Infrastructure and Environment

Toronto’s Tree Canopy Target

On December 15, 2021 City Council supported the Infrastructure and Environment Committee recommendation that the City reaffirm Toronto’s target of 40 percent tree canopy cover by 2050 to align with the City’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy.

The Report for Action recommended that:

  1. City Council affirm Toronto’s target of 40 percent tree canopy cover by 2050 to align with the City of Toronto’s TransformTO Net Zero Strategy.
  2. An official arboreal emblem be selected for the City of Toronto.
  3. A report be prepared on recommendations for enhanced enforcement of the requirement for soft landscaping on the City right-of-way or private property as set out in the City’s Zoning By-laws.
  4. A study be done with reporting in the second quarter of 2022 on the correlation between parcels of land with building permits and those exhibiting tree cover loss, as identified in the 2018 Tree Canopy Study.
  5. A review be done with reporting in the second quarter of 2022 on the diameter required for a tree to be protected under the Private Tree By-law.

The Attachments to the Report for Action also contain valuable information:

FoNTRA asked for additional measures that need to be taken now:

  1. Actually protect the private trees that are of protected size.
  2. Strength the Tree Protection By-laws.
  3. Increase enforcement of existing (and hopefully enhanced) Tree Protection By-laws.
  4. Increase replacement planting when trees are to be removed.
  5. Maintain or enhance protection of soft landscaping in the Zoning By-laws.

Chapman Square, Portland, Oregon
Chapman Square, Portland, Oregon by M.O. Stevens, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

i-Tree calculates the economic worth of urban canopies

The photo of Chapman Square in Portland, Oregon, shows big, colourful “price tags” hanging from the park’s giant elm trees. Every tag said something different – one read, “This tree has given $20,000 worth of environmental and aesthetic benefits over its lifetime” – but all trumpeted the benefit of trees.

i-Tree is a state-of-the-art, peer-reviewed software suite from the USDA Forest Service that provides urban and rural forestry analysis and benefits assessment tools. iTree calculates the economic worth of urban canopies down to the dollar. A non-profit group called Tree Pittsburgh used i-Tree to determine that the trees planted along sidewalks and medians throughout the city provided $2.4 million worth of environmental and aesthetic value every year. As the city spends only $850,000 a year on street planting, that’s quite a return on investment.

Using the calculator, it is estimated that it can take up to 30 saplings to replace one mature tree (depending on size and species). The i-Trees program is free and very easy to use. It is being used locally in a tree appreciation program with a local elementary school.

TransformTO – Critical Steps for Net Zero by 2040

Twenty-six recommendations were submitted on December 15, 2021 by the Infrastructure and Environment Committee asking City Council to endorse the targets and actions outlined in the report titled “Transform TO Net Zero Strategy”.

As stated by the City Manager in his Report for Action: “The Net Zero Strategy provides detailed targets and a strategy to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions for the City of Toronto by focusing on the near term Council adopted target of a 65 per cent reduction by 2030 in order to meet net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. Investments in infrastructure, building retrofits, electric mobility, and new energy technologies in present time will result in reduced GHG emissions, create new jobs, improve resident health and quality of life, as well as open up numerous innovative economic opportunities for years to come. The pathway to net zero represents a transformation of the energy system and the built environment, which will require a coordinated mobilization of the City and the Toronto community at a scale where there are few precedents. “

A Supplementary Report was prepared by the Interim Director, Environment & Energy Division incorporating changes based on deputations made by members of the public and comments by Committee members.

The presentation titled “TransformTO: Critical Steps for Net Zero by 2020” provides a summary of the Net Zero Strategy.

FoNTRA submitted a letter expressing strong support for this report and its recommendations but questioned whether the City has a mechanism in place to ensure that its policies are in sync with the City’s approved Climate goals. To strengthen City policies, and to resolve conflicting policies, we believe the City needs a “Climate Tsar” with a mandate to examine proposed policies, and enough heft to ensure that Climate friendly policies are presented to City Council for approval.

MUD - Tiny Mile

Automated Micro-Utility Devices

On September 29, 2021, the Ministry of Transportation posted a proposal on automated micro-utility devices soliciting feedback by November 15, 2021, on a regulatory framework for a provincial pilot project under the Highway Traffic Act. This pilot would allow remote-controlled micro-utility devices, including automated personal delivery devices, for use primarily off-road in places such as sidewalks in Ontario municipalities. This proposal broadly covers devices that will not be defined as a motor vehicle in Ontario, are task-oriented, and operated to primarily provide services such as the delivery of goods and not passengers, and for operation primarily off-road on sidewalks.

Transportation staff reviewed this issue and have submitted comments to the Province after receiving feedback from the Toronto Accessibiity Advisory Committee. Members of the committee as well as deputants pressed that Toronto must work to remove barriers faced by people living with disabilities. This pilot would be yet another dangerous hazard in the public realm for anyone with low mobility, low vision, or using a mobility device as well as children and senior residents.

The Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee unanimously adopted a motion recommending that City Council prohibit the use of, and parking, storing or leaving of micro-utility devices on sidewalks and cycle tracks. Such devices are already prohibited on footpaths, pedestrian ways, and bike lanes, and similar clarity is required for sidewalks and cycle tracks.

On December 2, 2021, the Infrastructure and Environment Committee City adopted the recommendations of the Toronto Accessibility Advisory Committee with additional motions to amend Municipal Code Chapter 886, 950 and 610 and to introduce the necessary bills to give effect to the decisions.

City Council adopted the motions with amendments at the December 15, 2021 meeting. Recommendation #1 was modified to read as follows:

City Council prohibit the use of automated micro-utility devices on sidewalks and cycle tracks, prohibit the parking, storing, or leaving of automated micro-utility devices on highways or sidewalks, and prohibit the stopping of automated micro-utility devices in a cycle track, until the Ontario Ministry of Transportation pilot project is implemented and City Council decides whether to opt-in to the proposed pilot project or forgo participation.

Councillor McKelvie also put motions forward that were approved to (1) issue a Transportation Innovation Challenge in the first half of 2022 to research, explore and support local economic development with respect to micro-utility devices; (2) to consult with various groups and interested stakeholders and members of the public on the potential impacts and benefits from the use of micro-utility devices and report back to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee in the second quarter of 2022 and (3) to report outcomes of the Transportation Innovation Challenge, results from public consultation, best practices in municipal policy and details of the Ministry of Transportation’s pilot project to the Infrastructure and Environment Committee.