Building sustainable and equitable transportation systems in Toronto

Guest blog written by Judy Farvolden

I am passionate about vibrant, equitable, sustainable urban life. My journey began in Paris when, as a 17-year-old living for a year in the City of Light, I wondered at the difference between living in a place where every day-to-day thing I needed was on my own block and my familiar and comfortable North American suburban life. I decided that the difference was the extensive subway system that made it possible for me to get anywhere in the city in 30 minutes, cheaply and safely, even as a teenage girl. That led me to study transportation engineering, and in particular systems design, because I believed the answer was to be found in mathematically optimizing transportation networks.

In the 30 years I’ve lived in Toronto, Canada I’ve watched the city grow from – not much – into North America’s fourth largest and fastest growing metropolitan region, with North America’s worst traffic congestion. About 10 years ago, after three engineering degrees and two decades in network optimization and mathematical finance, I realized that more math was not the “answer” to our transportation problems, and the real problem must be getting it done in policy. I decided to see if I could come back around and contribute to addressing the issues that had so motivated me but that I’d never actually engaged in.

I found that opportunity at the University of Toronto where, earlier this year, our proposed Mobility Lab was designated an Institutional Strategic Initiative and granted three years of seed funding on the promise that it would create a multidisciplinary network of researchers that would drive innovation in urban policy, thereby addressing the global challenge for cities to evolve into more sustainable, equitable, and resilient urban forms and mobility systems. The question was, how?

Continue reading Building sustainable and equitable transportation systems in Toronto

Fast-tracking Nigeria’s economic recovery

Guest blog by Member Feese

When I registered for the course my conception of public policy was the public definition – a course of action developed by a government in response to public problems. However, I was pleasantly surprised when the course began. I realised that public policy is not only for government but for all citizens that want to make a positive impact in society.

I came into the course with a goal to developing a policy that will help to reduce the level of poverty in the Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the most resourced countries in the world, in terms of human and endowments, yet with a high poverty rate of over 40.1 percent of total population being classified as poor in 2019 (National Bureau of Statistics). This translates to over 82.9 million Nigerians estimated to live below the poverty line. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the figure is projected to have increased astronomically especially among Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), due to production slowdown, movement restriction and lockdown which resulted in supply chain disruption.

To address this challenge I knew I wanted to focus on infrastructure however, I was not sure of where to begin. I avoided focusing on capacity building and access to finance as they have been done numerous times and failed to reduce the level of poverty. The government, corporate institutions and individuals have spent resources training entrepreneurs and linking them to funds to start or expand their businesses. However, the cost of doing business has consumed a large portion of the funds. The Nigerian society is plagued with poor infrastructure such as erratic power and water supply and poor transportation facilities which affects the productivity and profits of MSMEs. As a result, I identified the need to address infrastructure.

Continue reading Fast-tracking Nigeria’s economic recovery