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2008 Transportation

Regional Municipality of Durham, Regional Municipality of Halton, City of Hamilton, Regional Municipality of Peel, City of Mississauga, City of Toronto, Regional Municipality of York

Smart Commute Initiative

Population: 6,060,500 (Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area)

Smart Commute was launched in 2004 as a collaborative initiative to reduce traffic and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Smart Commute encompasses a variety of programs, including carpooling, cycling, and work arrangements such as telework and compressed work weeks, among others. Today, the Smart Commute initiative is delivered in 10 areas of the GTHA in partnership with Metrolinx, municipal governments, non-profit organizations, local universities, boards of trade and chambers of commerce. More than 75 businesses have signed on, representing over 200,000 commuters. From 2004 to 2007, the project reduced the total number of vehicle kilometres travelled in the region by 75 million and GHG emissions by 17,400 tonnes.


As Canada's largest urban area, the GTHA is home to more than six million Canadians. Each day, more than seven million car trips are made within this region. Cars offer people a convenient and familiar way to commute to and from work, but the effects of daily commuting include poor air quality, greater stress in people's lives, a high demand on roads and the highway system, and GHG emissions that contribute to climate change.

The first Smart Commute in the region was launched as the Black Creek Regional Transportation Management Association (TMA) in 2001. It served the area around York University in Toronto's north end. In just one year, Smart Commute had a significant effect on the amount of car travel to the university.

The success of the Black Creek program led municipalities in the GTHA to look at expanding and replicating the initiative. Nine additional transportation management associations and a regional coordinating body were created. These organizations were created as a partnership between municipalities known as the Smart Commute Initiative. The initiative officially began as a three-year demonstration project in May 2004 with funding from Transport Canada's Urban Transportation Showcase Program. By working together and across boundaries, local governments were able to sell Smart Commute to more people in more parts of the region.


  • More than 5,000 people currently use Carpool Zone to arrange carpooling online. Nearly 100 new users register each week.
  • More than 350 stories and feature articles about Smart Commute appeared in major print, web, and broadcast media in the region from 2004 to 2007.
  • In November 2006, a year after the launch of Carpool Zone, 17 per cent of people in the region knew about the service. The same survey showed that 10 per cent of commuters in the region recognized the Smart Commute name.
  • Thanks to support from Smart Commute, the Carpool Zone migrated to Guelph, London, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Peterborough.
  • Many of Smart Commute's municipal partners have included funding and resources in their annual budgets to support the venture. In the Region of Peel, the development charge bylaw now includes a fee to cover Transportation Demand Management (TDM) planning. In effect, developers are helping to pay the municipality not to build new roads. The commitment to Smart Commute means that developers have to find new ways to deal with the traffic effects of their development.

Lessons Learned

  • SET UP A STRUCTURE FOR COLLABORATION. "To make this project work, we found that having each of the municipalities sign a Memorandum of Understanding at the beginning meant everyone was committed and willing to take responsibility," says Ryan Lanyon of Smart Commute. "The structure we set up also meant that the steering committee had both the flexibility and the authority to make decisions on substantial items."
  • COMMUNICATE WELL AND OFTEN. The need to keep many partners informed had to be balanced with the partners' need to provide input to the project. At the outset, the project focused on face-to-face meetings, says Lanyon. Between meetings, "it was productive to communicate by e-mail." The central coordinating group included a technical committee that adopted an open communication style. "We were not top-down. We wanted people to be able to talk to each other, TMA to TMA," he adds.
  • LET PEOPLE CUSTOMIZE YOUR PRODUCTS. The resources produced by the Smart Commute project were designed so that they could be tailored to meet local needs. "We recognized that different regions and groups were promoting the same ideas for different reasons."

Partners and Collaboration

  • City of Burlington
  • City of Brampton
  • City of Vaughan
  • Town of Oakville
  • Town of Milton
  • Town of Caledon
  • Town of Markham
  • Town of Richmond Hill
  • Town of Newmarket
  • Metrolinx
  • Universities of Ryerson, York, and Toronto (Mississauga)
  • Non-profit groups such as the Clean Air Partnership
  • More than 75 businesses
Page Updated: 21/12/2015