Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Public Health in the City of Toronto

Toronto Public Health has just released a report titled Air Pollution Burden of Illness from Traffic in Toronto. My friend Kate from my university donning days worked on this and sent me the link - thanks Kate!

It's a follow up to the 2006 report that I mentioned in this post, and when you add in what the City of Toronto Transportation department knows about The Bicycle and Urban Sustainability, you wonder why things aren't fixed already. Think about it - city research shows that motorized traffic is killing us and that active transportation is the answer. What's the hold up in getting the bike lanes in and taxing car use downtown? Oh yeah, guys like this and this.

This chart comes from the public health report - it shows how the City of York in England prioritizes modes of transportation

Figure 8 illustrates the hierarchy of transportation users implemented by the City of York. In this hierarchy, cities are designed around people, not cars. A sustainable transportation network focuses on active transportation modes first, followed by modes that are vehicle dependent. It is also important to note the emphasis placed on the needs of individuals with mobility problems. These individuals require special attention to enable them to enjoy active modes of transport. Toronto is considering adopting this transportation hierarchy as part of its Walking Strategy, which is currently being developed. In order to be most effective, this priority setting approach needs to be applied to all land use and transport decisions.

The following is from the new report's executive summary:
This study estimates that mortality-related costs associated with traffic
pollution in Toronto are about $2.2 billion. A 30% reduction in vehicle
emissions in Toronto is projected to save 189 lives and result in 900 million
dollars in health benefits. This means that the predicted improvements in
health status would warrant major investments in emission reduction
programs. The emission reduction scenarios modelled in this study are
realistic and achievable, based on a review by the Victoria Transport Policy
Institute of policy options and programs in place in other jurisdictions. Taken
together, implementation of comprehensive, integrated policies and programs
are expected to reduce total vehicle travel by 30 to 50% in a given
community, compared with current planning and pricing practices.
Given there is a finite amount of public space in the city for all modes of
transportation, there is a need to reassess how road space can be used more
effectively to enable the shift to more sustainable transportation modes. More
road space needs to be allocated towards development of expanded
infrastructure for walking, cycling and on-road public transit (such as
dedicated bus and streetcar lanes) so as to accelerate the modal shift from
motor vehicles to sustainable transportation modes that give more priority to
pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.

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