Our 2020 in Review: How we adapted to COVID-19 and what’s next for pointA

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2020 was a strange year for everyone, and pointA was no exception to this year’s unique challenges and opportunities. This year was all about transition and exploration at pointA, as we continue to innovate and connect with more stakeholders to improve transportation across the GTHA region.

When the pandemic lockdown began in March, the most pressing challenge for many organizations was how to transition operations to a remote work environment. As an organization that has spent the past few years preparing for more remote work, we shared what we learned in a free webinar and launched remote work consultations to help other smaller organizations learn remote work best practices.

However, we recognize that not everyone can work remotely, and have been working on adapting our shuttle and Smart Commute programming to COVID-19. We continue to operate our two shuttles on reduced schedules, with additional safety measures.

This year, we adjusted our campaigns to encourage more active travel. With more people working from home, our campaigns took more of a community focus, encouraging active travel for more than just the commute to work.

This summer, in partnership with York Region, Smart Commute Markham Richmond Hill and Smart Commute Central York, we ran a campaign to promote active travel and healthy living in response to the challenges of COVID-19.

The Design the New Normal campaign offered a series of webinars as well as a contest to get those who live or work in York Region thinking about how they can incorporate more active travel into their daily lives. The campaign offered three webinars on cycling, which covered topics such as basic maintenance, route planning, biking with kids, and more. We also offered a webinar on the health benefits of walking and tips for route planning, as well as a webinar on how to stay productive while working from home.

The campaign had nearly 150 participants, with 90% of participants reporting that the webinars and other campaign resources helped them cycle and walk more often, and 62% of participants reported that the webinars and other resources helped them feel more productive when working from home.

In collaboration with York Region, Smart Commute Markham Richmond Hill and Smart Commute Central York, we organized a photo contest campaign called Ride and Seek to encourage more recreational cycling in the region. The campaign was part of Bike Month, which is an annual celebration of cycling, with community events across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area and Guelph. Overall, Bike Month had 72 events and 2,780 participants across the region.

The campaign was developed to encourage cycling in lieu of organizing group rides, which were not possible this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. To qualify for a gift card prize draw, participants had to submit photos of their bike at various landmarks across York Region. Over 600 photos were submitted, and over 150 people registered to participate in the campaign.

We are working on adapting the Smart Commute program to continue promoting sustainable forms of travel. Even though many people continue to work from home, traffic levels have been on the rise since the city entered Stage 3 of reopening in July, and the roads continue to be busier than when the province was in full lockdown in the spring.  We’re working with York Region and City of Toronto to develop new offerings within the Smart Commute program to keep the region moving sustainably and reduce congestion, regardless of whether the commute is to work.

This year, pointA also worked on a number of initiatives outside the Smart Commute program to further our impact on transportation across the region by collaborating with many different organizations.

pointA has had the privilege of working with many governments, post-secondary institutions, healthcare organizations including large hospitals, and medium-to-large businesses from all sectors throughout its nearly twenty-year history to deliver sustainable transportation solutions and encourage long-term reduction of single-occupant vehicle use.  We recognize that our work, combined with the efforts of our clients, partners, and funders contribute to helping our region achieve the net-zero emissions reductions goals.

But we know we can do more. At the end of 2019, we began looking at more holistic, systems-based approaches to helping us reach the net-zero emissions future that will benefit us all. We recognize that we are stronger together and that pointA has a unique position of working across many different types of organizations and sectors to make this happen. This work, done through cluster development, builds on the strong but fragmented sustainable transportation sector in our region.

We started off by understanding the sustainable transportation sector, working with the City of Toronto’s Economic Development & Culture department, and then focusing on government policy in jurisdictions around the world. To solve transportation problems, understanding the role of government in supporting the sustainable transportation cluster is crucial. Working with governments can help facilitate more connections between different organizations to achieve common goals, such as reducing delivery truck congestion and creating safer, more sustainable cities. This culminated in a webinar hosted by the TCI Networklooking at Canadian green clusters, including sustainable transportation.

The BRIDGE is a multidisciplinary space that spans teaching, study, research, and experiential learning for business, finance, and entrepreneurship in a partnership between UTSC’s Department of Management and the UTSC Library. The BRIDGE helps community organizations such as pointA tackle some big issues and challenges by bringing the skills, research, and new ideas to the table.

One of the issues that pointA is tackling is the concept of road safety. While there are many negative impacts of COVID-19, a positive one was the rise of cycling especially across many parts of Ontario. However, studies have consistently shown that concerns about safety is the main barrier that prevents more people from cycling. We recognize that what is considered ‘safe’ differs from person to person and is not just limited to the concern of sharing the road with cars. It is very important that as champions of cycling, we must understand how the intersection of race, gender, and class affect the definition of safety so that we can offer solutions that allow for everyone to cycle, not just certain populations.

UTSC Management students investigated the various safety concerns that prevent more people from cycling, and made recommendations on potential solutions and ways that pointA, Cycle Toronto, and Share the Road can encourage more people to cycle. We look forward to expanding on this work in 2021.

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our daily lives, including the way we get around. Thank you to our board, clients, partners and City of Toronto, York Region and City of Vaughan for supporting all our work this year, and special thanks to our two temporary team members who joined us this year – Julia Rojas-Contento and Yuze Jiang. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with our clients, municipalities and other stakeholders on developing innovative programming to address the challenges of COVID-19 and continue to promote sustainable transportation across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.


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