the community, the Muslim community, to have happen. So I was really pleased with that. I know a lot of people in the community appreciated that gesture as well so that was really nice. And it just was one of those things that I think people needed a bit of an uplift during the month, just given how strange things were. So that was really fantastic.

Mary Rowe [00:20:36] Yeah, these rituals and observances. We were going to have to figure this out going forward. And how do we accommodate our communal life in a way that isnt so communal. OK, well, thank you for just filling us in on that and how it was how it’s being experienced in Edmonton. OK. Now you’re actually. You actually work for the city, so you have a bird’s eye here about what the challenges are to running a transit system. And both Tim and Tanya have given hints about this. It ain’t easy. Talk to us about Edmonton and you’re what you’re sensing is going to be the. What’s the challenge?

Howaida Hassan [00:21:08] Yeah, for sure. So for clarity, I do work more in the long range planning. So I was part of the team that developed the city’s draft city plan just most recently. So and I was leaving up the transportation masterplan piece of that. So we were thinking more long term thinking about resiliency, thinking about disruptions to our system. We didn’t mention pandemic in particular in our plan, but had thought what kind of disruptions the plan could withstand and how it could endure. Having said that, I think like looking at what has what has happened to our transit system has been humbling. You know, we’ve had quite a reduction in ridership. I think we’ve been really responsive. Like other cities, we’ve actually eliminated the fare temporarily suspend fare payment. And that was to help with things like social distancing. We’re actually already in the process of installing shields on all of buses. More from a safety perspective for the bus drivers. But that has actually been a dual benefit in that it’s provided that that safety for the drivers as well from it. In terms of social distancing we’ve done back at the bus boarding, every other seat must be unoccupied. So that’s been really it’s interesting to see all those things happen. We’ve had basically because the suspension of fare, there’s been a 10 million dollar per month reduction in everything. It has not gone unseen of course by our council. So there’s a lot of people concerned about what that would mean long term for transit, not least of all our mayor who has been quite vocal about that in the news and and really saying how concerned he is about those reductions. Yeah. So that’s what we’ve been seeing on that front. I’ve also been very positively impressed with how much we’ve been seeing people get on bikes and get out walking just just like across the rest of the country. I recently just checked in with our folks who do our monitoring of traffic and cycling and I think we saw in February we had 24 hundred incidents of cycling in the city, that went up to 7000 in May. So I just I’m super impressed with how people are really getting out there trying this new way. Excuse my cat. I forgot to say that he might bomb the conversation at one point.

Mary Rowe [00:23:41] A feline bomb, that’s the best kind. Yeah. Yeah.

Howaida Hassan [00:23:48] Yeah. So just really impressive. Like people are really getting out there. And I guess where I’m hopeful is that people are trying active modes of transportation now that they have time to give it a chance and get out there and experience or city on two wheels instead of four. I just feel like I’m hopeful that this will stick. It’ll be part of people’s psyche. And though I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I ride a bike it, like there is kind of an emotional or psychological effect that takes place where you actually feel better, like physically but also mentally and I’m hoping that folks will retain those good vibes and want to continue that even as we go back to normalcy and I’m confident that we’ll go back to normalcy. But I’m hoping to retain some of these things.

Mary Rowe [00:24:34] Mandatory endorphin boosts or something. Yeah. Well, we’ll come back to some of this, because I want to go back to Tim’s point about I stay home so others can get to work notion and who can get on a bike and who can’t, and all that stuff? OK, let’s thanks Howaida. Ahmed El-Geneidy, talk to us. You’re in Montreal. I think you’re in Pointe-Claire, right?

Ahmed El-Geneidy [00:24:54] Yeah.

Mary Rowe [00:24:55] Lovely. Glad to have you. Tell us what you’ve been observing could ya.

Ahmed El-Geneidy [00:24:59] So let me I’ll speak on two things that we have been observing. On the public transit side Montreal was like fast on doing the backdoor boarding and doing cleaning measures and increasing the cleaning capacity of the buses. It was a surprise how, well when you knew how frequently they were being cleaned before that. When they start, oh we have to start cleaning every day, I was like weren’t you cleaning every day? So Montreal was on the upfront. And when it came to the the the measures in transit, I remember like we closed on a Friday and Monday morning, the back door boarding was in place of people applying it on the buses, trying to make the driver safe in terms of the service. They didn’t, we didn’t cut service. Now we’re seeing the deficit coming in in the budget for the transit because we didn’t cut service. But it’s important to us to keep the transit service at that level. On the other side, on the on the cycling and walking, I was surprised that Montreal wasn’t doing anything for a long time and we kept waiting. And it’s like why. The mayor is known to be pro cycling, pro walking kind of person. And then we were seeing some kind of radio silence. And then all of a sudden, May 15th, a big plan came out of cycling and walking. The numbers. You cannot hold the numbers in your hands. What how many exactly? But they are saying around three hundred and twenty seven kilometers additional temporary bicycle facilities and pedestrian additions in the different sections of the city. They started that. What was what came out on May 15th was really impressive. So it took them a little bit longer, but they came up with some solid things that you can go if you go on the streets now in Montreal, you see them on the ground, you see the widening of sidewalks and they make sure that in front of the stores that will open, people are standing and they’re widening the sidewalk so people can walk easily back and forth. Many around one hundred and twelve new kilometers of active transportation facilities. But one of the things that you can you can get confused. I did a walk on a couple of days ago to understand what’s going on in the ground in some sections. And then you find streets are closed, but you don’t know if they’re closed because of construction of the end of the street or this is trying to make it for pedestrians and cycling. But at the end of the day, it’s closed and people can cite you see people cycling, a lot of people Saturday and Sunday, the weather was very good. So the parks were open, people will social distancing. But the major thing that I feel positive about was the scale and the quick implementation between like the announcement and May 15th. And today was really impressive by the city. I was unhappy before May 15th, but when I saw the announcement, I went on the ground, saw it. That was impressive, actually. And you see people are using it and people getting used to a new normal.

Mary Rowe [00:28:24] You know, you’ve had eleven days of happiness since May 15.

Ahmed El-Geneidy [00:28:30] Yes. I can tell you that’s for sure, because before that they were radio silence totally from the city, nothing. And we were like, it’s against the principles of the mayor. She is for these things. Why? Actually, they were working on it. It took them a while, like a little bit longer than other places. We saw it coming in South America faster. So I was like, why aren’t we doing? And they had also succeeded to expedite a plan they hadn’t before for an express bicycle network in Montreal on different axes in the region to have permanent bicycle facilities. So they expedited that. They got the. So we heard the announcement of that plan in the fall. And then there was public participation and then we didn’t see anything happening. Now, when when the mayor came on the May 15th, she made the announcement of the 300 kilometers, they brought in also  the details of intersections, the designs, what’s going to happen in this and they are expediting this new REV, The REV system for the cycling and pedestrian. Another thing we started seeing people you see that we have to start designing the bicycle facilities here for a family. And that’s something new we started seeing here is we are thinking about it more of a family. It’s not going to be a commuting going back and forth. The other aspects I saw when I went on that I felt we still Montreal is behind is at the intersections. The signals, we didn’t change the traffic signals. So we give people distance between the sections and then they’re all standing at the intersection next to each other. Yeah, but we did very well in that. But the intersections we’re still work, I think they’re still are working on it in terms of pedestrians and cyclists because people on the lot of them all together at one spot. So the synchronization of the signals still needs work in that aspect.

Mary Rowe [00:30:39] Now there’s a whole bunch of things that you’ve all raised. First of all, can I just encourage people on the chat, if you could quickly just check-in and tell us where you are. They’d be great. I see there’s somebody from Ireland. If you’ve got a minuite, just punch in and say where you are so we can see the breadth of where people are attending from today. There’s so many issues that you’ve all. Thank you. The chat people respond so quickly. Thank you. It’s just fantastic. You know, I think there’s a dilemma. Transportation and transit is kind of a holding spot for a whole bunch of urban challenges. Right. How do we pay for things? How do we negotiate shared space? What are the environmental implications? What are the economic and planning implications? And so it’s hard to unpack it with, you know, 30 minutes of chat with you. But here’s a question I’ve got around class and inclusion, because I think this is a fundamental thing that we’ve seen through this is that the people that, Tim I love this I stay home so others can get to work. We had a nasty episode here in Toronto where it was a nice day and people crowded into one park and it caused a big uproar. But part of I think what it signalled to people was that there was a lack of empathy for how that would look and feel to someone who is on the transit, going to a frontline job to try and keep people alive. And they go past this, what looks like a reckless kind of frivolous activity. So how how are we going to come out of this in a way where people that must use transit to get to their job, how is that service going to be protected when there’s no we don’t have enough money to do it? Is anybody grappling with the ethics of this?

Mary Rowe [00:32:25] I’ve silenced all of you with my existential…

Howaida Hassan [00:32:31] I’m super happy, Mary, that you’ve brought up equity because that’s been on my mind a lot, and I think so I’ve been having some conversations with my colleagues. And one of the things we’ve been talking about is how much privilege is actually embedded in the COVID rules. So around like only shop once a week. OK. Well, I can go and shop once a week for my family of five. Spend, you know, 200-250 bucks. But can another family on low-income go do that, likely not. They have to go every couple of days, get what they need when they have enough money to do so. You know this idea, I have a car, I have a job. I haven’t been laid off. If you’re in a service industry, you’ve likely been laid off. You’re likely a woman. You know, I just feel there’s a lot of privilege embedded right with the rules themselves that we’ve created that maybe were unintended. And I guess what I’d like to see is that we don’t embed that privilege post-COVID, you know, who is using our transit service? Who needs to get around? Where do they need to go? And let’s make that easy. Like we we have the tools. Like in Edmonton we have some of the best transportation travel modeling tools that can actually tell us who is benefiting from the policy decisions we make by household income. One thing I think we need to start asking the right questions when we’re using these tools.

Mary Rowe [00:33:59] Howaida. Tim sadly you have to stay muted because there is ambulance activity in the Mission. So when it’s done, you can unmute. But Howaida, is there a way going forward, where we could prioritize routes and modes that are expressly designed to service the communities that have no other option. Is that a way to re-tilt this? You know, and that therefore people that have another option, they can walk or take a scooter or a bike or whatever, then they will have to take that. And and then these services become expressly for people with no options. I don’t know how to do that and not create a caste system. But you know what I mean? Is there a way to prioritize?

Howaida Hassan [00:34:39] Look, I don’t know if that’s what I’d want to see, but rather I would want us to redesign our system with one of the indicators being equity, meaning that so we’re doing exercises here in Edmonton where we’re actually layering on, literally mapping out where the overlaps between our our traditionally low income communities, our indigenous communities, with where our best transit service is. And lo and behold, it doesn’t always match up, does it? And I mean, that’s I think the thing across most cities. Right. Because those that advocate for themselves will get better service typically or. But, you know, as as a professional working at the city, I feel the obligation to think about not just those who are coming to us and expressing their need for new transit services, but those who might not have or be equipped with the with the means to be able to advocate in that way. So in my perspective, I think it’s up to us to. We have the data. We know all this information about where people are living, where the origins of the destinations are, where where the desire lines are. And we also have the characteristics of the people making those trips. You know, I led up the City’s household travel survey back in 2015. We capture a lot of information about these households and it’s a good large sample. So it’s no surprise to us who’s making these trips, where they’re going. So I think that we can design a system, not just with exclusive lines for people who need it, but a system that just generally reflects the composition of our society.

Mary Rowe [00:36:14] OK, so Tim the ambulances are gone. You’re a tech advocate. Howaida is saying we’ve got the data. Can we find a way to create the responsive transit system, transportation mix, that is going to reflect, I love what you just said Howaida, desire lines. I love desire paths. Tim.

Timothy Papandreou [00:36:37] I think Howaida is right on it. You know, we we know what we need to do. We have the technology, we have the tools. We actually have the resources. It’s the political will that we need and our cities across the world. You know, the cities that are willing to put the money where their mouth is, their policy where their mouth is, they’re doing so.  Paris has put up six kilometers of active transportation routes because of they can’t accommodate everyone in the transit system and because of the fact that it’s it’s not available to everybody, but everybody can walk. Hopefully everybody can walk or roll or use some sort of assited device. People learning how to ride a bicycle because the sunk cost of a bicycle are in the hundreds of dollars, versus a car, is 30, 40 thousand dollars. So let’s talk about that big equity gap between those who can drive and afford to drive and everybody else that cannot. And I really don’t like how we pin transit as, if transit has too many riders there’s something wrong with that, it doesn’t have enough riders there’s something wrong with it. Transit is always beaten up. Right. And transit is the only true public space we have that’s fully democratized in our cities today. And to me, that should no longer be all about ridership. It’s a public essential service that should be treated just like a water, electricity and something else. And so we need to refocus about what the public transit is and what is public transit. A bus coming every 30 minutes is not public transit. I’m sorry. A bus coming every three or four minutes that you can jump on and jump off to do your daily trips and services as Howaida was mentioning, that’s a public transit service. And so we need to look at what is important to us as values, how do we actually want to work in this space and what does it actually mean to move a person from A to B and not just from station to stop, which is what transit agencies do right now, but door to door. That may not be just a bus or a train. It may be a bicycle, it may be some other shared service. It may be a combination of those things. But we have the technology we can route, book and pay and connect it all together. And we even have ways to get people access to these services without a bank account or without a data plan. These are no longer excuses that we should always say, well, there’s an under-banked community. You can work with them and figure out ways to get them access if you want to. The question is, do we want to? And if we say we want to, then how we do it is just a process of how we do it. It varies by community. We can do that moving forward. But I want to go back to the point of, just the capacity issues with transit in Taipei and in Seoul. They require masks. They require heat checks, they require temperature checks. And that ridership has gone back to where it was before COVID. Why? Because they do social tracing and they do tracing of everybody. And in the North America, we have this illusion of privacy and we’re scared of it. But that’s how they’re taking care of that issue. We have to really ask some hard questions about what kind of tools are we really willing to exercise and how much of these things are we really willing to implement to see these outcomes that we say we want. And if equity is at the forefront of this, then we’re just going to go back to the old normal, which I don’t want us to do.

Mary Rowe [00:39:47] So I heard that subtle turn of phrase that you transportation wonks use, which is what you just did. Transportation system became transportation service. So this idea of mobility as a service, folks in the chatter picking this up. And the dilemma, as you suggest, Tim, is that you’re saying that it’s like an essential aspect in entitlement in urban life, like air, like water. And yet, do we have the political will? We have transit systems, Howaida works for one, that are threatened with bankruptcy now. So, Tanya, do you want to say something about this, about how can we muster political will to understand how public money is going to have to be invested in sustainable ways to allow us to have transit mobility services in cities across the country?

 Tanya Wegwitz [00:40:39] Yeah, I think that’s that’s totally it. And we’re talking about equity. We’re also talking about accessibility. We’re also talking about not just in the urban context, but we’re rural and remote communities. So it’s not just getting to the grocery store, you know, 20 minutes away within an urban city in some communities, it’s the small communities that have to take a bus an hour away to the nearest grocery store. Right. So it’s maintaining that, it’s looking at funding mechanisms. It’s been an interesting time to be a transit planner and transit scheduler working with communities, because my basic objective has been flipped on its head. Right. So previously it’s how do you maximize the number of people that can take transit, the right amount of ridership? Right. And and now it’s like, okay, we’re trying to find the sweet spot with, you know, keep the frequency and make sure that it’s you know, it’s a positive experience that you can connect people from home to whereever they need to go, but then also don’t put too many people on that on that bus. And so if the basic funding mechanism is has not been changing to address that, then you’re you’re so somewhat forcing transit systems to make really hard choices.

Mary Rowe [00:41:57] Tanya, what would you do? What would you do? How would you change the financing mechanism?

Tanya Wegwitz [00:42:05] Well, I think one of the things right now, just over the interim, over the shorter period is, you know, in the United States, the United Kingdom, we have seen the federal government step up and offer funding towards transit agencies. And that is something that Canadian transit systems have been asking for here. Right. So that that would be a short term mechanism. The other piece is, OK what are we looking long term in terms of how we’re funding transit?

Mary Rowe [00:42:34] Sorry. Can I just clarify what you’re suggesting here? You’re saying at the moment there’s a gas tax that does transfer to the municipalities and the municipalities make allocations and the province is involved in funding transit. Are you saying that you would want to see the federal government find some way to get money directly into transit authorities?

Tanya Wegwitz [00:42:51] I think so, yeah. Yeah, but you you can either. I mean, the trade off, right, right now is you can pay transit workers who may be laid off. Right. Or you can pay them to keep the keep transit systems.

Mary Rowe [00:43:10] OK, OK, wait. So. OK. So you’re saying potentially another way to do this would be to make we have a wage subsidy, Timothy, that was introduced after during COVID where the government is paying a wage subsidy. And I think what Tanya’s suggesting is why wouldn’t you extend that wage subsidy then to transit system employees. And so that’s what you would be offered directly to the employee and then they could potentially come back to work and maybe their salary would be topped up by the authority. Anybody else have a sense here about financing options going forward? It’s a huge mess.

Tanya Wegwitz [00:43:42] I just want one other one other thing that has been floated, one other idea is that, you know, there has been one of the one of the tricky points of transit. Right. Unlike a bike lane or sidewalks, which are amazing. And we need to keep doing it. And that’s part of it, is we need to keep doing it all and maintaining that diversity to our transportation network. But one of the one of the differences is that sidewalks, bike lanes, they’re capital. Right. They’re one time infrastructure. For transit it’s the operating costs ongoing. And that’s the thing. Transit is about people. It takes a lot of people to operate a system which in turn are local jobs within that community and which in turn is helping communities function by getting people to where they need to go, whether they be essential service workers or whether they be other people trying to access goods and services and appointments. So up until now, there’s always been reluctance or somewhat reluctance from senior levels of government, depending on the jurisdiction to put funding towards operating costs on an ongoing basis towards transit. It normally funds infrastructure. That’s that that hasn’t been the same. There’s been more openness. So one of the other ideas is whether on a short term basis, whether there might be an opportunity to relook at reallocating some of that funding as long as you know that generally you’re going to need that infrastructure funding at some later date.

Mary Rowe [00:45:02]  Yeah. What do you think in terms of sustainability. There’s something I want to talk a little bit about. You know, the the the issue around how we’re going to negotiate shared space, public space for transit or whatever or walking. Any thoughts from your point of view in terms of how can we create sustainable mobility systems in the post-COVID era?

Ahmed El-Geneidy [00:45:25] Funding is a major issue and you have to take some bold decisions in terms of funding. So when funding public transportation system, you might need to open the can of warms that it’s named congestion pricing. You have the form of getting people to when they are using cars to pay for the real cost they are doing on the ground. It’s not politically famous. So that’s why we go to get money from the federal government to pay for the operations till we can figure this out. He went and he expanded it. He said, okay, we’re gonna get the money from there and we’ll get this. We need to start if we are trying to get people to jump on bicycle’s. We know that most falling anyway. And in order for me to jump on a bicycle for a 20 km daily commute, you need to I need an electric bike, for example, if I’m not that fit. So you are subsidizing the electric cars, start considering subsidizing the electric bikes to get people on bikes for the longer distances. But to get the money for these subsidies, you have to get it from somewhere. It’s a cycle.

Mary Rowe [00:46:44] I always like asking somebody from Quebec, do you think we got the political will, Ahmed, to do this? To do congestion pricing? To have a different kind of arrangement to how we fund? What do you think? You know we have a window here, right? The world is broken.

Ahmed El-Geneidy [00:47:07] One of the things you see in the public transit budget is that the revenues from the gas tax keeps going down every year and every year we try to get more from the municipalities. So how much is that pressure? Now the pressure we’re trying to push it back on the federal government, pay us money for the operations. Yeah, we can pay money for the operations to save us for this. Three months, four months, whatever, until COVID is over and then we are going back to we’re having the fiscal deficits and the transit we call and we need the subsidy again. So to have a stream of funding. To me, it’s congestion pricing. And when is the pressure going to hit? It will have to happen at some point. It will have to get there.

Howaida Hassan [00:47:50] I could see Ahmed’s congestion pricing and up him a re-allocation of road right of way. Like I actually think like some of the modeling that we’ve done here in Edmonton. So we have a 50 percent mode share target in our draft city plan. And we’ve done modelling to try and understand what it would take to get us there. Pricing driving is one way to do that. Another. And it doesn’t have to be just the roads, it can be parking as well. So really looking at, you know, pricing our curb space appropriately. That’s a huge public asset. The curb. Like how do we price  that properly? And sometimes it’s just about re-allocating road space to privilege the transit and and bike users to make that trip more time effective, time cost effective, I guess I could say. And so that’s another way we could do it. And I saw a question that came through from one of the audience members, like it kind of privallages people, but there have been some studies that looked that means-based congestion pricing. So I think we can look at different ways that we can do congestion pricing that that doesn’t have to be a difficulty for people already in need. I actually think congestion pricing is probably one of those things that it’s a little bit far off for us to consider. Like, I don’t know if most cities would want to go down that route, but I think we can start by looking at our parking prices. We can start by looking at how we manage our curb and looking at how we dispense our right of way, which is quite precious.

Mary Rowe [00:49:21] Tim?

Timothy Papandreou [00:49:23] Yeah, I think it’s. So this is my. I’m glad we’ve got to this subject area. I’ve actually read an article just came out a couple of days ago on the business models and how we finance things. One thing that you can do very clearly upfront as agencies is realize that we are over subsidizing the private car ownership model that is way, way overdone. And we have to then in turn subsidize the transit system and the and the bike and the walk model, because we’ve made it so convenient and easy to drive your car around. And that costs us a fortune. We are literally going bankrupt because we are over subsidizing the private car ownership model. What does that mean? Congestion pricing is is a dirty word. It’s what we call a political buzz saw if you talk about it, but you can break it down. And I think Howaida actually talk about some really key points. Charging for parking at either end of the trip so you have to learn about use cases and think more like a service. If you have to pay for something at the beginning of a trip, you think about it. The reason why car sharing does such a good job at getting people to give up their cars because they start learning what the true cost of that trip actually is like. We’ve divorced the cost of the trip from car ownership. Because once you buy the car, you don’t care about how much it costs anymore. You want to use it as much as possible. When you actually have to pay per trip, per service. You start thinking about is this a right mode for this trip? Can I get there in another way? And if we can, we can utilize the technology we have today to actually charge the use of the curb. If a large car that’s heavy and polluting is stopping at a particular curve, they should pay more than someone who is actually riding a bicycle or a shared mobility service that’s using up less space, has no emissions and is not a safety issue from a collision perspective. All those bundle subsidies make it really easy to always choose your car keys and drive. And the same reason why we have to subsidize public transit so much. If transit has its own dedicated lane, and if we are now paying the true cost of driving, all the sudden transit starts making a lot more sense and it makes much more work. From a city perspective, when I was the chief innovation officer for the city of San Francisco, we developed a 50 50 percent mode share target in twenty thirteen and we met it by the end of 2015 because we’d done all those specific tools to get us there. We charged for parking. We’ve made it easier for public transit and for walking, cycling, everything else. And what we did there is we change the narrative of how much things cost. We don’t talk about how much things cost in transportation at a larger policy perspective. An example I’ll give you is if the MTA that I used to work with had a $1.2 billion budget. To us, well that’s a lot of money for it for public transport. That’s just too much money going to the transit agency. But we had data that showed that 25 percent of all trips were on public transport and the other 25 percent of all trips were walking and bicycling. So half of all the trips were done with $1.2 billion. The other half of all trips were done by car driving, private car driving. Guess how much that cost the city? Four billion dollars. Because we all paid money into our own pocket to drive our own car so I can move half the population on $1 billion dollars and the other half on $4 billion. So if we look at the full cost of carrying out our transport system, not just the public, but also the private costs, we could now say, look, I can move everybody in a much more affordable way. That’s more equitable for two billion dollars and we all save money. So changing the narrative around how we fund transport and how we talk about funding transport ends up showing that the public transport and bicycling public transport is cheap. Bicycling is basically free. We should be just focusing on those two things.

Mary Rowe [00:53:02] Here is the dilemma between Canada and the United States. You’re 10 times bigger than Canada and you’ve got many, many, many cities that would have the values and the circumstance that you’re describing in San Francisco. Canada has a fraction of the population and it has maybe five cities that would have, to varying degrees, the same level of commitment and sensibility that you’re suggesting. We have gazillions of Canadians living in suburban communities and suddenly they are out of work. Right. So I don’t know how they’re going to respond to. And it’s very difficult at this time to suggest anything that is going to make people less comfortable, disadvantaging them. People want to be comforted and supported at the moment in Canada. They don’t want to be told that they won’t be able to do things. Go ahead Tanya.

Timothy Papandreou [00:53:48] Well, they won’t. They won’t because guess what? When cities go bankrupt and trasnit goes bankrupt, then there’s nothing. So we have to be uncomfortable. I’m sorry. And the time to talk about. We talked so much about equity, but this is a time to talk about justice. We need transportation justice. Equity is making sure everybody has some access to it, but we need to bend that over so that we can correct these problems. And if we can’t talk about it now and get a little uncomfortable, then your, the outcome of what’s going to happen is basically a bifurcated system where the haves and the have nots literally separate their lives and they have parallel universes. I dont want us to go there. We shouldnn’t have to go there. And countries like Canada. I mean, I was born in Australia. They’ve got social safety nets. The US doesn’t have a social safety net. So we have to talk about these things and get a little uncomfortable so that we can all become more comfortable in the future.

Mary Rowe [00:54:40] OK, Tanya?

Tanya Wegwitz [00:54:42] So just in terms of, well, how do we do it? And what makes it happen? One of the kind of tongue in cheek sayings that I have that I use a lot with my own practice is that you can get away with almost anything if you call it a pilot project. Well, we’re in a little bit of a global pilot. And though it is so you know, we’ve been talking about where we’re at. One of the one of the things that I am seeing and appreciating about this moment is how fast change is happening, how people are adapting, how they’re experimenting, how they’re trying stuff on. When you start looking at the slow streets that are being put in and the heat increases, it’s like, okay, you know, it you know, urban or urban tactics are just going out there quite quickly. And the same is true for transit. And I think how do we embrace that as well? So more and more communities are kind of starting to see to take more of a hierarchical approach to their transit system in terms of the routes. Not in terms of equity and who rides, but in terms of using different layers of service for different contexts. And so how do we keep building on that to put the frequency in the service where it’s needed? How do we play around at the edges with demand, responsive services or different approaches to make it a lot? So I guess it’s like how do we how do we use this moment where there is maybe a little bit more leeway to experiment with trying things that we can try for a time limited point and see what goes happens from there?

Mary Rowe [00:56:12]  I want to put a call out that we start looking for suburban experiments and we start hearing such grand lessons. Look, suburban white collar workers and car commuters are staying at home. Maybe there’s a chance to try some different stuff. You know, what are we going to see more? And we’ve got a whole project on bringing back Main Street and Main Streets exists in burbs, too. So is there a way for us to. I am still stuck on Tim’s thing. I stay home, so others can get to work. Maybe I stay local so other people can get to work too. OK Ahmed, we’re in the homestretch here. Closing comments from Ahmed and Howaida. Let’s just hear where you guys are thinking as we round the end here.

Ahmed El-Geneidy [00:56:46] Yeah. If you want to stay local, you need to start rethinking the zoning of our suburbs and the land use policy. You want to know that you can do everything so going back to what what’s happening in Paris when she was. The mayor, she was running by the 15 minutes city. She wanted everything to be within 15 minutes from the place. So we have to start in order to do that either you can get people to go faster or bring things nearer to each other. So you have to change the land use you so you’ll have to play with both in the. Right now, what we can play with, we have been playing with the transport, much with the COVID thing we’ve been trying in Montreal, what they have tried, they tried to do a blanket of the bicycling facilities all over the city to make sure it’s equitable for everybody to get from point A to point B. But they’re suffering in the finances of that. And who’s going to pay for it? The federal government is saying yeah do it. But they’re not putting money in operate the transit, but we’re not putting the money in there. So we have to start to be thinking many things we’re doing. And I think it’s an opportunity to start pushing for more things now. And as Tanya was saying, we can name a pilot and do it, you know, and get things through. So then we can because that’s why they named the temporary bicycle facilities in Montreal. And hopefully, if people likes it, it will be permanent down the road.

Mary Rowe [00:58:21] So we’ve heard a cri de coeur from Tim. Now or never we’ve heard Tanya say, let’s make it the global pilot. And Ahmed is suggesting maybe some of these things will stick. Last word to you Howaida. Talk to us about the realities on the ground.

Howaida Hassan [00:58:35] Yeah, no, I totally agree with Ahmed. I know I’ve had this conversation with my planner colleagues for years its about, you know, transportation. Most cities can control that we own, operate and manage our transportation system. Not the same with our land use, our land use we have to influence. But I would suggest that we have been very reticent to influence, or to use the words growth management, to try it. You know, we could be accused of influencing the market or trying to make changes in the market. However, those are the kinds of things we’re going to have to think about and our city just city plan. We talk about a growth management system. We talk about the 15 minute district. I love that big cities like Montreal, Toronto put out those big ideas because cities like Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, we can start thinking about those things, too, and dream about them for our smaller cities as well. So in my opinion, we need to start having a little bit of more bravery around saying words like growth management and really thinking about rezoning and enabling the kind of districts, communities that we need to live locally.

Mary Rowe [00:59:43] You know, we really want to get to the practical in these sessions as we go or as the weeks carry on. How do we go from what we want to see to actually making it happen? So last comment to you, Tim, because we always want to hear from San Francisco as we finish last comment to you.

Timothy Papandreou [00:59:56] I  think the idea is that, you know, this is our time to change things. We’ve learned from our mistakes. We know what needs to be done. We just need to get the gumption to do it. And the idea is pilot pilot pilot until you have to. And we just need to get it done because there’s not enough time. And this is just the prequel to the big, big gorilla coming down the road, which is climate change. So we need to get things going now.

Mary Rowe [01:00:19] That’s right. Life is not a dress rehearsal. On that on that a hopeful and I think compelling note, I want to thank everybody for joining us on CityTalk and for you four, sharing us, sharing with us your perspectives, your unique perspectives and what you’ve been seeing on the ground and what you’re anticipating are the real pressing challenges we have to address. You’ve been very provocative. We could’ve kept you for a lot longer. Thanks to all the folks on the chat. So many good comments. Well, as I suggested, we’ll published all of this. And two days from now, Thursday, it’s still CityTalk on Thursday where we’re going to talk about public art, public space and what the future of that kind of land use looks like. The relationship, as you suggest, Howaida between land use and boy you guys gave us a whole week of things to think about. So thank you. Not just weeks. Thanks very much for joining us on CityTalk. And we’ll see you soon.

Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

Note to reader: Chat comments have been edited for ease of readability. The text has not been edited for spelling or grammar. For questions or concerns, please contact events@canurb.org with “Chat Comments” in the subject line.

12:03:28          From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk

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12:07:00          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Today’s panel:

Ahmed El-Geneidy – https://twitter.com/ahmedelgeneidy

https://www.mcgill.ca/urbanplanning/people-0/el-geneidy

Howaida Hassan

https://edmonton.ca

Timothy Papandreou

https://www.emergingtransport.com

Tania Wegwitz

Home

12:07:36          From Eunan Quinn: Hi everyone…. enjoying the insights into the Canadian context from Ireland.

12:15:18          From Venczel Gloria to All panelists: Hello from North Vancouver, pedestrian oriented urban designer

12:16:46          From Canadian Urban Institute: Welcome new joiners! Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:17:28          From Venczel Gloria: Hello from North Vancouver, pedestrian oriented urban designer:)

12:18:22          From Laurel Davies Snyder: Hello from Stratford, ON (and I work for London, ON as a Planner focused on core areas).

12:18:57          From Gil Penalosa: There are no outbreaks or even cases associated with riding public transit. Places like South Korea and Hong Kong have a series of protections in place and they seem to work well with normal capacity. The 2 meter/ 6-foot distancing is not necessary, but packed in like sardines is not a good idea, so we will need more service. Two measures: masks, mandatory, and, quiet trips / no speaking. CDC says virus extremely unlikely to stay in surfaces, only air virus. Any thoughts? Why transit authorities not making the case?

12:19:41          From Daniel Breton to All panelists: I would like to hear about transit and life outside the city and the suburbs. More people seem to want to move to the country as telecommuting develops.

12:20:00          From Lisa Mactaggart to All panelists: Hello from Guelph

12:20:18          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:21:06          From Mushtaq Rabbi: Hello from Calgary. I work as a Value Management Specialist for the City of Calgary large infrastructure investments.

12:21:29          From Ramesh Jagannathan: Hello from Durham Region. Not sure if this is the right place for this question. We are getting requests for road closures to allow more active transportation, more sidewalk patios to help restaurant businesses, curb lane closures to help pedestrians, etc. Yet all these have conflicting outcomes and unintended anti-competition and other consequences. Do we have any guidelines to help us navigate this, or is this just evaluations on-the-go on a case by case basis? Any way for agencies to go after this proactively, especially in anticipation of Stage 2 openings hopefully shortly?

12:21:36          From Jenna Dutton: I think it refers back to Tim’s point on community context, regardless of the scientific evidence what may be enforced or what transit authorities are willing to put in place can entirely depend on the political/ local gov environment

12:23:28          From Jenna Dutton: ex: Calgary has Lime scooters publicly available as of this week but that isn’t the case in many other cities

12:25:01          From Leslie Kelman: I am intrigued by Timothy’s use of the word “reclaim” rather than the phrase “share equitably”. Could he please expand on the “reclaim” concept

12:25:09          From Abby S: Say more about Lime…I know that in Oakland…many end up in the Bay…and the company does not clean up or remove them (with toxic batteries). I don’t know how widespread this problem is…nor the issue of where scooters belong on sidewalks…would like other from panelists about this mode of transportation and how effect or useful it is.

12:26:48          From Abby S: @Ramesh…such an interesting question. We tend to take it for granted (I did) that opening patios on public space is a good thing, without thinking (speaking for myself) about the unintended consequences. Thank you for bringing this up

12:27:23          From Jean-François Obregon: Hello from Vaughan. There is an opportunity for certain transportation projects that may not have had priority by the TTC, ie. bus rapid transit lines in the suburbs or allowing the public to be involved at Metrolinx meetings. What are the panelists’ thoughts on seizing the moment for projects that would have been lower on the priority list before?

12:29:47          From Alejandro Perez: Regarding cuts in PT service, do you think this might translate in more crowded buses/wagons, thus making it difficult to maintain social distancing?

12:30:12          From Mohammad Pourmeydani to All panelists: @ Ahmed Can you share with us the link to Montreal’s plan?

12:30:50          From Lisa Cavicchia, CUI Staff: This is a great article on Montreal: https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/columnists/allison-hanes-reimagining-the-use-of-public-space-during-pandemic/

12:31:12          From Graham Wilson: Hi Ramesh, might want to consider temporarily reusing public on-street parking for some of these purposes in central areas, where served by public lots (thinking about Downtown Whitby, as a policy planner there, but not involved in transit or public works). I can tell you that biking beside on-street parking in DT Whitby is (was?) the scariest part of my commute to Town Hall.

12:31:23          From Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera: Cambridge, UK

12:31:26          From Christine Yachouh to All panelists: Hamilton, Ontario

12:31:26          From Mohsin Kamal to All panelists: Mississauga

12:31:27          From Michelle Delisle-Boutin: In Montreal, Canada!

12:31:27          From Mark Hanlon: North GTA

12:31:27          From Arash Oturkar to All panelists: Toronto,ON

12:31:27          From Nick Chaloux: Toronto, ON!

12:31:28          From Kalen Anderson: Hi from Edmonton, Alberta

12:31:28          From Shadi Adab to All panelists: Toronot, CA

12:31:29          From Andrew Charles: London, UK

12:31:29          From James Vaclavek to All panelists: Hello from Guelph, Canada!

12:31:30          From Suzanne Kavanagh: Picton ON

12:31:31          From Sarah Danahy to All panelists: Hello from Calgary!

12:31:31          From Janell Ranae Rempel: Regina, SK

12:31:31          From Mushtaq Rabbi: From Calgary

12:31:31          From Fiona Wilson: Hello from Mississauga

12:31:31          From Kara Merpaw to All panelists: Toronto, ON

12:31:32          From Niki Van Vugt: Toronto, ON

12:31:32          From Wesley Andreas to All panelists: Edmonton, AB!

12:31:32          From Cory Stechyshyn to All panelists: Thunder Bay, Ontario

12:31:32          From Toby Greenbaum: Toby from backward Ottawa!

12:31:33          From Kimberly Salt to All panelists: Montreal!

12:31:34          From Lauren Birch: Toronto, ON!

12:31:35          From Yuri Artibise: Vancouver, BC

12:31:35          From Tim Shah: Victoria, BC

12:31:36          From Melissa Gallina to All panelists: Hamilton, ON!

12:31:36          From Shervin Bakhtiari to All panelists: Montreal, QC

12:31:36          From Shilpa Dogra: Ottawa, ON

12:31:36          From Hassan: London, UK

12:31:37          From James Byrne to All panelists: Peterborough, ON

12:31:37          From Colleen Bawn to All panelists: Summerside, PEI Canada

12:31:37          From James Ballinger: Hello from Halifax

12:31:38          From Naomi Roy: Hi, Naomi from Edmonton

12:31:38          From Ron Cook to All panelists: Edmonton AB

12:31:39          From Danie Haufschild: east of the Don River! Toronto

12:31:39          From Rubaba Ismayilova to All panelists: in Toronto, ON

12:31:40          From James DeWeese to All panelists: toronto, on

12:31:40          From Leah Nicholson: Toronto, ON

12:31:40          From Kevin Fraser: Vancouver

12:31:41          From Kirsten Goa: Edmonton, AB

12:31:41          From Alejandro Perez: My concern is that, even though one might argue that there have not been any outbreaks in PT systems, ridership might decrease due to negative perceived safety

12:31:41          From Leo Doyle to All panelists: Ottawa, Ontario.

12:31:42          From Lorna Stewart to All panelists: Victoria, Oaklands neighbourhood!

12:31:44          From Larson Holt: Hi from San Francisco!

12:31:44          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: Waterloo, Ontario

12:31:45          From Alyssa Lefebvre: Edmonton, AB!

12:31:47          From Robert Matas: the re: no outbreaks or even cases associated with riding transit, “ Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove complained in late March about a woman coughing on his bus. His death a few weeks later was attributed to the coronavirus. A month later, nearly 100 US transit workers had died of Covid-19.

12:31:47          From anthony dionigi to All panelists: Clareview station edmonton

12:31:47          From Jiya Benni: Toronto, ON

12:31:47          From Canadian Urban Institute: Reminding attendees to please change your chat settings to “all panelists and attendees” so everyone can see your comments.

12:31:49          From Graham Wilson: Whitby, ON, CA

12:31:49          From Jenna Dutton: Global Liveable Streets map, may be of interest https://t.co/lxrMwkRcGM?amp=1

12:31:50          From Kellie Grant: Saskatoon

12:31:51          From Mark Emmons: Saskatoon, SK

12:31:51          From Alejandro Perez: Hello, from Montreal

12:31:52          From reg nalezyty: Thunder Bay ON

12:31:53          From Geoff Abma: Oakville, ON

12:31:53          From Christine Drimmie: Durham Region, GTA

12:31:57          From Maro Austin-Igbuku: Toronto, ON

12:31:57          From Jenna Dutton: Calgary, Alberta

12:31:58          From Timo Hoffmann: Listening in from Germany

12:31:58          From Margaret Kish: Pickering, ON

12:31:59          From Constance Carr to All panelists: Luxembourg.:)

12:32:00          From Mike Logan: Toronto!

12:32:04          From Daniel Morin: Edmonton, AB

12:32:05          From Daniel Breton: I am in the country, close to Trois-Rivières, QC.

12:32:09          From Maureen Shuell: Maureen Shuell from Toronto (my neighbourhood: Beaches)

12:32:10          From Mohammad Pourmeydani to All panelists: Vancouver

12:32:10          From Malithi Fernando: Hello from Paris!

12:32:11          From Madhuparna Debnath: Brampton, ON

12:32:15          From Donna Dolan: Bloor west village Toronto

12:32:24          From Ramesh Jagannathan to All panelists: Whitby, ON

12:32:54          From Conor DeSantis: Hello from Ville-Marie, Montréal, QC !

12:32:58          From Julian Villafuerte to All panelists: Hello from Windsor, ON!

12:33:04          From Brian Moss: (Durham Region) Most urban Canadians are in quite ‘suburban’ settings .. rather in true urban settings where bike lanes and walking are options .. the interim future of the suburbs .. more cars !! (like it or not) ..

12:33:24          From Abdulmuhsin Adeniyi: Abdulmuhsin from Lagos Nigeria, What is the outlook on public transit in post COVID 19 era.

12:34:11          From Kirsten Goa: Yes! Howaida!

12:34:15          From Mike Logan: I think that issues of equity – who gets that spot on the bus? who gets to access work or school? – will be absolutely critical in the ‘re-opening’ of the economy. Who else is thinking about this?

12:34:41          From Dean Cooper: Sixth (I think) person chiming in from Edmonton…!

12:35:22          From Hana O’Neill to All panelists: hi from San Francisco!

12:35:23          From Jiya Benni: When implementing temporary AT infrastructure, is geographic equity considered? Or are these lanes/sidewalks put in downtown areas or areas where there is already high AT usage?

12:35:30          From Jenna Dutton: Agreed. Equity is essential!

12:35:35          From Kirsten Goa: 🤷🏼‍♀️

12:35:38          From Kirsten Goa: 👍🏻

12:35:57          From Kalen Anderson: Howaida is a rock star

12:36:01          From Kirsten Goa: Sorry! meant 👍🏻

12:36:11          From Kirsten Goa: She is!

12:36:32          From Jennifer Roth: Capacity building within the public on municipal processes is certainly something that needs to happen to help facilitate those conversations around equity of transportation service.

12:36:42          From Daniel Morin: Totally agree. So many covid restrictions or guidelines do not consider those without vehicles.

12:36:49          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: To all panelists: Could you speak more about the decision making process and how these issues of equity can be addressed? How can we improve the process to not only cater to those who speak the loudest?

12:36:58          From Danie Haufschild: sounds like the USA in terms of transit being for disadvantaged. A tricky issue., how to keep transit relevant and supported by all, while also avoiding increasing inequity

12:37:44          From Jenna Dutton: And because of their leadership!

12:37:52          From Alejandro Perez: About Brian’s message, maybe interventions like REV or Vision Velo (Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie) might encourage active transportation linking suburbs and downton

12:38:40          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: Timothy🙌

12:39:18          From Daniel Breton: Mobility as a service

12:39:26          From Patrick Kyba: It wasn’t feasible to have transit frequency of more than 30min intervals in some of the smaller communities before covid-19…

12:39:35          From Brian Moss: Links between suburbs and downtown may have less relevance in the future .. suburb to suburb is a key issue .. mind you, this was the case prior to Covid as well ..

12:39:52          From Janell Ranae Rempel: speaking of desire lines! Do we really *want* to? Great point!

12:40:44          From Venczel Gloria: Land use determines # of riders + ridership of public transit with financial implications. We have to rethink not only cities but low density suburbs land use. Shocking that low income areas have lower transit service but have to make sure that transit is not viewed as transport for the poor, a la US. Make all transit “sexy” like commuter trains w/wifi, cappuccino (West Coast Express)

12:41:01          From Juan Sebastian Canavera Herrera: Why do not we see transport as a right?

12:41:50          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: Same reason why in some places we don’t see healthcare as a human right 🤔

12:42:12          From Jean-François Obregon: @Venczel Gloria: There are low-income people in low-density suburbs, too.

12:43:23          From anthony dionigi to All panelists: gas taxes do not apply to all transit agencies

12:43:54          From Graham Wilson: funding transit through gas tax will eat itself once gas revenue goes down – is that by design?

12:44:35          From Daniel Breton: relying on raising the gas tax won’t work in the medium to long term as governments are trying to transition to electric transportation and lowering GHGs

12:44:37          From Venczel Gloria: @JeanFrancois Have to rethink land use in low density, less affluent areas. Equity right across the board will be a prerequisite for a post covid recovery as inequity is a statistically significant indicator of pandemic spread- if we don’t want wave after wave of covid.

12:45:16          From Jean-François Obregon: @Venczel Gloria: Ah, OK. Thank you for clarifying the initial statement.

12:45:21          From Danie Haufschild: capital rich, operating poor

12:45:23          From Brian Moss: Transit finance .. expect less funding going forward .. expect roll backs on ‘future plans’ .. governments will not be able to afford more capital .. the world has fundamentally changed ..

12:45:53          From Jenna Dutton: Also the broader system savings from transit = reduced carbon emissions/ climate change impacts

12:45:58          From Jean-François Obregon: What about green bonds issuances to help fund capital projects?

12:46:37          From Canadian Urban Institute: CUI is looking for volunteers to help us continue the great work of our COVID-19 initiatives. If you can help, please contact us at covidresponse@canurb.org

12:46:56          From Toby Greenbaum: Right on, re congestion funding, Ahmed.

12:47:06          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: Definitely agree with Ahmed. punting the responsibility to others is more appealing than congestion pricing. Love this comment.

12:47:10          From Kirsten Goa: yes!

12:47:13          From Toby Greenbaum: Congestion charging that is…

12:47:35          From Graham Wilson: @Brian – how much do you think suburban dev would save if all that underground parking wasn’t required? How much more yield? there’s a source of funding for transit, eh? a bit circular, but it’s something.

12:47:38          From Tim Shah: Great point about e-bikes subsidies, Professor El-Geneidy. Couldn’t agree more

12:47:47          From Brian Moss: Yesterday’s solution (congestion tax) .. desire lines will change dramatically ..

12:48:08          From Lorna Stewart to All panelists: Road pricing for the privileged.

12:48:21          From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: Yes, prioritize e-bike and e-bus subsidies over private EVs.

12:48:27          From Daniel Breton: As a former environment minister, I say that the present government (federal and Québec) are not going in that direction.

12:48:39          From Mike Logan: Done correctly and thoughtfully, congestion pricing could be a very important part of achieving transport equity.

12:49:09          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: Meanwhile, lanes on the 401 are being widened and increased.

12:49:43          From Daniel Breton: They are still looking to do economic recovery through the construction of new roads and new bridges.

12:49:50          From Brian Moss: @graham – relatively little underground parking in suburban models .. where are the savings? .. any savings should likely be reflected in more affordable housing offerings ..

12:50:08          From Tim Shah: Here’s an excellent 2018 report from the Pembina Institute about congestion pricing: https://www.pembina.org/reports/2018-08-finalreport-farepricing.pdf

12:50:22          From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb

12:50:24          From Venczel Gloria: Canadian Cities need a “New Green Deal” as cities are the economic generators of the country. Only property taxes, a tax regime created in 1867, w/minor changes, when Canada was an agrarian society. Too much downloaded to the junior partner from feds + provinces like affordable housing and social programmes for youth w/o resources. Transit + other infrastructure suffers from this inequality

12:50:45          From Christine Drimmie: In the long run, don’t we want jobs closer to where people live. Can we use congestion pricing to support that?

12:51:17          From James Vaclavek to All panelists: Active transportation (Cycling, walking, etc) is all well in good during these beautiful days, but have to also consider 6 months of the year in Canada are not overly conducive to these types of transportation. Am I wrong in thinking this?

12:51:52          From Graham Wilson: @Brian I’m thinking of intensification / transit corridors, where we want more intense mix-use development to support transit anyway. Like Rossland Rd:-D

12:52:08          From Laurel Davies Snyder: Thank you Tim for bringing up the critical point that we don’t connect the true costs of driving.

12:52:38          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: Can we talk about gentrification as a result of transit oriented development considering we’re talking about equity and transport?

12:53:01          From Brian Moss: The ‘market’ (individual decisions) may sort out where employment is created/sustained .. not sure congestion pricing will overly impact people’s decisions .. people may not wish to be in ‘congested’ areas in the first place ..

12:53:36          From Christine Drimmie: is any one calculating the cost of empty roads during the covid crisis in the way we are costing empty buses?

12:54:04          From Venczel Gloria: With the status quo in land use, car oriented land use is enabled with car share, propping up sprawl. What about dialogue around transit + complete, walkable, vibrant neighbourhood based land use?

12:54:30          From Graham Wilson: Thanks Tim for the discomfort

12:54:51          From Jean-François Obregon: Amen

12:55:06          From Canadian Urban Institute: You can find transcripts and recordings of today’s and all our webinars at https://www.canurb.org/citytalk

12:55:14          From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: Alligning affordable housing, active transport and public transit checks all of the boxes: equity, environment, economy.

12:55:43          From Jenna Dutton: Love those pilot projects!:)

12:56:22          From Venczel Gloria: Transit demand management, not addressing congestion etc., is a “thing” in MetroVancouver as an incentive for using other modes of movement

12:56:29          From Graham Wilson: Opportunity: suburban white collar workers / car commuters are staying at home, and could see the value of bike lanes now for short trips and getting out

12:56:47          From Alejandro Perez: @graham agree

12:57:14          From Daniel Morin: YES! We need to focus more on improving suburbs and promoting walking/transit/cycling in these areas. It is complex but worth discussing more.

12:57:41          From Graham Wilson: Thanks! imagine 9 to 5 IN the 905?

12:58:05          From Venczel Gloria: @Ahmed Yes! 15 minute city- change land use!

12:58:56          From Lisa Mactaggart: thank you from Guelph

12:59:39          From Brian Moss: I guess long range planning needs to move to shorter term objectives .. not 2041 ..

12:59:56          From Jonathan Giggs: Thank you from Port Credit in Mississauga

13:00:01          From Ryan Walker: Fantastic panel!

13:00:05          From Graham Wilson: Howaida, maybe just frame it as “correcting market failures”

13:00:06          From Steve Winkelman to All panelists: Land use is transport poicy is climate policy is housing policy.

13:00:09          From Jenna Dutton: Importance of collaboration b/w planners & transportation/ transit planners!

13:00:10          From Toby Greenbaum: Excellent session. Thanks. Lets get brave!

13:00:25          From Jenna Dutton: Thanks all, great panel and discussion!

13:00:25          From Canadian Urban Institute: Keep the conversation going #citytalk @canurb

13:00:28          From Laurel Davies Snyder: Great session –

13:00:37          From Venczel Gloria: @Howaida- it’s all about marketing for walkability and sense of place, pedestrian oriented urban design is a very underutilized tool for selling complete communites.

13:00:52          From Kalen Anderson: Let’s get this done. Great way to end

13:00:56          From Eunan Quinn: Great discussion….many thanks to all.

13:00:58          From Ron Cook to All panelists: Great session – Thank you.

13:01:01          From Graham Wilson: Thank you very much

13:01:06          From Mohsin Kamal to All panelists: Thank you! Great discussion

13:01:07          From Janell Ranae Rempel: Yes, so it seems it is true that we will have to work with our own discomforts…especially those of us who have been so privileged as to be able/allowed/fortunate not to live constantly, every day, with inconvenience and discomfort… Hm…

13:01:09          From Tim Shah: Thank you very much for the fascinating discussion!

13:01:11          From Kevin Fraser: Excellent discussion – thanks all!

13:01:12          From Michelle Delisle-Boutin: Merci beaucoup!

13:01:16          From Emily Wall, CUI Staff: Please help CUI improve its CityTalk programming with a short post-webinar survey – https://bit.ly/3gqcRI8

13:01:18          From Lorna Stewart to All panelists: Thank you for this great work!

13:01:22          From Jeff Biggar to All panelists: Great – thanks all!

13:01:24          From Natasha Apollonova to All panelists: Thanks! Great webinar Mary.

13:01:25          From Christian Nadeau to All panelists: Merci !

13:01:26          From Becca Mayers to All panelists: Thanks everyone!

13:01:27          From Venczel Gloria: Thank you!

13:01:35          From Janell Ranae Rempel: Yes, so great!!!

13:01:35          From Alejandro Perez: Thank you!

13:01:39          From Conor DeSantis: Thank you!

13:01:40          From Janell Ranae Rempel: Thank you all!

13:01:42          From Naomi Roy: Thank you!

13:01:45          From Daniel Morin: Thank you!

13:02:00          From Robert Matas: great panel. thanks

13:02:07          From Niki Van Vugt: Thank you very much! This was an incredible discussion and appreciate the questions/comments in the chat!

13:05:52          From Tania Wegwitz : Thanks very much to everyone and for the great comments and questions that came in the chat. Heads up that if you’re looking for more resources specifically to transportation and COVID response, you can also check out NACTO’s Streets for Pandemic Response Recovery at https://nacto.org/streets-for-pandemic-response-recovery/ as well as the Canadian Urban Transit Association’s transit specific resources here: https://cutaactu.ca/en/content/covid-19-resources Stay safe all

13:06:34          From Alex Speigel to All panelists: Excellent panel! Agreed that low density suburbs need to be re-planned to make them more sustainable, resilient and walkable but, practically speaking, this is big challenge due the fact that almost everything is privately owned. Exploring this challenge further would be a great topic for a future session.

13:09:03          From Canadian Urban Institute: Very lively chat today! Please leave your final comments, links and resources now as the chat will close in two minutes.