As traffic congestion and high emissions plague the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA) we need to make major changes to how people and goods move around our cities. From the rising costs of travel to the increasing time and stress associated with it, urban mobility is one of the most pressing issues of our time.

Urban Mobility Design Camp reception

On June 7, MaRS hosted the Urban Mobility Design Camp (#MoveGTHA) with Uber as a lead sponsor. The event featured speakers and sponsors from organizations including the Toronto Transit Commission, IBI Group, the Canadian Red Cross, Ontario Power Generation, the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute and several other regional transportation stakeholders. Over 130 specialists, academics, and members of the public, private and non-profit sectors came together for the co-design session exploring shared mobility in the GTHA.

The design camp explored how stakeholders across multiple sectors—even those not traditionally associated with transportation—can, and will need to, collaborate to develop solutions for their respective mobility-related needs and problems. By the end of the day, 18 groups produced a series of practical and creative ideas to address mobility problems in the GTHA.

Each group tackled a distinct aspect of the urban mobility system, tailoring their solutions to solving specific issues. Their solutions included:

  • regional integration (increasing inter-operator co-fare and payment systems);
  • dynamic shuttles servicing a series of unique user-group needs;
  • health- and senior-specific mobility services (as well as senior empowerment programs and tech on-boarding initiatives, as tech is often one of the greatest inter-generational barriers to service uptake);
  • restructuring of fees or their elimination altogether and new revenue streams for transit operators (value proposition of free transit, but fees attached to Wi-Fi or cell service etc.);
  • new integrated mobility configurations (facilitating the integration of bike share, subway and regional train hubs);
  • the re-imagining of existing commutes (via micro-regional transit or co-working hubs, as the best commute is no commute and the second best is one that is super local); and
  • a variety of iterations of Mobility-as-a-Service (from a full integrated seamless payment and on-demand suite of mobility services integrating public transit, bike share, ride share, taxis, micro-transit or accessibility transport at a regional or community levels).

We are witnessing real changes to the ways people want to, will need to and already do move throughout the GTHA and we’ll continue to see shifts in technology, ideas about ownership, integrated mobility options, electric and autonomous vehicles, new energy solutions and variations of Mobility-as-a-Service, among many other changes.

Events like this one demonstrate that while real problems exist, there are many passionate problem-solvers out there who see the future of mobility throughout the GTHA as more accessible, equitable, affordable, efficient, safe and ultimately enjoyable for all.

Next steps

In the coming months, MaRS will publish a report on the trends, ideas and solutions identified at the design camp. In the meantime, the team is conducting field research with Bridgeable on commuter challenges and the barriers to changing travel behaviour. With support from Toronto Atmospheric Fund, government, transit planning and implementation organizations, MaRS is designing pilot projects that will address acute mobility challenges in the GTHA. The first of these pilots will be announced soon.

Michael MacLennan

Michael MacLennan is a Fellow with MaRS Studio Y and research associate and editor-in-chief of Policy in Focus at UNDP International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth. See more…