Posts Tagged: Shoshanna Saxe

Toronto’s COVID-19 bike lane expansion boosted access to jobs, retail: U of T study

A study by U of T Engineering researchers found Toronto’s temporary cycling infrastructure increased low-stress road access to jobs and food stores by between 10 and 20 per cent, and access to parks by 6.3 per cent (photo by Dylan Passmore)

With COVID-19 making it vital for people to keep their distance from one another, the city of Toronto undertook the largest one-year expansion of its cycling network in 2020, adding about 25 kilometres of temporary bikeways.

Yet, the benefits of helping people get around on two wheels go far beyond facilitating physical distancing, according to a recent study by three University of Toronto researchers that was published in the journal Transport Findings.

Bo Lin, Shoshanna Saxe, and Timothy Chan.

PhD candidate Bo Lin (MIE) with Professors Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin), and Timothy Chan (MIE), all of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering, used census, city and survey data to map Toronto’s entire cycling network – including the new routes – and found that additional bike infrastructure increased low-stress road access to jobs and food stores by between 10 and 20 per cent, while boosting access to parks by an average of 6.3 per cent.

“What surprised me the most was how big an impact we found from what was just built last summer,” says Saxe, an assistant professor in the department of civil and mineral engineering.

“We found sometimes increases in access to 100,000 jobs or a 20 per cent increase. That’s massive.”

The impact of bikeways added during COVID-19 were greatest in areas of the city where the new lanes were grafted onto an existing cycling network near a large concentration of stores and jobs, such as the downtown core. Although there were new routes installed to the north and east of the city, “these areas remain early on the S-Curve of accessibility given the limited links with pre-existing cycling infrastructure,” the study says.

In these areas, the new infrastructure can be the beginning of a future network as each new lane multiplies the impact of ones already built, Saxe says.

As for the study’s findings about increasing access to jobs, Saxe says they are not only a measure of access to employment but also a proxy for places you would want to travel to: restaurants, movie theatres, music venues and so on.

A map of Toronto’s bikeway network with colours representing the route’s level of stress (image courtesy of Bo Lin)

The researchers used information from Open Data Toronto and the Transportation Tomorrow 2016 survey, among other sources. Where there were discrepancies, Lin, a PhD student and the study’s lead author, gathered the data himself by navigating the city’s streets (as a bonus, it helped him get to know Toronto after moving here from Waterloo, Ont.).

“There were some days I did nothing but go around the city using Google Maps,” he says.

For Lin, the research has opened up new avenues of investigation into cycling networks, including how bottlenecks can have a ripple effect through the system.

The study, like some of Saxe’s past work on cycling routes, makes a distinction between low- and high-stress bikeways to get a more accurate reading of how they affect access to opportunities. At the lowest end of the scale are roads where a child could cycle safely; on the other end are busy thoroughfares for “strong and fearless cyclists” – Avenue Road north of Bloor Street, for example.

“It’s legal to cycle on most roads, but too many roads feel very uncomfortable to bike on,” Saxe says.

For Saxe, the impact of the new cycling routes shows how a little bike infrastructure can go a long way.

“Think about how long it would have taken us to build 20 kilometres of a metro project – and we need to do these big, long projects – but we also have to do short-term, fast, effective things.”

Chan, a professor of industrial engineering in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering, says the tools they used to measure the impact of the new bikeways in Toronto will be useful in evaluating future expansions of the network, as well as those found in other cities.

“You hear lots of debates about bike lanes that are based on anecdotal evidence,” he says. “But here we have a quantitative framework that we can use to rigorously evaluate and compare different cycling infrastructure projects.

“What gets me excited is that, using these tools, we can generate insights that can influence decision-making.”

The U of T team’s research, which was supported by funding from the City of Toronto, may come in handy sooner rather than later. Toronto’s city council is slated to review the COVID-19 cycling infrastructure this year.

ByGeoffrey Vendeville


This story originally published by U of T News

Prof. Shoshanna Saxe among five U of T Engineering researchers awarded Canada Research Chairs


Professor Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin) is among this year’s Canada Research Chairs.

Work is underway in Professor Shoshanna Saxe’s (CivMin) lab to create the world’s largest detailed database of construction materials used in buildings and transport infrastructure.

“Materials are the biggest driver of cost and environmental impact on a construction project,” explains Saxe, whose work investigates ways to align infrastructure provision with sustainability. “But we tend to do a pretty weak job of both understanding what materials we use, and of designing infrastructure projects to increase efficiency.”

Saxe’s team hopes to use the database to find policy and sustainable design opportunities for future projects at a range of scales, from an individual building to a whole neighbourhood, or even an entire city.

“Thoughtful design would make a big impact towards reducing material use, and in becoming better caretakers of both our natural and built worlds,” adds Saxe, who is among five U of T Engineering researchers to be awarded Canada Research Chairs (CRC) today.

Established in 2000, the federal program invests in recruiting and retaining top minds in Canada. It supports research in engineering, natural sciences, health sciences, humanities and social sciences. U of T’s total allotment of research chairs in the CRC program is the largest in the country.

As the new Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Infrastructure, Saxe says the title enables her to accelerate the database project.

“It has allowed me to build out a team of great researchers from the undergraduate, postgraduate and postdoctoral level — all working together towards a shared vision of a more sustainably built environment,” she says, “It will also, I hope, attract more people to work with us.”

Professor Ali Hooshyar (ECE)’s research also focuses on finding sustainable solutions — his work investigates renewable energy systems and smart grids.

Power generation has been consistently ranked as the largest driver of global greenhouse gas emissions. A major obstacle in reducing its environmental impact is remedying the key differences between wind/solar energy and conventional power plants.

“These differences can render the control and protection devices of power grids ineffective, and so they have led to major disturbances and outages in the past few years,” says Hooshyar. “This undermines the future viability of power grids using renewable energy — unless a complete overhaul of control and protection devices are carried out.”

Hooshyar’s team is developing the next generation of control and protection devices to ensure compatibility with green energy systems. And as the new Canada Research Chair in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Hooshyar says his title will help raise awareness beyond the power system protection community about the operational challenges of integrating renewable energy sources.

“It will also facilitate recognition of our research group within industry,” adds Hooshyar. “And the financial resources of the CRC program will help to attract gifted researchers to our group.”

The five U of T Engineering researchers to have new or renewed Canada Research Chairs are:

  • Birsen Donmez (MIE), Canada Research Chair in Human Factors and Transportation (renewed)
  • Ali Hooshyar (ECE), Canada Research Chair in Electrical and Electronic Engineering (new)
  • David Lie (ECE), Canada Research Chair in Secure and Reliable Systems (new)
  • Radhakrishnan Mahadevan (ChemE), Canada Research Chair in Metabolic Systems Engineering (new)
  • Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin), Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Infrastructure (new)

“The Canada Research Chair program opens up opportunities for innovation and industry collaboration, making it possible for our researchers to improve the lives of Canadians, and beyond, in areas such as sustainability and data privacy,” says Ramin Farnood, Vice-Dean, Research at U of T Engineering. “I congratulate our new and renewed CRCs.”

By Liz Do

This story originally posted on Engineering News

Prof. Shoshanna Saxe | Doug Ford’s transit plans: Billions in waste, bad for the planet

March 9, 2020 | The Globe and Mail

Reconciliation through Engineering Initiative to improve transportation and housing in Indigenous communities

Professors Tracey Galloway and Chris Beck in one of the planes used to transport food, supplies and passengers to remote Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario. (Photo courtesy of Chris Beck)

Professors Tracey Galloway and Chris Beck in one of the planes used to transport food, supplies and passengers to remote Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario. (Photo courtesy of Chris Beck)

Mitigating indoor mould and optimizing air transportation in Northern Ontario are the first two collaborative projects between Indigenous community leaders and U of T researchers to get underway through the Reconciliation Through Engineering Initiative (RTEI).

Launched last December by the Centre for Global Engineering (CGEN), RTEI will ultimately identify six projects to improve access to clean drinking water, food security, housing, health care, transportation and communication systems in Indigenous communities across Canada.

All RTEI projects aim to find sustainable engineering solutions through community-driven, multidisciplinary and Two-Eyed Seeing collaborations, leveraging the expertise of both Indigenous community members and U of T researchers specializing in diverse fields.

“In today’s challenging environmental climate, a Two-Eyed Seeing approach to research is critical to building sustainable futures for all,” says Sonia Molodecky, RTEI program lead.

The first project focuses on developing a holistic, land-based mould-mitigation framework for Indigenous housing on Georgina Island in Lake Simcoe, north of Toronto. The work, which can be used to support other First Nations communities across Northern Ontario, is led by Professors Marianne Touchie (CivMin, MIE), Liat Margolis (Architecture), Bomani Khemet (Architecture) and natural building designer Becky Big Canoe of the Chippewas of Georgina Island First Nation.

Mould contamination, which is associated with respiratory illnesses, affects 44% of houses in First Nation communities in Canada. And as Becky Big Canoe has seen first-hand, previous attempts to address the spread of mould were unsuccessful. A key factor of failed mould remediation strategies was the lack of consultations with residents.

“The solutions weren’t sustainable, did not fit the environment or take into account high occupancies,” says Big Canoe, whose prototype of a land-based, high-occupancy house will be incorporated into the team’s ventilation and building-envelope design.

“I think we understand what the technical solutions are,” says Touchie, who will focus on ventilation systems. Khemet will work on the building envelope, and Margolis on the house’s soft-scape surroundings.

“The key to success in this project is actually gaining an understanding of the ways in which communities use their houses, what housing needs aren’t met, and what they’d like to see done differently. That is why Becky’s expertise and prototype will play a vital role in this.”

RTEI’s second project will develop techniques for more efficient air transportation to Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario. The work is led by Professors Chris Beck (MIE), Chi-Guhn Lee (MIE), Shoshanna Saxe (CivMin), Tracey Galloway (Anthropology) and Michael Widener (Geography).

In Northern Ontario, the reliability of air service, both cargo and passenger, is hampered by persistent challenges. These include aging infrastructure, limited weather information and navigational supports, as well as long flight paths between communities and limited emergency supports. These challenges significantly affect food security for these communities, which rely on air transport for their food.

These challenges are further compounded by extreme weather patterns. Even de-icing, a matter perceived as routine in southern Canada, is more complex to operationalize in the North.

In addition to consulting with Indigenous community leaders, the engineering researchers are working closely with Galloway — drawing on her long history of work in remote Northern Canada — and Widener — an expert in geographic systems and the interplay between accessibility and wellbeing — to understand the human impact of their proposed solutions.

In the second collaboration, Beck’s team will work closely with Northern businesses to develop models that optimize travel routes and cargo/passenger transportation.

“We have a lot of research about transportation optimization that’s been developed over the last 50 years, but almost always, this research is within the context of the South, where there’s a market environment and plenty of transportation links,” says Beck, who recently visited the airports in First Nation communities Webequie, Neskantaga and Eabametoong.

Meanwhile, Lee’s team will apply machine learning techniques to manage uncertainty, such as when adverse weather conditions or emergencies lead to a cascading effect of unknowns in air transport operations.

“If there’s an emergency situation where a plane carrying essential supplies can’t land at the optimized destination, we would have to find an alternative that causes the least disruption,” says Lee. “Our work aims to minimize the impact of uncertainty.”

Saxe’s group will analyze the current physical infrastructure of these airports to identify their impact on air service. Her lab is currently engaging with both users and providers of air travel services to learn about their experiences.

“It’s most important that we’re listening to learn about a context different from our lived experiences as Southerners,” adds Saxe.

Researchers across both projects emphasize the importance of taking the time to find the appropriate solutions, rather than developing a quick fix.

“Strange as it sounds, we will spend most of the next year listening: sitting down with experts, decision makers, Elders and community members,” says Galloway. “We need to listen to the larger, ongoing conversation happening in Canada around self-determination for Indigenous people, and ask our partners and collaborators how we can support their goals through research.”

By Liz Do

Story originally posted on U of T Engineering News

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