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Welcome back to the Dispatch, Onlia’s monthly dive into the intersection of transportation, tech, and everything else you need to know about safety. Hosted by Alex Kelly, Onlia’s road safety expert, we’ll take a look at new highways, new transit options, and how social media is changing the street safety game. 

Government: Decoded

Transit’s rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic may take a little more than filling subway seats. As cities grapple with the post-pandemic commute, the provincial government is offering additional relief funding, but with a catch: Toronto must consider swapping resource-heavy routes out for microtransit solutions. An on-demand alternative to costly transit routes, microtransit may be a more accessible and affordable option, linking transit with operating partners from the rideshare space. 

Smaller municipalities such as Innisfil have had success with a subsidized rideshare-transit option, but it’s unclear how this will work in a large city like Toronto. Safety concerns have proven to be an obstacle for rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft, and COVID-19 has stalled the city’s vehicle-for-hire driver training accreditation application process. It seems like the province’s desire to level up microtransit comes when the city is struggling to implement its rideshare safety protocols.

For those sticking to private vehicles, there may be a new highway to cruise. Ontario has presented the GTA West Highway – to be known as the 413 — which will cut across York, Peel, and Halton regions. While still in a consultative phase, the four-to-six-lane highway is already drawing a lot of criticism with Environmental Defence lobbying to cancel the project. While much may change in the coming years, the Ontario government projects that the 413 will see more than 300,000 vehicle trips per day by 2031, servicing users with intelligent transportation features, trucking, parking, and transit infrastructure. Vroom vroom.


Some good news from the streets: this has been the safest year for Toronto’s cyclists and pedestrians in over a decade. With the lowest number of fatalities since 2007, the city is hitting its midyear marker in stride. Experts caution the results are limited given the pandemic-related changes to commuting. There’s been a surge of new bikes, scooters, and pedestrians on the road, demonstrating a preference for active transportation over public transit. However, consider this a PSA: as cities head back to school and work this fall, expect roads to get a lot busier. Newer cyclists still getting a feel for the road, out of practice drivers, and stressful commutes may create a perfect storm of road-related risks. Hitting the road? Do it with focus, patience, and compassion.

Tech may be helping keep streets safer as well, but not all features are created equal, survey says. Vehicle owners recently weighed in on their 2020 vehicles, spilling the beans on what tech features they love and hate. The J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Tech Experience Index (TXI) Study saw Volvo snag a top spot for the innovation category — a great nod for the safety-centric brand.

While vehicle owners love on-board cameras for the different viewpoints, there is a growing distrust of “active drive technologies” — think autonomous-like control actions such as accelerating, braking, and steering. Designed to make driving easier, respondents cite frustrations with learning and deploying the technology, especially as it differs vastly between vehicle models and brands. Perhaps the autonomous future isn’t as rose-coloured as we’d like to think?  

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Transportation fails

Empty pandemic streets have been too tempting for risk-seekers to pass up. Early spring saw a rise of street racers, burnouts, and donuts in the city core. The latest? Live-action music video production. A burgeoning rap star recently brought a major Toronto highway to a standstill to film a music video. Next time, we’d suggest a permit, safety assessment, and appropriate road closures.

The enforcement community agrees — the Ontario police are officially “fed up” with social media videos in stupid places. Instagram Reels and TikTok have created a stage of one-upmanship amongst creators. A recent parkour stunt on a Toronto city bus is getting called out on social media, with the public fearful of copycat antics.

However, there are happier — yet odd — transportation stories out there. Sunday motorists had a surprise when a plane pulled an emergency landing on the side of the 404 highway. Citing engine troubles after takeoff, the pilot landed safely with no injuries reported to either the flight crew or motorists — just a bit of a travel delay for all involved.

Down the road

As we head into the last quarter of the year, keep your head up for inclement weather, darker evenings, and more people on the road. Don’t underestimate the change because it happens every year — even without the influx of road users, this time of year can get disorienting for drivers.

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