June 8, 2005

Public transit important element in solving health impacts of smog in York Region

Transportation and health themes of 2005 Smog Summit

NEWMARKET – York Region joined municipalities from across the GTA to discuss transportation issues and commit to smog reducing initiatives at the GTA Clean Air Council’s annual Smog Summit today in Toronto.  Vaughan Regional Councillor Joyce Frustaglio signed the Toronto and Region Inter-Governmental Declaration on Clean Air on behalf of York Regional Council.
“Public transit is critical to York Region’s future economic, environmental and social prosperity,” said Councillor Frustaglio, Chair of the Region’s Health and Emergency Medical Services Committee.  “Our goal is to help our residents make informed personal choices to improve air quality and public health.”
During a municipal roundtable dialogue, Councillor Frustaglio discussed York Region’s many transportation initiatives designed to reduce emissions and improve air quality.
Poor air quality adversely impacts our health and can cause illness in people with heart and lung conditions.  Those at particular risk include young children, the elderly, asthmatics and anyone with existing respiratory or coronary conditions.
Fossil-fuel combustion is a key contributor to air pollution, including smog precursors and greenhouse gases.  Personal vehicles are a major source of these contaminants.  The shift to alternate forms of transportation, such as public transit and carpooling, can greatly reduce these emissions.
In March, 1.35 million passengers used York Region Transit (YRT), making it the highest monthly ridership ever reached by YRT.  Since 2001, YRT has increased each year the number of transit users by 10 per cent.
In September, York Region will launch Viva Rapid Transit.  Viva will link the Region’s urban centres of Markham, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Aurora and Newmarket along four major corridors, including Highway 7 and Yonge Street.  In addition, Viva will link York Region with the City of Toronto and its subway system, to GO Transit, and to the transit systems in the Region of Peel and eventually into Durham Region.
More than 7 million riders in the first year are anticipated, moving 7,000 car trips a day off the major arterial roads.

In addition to implementing a new rapid transit system, York Region supports:
• 20/20 – The Way to Clean Air, a campaign to reduce energy use at home and on the road that York Region promotes in schools, workplaces and in the community.
• the Smart Commute Initiative, which provides sustainable transportation alternatives, such as transit and carpooling, to businesses and residents in the GTA.
• Transportation Management Associations (TMA’s) throughout the Region, including associations in Vaughan and Markham-Richmond Hill and another Smart Commute planned for Newmarket-Aurora.
York Region is also working hard to reduce gridlock.  Two new projects merited support from Transport Canada’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Plan as follows:
• $250,000 to design and deploy an integrated and unified intelligent transportation system (ITS) for transit services
• $250,000 to deploy an adaptive traffic control system for the delivery of traffic management and control services
As outlined in the Declaration, York Region will be jointly involved in the following activities:
• Collaborate with the 20/20 The Way to Clean Air, the One-Tonne Challenge, and the Smart Commute Initiative programs to strengthen and support existing efforts to engage residents in energy conservation activities
• Work on clean air projects with a continuing focus on emission reductions
• Collaborate with, and actively support, the federal government’s development towards the development of an Air Quality Index (AQI) that reflects the combined health effects of simultaneous exposure to key air pollutants
• Consider hosting a cross-border Smog Summit to engage in trans-boundary air quality discussions and strategies with jurisdictions adjoining the Great Lakes
York Region has been a member of the GTA Clean Air Council since 2001.  Other members include five of York Region’s local municipalities:  the Township of King, the towns of Markham, Newmarket and Richmond Hill and the City of Vaughan.  For more information about the Council and the 2005 Smog Summit, visit www.smogsummit.org
For further information on air quality issues, or to obtain a copy of the Smog Alerts booklet or 20/20 The Way to Clean Air Planner Guide, please contact York Region Health Services Health Connection at 1-800-361-5653.
For more information on The Regional Municipality of York and links to our nine area municipalities, please visit our Web site at www.york.ca
Contact:   Tim Paleczny, Corporate Communications, York Region
(905) 830-4444 ext. 1238 or (416) 464-9675 ext. 1238

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