PWIC

Toronto Water: Not Down the Drain Campaign

In my role as the Chair of Public Works, I’m happy to advise that Toronto Water has launched a new public education campaign to change behaviour and raise awareness about items that shouldn’t be put down the drain.

Every day, many items are flushed down toilets or poured down the drain that should not be. Examples of items that could cause serious damage include fat, oil, grease, wipes and dental floss.

Putting these items down the drain or toilet could cause:

  • Damage or blockages to home plumbing, which may lead to basement flooding.

  • Damage or blockages to the City’s sewer pipes located under the streets, which may also lead to basement flooding.

  • Damage to pumping stations and wastewater treatment plants

  • Harm to the environment and aquatic habitat in the lake, local streams and rivers.

To learn more about items that shouldn’t be flushed or put down the drain, please visit this website.

Expanding Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Toronto

At the September meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, my colleagues and I discussed the growth of the electric vehicle (EV) market and the need for infrastructure to support this green technology.

While the demand for EVs is increasing, the infrastructure for charging these vehicles is lagging behind. Public charging stations are often inconvenient for EV users who may have to leave their cars overnight to charge them and walk long distances to their homes.

In order to encourage the expansion of EV infrastructure in Toronto, I moved a motion requesting city staff to consider making EV stations a mandatory requirement under the Toronto Green Standard (TGS).

The TGS is a two-tier set of performance measures for sustainable site and building design. Tier 1 is required for all new construction in Toronto and tier 2 is a voluntary level of performance with a financial incentive. The TGS is important as it integrates environmental performance requirements to improve our air and water quality, reduce GHG emissions and lead to an overall healthier, more liveable city.

You can read my motion here.

Staff will be reporting back to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee this spring on a strategy to expand the number of EV charging stations throughout the city – stay tuned!

Compostable Coffee Pods

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I’m committed to helping Toronto reach its waste diversion target of 70 percent.

With approximately 1 in 4 households in Canada using single-serve coffee brewers, millions of single-serve coffee pods are going to landfill each and every year.

Most coffee pods are made entirely or partly from plastic and thus come with a heavy environmental cost. However, a number of coffee companies – including Toronto-based businesses – are developing pods that are more environmentally friendly, including compostable and recyclable options.

With that in mind, I moved a motion at the October meeting of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee requesting the city review the impacts of coffee pods on our waste management system, including our recycling and organics programs.

Close collaboration between the coffee industry, the City of Toronto and the province is a key piece of this review. As we encourage the industry to continue to develop more environmentally sustainable products, we also need to consider the central role of municipalities, who are responsible for processing the products through to end of life.

City staff will be reporting back in 2017 – stay tuned!

Improvements to Construction Staging

Battling congestion and gridlock has been one of my top priorities during my two terms in office.

Every single day, I hear from residents frustrated by private developers who stage construction projects on our streets, resulting in prolonged lane closures and congestion.

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, earlier this term I fought tooth and nail to clamp down on private construction by increasing fees for street occupation. As a result, fees for developers have now jumped from $5.77 per square metre per month to a maximum of $105.41 per square metre per month. Unfortunately, private developers simply aren’t getting the message.

At this month’s meeting of City Council, there were three items on the agenda related to construction areas and lane closures in the downtown core. The proposed closures would have shut down traffic lanes for two to three years, causing real pinchpoints in our road network and significant congestion.

I voted with my Council colleagues to reject these wholesale closures and directed staff and the developers to consider other options. These alternatives might include further increasing street occupation fees, using side streets and laneways or working within the footprint of the development.

I look forward to reviewing the revised proposals at next month’s City Council meeting.

The bottom line is that the status quo isn’t working – it’s time to start focusing on the public interest instead of catering to private construction.

The Future of Autonomous Vehicles in Toronto

Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles will soon be a reality on Toronto’s streets.

Earlier this spring, I requested Transportation Services draw up specific recommendations on how the City of Toronto and its various divisions can prepare for the arrival and expansion of autonomous vehicle technology.

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I want to make our city a leader in transportation planning and innovation.

Driverless cars could be available in North America in significant numbers as early as 2020. By 2030, up to 15 percent of new cars could be fully autonomous. As of January 1, 2016, Ontario became the first province in the country to allow companies to road test autonomous vehicles.

The introduction of autonomous vehicles into our society is going to bring new opportunities and new challenges – that’s why it’s imperative that Toronto make strategic decisions now to shape the changing technological future of our city.

You can read my motion by clicking here.

Staff will be reporting back to the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee by the end of this year, so stay tuned!

New Online Tools: MyWaterToronto and PlowTO

As Chair of Public Works & Infrastructure, I’m pleased to share that the city has recently launched two exciting new online tools: MyWaterToronto and PlowTO.

Technology has become a constant in our daily routines and the city is jumping on board – we’re mobilizing start-of-the-art technology to improve customer service and save Torontonians time, money and resources.

With MyWaterToronto, residents can view their water use information anytime, anywhere via computer or mobile phone. The city’s new automated water meters send water consumption data directly to the city several times a day and effectively eliminate the need for property owners or city staff to take manual readings.  Right now MyWaterToronto is loaded with more than one billion water readings!

Because residents can track how much water they’re using, they can better understand their water use, identify potential leaks and consider ways to save both water and money.

On PlowTO’s webpage, thanks to GPS data, residents can see the real-time location of plows, sidewalk plows and salt trucks. This tool gives Torontonians a better sense of when and where the city’s fleet of service vehicles have traveled during and after a winter storm.

During my two terms in office, I’ve fielded a number of inquiries from residents about winter operations and high water bills. So far the feedback I’ve received on these new web-based tools has been overwhelmingly positive.

Harnessing technology to provide better and more transparent city services is clearly a big step in the right direction for Toronto.

My Road Safety Roundtable

It was great to work with local advocacy groups and organizations at my Road Safety Strategic Plan Roundtable on January 25, 2016.

It was great to work with local advocacy groups and organizations at my Road Safety Strategic Plan Roundtable on January 25, 2016.

As Chair of Public Works, I initiated the development of a comprehensive, city-wide Road Safety Strategic Plan (RSSP) nearly a year ago.

Last month, I was pleased to host a roundtable in Council Chambers, which brought together local community and advocacy groups, city and provincial agencies and elected officials to share information and best practices about road safety.

We had an outstanding turnout and response. Representatives from more than 24 organizations across our city sat down at the table and took part in an open, respectful and insightful dialogue.

It’s time for Toronto to take a leadership role in developing a strategic, proactive approach that draws together our existing safety initiatives and identifies specific, data-based countermeasures to reduce road fatalities and serious injuries on our roads.

A draft of the Road Safety Strategic Plan will be coming to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in spring 2016.

Traffic Calming Options Manual

As Chair of Public Works, I’m committed to making our roads safer for all users –  motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.

That’s why, earlier this year, I moved a motion asking for a comprehensive Road Safety Plan for Toronto to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries on our roads.

Further, at this month’s Public Works and Infrastructure meeting, I requested that an easy-to-use Traffic Calming Options Manual be developed as part of the Road Safety Plan.

The manual will outline all of the different traffic calming options and their impacts, costs and effectiveness. The goal is to make the information about traffic calming alternatives transparent and accessible to everyone – whether you’re a city official, traffic expert or resident.

You can read my motion here.

A draft of the Road Safety Plan will be coming to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2016.

Extension of the Richmond-Adelaide Cycle Tracks

Opening the extended cycle track on Richmond with Jared Kolb, Executive Director of Cycle Toronto, Alan Heisey, Vice-Chair of the TTC, Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Jacquelyn Haywood Gulati, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs.

Opening the extended cycle track on Richmond with Jared Kolb, Executive Director of Cycle Toronto, Alan Heisey, Vice-Chair of the TTC, Stephen Buckley, General Manager of Transportation Services, and Jacquelyn Haywood Gulati, Manager of Cycling Infrastructure and Programs.

In 2014, the city installed separated bike lanes (cycle tracks) on Richmond Street and Adelaide Street from Bathurst to York/Simcoe. This pilot project assessed the feasibility of separated bike lanes on these corridors.

In June 2015, the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee received a report on the pilot. Early results are promising! Cycling volumes on Adelaide have tripled while those on Richmond have more than doubled. Even better, there’s been no negative impact on congestion.

You can read highlights from the evaluation report here.

As chair of the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, I moved a motion to extend the cycle track pilot on Richmond and Adelaide east to Parliament.

The Richmond extension is now complete, and work on Adelaide is underway and will be completed later this fall.

Increasing Fees in Construction Contracts

I chaired the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in summer 2015 where we approved a pilot to apply acceleration and delay costs in construction contracts.

The goal is to reduce congestion by speeding up construction on city roads, particularly high-traffic corridors.

The pilot has a two-pronged approach:

  • Financial penalties for construction delays
  • An innovative tendering process that considers both overall cost and completion time

Other jurisdictions, including Ottawa and York Region, have had success in applying acceleration and delay costs to high-priority construction projects.

City staff will report back on the pilot to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2017.

Click here for more information.

The City’s Long Term Waste Management Strategy

City staff are in the midst of developing a Long Term Waste Management Strategy that will help define Toronto’s waste management plans for the next thirty years.

The city is casting its net widely to consider the newest methods of waste management and disposal.

An update on the Long Term Waste Management Strategy came before the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee on September 22, 2015. You can read the report here. The final report is expected in Spring 2016.

Click here for the latest news on the Long Term Waste Management Strategy.

Long-Term Waste Management Strategy

As the Chair of Toronto’s Public Works and Infrastructure Committee, I’ve been working hard to ensure that we have a sustainable Long Term Waste Management Strategy.

Work on the strategy, which will recommend management changes and programs, is currently underway.

Your thoughts are crucial to developing the best waste policies for the next 30-50 years. To get involved or share your ideas, click here.

Gardiner East Update

The future of the eastern section of the Gardiner Expressway is a once in a lifetime decision that will shape the future direction of our city.

The environmental assessment team recently refined the options for the 2.4km stretch between Jarvis and Logan to three:

  • Remove the expressway and replace it with an eight lane boulevard;
  • Maintain the expressway in its current form; or
  • A hybrid approach that would keep the expressway linkage between the Gardiner and DVP.

Public consultations are a critical part of the decision making process and are now underway.

It’s a complicated decision. We have to balance travel time impacts, unlocking the incredible opportunities on the waterfront and financial cost. As the Chair of Public Works, my priority is to make the right decision for the city. 

To get involved or to learn more about the issues, please head to www.gardinereast.ca.

Following the public consultations, city staff will prepare a report with a recommended option for May’s Public Works Committee meeting and City Council will make a final decision in June.

Chair, Public Works & Infrastructure Committee

Touring our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre with the General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley

Touring our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre with the General Manager of Transportation Services Stephen Buckley

I’m honoured to serve as Chair of the Public Works & Infrastructure Committee, one of the city’s seven Standing Committees.

I asked for a substantive portfolio and Public Works is it

With a budget of more than $2 billion, Public Works oversees four of the city’s key divisions – Transportation Services, Toronto Water, Solid Waste Management and Engineering & Construction Services. It’s responsible for an incredibly diverse array of issues: congestion, gridlock, drinking water, storm sewers, roads, bridges, sidewalks, highways, speed limits, bike lanes, bike safety, waste collection, recycling and street furniture, to name a few!

Traffic, gridlock and congestion were front and centre during the campaign – in Ward 25 and across the city – and, as I told the Toronto Sun, “it’s my number one priority.”

Last week, I sat down with Stephen Buckley, the General Manager of Transportation Services, to discuss what we can do right now to improve congestion and to tour our new and improved Traffic Operations Centre.

Briefings with other key staff and divisional leads are already scheduled – it’s a big job and I can’t wait to get to work!

A Comprehensive Road Safety Plan for Toronto

In 2014, 51 Torontonians were killed and many more were seriously injured in traffic crashes. As a city, we can and must do better, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, our most vulnerable road users.

Toronto has a number of policies and guidelines that address road safety but we’re missing an overarching framework that focuses squarely on the issue.

That’s why I brought a motion to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee this week requesting a comprehensive road safety plan.

We’re going to build on what’s worked in other jurisdictions and the plan will focus on international best practices from comparable jurisdictions, such as Vision Zero.

The plan will be fact driven and I asked for an enhanced analysis of city-wide traffic collision data. I also asked city staff to strike a Road Safety Advisory Group to engage key partners and stakeholders in the development of the plan, including the Toronto District School Board, Toronto Police Service, the Canadian Automobile Association, Cycle Toronto and Walk Toronto.

Click here for more details.

My motion goes to City Council for final approval in March and a draft plan is expected by the end of 2015.