Smart Freight Centre Symposium, November 2023

Positive Zero Transport Futures graduate students presented original research at the 2023 Smart Freight Centre Symposium at the University of Toronto on November 10, 2023. The day comprised three sessions: Transforming our Cities for Freight, Transforming Freight in our Communities, and Transforming Technology in Freight.

PhD candidate Sara Torbatian shared her work “Societal co-benefits of zero-emission on-road freight movements.” Using an integrated modelling framework developed for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), Sara examined the air quality and health implications of increased light, medium, and heavy-duty truck electrification. This was done by combining a chemical transport model with spatially and temporally resolved commercial vehicle movements in the GTHA. The analysis was also conducted through an environmental justice lens, evaluating how truck electrification impacts the most disadvantaged communities. The work has concluded that electrification of heavy-duty trucks reduces air pollutant concentrations, and the highest reductions occur in communities with the highest material deprivation.

Yunhong (Doris) Tian shared her work “Image Recognition for Commercial Vehicle Counting & Classification.” In response to a gap in methods to understand the spatial and temporal distribution of trucks, Doris is exploring how traffic video-camera technology can be adapted to estimate truck movements across an entire network. This is done through a combination of traffic simulation, statistical analysis, primary data collection and machine learning. This framework will be used to develop a sampling protocol capable of estimating truck counts on every urban road despite sampling location limitations.

Milad Saedi presented his work “Harnessing the routes of delivery to map urban air quality.” The study explores using mobile air quality samplers installed on courier trucks to develop a model capable of predicting fine particulate matter in downtown Toronto. Using a land use regression model developed with XGBoost algorithms, Milad was able to combine the mobile monitoring from courier trucks with land use, meteorology, and emissions to build robust prediction models. The study’s findings will provide insight into optimizing predictor selection, handling outliers, and the potential of utilizing mobile monitoring to develop enhanced spatial resolution of air quality in urban areas.  

This was the 5th annual Smart Freight Centre Symposium, bringing together government, industry, and nonprofits speakers. The symposium was chaired by Dr. Matthew Roorda, the Canada Research Chair in Freight Transportation and Logistics and a professor in the Department of Civil & Mineral Engineering at the University of Toronto.

International Society of Exposure Science Annual Meeting, “Connecting Communities & Science through Addressing Environmental Exposures”, August 2023

Multiple members from Positive Zero Transport Futures attended the International Society of Exposure Science Annual meeting in Chicago, Illinois, from August 27th – 31st. The theme of the conference, “Connecting Communities & Science through Addressing Environmental Exposures”, explored synergies between academia and communities in identifying, reducing, and improving exposures, with a primary focus on new and re-emerging environmental exposures.

Weaam Jafar, a PhD candidate, presented his work as part of the symposium “Providing Individuals and Communities with Air Pollution Data to Improve Health, Reduce Exposure, Modify Behaviors, or Increase Knowledge.” His presentation, entitled “Citizen Science Approaches for Air Quality Characterization of Localized Sources in Urban Neighborhoods” shared recent findings from fine particulate matter sensors installed by citizen scientists on balconies near dense construction activity in Toronto. Results showed higher PM2.5 concentrations near construction sites, and that survey respondents felt that their air quality was poor and attributed to construction activities and heavy traffic.

PhD candidate Jad Zalzal presented his poster “Integrating Multiple Data Sources to Generate an Emission Inventory for Residential Wood Burning in Quebec, Canada” in the symposium session “Machine Learning in Environmental Exposure Assessment.” This work aims to address gaps in emission inventories for residential wood burning using a novel approach that combines real estate data, socioeconomic, demographic and land use predictors from census data, and survey data. This inventory will be used as an input to a chemical transport model to study the impacts of residential wood burning on air pollution. 

Jad Zalzal also presented his work “Downscaling CTMs with Mobile Air Quality Measurements and Machine Learning: An Investigation of the Impact of Different Vehicle Fleets on Environmental Justice” in the symposium session “Applications of Mobile Monitoring for Environmental Exposures – Design, Opportunities, Challenges and Future Directions.” This study used mobile air quality measurements and land use machine learning models to downscale 1km-resolution chemical transport model outputs to 100m-resolution outputs to better capture intra-urban variability of air pollution concentrations. The findings highlight the importance of high-spatial resolutions on urban air pollution for environmental justice and found that downscaling techniques using land use regression is an adequate approach.

Miranda Doris, a PhD student, presented her research in the facilitated poster session “Oil and Gas Development: Exposure, Health, and Justice.” Her poster, entitled “Modelling Spatial & Temporal Variability of Air Pollution in an Area of Unconventional Natural Gas Operations,” presented recent findings on the development of land use regression models to predict air pollutant concentrations at the homes of pregnant women living near hydraulic fracturing activities. Predictor variables for the regression models were developed using oil and gas production activities, including well operations, facilities, pipelines, road segments and annual emissions data. This work highlights the lack of monitoring of some hydraulic-fracturing air pollutants, including hydrocarbons, near areas of residence. These models will help investigate associations between prenatal exposure to air pollutants related to natural gas extraction and adverse health outcomes.

Shoma Yamanouchi, a Postdoctoral Fellow, presented his poster “Validation of the Polair3D Chemical Transport Model Over Quebec and Analysis of Emission Reduction Scenarios” in the symposium session “Environmental Exposure and Health from a Multi-Regional Perspective.” In this study, the model was validated against surface observations, and was used to analyze changes in population exposure as a result of scenarios affecting traffic and industrial emissions. This was the first dissemination of our team’s validation efforts for Polair3D in a Canadian context. The performance of the model was found to be in line with other models over Canada, and comparable to Polair3D’s performance over Europe.

The ISES 2023 Annual Meeting had the largest number of attendances yet, welcoming over 700 attendees from over 30 different countries. The five-day conference featured 64 different symposium sessions, nearly 350 talks, and 282 posters. Positive Zero Transport Futures is thankful for having such an engaging space to share recent findings of five different ongoing projects.

Emerging Mobility Scholars Conference, “Cause or Solution? Urban Mobility in an Era of Climate Emergency”, June 2023

Positive Zero Transport Futures and the Mobility Network co-hosted the Emerging Mobility Scholars conference on June 22 and 23, 2023, bringing together students and postdoctoral fellows from across Canada and abroad to showcase cutting-edge research on mobility and climate change. This two-day, in-person event was held at the University of Toronto and attracted about 100 attendees.

The event comprised of five sessions featuring graduate student and postdoctoral research talks, alongside a poster session, on topics that included environmental justice, transportation and health, co-benefits of decarbonization, land use and transportation planning, and technological response to climate change. The conference showcased the work of nearly 50 students.

Keynote presentations were delivered by Professors Steve Easterbrook, Eric Miller, and Rebecca Saari, covering topics of net-zero, post-pandemic travel behaviour, and air pollution in a changing climate. Pollution Probe, the Atmospheric Fund and Clean Energy Canada delivered industry perspectives on electric vehicles in the GTHA and Canada, and TransformTO presented Toronto’s strategy for the future of electric mobility.

Presentations and posters were chosen from a Call for Abstracts that closed in March 2023.

The conference was co-chaired by Professors Marianne Hatzopoulou and Eric Miller and was organized by Drs. Shayamila Gamage and Junshi Xu supported by students and postdoctoral fellows from the University of Toronto, the University of Montreal, and Toronto Metropolitan University. All students and postdoctoral fellows attended the conference free of charge.

The Emerging Mobility Scholars Conference provided a unique forum for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in Canada specializing in mobility, transportation, and climate change, to share their work, engage in meaningful discussions, and gain a new understanding of the synergies between transportation, climate, and society. The conference fostered networking opportunities among over 100 emerging Canadian scholars, encouraging collaboration and knowledge exchange to advance sustainable solutions for future mobility and climate challenges.


Mobility Network Summer School 2023: “Measure What Matters: Urban Mobility in an Era of Climate Emergency,” June 2023

The Mobility Network, co-sponsored by Positive Zero Transport Futures, hosted its second annual summer school, “Measure What Matters: Urban Mobility in an Era of Climate Emergency,” on June 20 and 21, 2023, at the University of Toronto. Over thirty students and postdoctoral fellows attended the two-day, in-person workshop.

This year’s summer school focused on evaluating government transportation infrastructure investments in terms of benefits for the economy, climate, and society. The students were guided through a series of mini-lectures and case studies that enabled them to produce a set of performance measures that can be used by government agencies when evaluating the “net zero” impact of investments and policy decisions. The performance measures were then applied to real-world transportation investments, and groups were challenged to draft a policy brief and plain language presentation.

Participants were chosen by applying to the Mobility Network and attended the event free of charge.

The summer school, directed by Drs. Shayamila Gamage and Junshi Xu invited Professors Marianne Hatzopoulou, Daniel Posen and Laura Minet to deliver short lectures on methods to measure travel demand, economic impact, GHG emissions, and social impacts, among other impacts of transport infrastructure projects. Mobility Network Director Professor Eric Miller and Managing Director Dr. Judy Farvolden actively engaged in discussions with the students, providing valuable insights and perspectives. The participating students and postdoctoral fellows were divided into groups, selected a case study, and worked through the process of identifying important indicators, finding methods to quantify these indicators, and preparing a summary of their key findings.

Overall, the summer school offered a valuable and engaging learning experience, fostering critical thinking and effective problem-solving skills among the students. Through practical case studies and interactions with experts, they gained insights into the complex challenges and opportunities related to the impact of transportation investments on the economy, society, and the environment.