Celebrating alternative thinking in the Smart Commute Awards

Annual Ontario transportation event sees inventive transit and journey options.

People have to move – especially around the greater Toronto and Hamilton area (GTHA). So, how can those trips be improved or made smarter?

Every fall, Metrolinx’s Smart Commute program selects the best of the best to be honoured for their outstanding commitment, leadership and innovation in supporting commuting alternatives. With over 350 workplaces and 800,000 employees, nominees for the Smart Commute Awards have serious competition.

Smart Commute is a program of Metrolinx and the regional municipalities in the GTHA. The program aims to help anyone going from point A to B find smart travel options such as transit, carpooling, cycling and walking.

This year, five workplaces, one local Smart Commute office and one Workplace Champion were recognized for their impressive contributions to the program:

Veridian Connections, Ajax, Ontario

Electricity distributor Veridian initially became involved with Smart Commute nine years ago as the program reflects the company’s values: the health and safety of employees and the public, social and environmental responsibility and employee growth and development. With strong executive support, Veridian set up carpool spots in desirable locations and the program has grown exponentially ever since. Today Veridian offers bike lending programs, gym memberships, showers, telecommuting options and public transit reimbursement (among other benefits) to its employees, and also provides amenities like a transit bus shelter and a planned bike repair rack for public use. Veridian’s continued commitment has had far-reaching benefits for both employees and their north Ajax community.

City of Hamilton

With 8,500 employees, the City of Hamilton’s employee commute patterns can have a significant impact on congestion. The City is committed to promoting Smart Commute internally by offering secure bike parking facilities and showers at all major worksites, ensuring all campaigns are shared organization-wide and rotating the workplace champion each year to make sure new ideas are brought to the table. This commitment to innovation led to the development of a new Commuter Rewards Program, the first of its kind in the Smart Commute program. The program was a successful pilot, and now the Commuter Rewards Program can be rolled out on a larger scale.

Canadian Tire Corporation, Brampton and Bolton, Ontario locations

Canadian Tire Corporation’s strong sustainability strategy is not only aimed at corporate activities, such as opening a LEED certified building in Bolton, but also aimed at employees. The company engages employees through integration of sustainability practices into their everyday lives. Through Smart Commute campaign promotion, over 130 active carpool groups have been registered, and trip data shows that carpooling has reduced the total drive-alone commute trips by over 40,000 and saved employees $884,263.59 in 2017 — no doubt resulting in a significant cumulative impact on congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. Through ongoing activities, employee engagement with Smart Commute continues to grow.

Yorkdale Shopping Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Having over 250 different retailers under one roof, and a variety of work schedules, has the potential to create congestion for both employees and shoppers arriving at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. After learning that a significant portion of employees did not know about bike and transit options, Yorkdale Shopping Centre and Oxford Properties strategically engaged employees to promote sustainable transportation. Yorkdale developed bike parking maps highlighting new and improved bike rooms, held on-site bike clinics with Smart Commute and provided TTC tokens to staff. The immediate results have shown success. Employees are shifting to cycling, transit and walking and 55% of employees are now using a sustainable mode of transportation. With just one year with Smart Commute under their belt, Yorkdale is off to a roaring start.

TS Tech Canada Inc., Newmarket, Ontario

Automotive manufacturer TS Tech was challenged with parking constraints when they joined Smart Commute in 2015. By creating a carpool permit program, dedicating funding to incentive programs, hosting Smart Commute challenges, engaging with Smart Commute Central York staff on-site and providing multi-lingual communications, they’ve been able to reduce their parking demands. TS Tech’s Smart Commute initiatives don’t just focus on the commute. Employees are encouraged to track and log all of their sustainable trips and still receive rewards — the company recognizes that not everyone can travel sustainably to work. This past summer employees logged over 500 sustainable trips and burned 10,000 calories through cycling trips alone! TS Tech’s efforts have helped reduce traffic in the community and ease parking demands at their facility.

Smart Commute Central York – York Regional Police #1 District Project

York Regional Police (YRP) enlisted the help of Smart Commute Central York (SCCY) when 26 new staff were moved to District 1, putting additional constraints on an already over-crowded parking lot.

The project included data gathering, implementation of a carpool permit program, creation of a work-site specific Commuter Options Guide and personalized travel planning. The results were gauged using the Smart Commute online tool. SCCY and YRP’s efforts were successful, resulting in a 14 per cent reduction in employees driving alone to work and an 11 per cent increase in carpooling.

The Smart Commute awards also recognize individuals through the Workplace Champion award. This year the award, sponsored by Telus, is presented to Jonathan D. Law from WSP Canada, and located in Thornhill.

As a Transportation Engineer-in-Training, Jonathan went above and beyond as a Workplace Champion — not only at one workplace, but two! At his previous workplace, Cole Engineering Ltd., Jonathan successful re-ignited participation in the Smart Commute program. When moving to WSP, Jonathan maintained his Workplace Champion role. Since joining WSP, he’s engaged with Try Transit program, actively promoted annual campaigns, hosted workshops such as a Carpool Mix n’ Mingle and encourages active transportation. Jonathan is also part of the Smart Commute Markham Richmond Hill Advisory Committee. Through his efforts, Smart Commute engagement at WSP has grown by nearly 30 per cent since January 2018.

Congratulations to all of the Smart Commute Award winners of 2018! For more information on the Smart Commute program and how to join, please visit smartcommute.ca or email info@smartcommute.ca.

(Main photo – City of Hamilton, winners of the Hamilton Region and GTHA Smart Commute awards. Photo by Dylan Ward.)