Microtransit: An assessment of potential to drive greenhouse gas reductions

Both Toronto and Montréal have committed to achieving a 30% greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reduction target by 2020 compared with 1990 emissions rates, and both Ontario and Québec have enacted Cap-and-Trade frameworks to address emissions in each province. Transportation-related GHG emissions constitute one of the largest and fastest growing emission sources in Ontario and Québec. Toronto and Montréal have the highest total GHG emissions from private vehicles of Canada’s Census Metropolitan Areas, although GHGs per capita in both cities are relatively low due to the fuel efficiency of the fleet, high urban density, and availability of public transit. These latter attributes suggest that opportunity exists to further optimize existing infrastructure, and concurrently diminish low efficiency private vehicle usage and related emissions in Toronto and Montréal.

In recent years, microtransit has generated renewed interest as a potential mechanism for addressing transportation- related GHG emissions, particularly in dense urban areas. While microtransit has been around for many years in select global pockets, it is the concurrent rise in ‘sharing economy’ based services like Uber and Lyft that has unlocked new opportunities for scaling adoption and potential impact. The growing acceptance of IT-enabled shared services from consumer to consumer presents an unprecedented opportunity to leverage microtransit as an effective transportation option. If deployed strategically to reduce personal vehicle usage, microtransit can positively impact GHG emissions and other urban issues such as traffic congestion, public transit ridership, parking and air quality. Conversely, microtransit could also negatively impact such factors by increasing the number of vehicles on the road and/or kilometres travelled by vehicles. This wide disparity in outcomes underlines the importance of exploring and identifying how microtransit could be best deployed in light of regional contexts and planning priorities.

The purpose of this Scoping Study is to explore microtransit deployment in the GTHA and the Greater Montréal Areas.

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