Custom «Sustainable Transportation Development» Essay Paper Sample
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Although economic factors and competitiveness have been the driving forces for the Canadian government, there is a growing realization that other priorities are also important in balancing the dominance of the growth arguments. Principal among these complementary priorities is the changing structure of the population itself, both in terms of its age profile and new forms of family structure. In addition, there is the fact that the current generation is the first to have had almost unlimited access to the car and the opportunity for high levels of mobility. The second great social issue is the concern over transportation accessibility. It should be noted that not all society has equal access to transport and the growth arguments have to be balanced against the distribution of the benefits. Provision has to be made for those without access to a car or public transport and governments have always tried to provide opportunities in remote and peripheral areas, often through transport investment. The most recent addition to the debate is the growing importance of environment, particularly as it relates to sustainability. This paper addresses the factors of changing structure of the population in Toronto, access to public transport, and the need for sustainable development of the modern transportation system in this Canadian city.
Canadian government has made a firm commitment to stabilize levels of CO2 emissions at their 1990 levels in the year 2000. In the transport sector, the level of CO2 emissions is directly related to the amount of fossil fuels used. Stabilizing emissions requires a combination of more efficient use of fuel and less travel, but the trends in most countries are in the opposite direction. Further investment in transport may help achieve more fuel efficiency, at least in the short term, as relief of congestion allows the transport system to operate more efficiently. Yet, in the longer term those benefits may be offset by the growth in traffic. In addition to the CO2 stabilization targets there are many other environmental costs associated with transport.
In many cases, the objectives of transport investment in Toronto must be to identify situations where the economic, equity and environmental factors all point in the same direction. It is not a simple trade-off between these factors, but a clear policy challenge. People want investment in opportunities that lead to economic development, with a more equitable distribution and environmental benefits—this is the ‘win-win-win’ situation. Furthermore, there are important considerations about urban form and structure and the new means by which investment decisions should be made. The economic and development benefits have to be supplemented by distributional and environmental benefits.
The patterns of mobility are similar in America and Canada. The levels of mobility are somewhat lower than those in the USA, but higher than in Japan (Cervero 1998). In all cities in Canada, including Toronto, there is an overriding dependence on the car for travel. The growth in population is slow. The current low levels of fertility will be maintained, at least into the 21st century.
Ageing and changing family structures
However, within this relatively stable population, two major changes can be detected in Toronto. The most significant growth in population will take place in the elderly and non-working population as a joint effect of the increases in life expectancy and the tendency to retire earlier. The proportion of elderly people in Toronto will rise from 13 per cent (1985) to 20 per cent (2020) (Cervero 1998). The population of most advanced economies is becoming greyer. In addition to the ageing of the population, there are other important changes taking place in demographic terms in Toronto:
• Average household size is expected to continue to fall from current levels of 2.7 persons per household to 2.4 persons per household (2010) (Derkson 2002). Household size reflects the lower fertility rates and births outside marriage. The concept of a traditional household with two adults (married) with children is no longer valid. Indeed, it may never have been true. The structure of households is no longer based on the family unit as there are now so many variants.
• Perhaps, at the micro level, this means that analysis should be based on the individual rather than the household as a unit in Toronto. Similarly, much of trip generation is based on the assumption that certain activities relate to household size. There are common activities in which all households have to participate in Toronto. However, if the unit of study, namely the household, no longer exists or exists in many different forms, then it becomes difficult to establish a clear methodological framework for analyses. Perhaps each person should be treated as an individual with particular characteristics, not as part of a household unit, but this weakens the concept of family or joint activities. The question of whether the most appropriate scale for analysis should be at the individual level or in some grouping (family or other) is unresolved, as activities are undertaken individually, as part of a family, as part of a group or as part of some other arrangement.
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• The increased participation of women in the labor force in Toronto is also apparent throughout Canada, particularly the growth in part-time working.
• The implications for work-related travel in Toronto are likely to be substantial as many households have two wage earners, so the location decision may not be optimal for even one of the workers. It has been argued that households now establish a residential base and career needs are met by (long-distance) commuting (Banister and Bayliss 1992).
The second major change has been the motorization effect. The current group of elderly people in Toronto are the first to have experienced the use of the car all their lives and they will not want to give it up. To expect that today’s elderly population will adopt the travel patterns of the elderly of yesterday is unrealistic. The implication of this argument is that dynamic approaches must be developed to account for the desire of individuals to maintain the ability to drive as long as possible. A demographic analysis of car ownership and use patterns takes as its starting point the growth in license ownership and car ownership for different age groups of men and women (Banister 1994). For instance, in the USA nearly 90 per cent of the adult population have driving licenses and there are, on average, nearly two vehicles per household. The distances traveled by residents averages at over 29,000 km per household. These levels are about one-third higher than those in Toronto.
The recent evidence from the national travel surveys demonstrates the increasing dependence on the car over the last twenty years and the gradual growth in mobility in Toronto (Derkson 2002). Over that period total travel per person has increased by 37 per cent with the car’s share also increasing from 68 per cent to 78 per cent. The proportion of travel by all other modes has declined (except van/truck) both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the total travel. The growth in travel is explained in equal parts by the increase in trips made and the increase in the average journey length in Toronto (Frisken 2007).
The picture presented here is of substantial further increases in travel over the next fifteen years, resulting from demographic changes. Two possible influences might limit this growth. First, broader environmental concerns might lead to the realization that unconstrained growth is not desirable and that alternatives to travel by car and air must be sought in Toronto. To achieve such a change may not be possible in the short term, but the birth of a new ‘green generation’ who are prepared not to travel so much, particularly by environmentally damaging modes of transport, might trigger such a change (Frisken 2007). At present there seems to be no evidence of such a movement. The second is the argument that in Canada distances between cities are relatively long but that the road infrastructure is not so well developed as that in the USA. Consequently, the need to own a car and the ability to use it is not so dominant as in the USA and therefore saturation levels of ownership may be lower in Canada than in the USA. Again, the evidence is limited. This saturation level may just be wishful thinking, rather than one based on a true understanding of consumer choice and marketing by the vehicle manufacturers (Gratwick 2001).
In terms of identifying future trends and the impacts on travel demand, certain conclusions can be drawn. Within the overall patterns it seems that particular sections of the population may travel more by car. Women and the elderly are two groups that have traditionally driven less than other people in Toronto (Gratwick 2001). Fundamental changes have taken place in women’s participation rates in the labor force, their greater independence and the increase in ‘non-standard’ households. These changes would all suggest that increases in their travel patterns (including the increases in numbers of trips made, trip lengths, complexity of trips and use of the car) would be greater than average. Similarly, with the growth in life expectancy, health, aspirations and affluence of the elderly, one would expect that they would keep the car for as long as possible and make greater use of it in their extended retirement. It is unrealistic to expect that elderly people in the future will have the same travel patterns by mode as a similar elderly group today (Cervero 1998). To be concise, there are at least three compelling arguments that would strongly suggest that trip rates by mode for particular groups would not remain stable in time:
1 Present-day expectations and travel patterns will influence aspirations in the future in Toronto. This group effect will be most apparent with the elderly who are the first generation to have experienced mass car ownership and so can be expected to continue to use that mode as long as possible.
2 The growth in leisure time and the high value now being placed on the quality of life, and the importance of stage in life cycle: life-cycle changes refer not only to the four basic conventional groups (i.e. married couples with no children; families with young children; families of adults; retired), but to the wide range of unconventional groups (e.g. single-parent families). Changes in lifestyle and life-cycle effects have had fundamental impacts on the range of activities that people require, the increasing complexity of travel patterns and the increase in travel distances. Complementary changes have also taken place with the structural changes in the economy and changes in the distribution of industry, commerce and retailing which have tended to follow the decentralization of population.
3 In Toronto, the increase in levels of affluence and the unprecedented growth in car ownership levels: some of this affluence has resulted from the growth in Canadian economy, but the greater part has been the growth in savings and wealth from property value increases. That new wealth is likely to be used by the newly retired elderly or passed on to their next generation in Canada (Lee and Perl 2003).
It seems that the demand for travel will continue to increase in Toronto, but the nature of that demand may change as a result of demographic factors. Although the changes in population structure are important, other changes (such as the industrial structure, technological innovation, levels of affluence and leisure time) will also influence demand. The problem here is in resolving the complexity of issues so that the effects of one group of factors can be isolated. Similarly, there is a range of policy instruments that can be used to influence levels of demand and mediate between the different interests.
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Accessibility to Transport in Toronto
These general changes brought about by the aging and motorization effects hide other fundamental changes within the population in Toronto. Transport as with other commodities will never be available to all people equally, nor will it be distributed equally over space (Lee and Perl 2003). There are many constraints that mean that not all people will have equal access to facilities and services. Even if it were available to all equally in Toronto, it would not be ideal as different people (and businesses) have different requirements. Many of these requirements have already been mentioned in the changing patterns of work and leisure, the changes in family structure and the changes in business organization. In addition to the changes in patterns of demand, there have been significant changes in the distribution of services and facilities in Toronto (Lee and Perl 2003). The basic issue here is that of accessibility to facilities, both at the aggregate level and for particular groups of people. Accessibility relates both to the physical distribution of land uses within the urban areas and the availability of transport, and to the needs of the people to use the services provided. Access is a function of both travel times and the number and quality of nearby destinations and the value different people place on access to different destinations also varies.
Speaking about Toronto, the regional dimension is important as investment in infrastructure is often justified on the basis of improvements in accessibility and an increase in economic performance. The arguments, particularly on causality, have never been clear and the fundamental process of regional economic development leading to convergence or divergence is still intensely debated (Vickerman 1995). Traditional arguments of regional economic growth are mixed. Neo-classical theories suggest the free movement of resources are seeking higher marginal returns. Keynesian theories view regional variations in aggregate analysis and these are both at odds with microeconomic approaches to the understanding of location.
Recent arguments have stressed the importance of space and the existence of increasing returns as the basis for understanding the spatial economy. The rationale here is that increasing returns explain the separation of production and the spatial concentration of industry. However, the assumptions used in these models have also been questioned as they are based on perfect competition assumptions of free entry and common levels of technology (Krugman 1991). In particular, the importance allocated to transport costs in these models is too great. The question here is the degree to which competitiveness will improve from transport cost reduction. Transport costs are a small part of total production costs, yet they seem to have been given a disproportionately large role in explaining competitive advantage and location decisions of firms. With the advent of a high technology, service-based society, with flexible labor markets and high levels of skills, transport costs alone cannot explain which locations are most attractive.
The ‘new growth economies’, such as the Canadian one, emphasizes economic growth as native to an economic system, rather than as the result of outside forces. It is the differential quality of factors of production, including the skills and knowledge of the labor force, which are internal to the economic system that explains the differential growth. Yet even here it is difficult to draw tight boundaries around systems as much of the development takes place within a national, international or global context. Regional boundaries are not geographically based. The ‘new economic geography’ argues that imperfect competition models, together with economies of scale, can best explain location decisions (Krugman 1991). The Krugman (1991) argument is that a tension exists between convergence factors, such as market size (agglomeration economies) which leads to concentration and divergence factors, such as the competitive elements which allow disadvantaged regions to maintain production. From the analytical research, it seems that changes in transport costs can lead to concentration or de-concentration, depending on existing cost structures, the elasticity of substitution and the initial quality of the transport infrastructure (Krugman and Venables 1990). If transport costs are very high, there will be a decentralizing effect unless the local markets are small or the extent of scale economies substantial enough to outweigh the transport costs (Vickerman 1995). If transport costs are low, concentration will take place, unless there are substantial local markets and low-scale economies that would justify a larger number of locations.
The difficulty comes then in trying to relate location and land use factors to the regional development arguments, particularly under conditions of increasing returns to scale in Toronto. Firms may move to locations where new scale economies can be achieved through cheap raw material inputs. But the transport costs are not only the distance-related costs, as they should include all the other quality factors related to the production process—the integrated logistic chain in Toronto. As Vickerman (1995) clearly argues, the main problem is one of aggregation. It is not appropriate to have a single approach, as the infrastructure is important for the individual firm, but the aggregation of individual benefits, does not necessarily lead to regional benefits. There are many other factors at work (Gramlich 1994).
Two basic economic arguments determine the role that transport investment decisions have on the transportation accessibility of economic development. The non-accessibility arguments examine the aggregate level of economic activity in terms of productivity and competitiveness. Infrastructure is seen as a public good which enhances the productivity of the private factors of production, or it combines with private capital in an optimism ratio to raise productive potential. Spare capacity leads to new opportunities and internal scale economies or external agglomeration economies. Conversely, bottlenecks limit growth potential. The alternative set of spatial arguments emphasizes the differential performance of the different locations, together with the tension between forces of convergence and divergence. The actual effects are much more disaggregate in nature and depend on the individual firm, its competitive position, economies of scale and imperfect competition (Lee and Perl 2003).
These distributional questions need to be balanced against the actual infrastructure investment decisions made over the last twenty years and the implied government thinking on causality. Transport infrastructure investment has fallen as a proportion of GDP and it is not clear that firms have responded in particular ways in particular locations. New forms of operation have been introduced to maintain competitive position and reduce production costs (e.g. technology, logistics and new organizational structures). These may be included as second or third round multiplier effects. Industry has to rely upon new forms of operation to increase productivity and efficiency if new investment in transport infrastructure does not take place.
Environmental and sustainability effects
In 1996 the transport sector was responsible for over 25 per cent of world primary energy use and 23 per cent of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use (Derkson 2002). It forms the most rapidly growing sector with energy use in 1996 at about 70 EJ. Without action, this figure will double to 140 EJ in 2025. Industrialized countries will contribute the majority of this figure until 2025. After that date, the majority of transport related emissions would come from those countries that are currently developing rapidly or have economies in transition. Transport activity increases with rising economic activity, disposable income, access to motorized transport and falling real vehicle and fuel costs.
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Projections of transport greenhouse gas emissions follow the historic trends as CO2 emissions are directly related to energy use in the transport sector. The assumptions made are that the relationships between transport fuel consumption and variables such as gross domestic product (GDP), fuel prices and vehicle energy efficiency will remain stable, at least until 2025 (Derkson 2002). More recent research (Acutt and Dodgson 1998) suggests that the relationship between energy use and economic factors is not stable and that, in Europe, car ownership and use may saturate at lower per capita levels than those found in the USA and Canada. In addition, technological innovation may result in greater levels of mobility being achieved with lower levels of energy input. There are also strong political and economic arguments for breaking the historic links between transport demand, energy use and economic factors as has happened in the energy sector (Banister 1996).
Despite the many advantages brought about by the car and other transport, there are also serious negative consequences for society as a whole in Toronto.
The environmental costs of transport in Toronto have been grouped under four main headings—pollution, resources, environment and development. Decisions taken to improve benefits along one dimension may be likely to increase costs along another dimension or in another sector. The complexity of decision making in environmental policy cannot be underestimated, but all governments must now face difficult choices.
Many of the environmental costs of transport are non-linear in their effects (e.g. health effects and congestion). The crucial issue becomes not how to measure, but how to avoid reaching critical levels where the environmental costs become too high (e.g. lethal doses of pollution). Still, the measurement difficulties are substantial and placing values (or money costs) on environmental factors tends to be subjective (Button 1994). It is only recently that these issues have become central concerns in evaluation and in decisions on infrastructure investment.
The challenge for environmental policy in transport is to improve as many elements of this complex interrelated list of environmental costs as possible without increasing those elsewhere, or at least being aware of them and making an informed choice. It should also be remembered that transport is only one (albeit important) part of the economy and so the environmental choices in the transport sector need to be balanced against other priorities. It is argued that transport infrastructure investment has social benefits (e.g. bypasses of congested town centers) but that it destroys the environment in Toronto (e.g. through the generation of more car travel).
More recently, the environmental arguments have been linked to those of sustainability development in Canada generally and in Toronto specifically (McCalla, Slack, and Comtois 2001). This more sophisticated view links environmental concerns with those of economic development and equity. To achieve an objective of sustainable development, at least five different sets of objectives need to be addressed. Among other matters, this paper is concerned with the environmental objectives.
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The second objective is to maintain competitiveness through economic growth and development objectives. Where possible, the environmental and development objectives should be working in the same direction—this is the ‘win-win’ situation, and many transport investment decisions have tried to achieve these benefits. For example, bypass schemes have been justified both by the economic benefits from reduced travel times and by opening up new areas for development in Toronto. Yet they have also brought environmental benefits to Toronto city centers. In addition to these two fundamental objectives, the concerns over sustainability present three new objectives. The general objectives are concerned with the distribution of costs and benefits to society. The final objective is participation in its widest form. Too often in the past, decisions have been made without the support of the affected parties. To achieve the objectives stated for sustainable development, citizens have to carry out their daily activities in different ways, using resources more efficiently. Similarly, industry and the new post-industrial economy need to be more sustainable in their operations and organization. This requires clear policy directions through pricing, regulation and control, but the scale of change necessary to achieve sustainability objectives also requires political support from all affected parties. Unless this support is forthcoming, little progress will be made.
Table 1 The environmental costs of transport
Acid rain, bronchitis
Toxic trace substances
Inflammation, cardiovascular diseases
Depletion of natural resources 4.2 ha of land per km of three lane motorway
Landscape and destroyed water quality, flood hazards river systems modified
Stress, concentration, and health
Visual impact and aesthetics
Changes in physical appearance
Conservation and townscape
Location of Industry
Local economic impacts
Income levels, employment, social impact
Delay, use of resources
Traffic generation, induced development
Blight, property prices, compensation
Source: Frisken Frances, (2007), The public metropolis, Ontario: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
Underlying much of the debate over the environment and sustainability in Toronto is the crucial link between the environment and competitiveness. Much of the literature discusses the balance between these two dimensions. One would argue that the most productive way to actually achieve sustainability objectives is through these two dimensions operating in the same direction—the ‘win-win’ situation. Porter and Van der Linde (1995, p. 97) have argued that the “struggle between ecology and the economy grows out of a static view of environmental regulation, in which technology, products, processes and customer needs are all fixed”.
In the real world, firms have made cost-minimizing choices. Environmental regulation raises costs and reduces market share of domestic companies on global markets. They go on to develop a dynamic paradigm, based on innovation and the capacity to improve competitiveness through shifting the constraints. Properly designed environmental standards can trigger innovation, which may more than offset the costs of compliance. We would go further and suggest that environmental incentives should be used to promote greater efficiency and innovation. A positive promotion of environmental incentives is one way to achieve sustainability objectives and gain public support through the demonstration effects of policy actions.
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Transport policymakers in Toronto have always accepted that transport imposes environmental costs. However, the scale of the problem and its nature are now much greater. There is much more transport today than there has been in the past and that trend is likely to increase in Toronto and Canada. In the longer term the greatest growth is likely to be in China and India. In addition, the continuous growth in air transport has added a further new element of travel. Yet it is the rapid growth in car ownership and use that forms the most important factor in assessing the environmental costs of transport. It is clear that the simple growth in transport poses environmental degradation, but there are also substantial qualitative factors (Table 1). For many years transport policy has been primarily concerned with the local problems of transport, principally congestion, accidents and noise. The debate in the last twenty years has become more sophisticated and complex as the broader impacts of transport have embraced both global and international effects, as can be seen from the following example (McCalla, Slack, and Comtois 2001).
Concern over the damaging effects of ‘acid rain’ on forests and water life grew in the 1970s and 1980s. The importance of NOX and other gaseous emissions from cars were recognized as major contributing factors. Concern also emerged in the 1980s over high-level ozone depletion and its impact on the long-term incidence of skin cancer. Transport’s role was relatively small, as it was confined to CFCs in air-conditioning units. In the 1990s global warming has become the key issue with its impact on raising average temperatures and the consequences for climate change and sea level rises. The new agenda requires the collective action of national governments and international agencies in limiting the growth of CO2 emissions (McCalla, Slack, and Comtois 2001).
The scientific evidence is powerful, but the essential catalyst for change has been public concern over environmental issues in cities like Toronto. In part, this interest is a reflection of increased affluence and being able to afford to take action on environmental issues. More fundamentally, there is a growing concern over the long-term future of the planet and a commitment to sustainability. Transport has become a key element in that debate and one that is beginning to attract a disproportionate amount of attention. Transport contributes at all levels to environmental degradation. It has a high profile, it is perceived as being a major intruder and it also interacts with other activities which can be seen as being environmentally harmful (McCalla, Slack, and Comtois 2001).
Transport is also seen as an area where Canadian government can and have intervened through fiscal measures, regulation and the planning system. Many of the environmental costs imposed by transport are the consequences of policy decisions made for other reasons (Pigott 2001). Action to improve the environmental quality should also rest with governments, but governments will only act if there is a direct political benefit, and/or if there is sufficient public support, and/or if there is some international agreement. This is the irony of the debate and it is reflected in the inconsistencies in people’s actions and the inability of governments to take effective steps.
People are aware of the environmental costs of transport and are supportive of actions by governments to improve environmental quality, provided that they result in no change to their lifestyles and they can continue their use of the car, and provided that it does not increase costs. This is a problem with no solution. It accounts for the general resistance against higher prices in transport so that some of the environmental externalities can be internalized. It accounts for the belief that technological solutions will solve the problem through more efficient engines, alternative fuels (e.g. electricity or hydrogen) and add-on technologies (e.g. catalytic converters). It accounts for the focus on positive-planning policies to reduce journey lengths through higher densities and concentration of development in larger settlements. In Toronto, it accounts for the use of public awareness campaigns and raising the social consciousness to gain public support for actions that are often politically unpopular. In short, even if one could establish clear links between health quality and amount of motorized travel in Toronto, this might not be a necessary condition to radically change policy direction. There will always be strong reasons to continue to keep the external costs of transport as externalities and to resist the strong environmental case for internalizing them (Pigott 2001).
Results and discussion
Urban form and structure
As with the debate over whether road infrastructure in Toronto reduces congestion and vehicle emissions or leads to a more dispersed and inefficient pattern of land development, there is also uncertainty over the most efficient urban form in this city (Ross and Stanbury 2001). Urban form covers fixed elements within a metropolitan area, including the pattern of land use and density and the supporting transport and communications infrastructure. There is some agreement over the different urban form types in Toronto:
1 Urban infill. Here the aim is to make maximum use of urban sites to accommodate development. Increasingly, the terms urban compaction and intensification are used.
2 Urban extensions. This is the suburbanization solution that has been popular, but rarely questioned.
3 Multiple village extensions. This has resulted from pragmatic approaches to planning rather than a selected solution. It is often unpopular, particularly with residents in the villages.
4 Key villages. This concept was popular, but has not been used recently. It was argued that key villages would help maintain rural services and public transport.
5 New settlements. In the 1980s there were many schemes for privately promoted new settlements, but few have actually been started. There is now a renewed interest in the concept as the housing market is stronger than in the last ten years (Ross and Stanbury 2001).
In addition to Toronto’s urban form types, settlements need to be considered in relation to one another, not solely in isolation. The compact city results from higher population sizes and densities in the city, with high quality accessible public transport. The edge city encourages development at selected peripheral points together with increased investment in orbital roads to link the edge cities (Newton 1997). The corridor city focuses growth along linear corridors where high quality public transport is available, while the fringe city encourages general suburban development along the road network. All these possibilities apply to individual cities and also to city regions (Banister 1996).
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Toronto urban area does not conform to any one type as patterns of development are continually changing in this city. Overall, it is clear that there has been a flattening out of density measures, but there is still no agreement over what is the most desirable urban form in terms of energy efficiency and environmental quality. Even if there was some agreement it may not be possible to achieve that pattern of development.
If there is little agreement over the ideal urban form which is both energy efficient and environmentally attractive, there is even less consensus on the role that transport plays. The well-publicized debate in the literature between the ‘Stalinist views’ of Newman and Kenworthy (1989) and the ‘Friedman views’ of Gordon and Richardson (1997) highlighted the substantial differences (Pigott 2001). The much-cited Newman and Kenworthy (1989) review of thirty-two world cities by urban density and energy use in transport acted as the focus of the debate (Pigott 2001). Questions were raised about the quality of the data, the importance of particular cities in shaping the curve (e.g. Hong Kong and Moscow), the relatively small differences between cities in the same part of the world and the policy conclusions, particularly about the role of public transport.
The contrast between Newman and Kenworthy’s conclusions and those of Gordon and Richardson (1997) could not be more stark. Gordon and Richardson concluded that urban sprawl is a transportation solution, not a problem. The argument was that there is a dynamic process which is continuously at work. As urban sprawl takes place, jobs follow people so that the journey to work length remains relatively constant over time. Gordon and Richardson base their analysis on US journey to work data. But the journey to work is becoming less important. Households often have more than one worker and the growth in travel is taking place for other trip purposes (Ewing 1997). Most commentators do not take these extreme positions, but are content to focus on the intermediate issues of reducing trip lengths, encouraging moderate concentration, specialization and mixed use (Banister 1997).
Transport seems to play an ever-decreasing role in the location decisions of households and businesses in Toronto, but there still seems to be an identifiable localized link with journey lengths, even for the journey to work. These are shorter in balanced than unbalanced areas. Even if development took place in transit-oriented development (TOD) or in more traditional neighborhoods, some commentators suggest that the cost of travel by all modes would increase (Crane 1996). Others again argue that shorter journeys mean more journeys, as travel time budgets are fixed (Gordon and Richardson 1997).
One popular element of the debate is the role that telecommuting and other forms of technological substitution might have on travel. The original optimistic views that people would all stay at home and communicate have been replaced by more sophisticated arguments (Mokhtarian 1996). In Toronto, it is estimated that 6.1 per cent of the workforce telecommutes on average for 1.2 days a week (Gratwick 2001). This means that about 1.5 per cent of the workforce telecommutes on any given day and this accounts for about 1.1 per cent of vehicle miles traveled. When considered with total household travel it amounts of 0.7 per cent of all travel. The reductions in the future may be less as commute distances of telecommuters fall closer to average, and as the stimulation effect grows. Mokhtarian’s conclusion is that the aggregate travel impact will remain relatively flat well into the future, even if the amount of telecommuting increases considerably.
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Perhaps there is a greater potential in other activities in Toronto as firms downsize, leaving traditional city locations and have a dispersed workforce distributed in locations (even homes) where the labor and overhead costs are much lower (Cervero 1998). Similarly, telephone banking, tele-shopping, catalogue marketing and other services may offer a greater travel reduction potential. These types of transactions are not dependent on a personal contact, as with many work-related activities, but on a purely impersonal relationship. The evidence of the impact of telecommuting and other forms of television-related activities on residential location is not conclusive. As with many other innovations, television related actions allow a wider variety of actions and an increased flexibility in what types of actions can be carried out.
The links between land use, urban form, sustainability and transport are complex, and the role that infrastructure investment can have in this process is unclear. Some would argue for a balance between jobs and housing to minimize trip lengths (Cervero 1989). Others urge neo-traditional neighborhood design to bring the small scale back to cities (Calthorpe 1993). Others look towards transit-oriented development to influence mode choice (Cervero 1994). Yet the outcomes are still unproven as the variety and scale of responses have been substantial. In particular, it seems that it is difficult to get the car user to leave the vehicle at home and use other forms of transport in Toronto. Similarly, the complexity of the labor market and the distribution of facilities means that journey lengths have also become longer (Boarnet and Sarmiento 1996). New investment in transport infrastructure will always facilitate more travel, particularly by car. Even if the investment is in rail or public transport, mode switchers (to public transport) make it easier for non-mode switchers (car drivers) to use their vehicles. Similarly, the new opportunities provided by technology make it easier to carry out work, shopping and business-related activities from home or a local television center. Again this new flexibility provides freedom to organize everyday activities on a user-oriented basis, reducing the intended effects of land use policy interventions.