The Great Commuter Challenge

On Your Mark. Get Set. Commute!

York Region and Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill encourage local workplace employees to try sustainable modes of transportation in The Great Commuter Challenge. 

Employees from the Town of Richmond Hill greet and congratulate commuters at the end of The Great Commuter Challenge.

By: Samantha Maurice

Date: Wednesday, September 6 2017

What do you get when you combine a driver/carpooler, transit rider and cyclist on the corridors of Highway 7?

The Great Commuter Challenge!

York Region, in collaboration with Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill (SCMRH), embarked on The Great Commuter Challenge.  Three SCMRH workplace employees each a different mode of transportation along the Highway 7 corridor. Who are these challengers, you may ask? Let us introduce you to Leila Oozeer, Luxmi Shanmuganantha and Reena Mistry.

Leila Oozeer (left), Luxmi Shanmuganantha (center) and Reena Mistry (right) put their smiles on display before embarking on The Great Commuter Challenge.

Beginning at the Markham Civic Centre and ending at the Town of Richmond Hill’s municipal offices, each commuter felt confident in their ability to reach their destination in ample time, thanks to the dedicated bike lanes, six traffic lanes and bus rapid transit which are all available along Highway 7.

“I think I’m going to hold up well. I feel confident that I’ll be moving the fastest because of the rapidways and dedicated lanes,” said Luxmi Shanmuganantha, a Transportation Analyst at LEA Consulting, who used the Viva Purple during the challenge.

Yet, every great commute is not without some challenges and each commuter was aware of the obstacles they would potentially face on Highway 7, particularly during the peak hours of the morning rush.

“There is a good chance the transit rider and cyclist could get there before I do, simply because of the bike lane and transit rapidways,” stated driver/carpool commuter Reena Mistry, Transportation Demand Management Coordinator at the City of Markham.

In 2011, York Region began construction on cycling and transit infrastructure on Highway 7 and haven’t looked back since, making sustainable modes of transportation more viable commuting alternatives. The implementation of this infrastructure has proven efficient for pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and drivers. A recent study was conducted, which showed that transit ridership increased by 10% and commuters’ average commuting time is over 30% less than their commute before the implementation of the transit rapidways. Another study showed a seasonal daily average of 134 cyclists using the Highway 7 bike lanes near Valleymede Drive in 2014.

“The cycling experience was great [on Highway 7],” stated Leila Oozeer, a Waste Management Analyst at the Town of Richmond Hill and the first of the challengers to arrive at their end destination in 13 minutes. She adds, “the bike lanes were really easy to use. I liked that extra space between myself and the cars.”

Ms. Shanmuganantha, who was second to arrive at the Town of Richmond Hill in 23 minutes, echoed Ms. Oozeer’s sentiments:

“I really enjoyed my transit experience. It was easy to pay with my PRESTO card and the bus came exactly when it said it would on the YRT app. Once we got into the commute, it was quick. I spent most of my time on my phone and it was nice to have someone else drive for me.”

With safer infrastructure and advancements in technology, cycling and transit experiences have seen vast improvements as many York Region residents are now willing to try sustainable modes of transportation. However, sustainable commuting includes more than just cycling and public transit. Ms. Mistry, who was the last of the commuters, arriving in 26 minutes, found carpooling with another individual to be a great way to travel.

“Driving on Highway 7 was quite busy and many drivers were driving alone. But having someone along for the ride made driving that much more enjoyable,” Ms. Mistry stated.

Carpooling just once or twice a week significantly reduces greenhouse emissions, congestion and lower your vehicle maintenance costs. Even pop culture icons are choosing to carpool, thanks in part to Late, Late Show host James Corden and his viral sensation Carpool Karaoke; where celebrities and public figures join Mr. Corden on his journey to work by singing popular songs from different decades. Choosing this sustainable mode of commuting, not only gets you to work but also allows you to have fun in the process with a coworker or other individual who you may not know well (Side note, I highly advise starting your own carpool karaoke to put some fun in the start of your day)!

The Great Commuter Challenge has proven one thing: your choice of commuting mode greatly impacts your commute satisfaction.  By simply altering commuting options, individuals can experience additional personal, economic and environmental benefits.

To learn more about the workplace programs offered at Smart Commute Markham, Richmond Hill click here, or log your trips and find sustainable commuting options on the Smart Commute Online Tool. Click here for more information on commuting, new infrastructure and transportation in York Region.