The City of Toronto is concerned about the health and well-being of all residents of Toronto. And Transportation Services continues to take steps to develop policies and programs aimed at improving air quality and energy efficiency. From eliminating unnecessary vehicle idling to installing energy efficient street lights to the introduction of new street sweepers that clean our roads, Transportation Services is committed to the environment. Here are just a few ways that Transportation Services is making difference.
Transportation Services supports Beautiful Streets
The City’s Beautiful Streets is a program designed to keep public spaces free of litter, increase the number of beautiful gardens and trees on our streets, enhance public areas with hand-painted murals, and find ways to ensure streets and local architecture are the best they can be.
See some of the ways that Transportation Services is supporting the program.
Clean Roads to Clean Air Program
In 2003, the Clean Roads to Clean Air Program (CRCA) was initiated by Transportation Services’ Operational Planning and Policy Unit and Toronto Environment Office’ Air Quality Improvements Branch and through a number of air quality studies and tests, a standard process, along with efficiency criteria, were developed and used to evaluate various street sweeper technologies. Specifically, the technologies were evaluated on their efficiency in removing fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5 – both considered toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act) from roads, the concentration levels of fine particulate matter entrained into the air while sweeping, and their ability to operate year-round effectively, including during winter periods, and under various sweeping conditions typically encountered in Toronto.
The CRCA Program defined a process that made it possible to obtain quantitative results of a street sweeper’s operational and PM efficiency and provided the justification for the City to proceed with the acquisition of 25 new regenerative-air street sweepers. These new sweepers are capable of removing a significant amount of fine particulate matter from the City of Toronto’s paved roads year-round.
Testing protocols were developed, along with efficiency criteria to evaluate the operational and particulate matter removal efficiency of various street sweeper technologies. The evaluation process has provided a framework for continuous development of new operational practices and procedures, ensuring that the City’s street sweeping service is delivered in a safe, environmentally sustainable, efficient and effective manner.
The new sweepers will contribute to a reduction in airborne fine particulate matter, at street level, by at least 21%. Fine particulate matter is one of the two most significant “criteria air contaminants” in Toronto. An improvement in air quality will be beneficial to the general health of City’s residents, workers and visitors, and will significantly reduce the number of cases of acute and chronic exposure to fine particulates. An additional benefit in removing toxic loads from the streets is that most of the particulate matter that was washed down into catch-basins and the storm sewer system will be significantly reduced. This will result in improved stormwater quality and a reduction in the cost of stormwater treatment. Furthermore, the replacement of the less efficient and ageing fleet of mechanical street sweepers with new regenerative-air types will reduce maintenance costs and improve the level of street sweeping service across the City.
A number of divisions were consulted throughout the process including: Fleet Services, Public Health Services, Legal Services, Toronto Water and the Purchasing and Material Management Division.
Idling by-law aimed at improving air quality in city
A row of buses belches out exhaust in front of one of the city’s popular tourist attractions. A line of taxis sit idling while waiting for customers. Cars wait outside office buildings with engines running while their owners run inside to do business.
The result is thousands of vehicles each day idling their engines. And that’s bad news for the air we breathe.
As a result, the City of Toronto has introduced an anti-idling by-law aimed at eliminating unnecessary idling.
Contaminants from vehicle exhaust are major contributors to deteriorating air quality in Toronto. Recent studies from several health agencies link a number of contaminants from vehicle emissions to significant respiratory health effects. Reducing these contaminants is the goal of the city’s anti-idling by-law.
The by-law limits idling to no more than one minute in a given 60-minute time period. The by-law allows transit vehicles to idle when picking up or discharging passengers and also allows limited idling when transit vehicles are waiting for passengers. As well, the by-law provides for idling during extreme outdoor temperatures to ensure heating or cooling inside a vehicle.
If caught illegally idling, the vehicle operator faces a fine of up to $5,000.
In addition to the environmental costs, there are other reasons not to leave your vehicle idling. It has been estimated that three per cent of Ontario’s fuel is wasted by idling. An idling diesel engine will burn about 2.5 litres per hour. An idling gasoline engine will burn about 3.5 litres per hour. Ten seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting the engine.
There are some alternatives to idling. It is better to warm up an engine by driving it rather than idling. Warm up times are reduced to half and fuel consumption is reduced. Also, if you are concerned about turning off the engine because it may not restart, a well maintained starter system and engine is a better alternative to idling.
New street sweepers will improve air quality
The Transportation Services Division is always looking for better methods to clean the streets as well as to improve the air that we all breathe. A plan to add new, technologically advanced street sweepers to the current fleet is expected to both improve air quality and the delivery of road cleaning service.
According to recent studies, a major source of fine particulate matter in our air comes from fine road dust. The source of this fine road dust comes mainly from the wearing down of asphalt, rubber tires, brake discs and brake pads of motor vehicles. The City’s current fleet of street sweepers have only limited ability to remove fine road dust and are even more limited in their ability to contain it from dispersing into the air.
That’s where the new sweepers come in. They are capable of removing and containing over 90 per cent of the fine road dust from road surfaces. Removing this road dust will lead to a substantial improvement in the city’s air quality. These new machines will also be able to operate year round and help Transportation Services to avoid the winter build up of debris and fine particulate matter and the need for a spring cleaning catch-up.
Currently, during smog days, roads are not swept as part of the Transportation Services’ Smog Response Plan. With the City experiencing more than 45 smog days in 2005 alone, Transportation Services has struggled to keep up with the expected level of street sweeping service. The division will be evaluating the use of the new sweepers during Smog Days to maintain the street sweeping service levels and also to reduce the amount of fine particulate matter in the air. These new sweepers can remove dust and debris without creating any accompanying dust clouds.
And there’s another benefit – this time for our water. The new sweepers will substantially reduce the amount of fine road dust being washed down catch-basins into the sewer system. The benefits will be improved storm water quality and reduced water treatment cost at our treatment plants.
Improving air quality has been a goal for the Transportation Services Division for a long time. A report from the City’s Health Department called “Air Pollution Burden of Illness in Toronto” indicated that chronic exposure to fine particulate matter contributes to about 1,200 premature deaths annually and a cause of respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
Taking actions to improve the quality of equipment such as street sweepers goes a long way toward improving overall human health, air and stormwater quality in the community and the delivery of road cleaning in a cost effective manner.
New traffic lights bring city energy savings
Things are looking a little brighter for the city’s traffic lights these days.
New lights being installed at the City’s traffic signals will result in significant energy savings and a reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The technology called LED (Light Emitting Diode) will also be used for the City’s Walk/Don’t Walk pedestrian signs.
In 2003, the City’s Transportation Division completed a pilot project in conjunction with the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, using the new technology at 10 locations. The study determined that the new lighting resulted in an 84 per cent reduction in energy used.
The conversion to the new technology will pay immediate dividends. The new lights will save more than 18 million kilowatt hours a year, providing an energy savings of about $1.8 million annually. In addition, a reduction of five million kilograms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is projected as a result of the new lighting.
Regional municipalities such as Peel Region and York Region are in the process of converting their traffic lights as well. A number of municipalities in the United States, particularly in California, where energy consumption is a major issue, have adopted the new LEDs.
With energy savings on everyone’s mind these days, these new lights are a shining example of the city’s efforts to reduce energy usage.
Water based-paint for roads reduces air pollution
Sometimes the smallest things can mean a lot.
Take, for example, the paint that Transportation Services uses to mark the lanes on our roads. You wouldn’t think that the type of paint used for this job would affect the air we breathe. But it does.
In the past, the city has used oil-based paints to indicate traffic lanes and the centre line of the roadway. But recent studies have shown that oil-based paints contain higher than recommended amounts of materials (called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs) that are a major contributor to air pollution. Water-based paints, on the other hand, contain significantly less pollutants that cause ground level ozone (smog) than oil-based paint.
For that reason, the City has recently made the switch. The move to water-based paint will result in a reduction of more than 100,000 kilograms of VOCs on our roads this year. VOC emissions will be reduced by as much as 78% by using water-based paint.
In addition to using water-based paint, the City is also using more durable markings on the roads. While they cost more, they last three to five times longer than painted markings. The city is also continuing to experiment with new pavement marking products in an effort to improve our commitment to the environment.