In My Opinion: Parking pads offer opportunity to meet Toronto’s electric vehicle charging needs

Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford explains the reasons he will be making a motion linking parking pad applications to electric vehicle charging in his In My Opinion column.

By BRAD BRADFORD

COUNCILLOR, WARD 19 BEACHES-EAST YORK

In October, Toronto’s City Council made an important declaration: we are facing a climate emergency. Anyone who saw the rising water levels in Lake Ontario this summer or the weather extremes the world over should agree.

Parking pads are an unexpected policy solution that could help Toronto reduce greenhouse gas emissions to pre-1990 levels as envisioned in our TransformTO plan. The same plan aims to eliminate combustion engine vehicles on our streets by 2050. That’s a bold target.

When you consider that almost 40 per cent of our city’s GHG emissions are caused by combustion vehicles, and more than 80 per cent of that is caused by individually owned cars and trucks, moving to electric vehicles (EVs) is an obvious part of the solution.

That’s why at Toronto and East York Community Council on Nov. 5, I’m tabling recommendations to extend parking pad permissions in my ward, with an important condition: residents must install an EV charger or pay into a system to help build out on-street charging. The goal is to give residents a practical and pragmatic solution to help reduce Toronto’s emissions.

In reality there’s only so much municipalities can do to mandate EV uptake or push the market toward EVs – most of those powers are with the federal and provincial governments.

But, the City can do more to be good partners by getting out of the way of EV ownership. With EV demand increasing exponentially – in the last two years EV ownership in Toronto increased 288 per cent – now is the time to offer our city’s support.

The fact remains that one of our biggest EV challenges is a lack of charging infrastructure, especially downtown and in dense inner-suburbs. If you only have on-street parking, you can’t just run a cord across the sidewalk and onto the street to charge your car.

Lack of charging infrastructure is often cited as the number one reason preventing the transition to EV. The City and Toronto Hydro have been slow to respond, with pilot programs based on providing charging stations in public parking lots, taking years to roll out.

In order to conveniently – and realistically – own an EV in this city you either need a house with a garage, private driveway, or a parking pad for home charging. There’s not much the City can do to create more private driveways or garaged houses, but we do have say over parking pad rules. Along with many of my Beaches-East York residents, I think they offer the best opportunity to increase EV uptake in this city.

Parking pad rules are confusing and inconsistent due to a long history around the issue. Regrettably, parking is politics – and often bogged down in weighty ideological discussions rather than practical solutions for residents.

In the Toronto and East York Community Council area alone there are several different sets of rules and standards for parking pad applications, including a number of areas where new applications are prohibited outright.

In Beaches-East York, residents north of the Danforth face a moratorium on applications. Residents south of Danforth can apply. Like so many of our rules in Toronto, there’s no policy rationale for the divide at Danforth.

If we’re going to achieve our climate goals, we need policies to match. My recommendations to Community Council make the parking pad rules consistent across the ward, while maintaining the environmental requirements, tree protection, and stormwater management requirements.

We’re not creating new tests or standards for getting a parking pad, just applying existing rules to new areas, with the condition of requiring EV infrastructure to be installed or a payment towards it being made.

An EV requirement would be a new approach to existing parking pad rules. I wish we had technology available today that made car ownership unnecessary, not least from a road safety perspective. But the reality is, people rely on their cars. And with governments and markets doing everything they can to encourage EV uptake, the City should play its part too. I hope my colleagues agree.

Brad Bradford is the Councillor for Ward 19 Beaches-East York. He will make his motion on electric vehicle chargers and parking pads to Toronto and East York Community Council on Tuesday, Nov. 5.


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