A Transportation Innovation Zone (TIZ) is a geographic area that hosts testing of transportation and public realm approaches and technologies in a real-world environment. A TIZ has been established at Exhibition Place. The City is also developing a Transportation Innovation Challenge program to invite and manage Trials at that site and, in the future, in other areas of the city.
By establishing a controlled public testing site with transparent monitoring and evaluation, and inviting third parties to conduct trials, we can learn about emerging technologies while supporting local innovation initiatives. The program will last until at least 2025.
The City is developing the TIZ and the Transportation Innovation Challenges to learn about emerging transportation technologies and approaches and how they could meet some of Toronto’s transportation needs. The program will facilitate trials by industry and academic actors in the real-world environment of Toronto’s streets. With careful design, this program can support research and development, grow local economic activity and talent, and advance the City’s mobility-related goals such as Vision Zero, accessibility, and TransformTO.
Also referred to as “testbeds” and “living labs,” the concept of providing space in a city to trial new innovations is being explored in many places around the world. Models range from purpose-built test tracks (Singapore), city-wide test zones (Torino, Italy), challenge-based partnerships with participation funding (TransLink in Vancouver), and testing on City-owned assets (Calgary).
Technologies and approaches that could be tested include those that use streets and sidewalks for the movement of people and goods, improve transportation operations, or improve the streets and sidewalks themselves. They will be demonstrated, monitored and evaluated in a controlled, real-world environment to understand potential benefits and impacts to key variables like safety, accessibility and privacy.
City Council asked staff to develop the TIZs in October 2019 as part of the Automated Vehicles Tactical Plan. In July 2020, City Council asked staff to work with Exhibition Place to establish a TIZ at Exhibition Place. A Transportation Innovation Challenge program was approved by City Council in May 2021. The first official Challenge is anticipated to be issued in Fall 2021.
The City of Toronto and Exhibition Place (an agency of the City) are working together to establish the first, flagship TIZ at Exhibition Place.
Exhibition Place is Canada’s largest entertainment and business events venue, attracting over 5.5 million visitors a year. The 192-acre urban waterfront site is an integral component of Toronto and Ontario’s economy. This landmark destination combines urban parkland with business events, sports and entertainment in Toronto’s western downtown has been a hallmark of innovation for over a century.
As a testing site, the buildings and infrastructure offer a dynamic urban environment with a range of infrastructure including roads, local and regional transit, sidewalks, cycling lanes, intersections, parking areas, indoor facilities, electric vehicle chargers and more.
Exhibition Place’s new Master Plan outlines a vision for Exhibition Place as a place of innovation, inspiration and economic development, alongside other pillars in the plan.
Collaborating and co-producing knowledge with stakeholders and the public is at the core of the TIZs program.
In mid-September 2020, the City hosted four online workshops to gather feedback and recommendations from stakeholders on the proposed Transportation Innovation Framework.
The workshops had a total of 93 participants representing a wide range of organization types and interests and generated over 400 questions, suggestions and ideas. The majority of suggestions were prioritized by participants through collaborative idea rating.
Below are the reports summarizing the Stakeholder workshops:
All results were considered in details, with key suggestions directly influencing and reflect in the draft framework document.
The TIZ concept was first developed in 2018-2019 as part of the Automated Vehicles Tactical Plan, which included consultation with academic institutions, community stakeholders and non-profits, automotive and technology industry members and associations, international experts, and the public.
The City has also received public input about the use of digital technology through the City’s Digital Infrastructure Plan.
In total, these consultation processes recorded the opinions of thousands of residents and hundreds of organizations, contributing to the core values, principles and general concept for the Transportation Innovation Framework.
The first official Transportation Innovation Challenge is anticipated to be issued in Fall 2021.
In December 2020, the City issued a Call for Applications and Application Form for organizations developing new technologies to clear snow or apply salt to sidewalks. This Automated Sidewalk Winter Maintenance Challenge would be a first-of-its-kind pilot Transportation Innovation Challenge at the new TIZ at Exhibition Place. Applications closed on December 18, 2020 and the City is working with applicants to determine next steps.
To inform the Automated Sidewalk Winter Maintenance Trial, CAVCOE (formerly The Canadian Automated Vehicles Centre of Excellence) conducted a market scan to determine the current state of automated sidewalk winter maintenance technology, the current research and development needs, and the applicability to winter maintenance challenges in the City of Toronto. The executive summary of this research report is available here.
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