Toronto considers alternative energy tactics to attract staff in electric cars

The Toronto city council is considering a range of reforms to make the municipal government more attractive to staff as they prepare to shift to electric vehicles.

The city has a target to get 10% of the city’s fleet in electric vehicles by 2021, aiming to make it carbon neutral. Fines for non-compliance and fines for failing to replace outmoded vehicles in the fleet have had some success, however: by the end of August, the city said it had fully replaced 27% of vehicles in the fleet with new-technology ones.

That is still far behind the Ottawa, a city that has an even higher target to get 100% of its vehicles in electric-powered form by 2025.

On Thursday, more than 200 employees of Toronto and surrounding municipalities met at city hall to explore how the city can be more appealing to staff looking to switch to environmentally friendly vehicles.

The head of Toronto’s fleet, Jackson Sewell, said at the meeting that at least two out of every five large business vehicles the city buys is an electric-powered Ford E-Series, but he is aiming to move to all electric.

Asked if he had any plans to incentivize or reward employees looking to switch to electric-powered vehicles, he said: “It’s one of a myriad of things that we’re taking a look at.”

The head of Toronto’s environment commissioner said staff have been conducting thorough reviews of how the city works to decide which of their bills will be met by the city, which items are eligible for annual rebates, and which incentives have been most effective.

“We’re all trying to make sure, in our model, that the best tools of the trade are developed. We’re trying to create best practices,” said Kathryn McGarry.

The ideas under consideration include setting up “vehicle carshare” or “mobility services” where workers can use electric vehicles. Some ideas include allowing workers to charge their cars in off-site parking spaces, or to rent vehicles through online parking services. The staff are also looking into how to incentivize people into using an electric car.

Further recommendations include scrapping blueprints that favour a diesel-powered motorcycle and similar vehicles, saying in its current incarnation it is not a feasible option for the city. Other suggestions include redesigning the public spaces where large vehicles park, looking into the potential use of electric bikes at transit stops, and using other areas where parking is less desirable to lower carbon emissions, such as the public urinals.

The city is also working on the use of government fleets for other uses that would reduce emissions, such as the use of transit to obtain goods and services. “Those small activities can begin to trickle up. They’re still small, but they’re certainly starting to move the needle,” said McGarry.

On Monday, the city council will vote on a resolution that addresses the shift to electric cars, including supporting further research on how the city can attract younger and more professional workers.

“We want our younger employees to be able to take electric vehicles and, like most of their peers, do so in all forms,” said Blake Mirdown, councillor and chair of the environment and corporate services committee.

Mirdown says the city is aiming to boost participation in car-sharing programs by providing enhanced access to bike parking in all of the city’s main roads. “We want to see staff using the public transportation, and in fact we’re seeing in private business that you can’t do that unless you have a bicycle parking infrastructure,” he said.

The staff are also working on an option to provide free charging for residents and others who need them.

• This article was amended on 2 October 2019 to correct the sentence, “causes carbon to add to the atmosphere”. An original version said: “causes carbon to add to the atmosphere.”

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