CityTalk | Live X Interact: How can cities move transportation equity from rhetoric to reality?

5 Key

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

This edition of CityTalk will explore findings from INTERACT’s new report, “Practices and Inspiration for Sustainable Transportation Equity: Case Studies from Canadian Cities”. Developed in collaboration with LevelUp Planning and transportation and equity professionals from across Canada, the report assembles practical guidance on ways cities can embed equity in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of transportation interventions. Find the report here.

1.Be clear about what transportation equity really means

There are a lot of terms used to talk about transportation equity – i.e mobility justice, or other terms used in this space like transport poverty. The report shares 5 key elements of transportation equity on p. 12 , which offers a primer for people who may be starting their work in this area. When everyone is on the same page about what the equity goal is, it’s easier to know how to reach it. Sawsan Al-Refaei, Manager at Community Safety and Wellbeing at the City of Ottawa, remarks how important is was to bring transit professionals to the equity table: “The term was new to them, but they understood equity because they sat around the equity table.”

The speakers also called for a community-driven terminology and to look at it a service to truly understand community needs, what is doable and what is not. A reframing of the community’s role is needed especially when thinking of transportation solutions at the hyper-local level as Mary M. Rowe, President of CUI, discusses. Nathan Smith, Senior Engineer at Mobility/Planning & Environment Services in the City of Edmonton, highlights that hyper-local solutions pose a bit of a challenge as it creates tensions at the municipal level because of the need to standardize projects for efficiency. However, he agrees and pushes that thinking of specific communities and their own needs is critical to providing the most functional service.

 2. Use a public safety lens to view transportation

“We don’t fear enough the cars that we walk around every day.” Patrick Johnstone, Mayor of the City of New Westminster, describes how, in our communities, we have a “non-rational idea of what is dangerous” discussing how we often think certain things as dangerous when they are not and vice versa. Patrick underscores that transportation decisions fundamentally concern public safety, particularly for marginalized communities disproportionately affected by traffic-related injuries and fatalities. Meghan Winters, Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, agrees that car dependency is slowing us down. The speakers advocate for viewing transportation through a public safety lens, emphasizing the impact cars and car dependency have on vulnerable populations and how it hinders mobility for those unable to drive.

They urge for a shift in perspective, recognizing the true dangers posed by cars in communities and the importance of prioritizing safety for all.

3. Disaggregated data is needed to get at transportation needs and patterns of marginalized Canadians

Meghan describes how 1 million Canadians are living in transportation poverty. This is when people’s ability to access opportunities is “limited by inadequate, unaffordable, and unsafe transportation” which are injustices that are built over time. Patrick adds that it “takes an intentional drive…an effort to make sure you’re centering people that you haven’t been listening to when you’re making decisions.”

If we truly want to be equitable and reach Indigenous communities, rural communities, and marginalized communities of different backgrounds, we need updated data, says Sawsan and Meghan. The current data is not intersectional and “intersectionality has to be a practice, not just a word.” In addition, cities need to start embracing and pushing for disaggregated data to better understand their communities and their needs.

4. If it feels good when you start doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong  

On equity and reconciliation, Patrick discusses how conversations with people who have been marginalized by the City’s decisions are difficult conversations and if they don’t feel that way, then you’re probably doing it wrong. These processes start with education on what is equity and reconciliation: Education of elected officials, city hall and the community. With adequate education, we can start looking at the co-creation of projects and to close the “engagement” loop: Making sure people hear their own voices in the summaries of the communication processes even when it doesn’t guarantee everything they have asked for. The important step is making sure they feel they are part of the process which comes after hard conversations and community collaboration.  

Sawsan adds that we must always ask these two important questions: “In anything we do or innovate, who’s going to benefit the most, and who is going to pay the price for that?” 

5. Meaningful engagement takes time, cities need to allocate resources to do it well

Again, language is important, and the speakers call on a need to disentangle communications and engagement… A lot of cities make the mistake of asking their communication departments to do engagement, says Patrick. In New Westminster, they’ve created a separate engagement group that focuses on bringing people in and asking them about their insights.

Nathan agrees and adds that in order to understand community needs better, go where the people are: to the churches, the mosques, the community centres, the malls…etc. Especially when engaging and communicating with community members that are marginalized, the process needs to be made so that it caters to their schedules and habits rather than other away around. Do not place a burden on the communities you want to help.

Full Panel

Note to readers: This video session was transcribed using auto-transcribing software.  Questions or concerns with the transcription can be directed to with “transcription” in the subject line.

MARY W. ROWE Hi everybody. It’s Mary Rowe from the Canadian Urban Institute. I’m happy to be having this conversation because what could be more important than transportation equity? And, very appreciative and Interact’s leadership on this. And for them for producing this really great report, we’ll give a few more minutes for people to come on in. And, then we’re looking forward to having a really rich discussion. And we have a number of people … What we’re going to do is have a presentation from Interact first, and then we have a number of panelists who are joining us to give us their views on this, on what is a really, really weighty topic. So, as you know, the CUI operates in cities across the country with many, many Indigenous peoples, ancestral territory ceded and unceded. And we at CUI in 2024, are committing ourselves to redoubling our efforts around what reconciliation needs to look like in the city, and open space. And so I appreciate having a three month stint here to be present in Ottawa on the traditional territory of the Algonquins, and to be working with many, many partners, Indigenous and settler, to address the colonial legacies of, of urbanism and to how we address those. And a lot of what we’re dealing with right now, across every jurisdiction is, a manifestation of those, patterns, that were established and, reinforced over decades and decades and decades. So I appreciate you joining us on that journey on that whole walk together as we work towards truth and reconciliation. If you can put in your chat where you’re coming in from, that’s always helpful for us to know. We have, listeners who come in coast to coast, obviously, and we also have people that come in from outside Canada. And we appreciate our City Talkers. There are tens of thousands of you that have joined over the last several years. And we’re getting ready, actually, to launch a new website which will feature every video we’ve ever done. So, every webinar we’ve ever led, which means hundreds of people, well, thousands of people like you who have listened, but also hundreds of people that have offered themselves up to be participants and interlocutors and conversation starters. And as you always know, every conversation we have on CityTalk, we always say “it’s the beginning, not the end”. So just keep that in mind, that the chat here – if you’ve if you’ve been a lurker on CityTalks for years and you know, today it’s a new day, new year and you’d like to actually participate in the chat, we would encourage you to do so because there’s a whole world of expertise and, thoughtfulness on the chat. And we publish that along with the transcript and the actual video. And people make good connections in the chat and learn from each other and all that kind of thing. So, it’s a really rich discourse. And if there’s anything that we’ve tried to do, at the CUI through the initiation of this program, which was just at the beginning of the pandemic through, is to just reinforce that we are a peer to peer network of problem solvers. There’s not a single person participating here that doesn’t every day focus on how can they make urban life work better for themselves, for their families, for others, for their neighbors? And what are the policy and enabling conditions that we need to allow us to be able to flourish and do what we can do best, which is make great cities. So, welcome, everybody. I would encourage you, as I say, to participate in the chat. And if we could now, open up the, the chat so you can see who the participants will be. And also, I would be delighted to introduce my colleagues from Interact who are going to come on. And Meghan is the first and she’s going to summarize the report, and I bet you’re going to show us some nice pictures, and we’re going to have a really interesting conversation and, see how we move forward in this discourse. So over to you to kind of give us the technical overview, if you can, Meghan. And then, we’re going to hear from our colleagues in the cities that work closely with you on this report. And then, as I say, throw those questions into the chat. We’re interested to hear what your queries are. And if you take exception to something you hear, please don’t hesitate. Good heavens. This is a safe space. Let’s talk – obviously we do that with great respect of each other, but please feel free to raise your misgivings or questions or what you think needs more attention. So Meghan, thanks for doing this. Glad to be here and with you, and I’m sorry that I was a few minutes late, but here I am.


MEGHAN WINTERS No problem. Thanks so much to you and your team, Mary, for hosting this today. I’m really pleased to be here to share the work of our team. I need to acknowledge there’s a whole research team behind this Interact team, as well as our partners, so Victoria Barr with Level Up Collaborative and Tessa Williams and Jamie Fisher, our two graduate students who did a ton of work on this. I also thank the many transportation and equity practitioners whose experience we’re drawing from in putting this report together. I’m the face of a really large collaborative effort, and I’m really grateful to be able to do that. I’m speaking to you from the lands of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tseil-Waututh people, in what is now the City of Vancouver. I just take a moment to highlight the role that transportation has played in colonization and sort of the persistent mobility injustices that happen with a lack of safe transportation supports for Indigenous people across the country, people living on reserve and off reserve. And it’s really an area that needs, focused attention. And there’s some speaking to that within our report as well. So research has showed that an estimated 1 million Canadians live in transportation poverty. This is where like ability to access opportunities is limited by inadequate, unaffordable and unsafe transportation. And as Mary alluded to, these injustices are really built in over time. I think many on the call would know that today, and they’re standing in the way of people’s access to things like jobs, but also education, health care, social opportunities, things that ultimately impact sort of health and well-being broadly writ. Now there’s movement, we’re certainly seeing, governments making major investments in active transportation and travel that’s happening across the country right now. We’re also seeing cities put equity on their policy agenda. So making this front and center and adopting citywide policies and frameworks. And it’s a real opportunity right now to make sure that these transportation systems are working for everyone. But what’s missing is how to action these kinds of big, high level commitments on the ground in everyday work. So the big question really is the title of today’s talk, “How Can Cities Move Transportation Equity Forward, From Rhetoric to Reality”? It’s a question that we heard come up again and again from our city partners. And so as we started on this work some year and a half ago to tackle it, we had the goal to assemble practical guidance and inspiration on how equity can be meaningfully embedded into sustainable transportation interventions or changes in the city. Our research process was a combination of crowdsourcing, policy reviews and extensive interviews and dialogs with practitioners to delve into what worked in their cities, what failed, and why. The work we summarized in a new report, that’s just come out. You can use the QR code on the slide right here, or I hope someone’s putting a link in the chat as I speak. The report has sort of five things that it offers, five key pieces that are shaped by the needs that were expressed by our city partners in this journey. The first is, key elements that define transportation equity, and resources for learning more about this. It includes ten considerations for high level municipal policy equity. Municipal equity policies. It also has lessons learned from in-depth studies of the transportation equity journeys of three cities in Canada, of New Westminster, of Edmonton and Ottawa. So who you see on the panel today, and it’s got snapshots from other large and small cities and some international cities as well. It shares 15 promising practices to help move forward embedded in equity in sustainable transportation planning, implementation and evaluation. And it touches on the remaining challenges and where we heard the field is heading next. So for today’s session I’m just going to highlight a few key sessions, things that I think might resonate with the audience and invite you in. The first thing is that over and over we hear confusion around what equity means for transportation. And more generally, we hear that the term equity can be thrown around and co-opted so much that it can lose meaning. So in response to that, we included an explainer around what transportation equity is and is not. And within the report we describe these sort of five components, with explanations in them and additional resources for learning around them. So our practice partners said this kind of explainer was really essential, that it was important, framing for speaking to elected officials for when they were going to speak to the public, or for speaking to different kinds of departments that might be moving at a different pace around this. So it really puts it forward around equity in transportation context. Secondly, after 2020, we saw municipalities accelerate around the creation of these like citywide equity policies and frameworks. More and more cities were starting to formalize their commitment on how they were going to address the harmful inequities from community planning. And this is a really evolving and active space. Cities wanted to hear from each other. And so we did a broad scan of citywide equity policies, and then we narrowed in on eight cities for a more in-depth analysis, just to name these cities – it was Victoria, Vancouver, New Westminster, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. And we looked at their citywide policies, to compare and contrast sort of what were the key elements in them, how was equity defined, the process used, the tools and the indicators used? And from this we identified ten considerations. And we really see this contribution as a way to help municipalities along their journey. We know that each municipality is a really specific context. There’s different levels of readiness and challenges, and that some of these points might resonate differently in different places. But there’s detail within the report for each of these sort of ten observations and considerations and guidance on how a city or municipality might embrace this to move forward and do the work deeper. Finally, throughout our work, we heard that the big question was no longer whether to take action toward sustainable transportation equity, but how to do that? Specifically, cities in Canada were moving forward to adopt these kinds of like, broad policy goals. But transportation practitioners are eager for guidance on how to successfully action those kinds of commitments on the ground. So some of you on the call might not be in transportation. And I’d underscore that the learnings from this report, I think, are really relevant to other planning domains as well. Transportation doesn’t happen in a silo, of course it’s integrated with land use, other practices, and many parts of the daily work in transportation planning that are about funding, planning, engagement, implementation and evaluation also happen in adjacent municipal departments as well.


MEGHAN WINTERS So the report introduces 15 promising practices. These surfaced through the case studies that we did, and also a large dialog we had with the transportation community at a workshop in Winnipeg last year. They’re cross-cutting practices that illustrate how equity can be embedded across different aspects of transportation practice. And you can see the color coding on the slide here. So this is a listing of them. And there’s detail and explanations within the report. But I’d highlight that there’s steps that can be taken if you’re working at the policy level, there’s promising practices if you’re in analysis and reporting, if you’re focused on engagement, if it’s about prioritization and implementation or about learning and evaluation. So across any of these areas of practice, there’s steps that can be taken. And we put forward some promising practices and inspirations. So to learn more about these, I’d invite you to take a deeper dive into the report. In the report, there’s policy context and storylines for each of these three case study cities. They were cities that we’re moving forward and making advances in this area. For today, I’m not going to get into the details of any of these cities, because we’re really lucky to have leaders from these cities who can speak to their own stories and journeys and what stands out for them. But there’s a few pages in the case study for each of them within the report. We also have spotlights from some other contexts, one of these is around Toronto, which has a multitude of efforts around equity. But we also highlight small communities with a spotlight on the County of Kings in the Atlantic provinces. And then there’s a few spotlights that we take from U.S. cities as well. I’m acknowledging this is a very different policy context, but there’s opportunities to learn from some of the steps that they’ve taken moving forward. Just to close, I want to share that no one we spoke to in all of our efforts felt like they had all the answers. What was clear is that you can’t do the equity work alone. In every municipality we spoke to progress was possible because of collective efforts across departments, sectors and disciplines. Our hope is that this work and this report can inspire other city builders to consider how the practices apply in their own contexts, experiment with new ways of thinking and working, and sort of join a broader community of practitioners through these CityTalks and through efforts locally that are committed to transportation equity. And so I want to invite you to take a minute to read the report. The executive summary or the deeper dive, if that’s what you’re looking for. I hope you can share it with colleagues, elected officials, people in your network and share it online. Thanks for joining in the conversation today. And there’ll be more conversations like this in the coming months. And also to invite people to consider hosting or joining a workshop so that you can start experimenting with some of these practices, taking a deep dive with scenarios or projects that are relevant to your context. And I invite you to reach out to our team. If you’re interested in collaborating on that. And so with that, I’m here to hear from the panelists and I’ll pass it back to Mary. Thank you so much.


MARY W. ROWE Thanks. It’s so interesting … In your research here and in your faculty work, you chose transportation equity versus transit equity or mobility. What was the thinking on that?


MEGHAN WINTERS You know, there’s a lot of terms. We often talk about mobility equity as well. Transportation equity. I think a lot of the municipal departments that we work with in the field, our transportation departments, and define themselves as a transportation community. So within the equity conversation, there’s all sorts of different terms and terminologies. Part of the reason why we needed transportation equity as an explainer. And also there’s a glossary in that book as well. So just an example of different language that’s happening there. But really the ask for our work came from people who were transportation planners, practitioners, engineers across the country.


MARY W. ROWE Right. So what they’re saying is there’s a mixed modality here, a whole bunch of options. And basically we’re talking about moving people and you don’t want it to be one or the other. Grand. Yeah. Okay. All right. Well, let me ask our panelists from the cities to put their cameras on. And, Meghan, don’t go anywhere, because they’re going to have lots of things for you to, I’m sure respond to. And I always, my view here is that we always open our mics. Unless you’ve got a wild child behind you or a barking dog, or, I was on a call this morning and they had a woodchipper who was working, and you couldn’t hear anything else. So, but please feel free to keep your mic open, because it’s just a much more natural way for us to talk. And, and I’m really interested in not only the findings of this piece of work, but also just the choices and the methodologies that you chose, Meghan, because why these cities and what their particular perspectives are? But let’s go to Nathan first, if we could. And Nathan, I just want to acknowledge and I should have said it right off the bat. Your city has experienced something extraordinary over the last 48 hours, and we are appreciative that, I mean, you had a rough couple of weeks over there. But, we’re appreciative that no one was injured in what was going on there in City Hall. So just to say that and to acknowledge to all our Edmonton listeners that we, feel for the kind of, impact that kind of disruption can have. So over to you, Nathan, to talk a little bit about Edmonton’s perspective on this work and on and on mobility, equity generally, or transportation equity generally. Go ahead, Nathan.


NATHAN SMITH Great. Thanks. I’m Nathan Smith. I’m an engineer working in Treaty Six for the city of Edmonton. I work more on the policy strategy side. So a lot of my personal experience in this area is trying to find ways to make sure we’re considering equity in some of those bigger citywide policy, strategy, prioritization work. I think most, if not all municipalities are at a point where there’s a lot more potential infrastructure projects than there is money. So if we want to make recommendations of where to focus limited resources, how do we do so in a way that better considers the needs of some of the folks that haven’t been served well, by our mobility system in the past. Generally, I’d say kind of a more formal move towards including equity, and work within the City of Edmonton started around 2017, and it’s kind of been evolving and building since then. A few years ago, Edmonton started incorporating a gender-based Analysis Plus section that highlights equity considerations in all council reports. So it’s always something that that has to be discussed. But it hasn’t always been easy or straightforward. The work varies a lot depending on the different types of projects or the different levels of projects. But it’s an ongoing conversation, and we’re trying to find ways to incorporate equity and make sure that we’re incorporating it meaningfully into all of our levels of work.


MARY W. ROWE Thanks, Nathan. I just am always agog at the intelligence that comes out of the chat, including someone has identified the plant behind you … a Staghorn Fern. Just so you know, this is an attentive audience because somebody on CityTalk’s going to know what that plant is. Thanks for that. Patrick, can you go next?


PATRICK JOHNSTONE Thank you. Yeah, I’m Patrick Johnstone. I’m the mayor of the City of New Westminster, here on the unceded and unsurrended land of the Halkomelem speaking peoples. I thank you Mary,


MARY W. ROWE I should have said “Your Worship” …


PATRICK JOHNSTONE Yeah, we don’t use “Worship” … as part of our equity efforts here, we don’t talk about “Worship” anymore. We’ve moved past that …


MARY W. ROWE OK … just Good old Pat. Hey, Patrick. Hey, you. [that works] Okay Mr. Mayor, go ahead. Keep going.


PATRICK JOHNSTONE Well, I want to thank Meghan for talking about that, about the relationship between, between reconciliation and this, I’m sitting here in New Westminster, which is, the oldest city west of the Great Lakes in Canada. And in many ways, it was a beachhead on the colonial experiment here. And we’re still reckoning with that. And I’m looking down right now at the part of the Fraser River where Simon Fraser came down the river and said, “we’re coming through”. And every piece of colonial activity that’s happened grew out of that, out of the need to use this river as a transportation route or the desire to use it as transportation. So it is tied together. I guess my, in reading this report, what one part that kept on playing back to me is, it is about transportation but transportation equity is like every other equity effort in the city. It’s about, it’s about making sure that we’re talking to people, and that we … It takes an intentional drive. It takes, a meaningfully … an effort to make sure you’re centering people that you haven’t been listening to when you’re making decisions. And, much like reconciliation, if it feels good when you start doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong, because the conversations you start having when you start talking to the people who have been marginalized by your decisions, by the people who aren’t being served by the work you’re doing, those are sometimes difficult conversations. We have a lot of good ideas about how we’re going to build transportation space, and it’s only when we find out that we’re building them in a way that doesn’t serve everyone in our community that … It makes the conversations harder. And I think transportation is also, as we talked about, using the term mobility or using the term transportation or other terms, I think transportation is the real technocratic word. I think that’s part of it. Part of it is the people who do this work are engineers and technocrats who see technical solutions and, bringing real public consultation into that and real discussion with a broader community into that hypocratic work is uncomfortable and difficult and challenging. We’re really, I think, fortunate in our city that we have staff who are really interested in doing that work and, and they are being driven by some leaders on my council, not myself, actually. I mean, I’m one of the council members, but, there have been some really incredible leaders at our council who pushed our staff towards rethinking what equity is in all departments, including transportation. People like the Nadine Nakagawa and Mary Trentadue and Jaimie McEvoy, people I have to give shout outs to because they’re the real leaders in my community in that work. And I don’t know what else to say other than that. I think it’s about public engagement. It’s about making sure that we are engaging people in a meaningful way. And I can talk more about how we’re trying to do that if we get to it.


MARY W. ROWE Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s so interesting. You know, I often say it’s all one conversation, as you’re suggesting. So this is a focus on transportation. But I can almost guarantee that every barrier that Meghan and her team have identified is something that’s a barrier to equity in some other domain of service. Right. So it’s a fundamental approach to, as you’re suggesting, engagement. And Patrick, I want to go even further. I want to I want to send … this is a challenge, CityTalkers figure this out … We need another word for engagement. Because engagement for me still feels like somebody in power going out and asking somebody what they think versus something that is a collaborative co-design, shared solution. I don’t know what the better term is, but you know what I’m getting at? Mayor Johnstone, it’s just something that conveys that this is a big collective enterprise, the urban environment.


PATRICK JOHNSTONE I think people often conflate the word engagement and communication. And I think a lot of cities make the mistake of asking their communication departments to do engagement. And that is a mindful, that’s a mindful separation we did. We have created a separate engagement group who are clear, they’re not in the communications business. They’re not talking to people. They are bringing people in and asking them, and, and putting in front of every engagement exercise the … what is it … the IP2 spectrum of engagement … Like what are we actually … are we asking you to give us some ideas? Are you asking us to tell us about your experience. Or are we asking you to co-develop or co-build this thing. And being clear with people at the beginning of an engagement process, so let them know where they’re at.


MARY W. ROWE It kind of works both ways, because the flip of it is also that those of us that are being engaged with have to take responsibility, that the problem is ours to solve. So – because what often happens then is people say, well, you know, it’s their problem. The city came, they ask me, and my opinion now goes back and we wait for them to fix it. But, you know, there’s not a struggle that we’ve got that’s going to be fixed by only one sector. And I appreciate Nathan’s bio. You put right in here, Nathan, that you’re not an engineer. You’re a plan-gineer. But this idea that, you know, cities … this rejection of tech … With all due respect to the engineers. Hands up. There’ll be a gazillion of people who are on this call that are engineers and planners. Great. But the magical thing about cities is that, mayors always hate this when I say this, but no one is the boss of the city, right? So it’s  … because it’s an amalgam of a whole bunch of people with, and you want them all to have agency to come up with the best idea. And we’ve seen that in the Global South for years. You know, that the best ideas came from the ground. So anyway, over to you, Sawsan in sunny, not so sunny Ottawa. I got the tip this morning in the meeting that I was going to do that you have to adopt a penguin walk in Ottawa to deal with ice. That’s right. You have to waddle. You kind of know that in Vancouver, Meghan. I’m sure you had that with the snow and the ice last week. Anyway, Sawsan, let’s hear from you – your perspective on transportation, mobility, transit, whatever … However you want to define it, and this notion of equity versus poverty. Such an important topic here in the nation’s capital.


SAWSAN AL-REFAEI Thank you. Mary. My name is Sawsan Al-Refaei. I am currently the manager of the Community Safety Wellbeing Fund in, in the city. But, you know, before I joined, I was the program manager for anti-racism and women and gender equity, on the, land of the Algonquin, unceded land. I think that the journey of the City of Ottawa was quite interesting, but I think that we started from the right spot. We have a lot of to learn and, a long journey. But we started with a political commitment to equity. And I think that is what stood out in the report. So in 2019, I was a new immigrant to Canada, but that’s when the, the city of Ottawa, asked city staff to come up with the first woman and gender equity strategy for the city, and that was the first step on the equity pathway. But it started, at the top. And I’m really glad that we have a mayor, among the panelists, because you can talk equity as much as you want, but if there’s no political commitment to the process, I feel it’s very, very hard to put all the equity, responsibility and accountability on the shoulder of public servants. So we started with that, a women and gender strategy that commits that a gender lens and an intersectional lens has to be integrated in everything, including transit. And there was a culture in Ottawa, and I was new to it, that equity comes in the context of housing and children’s services and community services, but that’s not the case. You know what, transit should come number one? Because it has to do with health services and with access to schools, with access to childcare, to everything. And so the journey started with a political commitment not only to women and gender equity, but also to the anti-racism strategy. And as part of that strategy, there was a commitment by all three departments to report on equity implications on whatever report goes to council. It’s not mandatory yet, but it was optional. And what I shared with, with my colleague, Meghan and her team is that, kind of putting it as optional is really tricky because if you don’t fill it, then why do you think there are no equity implications to whatever you’re doing? And if you fill it, you have to do the work from the get go. So it was really tricky in there, but that really helped our department Transit Services, to think about equity on everything they do. And I can go after in details on how we did it. But it’s actually, I think that the, the power in what we did is bringing transit people to the equity table, and that was new to them, but they understood equity because they sat around the equity table. But in the same time, the equity people and the specialists and experts went to that table as well and were embedded in the discussions that went around the transportation masterplan. So, that’s the beginning of the journey, and I can speak to the rest of the journey afterwards.


MARY W. ROWE Yeah, it’s so interesting, isn’t it, what you’re suggesting. I mean, you’re a public servant and you’re saying, look, have really realistic expectations of what a public … what the public sector can deliver. And I totally agree with you on that. And I hope that other people are empathic to that because it is it’s totally true. And we’re all limited. Same with … you can’t go to the private sector and expect them to be able to do things singlehandedly either. Can I just encourage people on the chat to switch your settings because you’re all saying really smart things, and I can see it out of the corner of my eye, but sometimes you only send to the host and the panelists. So if you’re one of those enthusiastic keeners that’s been posting in here, just go back, look at your comments and make sure you did them to everyone. And if you didn’t, redo them so that they everybody can benefit from that and people are asking if they will be published and they will. They always say, this is a bit … This is not Las Vegas. You know, everything you put on that chat is public. So just judge yourselves accordingly. So let’s talk a little bit about what you think the biggest obstacles are in this piece of work when you were trying to move this agenda forward? What? … And I think I’m waiting to see if someone uses the C word, which is council, and  just whether or not, what would you say are the biggest challenges that you’re facing? And on the chat, let us know, gang, because you’re all in the trenches too. So who wants to start? Nathan, what’s the biggest challenge to advancing this?


PATRICK JOHNSTONE I think, you know, we talked about engagement a bit, and I think that’s a really big part of it. But I think doing meaningful engagement and finding a way to do that without overburdening the communities that you’re trying to talk to is, is quite challenging. So since this became more of a focus in the city of Edmonton, I think what we’ve start to hear from some of the community groups is like, okay, it’s great that you want to talk to us about equity considerations and what our communities need. But now we’re hearing from the city every two weeks, oh, come talk to us about this. Can you talk to us about this? Where a lot of these community groups are struggling just to kind of keep the lights on and manage their day to day operations. So finding a way to get that input as much as possible, but making sure we’re not placing more of a burden on the communities that we’re trying to help. And I think that’s been kind of an ongoing learning. I think at first it was very much like just asking a bunch of questions and trying to find other ways to make those connections, work with other groups within the city that may have closer connections with these communities. So we have a bit of a head start understanding what are some of those challenges. We’re not just coming and like demanding that they give us a bunch of their time.


MARY W. ROWE So while you’re there, just to everybody, recognizing the chat’s blowing up on this topic, which is great. Nathan, in terms of … do you have a dilemma that you raise an expectation of a community, so you consult with them, you engage with them, they come up with some fabulous ideas, and then what happens if they don’t get realized? Do people then feel, you know, more than disappointed? Patrick is nodding. Go ahead Patrick. I mean, is that one of the dilemmas, you know?


PATRICK JOHNSTONE Oh, yeah. I mean, I absolutely reflect … I mean, would, amplify what Nathan said about engagement fatigue. You know, engagement fatigue is a real thing. And part of that is, part of our way of addressing that is finding new ways to engage. If you just want to put together a town hall and put poster boards up and ask about a project, you’re going to get the same 15 people who come to all town halls on projects and they’re going to feel engagement fatigue. So we have to find creative ways to reach out to the community. We do pop ups in malls. We, you know, we take the project to where people are, in order to surprise them into being engaged in the project. So you’re not fatiguing the same people. There’s another important part you brought up about, making sure we close the loop on engagement, making sure that when people do engage with us, they hear their own voice in the engagement, even if they don’t get what they want. We can say back to, yeah, we heard that these things that we’re not doing … Or we’ve heard that you wanted to see X or Y out of a project and we delivered X and we couldn’t deliver Y because … So closing the loop on engagement helps with the fatigue. But the other problem though is transportation projects as opposed to plans, are always time sensitive. They always have, they always have, funding issues. They always have timing around when you could do the work compared to other work you have to do in the city. And engagement … Meaningful engagement takes time and it takes … and, that always, especially for transportation engineers, is a challenge for them because they have timelines. They want to get things built by … for funding reasons, for budget reasons, for all kinds of technical reasons. And, sometimes this is seen as a barrier to getting work done time in a timely manner, which is why I think we have to put emphasis on the transportation plan part as opposed to the project part. If we really do meaningful good engagement at the planning part, then really the project part, we’re going to hear back from people, but at least we can say, you know, we’ve engaged with the community and we’ve talked about this with the community and this is reacting to what we’ve heard. One of the things I learned from the former mayor of Victoria is, is if you, if you build two blocks of bike lane, you’re going to get a lot of pushback from the community. If you build ten kilometers of bike lane, you’re going to get exactly the same amount of pushback as you did for two blocks. So do the big plan, come up with the big plan, engage on the big plan. Don’t engage on every three blocks. Engage on the big plan. And that really helps you … It also helps you actually implement … like take the feedback you’ve got from the engagement and put it into the plan, because it’s so hard at the project stage to actually do that the meaningful way.


MARY W. ROWE So lots of great questions again in the chat. And again everybody make sure you fix your settings so we’re all seeing them. I’m interested in a number of questions here around how much did the work look at rural and First Nations and Sawsan and I drove back into Ottawa yesterday, I was up the Ottawa Valley for meetings. And I came back, and I was struck how that City of Ottawa sign is like 50, 45 minutes from downtown, like it is a very big … I remember the mayor, the previous mayor, used to put up a poster and say, you know, we’re six Manhattans, you know, it wasn’t even that, it’s bigger. You know, you have rural within your urban boundary. So can we talk a little bit about how the equity and accessibility issue was dealt with in these sprawling environments? And I’d be interested to hear from you, Meghan, because you live in an extraordinarily mixed, diverse land-use pattern in, lower mainland. So anyway, over to you, Sawsan, about how do we address rural and First Nations.


SAWSAN AL-REFAEI I have to speak to this from an equity perspective because, again, I’m not a transportation expert, but I want to go back to the previous question. If I may Mary around engagement, because this word comes up every time we speak about intersectional groups in our community. I think the city of Ottawa is moving away from engagement as THE way, into collective impact and collective impact means that, you know, just like you said, instead of being in a position of power and then bringing people in, into a discussion at the time we decide, in the way we decide, but creating that power spot where everybody comes into that collective impact place and having equal power and then going out and in, as we can. And this, this really helps with sharing that accountability. I mean, for us, it definitely helps knowing that everybody is on board and everybody’s contributing versus just engaging them, and we carry all the accountability. Now for rural areas, I think that you asked first about the obstacles and if we want to deal with Indigenous communities, rural communities this is important. And I know that a lot of people say there’s a lot of data there. We don’t want to spend one more dollar on that. But the data is not intersectional. It doesn’t speak to the lived experiences of those groups. And if we speak rural areas, if we speak, even the intersectionality within the rural groups, there is a notion that rural areas are majorly non-racialized people. This has changed a lot after Covid and we still use very old data to make transportation policies and decisions. And you know, the City of Ottawa, I’m being self-critical, we also rely on neighborhood indices, which is great because it speaks to priority neighborhoods. But in the past three years, things are dynamic. They change a lot. The immigration that is happening into Ottawa because of all the things that are happening in the world, but also because of internal things that are happening in Canada,  the picture is different. And so to rely on…  not individual like, not population based gender and race sensitive data will never give us the idea of what is the lived experience of First Nations, of Indigenous communities, what is the experience of rural persons? What is the difference between an experience of a women, a single women in rural area versus, a business owner or land owner in, in a rural area. So what we are working now with, with the transportation team is to try to embed good practices of collecting data, but also trying to base our policies in a way that makes sense, so that those realities are examined, revisited regularly, and not rely on a particular indices that will govern all our, our policies. But again, it goes back to how we look at engagement, because a collective impact approach will allow people who live in rural areas to have a voice on a regular basis and to report the dynamics that are changing versus municipalities just taking one snapshot about, you know, on what’s happening and then basing phasing a ten-year plan on that. So it is not just the data, but it is how policies are made.


MEGHAN WINTERS So, Mary, I can pick up on that …


MARY W. ROWE Can I ask Meghan a question about that in terms of the methodology?


MEGHAN WINTERS Just a couple things. One, I work with many other cities, not just the cities here. And I want to say that a number of cities are really hesitant to collect disaggregate data and to, report on that data. And that is like a message I walk into every city … And so cities who have adopted with their leadership GBA plus analysis, they’ve got it and they have permission to and an obligation to look at this and look at intersectional experiences in their cities and their sort of call to action on that already. But other cities are very hesitant, and that’s a shift that has to happen. And I’m still surprised when I see it, you know, coming out of Covid … But I feel like really we’re still saying we can’t collect data on gender, race, income and housing tenure. How can we know who responded? And so it’s sort of, doing a disservice to the data and efforts that happen around engagement. And it doesn’t allow … a lot of transportation practitioners are very skilled with data and interpreting it. And, you know, they need to be able to have data that can drive that. The other sort of narrative I want to put out here is that, you know, and our report has some limits on challenges to moving forward. And one of them is that car dependency is slowing us down. That’s the statement in it. We all have these sustainability goals, but what I … The message I really want to send is that there are people who can’t or won’t, depend on cars. And so there’s many segments of our population, whether it’s the young or the old, whether it’s people with disabilities who may not be able to drive, to get around our communities. And our car dependency really puts them at a disservice and is an equity consideration from the outset. And it’s one that I would say on the whole, we broadly overlook. The other final thing I just want to say is, I meet a lot of passionate and committed transportation practitioners who understand this context and are moving it forward. And as a professor, I have to say, many schools are doing great training to that next generation to bring them forward, and they are getting jobs in our cities. And this is a growing area, you know, for employment for sure. But it takes time sometimes for that to permeate into cities and to work its way up to seniority in decision making. And so I really hope that, you know, I really love when I see new councilors and, mayors and elected officials take charge for that, because I do believe that the transportation profession is training and getting, like, moving forward on this and that it’s just, hopefully a matter of time before those kinds of things are infiltrated more commonly in settings both small and large.


MARY W. ROWE All right. I have a fiddly little question for any of you to jump in on. And it has to do with this larger issue of what does equity look like? And I’m wondering if … do we see ourselves, you know, the transportation field has been disrupted, in the last 15 or 20, by technology … ride hailing, various things – to varying degrees in different places. But I’m wondering to what extent will we be able to see hyper-local solutions? Can we get our heads around the fact that it doesn’t have to be the same kind of service everywhere, and that what works in one particular community and neighborhood, could look quite different from what it looks like in another, and that we can serve equity that way by supporting these micro approaches. Anybody else thinking about that, or not? Go ahead, Nathan. You’re kind of nodding. So that means I’m going to ask you.


NATHAN SMITH Sure, I think that’s a really interesting idea, and I think that creates some tension in terms of municipal governance, because generally, what you’re trying to do as much as possible is kind of standardize for efficiency. It’s easier to deliver services and programs and operate something when you have something that’s more standardized, like across different areas. But I think what we are starting to see is like there are different needs, and looking at those more local problems and local solutions might get you something that’s, that’s a little bit more functional. So I think we are starting to see more programs that focus specifically on working with the local community to kind of understand what their needs are and trying to tailor those solutions, while balancing that with some sort of program that can be operated by the city as a whole. So it’s not something I’m personally involved with. But we have like a street labs program where our safe mobility team works with specific communities to try to find kind of what their unique needs, and what solutions might be. But while still kind of having a city approach that makes sure it’s something that we can support, without having to have too many different products or things out there that we’re needing to manage.


MARY W. ROWE I mean, this is the dilemma. Sawsan, how does that sit with you as an equity expert? I mean, can we meet our equity imperatives and still allow some variation in how services are delivered in different places? Is it possible?


SAWSAN AL-REFAEI I think it’s possible. And I think that, you know, we really need to reframe the role of the community. Looking at transportation as a service, it just narrows … And that’s back to the old question what’s the difference between transit and transportation? I feel that whenever we say transit, people just envision the service being run by a couple of professionals. But transportation is more than just that. It’s the way people move through the city in general. So it’s not just about transit. But I see that happening by reframing the role of the community, the actual people deciding about what is doable, what is not. And when innovation comes up, I’m just a bit, you know, concerned that sometimes we don’t study our communities enough before we introduce innovation because, again, there are intersectional experiences. If you are somebody in a wheelchair, if you’re a mother with two toddlers and you know you’re walking in the snow, your experience may not be expecting innovation right away. You just need to move from your house to the daycare, to the health center and back, on time, without being injured. Right? So, innovation is possible, but the kind of nature of innovation, the pace on which it’s going to be introduced, we have to bring the community on board. We have to bring them effectively on board. And again, that goes back to – we’re not going to ask you if you want this or not. We’re going to let you participate in designing this for you. And this is what we mean by intersectionality. It’s not just a word that we add to our strategies. It has to be practiced, meaning that you say what works for you and your community group.


MARY W. ROWE But I’m just imagining, and mayor, I want to come to you next. You know, I’m just imagining if you have a particular part of the city that might in fact, not be downtown, might not have access to the core transportation systems. It might have a certain kind of cultural identity as well. And if that community can self-organize and come up with some other kinds of experiments to be able to provide the kind of micro mobility that they know they need. Do we need to be open to that? And is there a way for municipal government and other governments to allow that kind of experimentation to be tried? Go ahead. Mayor Johnston.


PATRICK JOHNSTONE New Westminster is in a unique situation here because we are 15km² in the middle of, you know, we’re 80,000 people in 15km² in the middle of a metropolitan area of 2.5 million people. So every decision we make in our small area, even though my downtown, almost half of the households in my downtown don’t own a car, we have five Skytrain stations in our downtown. We have one of the highest sustainable transportation modes of any city in Canada. Yet we are surrounded by big cities with cars pushing through our city, and we are so limited in our ability as a local government to change how our road system works because of provincial regulations and because of our regional transportation authority regulations. So we’re limited in that. But I want to come back to a little bit about … sort of, reinforce Sawsan’s comments about – so much of transportation innovation is just cut through with a leap projection. It’s cut through with somebody with a bright idea solving a problem that they think we have. I mean, the Hyperloop is the best example of this, right? Somebody thinking they have a solution to a problem that they have without ever considering whether that’s a problem that anyone else has. And we are all, all of us, subject to elite projection in that sense. And, that’s a Jarrett Walker comment …


MARY W. ROWE But Patrick …




MARY W. ROWE I mean, I hear you, I mean, it’s ridiculous. And we all kind of roll our eyes. But Patrick, what about the other extreme, which would be not elite, that you might have a grassroots hyper-local … So I see on the chat all sorts of people commenting on car dependency and the patterns that we’ve reinforced. And I get all that. But I also remember there are, just put out a trope, there are hockey moms out there in suburbia who are trying to get three kids to practice, or out skating or whatever, and they don’t have alternatives to get those things worked out. And they informally often form carpools and various things. Right? So we have to find ways to … Spark up new ways to kind of try stuff, you know, and get us away from the single family vehicle, I guess. You know.


PATRICK JOHNSTONE I think what speaks the hyper local level to everybody is talking about transportation through a safety lens, through a public safety lens. Ultimately, transportation decisions are about public safety and, making our spaces safer for people to move through, with any mode they choose to go through. And again, this goes right to the equity part, because we know that the people who are most endangered by our transportation systems are marginalized people, low income people, people of color. We know the statistics are clear, that they are the people who are harmed by our transportation systems. And I don’t mean inconvenienced, I mean physically injured and killed by our transportation systems. And, so I think putting an … I, in our city, I’m trying to always put our transportation discussion through a safety lens … This is about public safety. Public safety speaks to everybody in our community. But we have a very, we have a non-rational, I’ll say it, idea of what is dangerous in our community. We fear things that aren’t dangerous to us, and we don’t fear enough the cars that we walk around every day. And, and that is. Yeah. And as someone said online … It’s a public health lens. We have to talk about transportation through public health lenses. I think someone mentioned, Angie Smith’s book, “Right of Way” in the chat. That was a … it’s a really good short book, easy to read. It talks about how the equity of … it talks about the equity of transportation safety. And I think that’s a good way to talk to local communities, because when people come talking to me … If anyone comes to talk to Mayor and Council about transportation, it’s almost always around something they see as unsafe in their community.


MARY W. ROWE If I could encourage people to throw stuff into the chat, I see … hi, Mitchell, he’s just put in a great video about equitable snow clearing. I mean, any resources you got, throw them in the chat, books … Thank you for that one, Sandra. Let’s get as many in as we can. Meghan, just to you, as we round up here, what do you think the next round of research should be focused on?


MEGHAN WINTERS Well, I mean, I will say there was a lot of flags in the chat about, how this report dealt with reconciliation and transportation injustices. And I think that that is a space of work to have happen. It’s deeply relational work. It’s work that takes time. But I don’t know, like, where is the funding call for this? Because it’s absolutely a gap in terms of, assessing and providing for and doing needs-based analysis. There are areas and I want to just speak to the sort of community led initiative or initiatives, because some of them I just want to highlight don’t need to be super technical or super expensive. So others in our work have looked at sort of community based, transportation sector solutions. One example would be the Zunga bus in Powell River is like really fantastic and something that could be adopted elsewhere. It’s low tech, it’s small community, and it’s responsive to all. It is like a wonderful equity intervention, making sure those are funded. Another example I just want to say, like I think electrification was raised here … And Mary, I’m a soccer mom, I’m not a hockey mom. But you know, we have these bikes now that are electrified and you put your kids on the back and that’s what lines up in front of the soccer practices now, right? This is the new minivan, in our in our communities. And imagine how many cars that takes off the road. And it is just such a wonderful kind of option. So the province taking the lead off Saanitch, a municipality in BC, the province is now paying for an income based e-bike incentive program. And the world of difference that this can make for all sorts of different kind of people to get around. Some people, of course need to drive, will always need to drive, but we need to get lots of the cars off the road so the people who need to drive can still get to their places. So those are sort of lower tech, lower cost programs that I think fit in all sorts of different community contexts and can be driven by the community.


MARY W. ROWE Yeah. I mean, I think we have to … I know there was a bit of disparagement here about pilots and experiments, but you know we do have to try some stuff. We do have to encourage people to try some stuff. And lots of people in the chat here are putting up – what about this, could we try that? I know that in American cities they’ve allowed … they’ve tried to lift those zoning restrictions so that we can just try some stuff. And I hear though, Patrick, your admonition about safety, there’s always a risk. People are afraid of the risks of trying things. And so we’ve got to always mediate that, that we’re not putting people at risk. But at the same time, we’re open to new approaches. One last word to each of you. And I just want to just flag that we’re having this conversation at a time, I’m just going to use the other T word where the, where the transit discussion in Canada is quite serious because ridership is so, so seriously down – to the point where I think we need to be thoughtful about whether transit is at risk. And we also have municipal governments without a lot of spare cash. So, last comments to each of you about what we should be looking at next. You first, Sawsan …


SAWSAN AL-REFAEI Okay. I just wanted to say that in anything we do, and I know that we can experiment all we want. And there are lots of solutions. But two simple questions – in anything we do or innovate, who’s going to benefit the most, and who is going to pay the price for that? And if the people who are well-off are going to benefit, while the people who are suffering or are at risk, or are most vulnerable are going to pay a higher cost, I think we’re not in the right direction. So I hope those questions are asked before we do anything in terms of transportation.


MARY W. ROWE Patrick.


PATRICK JOHNSTONE I’ll just say, the Lower Mainland is unique. Our transit ridership is not down. Our transit ridership is now higher than it was pre-COVID. And our biggest challenge is our ability to get money to expand our transit system. Our transit system is full, we can’t fit more people. It is. And we are really challenged in finding the capital funding, to expand the system that we need to expand as our city grows. But that’s just the model that we need …  Well, we’ve had a good record in delivering reliable transit in this region. And it’s paying back. I mean, I guess I encourage all of you. I mean, I feel very fortunate in New Westminster that we have, again, council and staff all working on this, all pushing in the same direction on this. And we are driven by our staff to bring equity into our work and council and support staff in doing that. So, it is … and it starts with education. It starts with educating your elected officials, and it starts with education within your city hall about what, what equity is and why it’s important to make sure that you’re serving your entire community.


MARY W. ROWE Right, Nathan.


PATRICK JOHNSTONE I think it’s really important to always start the conversations and making sure we’re understanding who we’re thinking about and what our assumptions are about who we’re thinking about in our transportation systems, because we tend to think a lot about, like, the 9 to 5 commuter, these peak hour flows commuting into downtown in the morning and away in the afternoon. But understanding all of those other movements, the ones that we aren’t thinking about as much, when maybe the transit isn’t as frequent, and things like that, I think are really important because those are often the folks that haven’t been thought about in our planning in the past and maybe getting forgotten in our systems.


MARY W. ROWE Yeah. I mean, s I always say, you know, now the conversation has to continue. So in the chat we’re going to encourage you to go look at these reports, that the team Interact folks have put together, and we look forward to whatever the next iteration of that would be, Meghan. And can I also just encourage everybody in the chat – you know, there are lots and lots of topics there that we just dusted on. We just touched on. So if you’ve got suggestions about follow up programing, I saw there’s some events that people are posting here, of how we continue this conversation. And it’s all one conversation. Just know that CityTalk is your platform, and we can put those programs together if you come to us and suggest, let’s do some. So, thank you for doing this work, Meghan. And pulling your team together. And, Patrick, your worship, your not- so-worship, Mr. Mayor,  Nathan and, Sawsan. Thanks so much. Thanks for being part of this conversation. We’re always in it together. And, we appreciate everybody joining us online for CityTalk. See you next time.


Full Audience
Chatroom Transcript

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Kristin Lillyman, Dillon Consulting, Toronto 

12:05:34 From Josefina Ades to Everyone: 


12:05:35 From Jeyas Balaskanthan to Everyone: 


12:05:35 From Lorina Hoxha to Everyone: 


12:05:35 From Paula Hohner to Everyone: 

London, ON 

12:05:36 From nicole beugelt to Everyone: 

Guelph Ontario 

12:05:36 From Cassie Smith to Everyone: 

Also in Ottawa 

12:05:37 From Erin Lavery to Host and Panelists: 

Victoria, BC 

12:05:37 From Shant Karabajak to Everyone: 

This is The Friendly Urbanist from Montreal 🙂 

12:05:37 From Clara Blache-Pichette to Host and Panelists: 

Sherbrooke, Québec 

12:05:37 From Fred Billingham to Everyone: 

Victoria, BC 

12:05:38 From Stephane Nouping to Everyone: 


12:05:39 From Lauren McKenna to Everyone: 

Kitchener, Ontario 

12:05:39 From Ridley Soudack to Everyone: 


12:05:40 From Sarah Tremblay to Everyone: 

North Vancouver BC 

12:05:40 From Mudasser Seraj to Everyone: 


12:05:40 From Agnes Tang FEDORUK to Host and Panelists: 

Agnes Tang Fedoruk from Ottawa 

12:05:41 From Natalia Diaz-Insense to Host and Panelists: 

Halifax, NS 

12:05:41 From Sophie-Anne Lemay to Everyone: 

Montréal, Québec 

12:05:41 From Sam Shukor to Everyone: 

Hello everyone, I’m coming from Toronto ON. 

12:05:44 From Sarah Tremblay to Everyone: 

North Van 

12:05:44 From Fernando Cirino to Host and Panelists: 


12:05:44 From Cathy Belgin to Host and Panelists: 

Virginia, US 

12:05:45 From Lisa Kohler to Everyone: 


12:05:45 From Zoé Poirier Stephens to Everyone: 

Hello! Joining from Tiohtià:ke/ Montreal! 

12:05:45 From Nicholas Luck to Everyone: 

Sault Ste. Marie, ON! 

12:05:48 From Sarah Tremblay to Everyone: 

Unceded Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh land 

12:05:49 From Sergio Mendoza to Everyone: 

Victoria, BC 

12:05:50 From Vicki Sinclair to Everyone: 

Winnipeg, Treaty 1 

12:05:50 From Felix Tse to Everyone: 


12:05:51 From Farinaz Rikhtehgaran to Everyone: 


12:05:52 From Heather Chisholm to Everyone: 


12:05:52 From Shilpa Dogra to Everyone: 

Shilpa Dogra, Ontario Tech University, Oshawa, Traditional Lands of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation 

12:05:52 From Julie Cournoyer to Everyone: 


12:05:57 From Cameron Martin to Everyone: 

Toronto, Ontario 

12:05:58 From Morgan Vespa to Everyone: 

Good morning (afternoon for some) – joining from Winnipeg, Treaty 1 territory 

12:05:59 From Lavleen Sahota to Everyone: 

Gatineau, Algonquin Traditional Territory 

12:05:59 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Welcome new joiners! Just a reminder to please change your chat settings to “Everyone” so we can all see your comments. 

12:06:04 From Nancy Lyzaniwski to Everyone: 


12:06:06 From R. Di Profio to Everyone: 

York Region, ON 

12:06:07 From Luis Patricio to Host and Panelists: 

London Ontario, Pillar Nonprofit Network 

12:06:08 From Wendy Verity to Everyone: 

Battleford, SK – Treaty 6 

12:06:08 From Laura Chow to Everyone: 

Vancouver, BC (traditional, unceded, and occupied territories of the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations) 

12:06:08 From Victoria Barr to Everyone: 

joining from the lands of the Lekwungen speaking peoples, specifically the Esquimalt and Songhees nations. Also known as Victoria, BC 

12:06:08 From Florence Lehmann to Host and Panelists: 

Ottawa – Bike Ottawa board member 

12:06:10 From Don Young to Host and Panelists: 

FoSTRA – Federation of South Toronto Residents Association. 

12:06:29 From Robert Rutherford to Everyone: 


12:06:40 From Aman Chandi to Host and Panelists: 

Unceded traditional and ancestral lands of the Kwantlen, Musqueam, Katzie, Semiahmoo, Tsawwassen, Qayqayt and Kwikwetlem peoples. Also known as Surrey, BC 

12:06:40 From Casandra Marin to Everyone: 

Good morning! Joining in from Edmonton, Treaty 6 Territory 

12:06:48 From Nathan Olmstead to Everyone: 

Niagara Region 🙂 

12:06:51 From Cathy Belgin to Everyone: 

Virginia, US 

12:07:04 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

Hello from slushy London, Ontario – traditional lands of the Anishinaabek, Haudenosaunee, Lūnaapéewak  and Attawandaron 

12:07:10 From Jean-François Obregon to Everyone: 

Jean-François Obregón, A Voice for Transit, The Urban Hulk, from Vaughan, Ontario. 

12:07:31 From Natalia Diaz-Insense to Everyone: 

Halifax (NS) — traditional lands of the Mi’kma’ki and Wabanaki 

12:07:41 From Amr Merdan to Everyone: 

Mississauga, Ontario 

12:07:47 From Derek Giberson to Everyone: 

Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island, in Oshawa, ON 

12:07:57 From Emily W. (CUI) to Meghan Winters(Direct Message): 

Hey Meghan, feel free to turn on your camera so that we can see you while you present 

12:08:07 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Meghan Winters, PhD  

Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University  

CIHR/PHAC Applied Public Health Research Chair for Sex and Gender in Healthy Cities  

INTERACT Principal Investigator 

12:08:11 From Samuel Benoit to Host and Panelists: 

Samuel Benoit with Vélo Canada Bikes just a little east of Downtown Ottawa 

12:08:13 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Meghan Winters is a Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. Her research focuses on how city design impacts mobility, safety, and health, and on equity considerations within cities’ policies and plans. She and her team work with decision-makers and community groups at the intersection of health, urban planning, and transportation to generate actionable evidence and tools to shape livable, sustainable, and equitable cities. 

12:08:21 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 




12:09:17 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

This edition of CityTalk will explore findings from INTERACT’s new report, “Practices and Inspiration for Sustainable Transportation Equity: Case Studies from Canadian Cities”. 

12:09:26 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Developed in collaboration with LevelUp Planning and transportation and equity professionals from across Canada, the report assembles practical guidance on ways cities can embed equity in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of transportation interventions. 

12:09:29 From Neil Chadda to Everyone: 

Brampton, Ontario 

12:09:36 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Join researchers and city builders as they delve deeper into key insights from the report, including what transportation equity really means, takeaways for municipal policymaking, and lessons learned from the transportation equity journeys of New Westminster, Edmonton, and Ottawa. 

12:09:44 From Mike Anderson to Everyone: 

New Westminster BC (traditional, unsurrendered land of various Halkomelem-speaking nations) 

12:11:30 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Check out the report: 

12:11:33 From Dave Nabi to Everyone: 

From heaven Squamish BC where we are leading the country in transportation equity 

12:12:33 From Sarah Tremblay to Everyone: 

@dave nabi – do you have any interesting links on your equity work in Squamish? (from an interested North Shore colleague) 

12:20:26 From Florence Lehmann to Everyone: 

Transportation equity is not just about transit. It includes active mobilities as well. 

12:20:46 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Nathan Smith 

Senior Engineer, Mobility/Planning & Environment Services, City of Edmonton 

12:20:53 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Nathan is a senior engineer at the City of Edmonton in the Urban Strategies section working primarily on active transportation planning. Although his job title is engineer, he considers himself more of a “plangineer” and also has education in urban planning, governance, and community development. Nathan is passionate about the connections we can build walking and rolling throughout our cities. 

12:21:02 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 




12:22:13 From Khalil Heron to Host and Panelists: 

awesome staghorn fern : ) 

12:22:56 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Patrick Johnstone  

Mayor, City of New Westminster 

12:23:03 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Patrick Johnstone served two terms on New Westminster City Council before being elected as Mayor in 2022. Patrick is a Professional Geoscientist and has primarily worked in the field of Environmental Geoscience. His interest in local government arose from his advocacy on environmental and active transportation issues, local volunteer connections, and his interest in leading community conversations about urbanism and opportunities. 

12:23:10 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 




12:24:17 From Michelle Fiset to Everyone: 

Does this consider transportation in rural areas or only urban centres? 

12:26:45 From Justin Jones to Everyone: 


12:26:52 From Rameesha Qazi to Everyone: 


12:26:54 From Jordan Riemer to Everyone: 

“Designing with people instead of for people” 

12:27:04 From Jaimy Fischer to Host and Panelists: 


12:27:12 From Jaimy Fischer to Everyone: 


12:27:14 From Gerrit Atkinson to Everyone: 


12:27:50 From Khalil Heron to Host and Panelists: 

i like the word partnership instead of engagement. Arnsteins Ladder of Citizen Participation has some interesting ideas on this. 

12:28:01 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Michelle Fiset, the report reviewed 

and analyzed publicly available equity policies 

from eight Canadian cities: Victoria, Vancouver, 

New Westminster, Edmonton, Saskatoon, 

Ottawa, Montreal, and Halifax. 

12:29:03 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Sawsan Al-Refaei 

Manager, Community Safety and Wellbeing at the City of Ottawa 

12:29:05 From Florence Lehmann to Host and Panelists: 

Will somebody gather all the comments and make them accessible to participants? Lots of stuff being posted here. 

12:29:10 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Sawsan Al-Refaei is an expert in race and gender equity, advocacy and public policy. She managed large scale programs and provided technical support to governments, international non-profit organizations, United Nations Organizations, and other international in areas of gender-sensitive policies, equity-based strategy and planning, results-based frameworks, and advocacy. She joined the City of Ottawa in July 2019. She is a researcher and author in the area of equity, development and emergency. 

12:29:18 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 




12:30:05 From Mary W Rowe, CUI/IUC, she/her to Florence Lehmann, Host and Panelists: 

yup we publish everything 

12:30:27 From Florence Lehmann to Host and Panelists: 

Thank you. 

12:31:48 From Margaret Fazio to Everyone: 

Some projects don’t lend themselves to full co-creation, so there may be a different levels of engagement that could be used TODAY.  Equity considerations however, are starting to crack that open. 

12:32:01 From Sam Shukor to Everyone: 

can you please elaborate on the difference between gender-based equity and women equality? I know the latter but not the first. 

12:32:52 From Khalil Heron to Everyone: 

i like the word partnership instead of engagement. Arnsteins Ladder of Citizen Participation has some interesting ideas on this. 

12:33:17 From Diana Radulescu to Everyone: 

Nathan, can you talk more about the process of incorporating GBA+ into all council reports? 

12:33:26 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

Great book – among many others 

12:33:28 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America by Angie Schmitt (2020) 

12:33:28 From Patrick Johnstone to Everyone: 

we use the IAP2 spectrum to determine what type of engagement we are seeking. 

12:34:13 From Sawsan Al-Refaei to Everyone: 

12:34:16 From Farinaz Rikhtehgaran to Everyone: 

This conversation is like a dream, I’m happy we’re there. And I hope to see more tangible results but I know it takes time! 

12:34:31 From Alayne McGregor to Everyone: 

In Ottawa a bus route review will be cutting transit service by April, cutting routes and making many other trips less convenient and longer. People had to BEG at Transit Commission to have their absolutely necessary transit service saved and even still many weren’t listened to. How is this equity? 

12:34:43 From Erica Adams to Everyone: 

are there any municipalities that have Health Promoters or public health professionals apart of their teams? a gap we see in often is municipalities have healthy communities goals but have no health specific staff to bring that lens to issues like transportation 

12:34:54 From Khawar Ashraf to Everyone: 

How did the study address inclusivity i.e.  First Nations and agencies. 

12:35:25 From Sawsan Al-Refaei to Sam Shukor, Host and Panelists: 

thanks for your question. check the strategy I shared it has definitions 

12:35:31 From Florence Lehmann to Everyone: 

Often, active mobilities get overlooked as part of the equity discussion. 

12:35:43 From Michelle Fiset to Everyone: 

We are discussing equity, but focusing on City Centres.. where do rural communities/ Northern communities fit into this? 

12:35:52 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

On page 18 of the report, they dive into the specific methodology: 

12:35:53 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

12:36:26 From Emily Herd to Everyone: 

Yes! And for both internal conversations and external. 

12:37:20 From Meridith Sones to Everyone: 

@Michelle Fiset – Thanks for the question. INTERACT’s research (including this report) is largely focused on urban areas. But we recognize that towns and rural areas are taking strides towards transportation too (we spotlight County of Kings in the report as an illustration of this). While we focus on cities, you’ll see that many of the takeaways from the report are also transferable to towns and rural contexts. 

12:37:46 From Florence Lehmann to Everyone: 

Like Alayne is saying, equity is not just about words, it’d about action and budget priorities. You can’t talk about equity and make cuts (“efficiencies”) that primarily affect underserved communities. 

12:38:07 From Rino Bortolin to Everyone: 

To Mary’s point, we often set ppl up for disappointment as we raise expectations. We need to change the order of decision making. We need Councils to approve projects and funding first and then allow for the community to shape how the project proceeds.  Too many times we engage and then don’t act on it.  Put the $22M aside and then go to the public. And commit to that outcome 

12:38:27 From Cassie Smith to Everyone: 

As a resident on the other side of ‘closing the loop’ it can often feel dismissive. “We heard your ideas, but our policies are x.” (without consideration of why a resident would challenge policy x) 

12:38:56 From Jordan Riemer to Everyone: 

Ways to bring in people who represent equity-seeking groups in a paid partnership should be explored, rather than relying on volunteers 

12:40:03 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

As always, the The CityTalk chat is thoughtful, provocative and dynamic! Amplify the conversation on social media! #citytalk 

12:40:26 From Shilpa Dogra to Everyone: 

Electrification will help with transportation equity, especially in the context of city sprawl. But we need to make it affordable and accessible. 

12:42:28 From Margaret Fazio to Everyone: 

There is a difference between having a blank page and asking engaged community co-creators to help design a transportation network from scratch, and technical staff/teams doing the background technical studies and then presenting options for comment to the engaged individuals.  Are we speaking about Co-creating – starting from the blank page, for every transportation project type, in order for Equity to be truly felt everywhere? 

12:44:37 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

And car-dependency is costing our cities financially, socially, environmentally, etc. 

12:47:42 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

Hyper local circles back to the important difference between equity and equality… 

12:49:05 From Luis Patricio to Everyone: 

Bikeshare is an interesting example. We have some big players in that industry with standardized infrastructure and processes and on the other hands, we see examples of community driven initiatives of bike share programs in American cities that are more flexible and responsive to the needs of their community with innovative business models 

12:49:54 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

It’s always interesting to challenge people on why they think “most people drive” and how underfunded every other mode has been for decades… 

12:50:19 From Dan Hendry to Everyone: 

I have been working in Kingston for years;  giving high schools students free access to transit and systemic training. It has lead to some very cool outcomes over the past decade. I would love to connect with anyone to get the model working in other communities. Here is a short video on it:\ 

12:51:24 From Derek Giberson to Everyone: 

Equity in transportation also has to (and does) interplay with land-use planning 

12:51:37 From Luis Patricio to Everyone: 

This is an example of alternative bikeshare I was referring to: 

12:52:04 From Lewis Silberberg to Everyone: 

relationship between transportation and access to essential services 

12:52:06 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

@Derek – absolutely! Infill housing walkable neighbourhoods 

12:52:07 From Luis Patricio to Everyone: 

Absolutely Derek. 

12:53:07 From Cassie Smith to Everyone: 

Bike buses are another great example of this type of grassroots innovation, but incredibly challenging to do in car-centric cities 

12:53:22 From Luis Patricio to Everyone: 

In Curitiba when they implemented the first BRT system in the world. They already were creating zoning codes that would only allow high rises along the mass transit corridors. 

12:53:31 From Jaimy Fischer to Everyone: 

Example of grassroots initiatives addressing transport barriers: 

12:53:34 From Erica Adams to Everyone: 

public safety and health lens 

12:53:40 From Torshie Sai to Everyone: 

Transportation systems do impact public safety, but also impact population health more broadly! 

12:53:48 From Mitchell Reardon to Everyone: 

Community-informed innovation: Gender equitable snow clearing – 

12:54:04 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

Investing in robust transit, accessibility, and safe street design instead of pouring money into traffic police. 

12:54:37 From Halcian Joseph-Clost to Host and Panelists: 

we have new immigrants coming to our city who are already used to and enjoy other modes of transportation such as biking and use of motorcycles. As Sawsan mentioned, it’s really important to listen to the community and get their input on innovations. 

12:55:48 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

The Street Project documentary film is a great community ‘engagement’ opportunities 

12:55:49 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

12:56:09 From Shilpa Dogra to Everyone: 

Feel free to join us for a free event focused on active transportation this June in Oshawa: 

12:56:17 From Yan Kestens to Host and Panelists: 

What about better leveraging participatory methods that can help integrate a diversity of voices and plan together, both at local and regional levels (e.g. concept mapping)? 

12:56:41 From Gil Penalosa to Everyone: 

By definition a community with “soccer parents” is a community with bad mobility. How can we accept as normal that an 8, 10, 12, 14 y/o has to depend on someone with a car to go to soccer practice, or school or friend’s home? I love parents going to their kids activities, because they want to see their kids not because they are the ‘home taxi driver.’ It’d also eliminate 80% of conflict between teenagers and parents, mostly related to mobility. 

12:58:01 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

YES Sawsan! 

12:58:06 From Kevin Manaugh to Everyone: 

Well said – Gil Penalosa! 

12:58:10 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 


12:58:36 From Meridith Sones to Everyone: 

Hearing an important promising practice from the report: cities supporting and learning from experimentation 

12:59:03 From Shilpa Dogra to Everyone: 

Awesome session!!! Thank you everyone! 

12:59:12 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

If you have any questions you would like us to follow up on, please send them to 

12:59:13 From Amanda Mitchell to Everyone: 

Patrick, thank you for your comments about meaningful public engagement and the difference between communication. As a IAP2 licensed trainer, it warms my heart that you talked about the Spectrum. 🙂 

12:59:20 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Keep this critical conversation going by checking out the PISTE report, and engaging with these issues in your communities: 

12:59:42 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Thank you for joining us! We have recorded today’s session and will share it online along with the chat transcript and key takeaways within a week at: 

12:59:48 From Emily W. (CUI) to Everyone: 

Stay in the loop by subscribing to our newsletter: 

13:00:16 From Clara Khosravizad to Host and Panelists: 

Wonderful Events!! Thank you so much from each of the panelists. 

13:00:26 From Sam Shukor to Everyone: 

thank you very much 

13:00:27 From Cassie Smith to Everyone: 

Thanks, this was excellent. Looking forward to reading the report 🙂 

13:00:28 From Shauna Shortt to Everyone: 

Thanks for a great conversation 

13:00:28 From Sandra Miller to Everyone: 

Thank you to everyone!