PhD Grad Mischa Young discusses his research on ride-share services – UofT Arts & Science News

November 19, 2020 by Michael McKinnon – A&S News

Mischa Young came to U of T to earn his PhD in the Department of Geography & Planning in the Faculty of Arts & Science so he could better understand where the world is going — or, at least, how to improve the way they are getting there. His research into ride-hailing services like Lyft and Uber examined how this emerging form of mobility may be used to improve the sustainability and equity of our transportation network. As part of his thesis, he also identified segments of the population that benefit from ride-hailing, and more importantly, those who are excluded from it. His work was supported by several awards and scholarships, including U of T’s School of Cities Student Fellowship Award.

Why did you choose U of T and the Department of Geography & Planning? 

I chose to pursue a PhD in the Department of Geography & Planning at U of T because many of its faculty members — and particularly my supervisor — specialize in urban transportation. The University’s interdisciplinary approach was another major reason for choosing this institution, as it enabled me to collaborate with faculty members from different departments and divisions including economics and engineering.

Tell me more about your research into ride-hailing services. 

Despite their growing role within cities, the impacts of ride-hailing services remain contested and largely misunderstood. My doctoral research sought to explore several of the key impacts of ride-hailing on existing transportation systems and their users within the Greater Toronto Area and assess whether policies should be developed to encourage or deter its usage. More specifically, I identified potentially marginalized groups that may be excluded from ride-hailing services and exposed how the benefits of this mode may not be distributed equally. I also examined whether ride-hailing services behave as a substitute or supplement to transit, and proposed solutions to increase the share of pooled ride-hailing trips, such as UberPool.

What would be the best-case scenario result of your work?  

I hope the results from my doctoral work will improve our understanding of the many ways in which ride-hailing services may impact our cities and, in so doing, offer a practical contribution to policymakers seeking to properly regulate this service.

What have you learned through this work? What’s been the big surprise? 

My research suggests that new forms of mobility, such as ride-hailing services, will have an important role to play in the future of urban transportation. A surprise throughout this endeavour was the fast pace at which this industry and field of research evolved. The regulatory policies and level of data availability has changed substantially since I started working on this topic.

How has this work helped set you up for your post-university plans?

As a postdoctoral researcher, I am now building upon my doctoral ride-hailing research and am focusing on the driver side of the equation.

What advice would you give your first-year self?  

Good question. I would tell my first-year self not to worry as much about clearly defining the scope of my doctoral research. These things tend to solve themselves along the way.

What have been some of your most memorable experiences at U of T?

Among the many memorable experiences at U of T, one that particularly stands out is the many hours spent at the Graduate Student Union Pub with my lab mates from the Spatial Analysis of Urban Systems Laboratory (SAUSy lab).

What’s next for you?

Since graduating from U of T, I have started a postdoctoral researcher position at the University of California, Davis’ Institute of Transportation Studies. In this role, I am working closely with the State of California’s Air Research Board to find ways to reduce transport-related greenhouse gas emissions.

This article was originally published by UofT Faculty of Arts & Science News 

Professors Ron Buliung and Michael Widener discuss accessibility in Toronto – The Varsity

Transportation and grocery store distribution make Toronto inaccessible, UofT experts say
Professor Ron Buliung and Michael Widener talk to the Varsity about the urban design decisions that create city-wide barriers. 

“Despite the Toronto government’s commitment to creating an accessible and inclusive city — through legislation such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 and the Ontario Human Rights Code — Toronto’s urban design remains centred around able-bodied individuals, according to Ron Buliung, a professor in U of T’s Department of Geography & Planning.”

“Michael Widener, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography & Planning, explained that individuals’ time, financial, or mobility constraints can hinder their ability to secure adequate nutrition. In a 2015 paper, Widener discussed how the traditional method of measuring access, identifying “food deserts” — residential areas that are not proximate to supermarkets — has not been a useful measure of food accessibility.”

Click here to read the full article.

MScPl students Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie and Lena Sanz Tovar share insights on Regent Park – Spacing Magazine

MScPl students Keisha St. Louis-McBurnie and Lena Sanz Tovar publish two articles in Spacing Toronto about Regent Park, exploring the changing discourses and narratives as a result of revitalization and the realities of the Regent Park Social Development Plan.

Web GIS for Health Measures – a three workshop series presented by the GeoHealth Network and Esri Canada

The GeoHealth Network is thrilled to partner with Esri Canada to offer a 3-workshop series titled Web-GIS for Health Measures running Oct 9th, Oct 23rd, and Nov 6th from 1 – 3 pm EST online. Registration is free.

Click here to learn more and register. 


Professor Ron Buliung gives talk on childhood disability, access to education and transportation

Professor Ron Buliung gives talk titled “Childhood Disability, Access to Education and Transportation” as part of a TRAM Equity in Transport Seminar Series

Job Posting – Postdoctoral Fellow in Transportation/Planning/Suburbs/Justice

Overview of the Position:

Rapid urbanization is transforming suburban peripheries world-wide, creating immense
transportation-related social and environmental problems that threaten human health and
wellbeing. Recognizing this as a significant global challenge, the University of Toronto
Scarborough has created the Suburban Mobilities Cluster of Scholarly Prominence led by Dr.
Steven Farber to research four interdisciplinary challenges: rising suburban inequalities,
improving transportation design and technology, climate change, and resilience to shocks. More
information about Suburban Mobilities can be found in here.

We are seeking a single candidate for a term lasting up to three years (with the potential to
renew) to join the research team as a main contributor to the cluster’s activities in advancing new
research approaches, developing partnerships and engagement, and creating student support and
embedded training opportunities.

Click here to read the full job posting.

MscPl students/alum question the lack of diversity in planning – Spacing Magazine

Student Ruth Belay, alum Abigail Moriah, Saquib Ahsan, and Gervais Nash provide insights in Spacing Magazine on Why is urban planning so white? sharing research results from a study conducted by MscPl students in 2019 and presented to MIPOC

“Critiques of contemporary urban planning have urged the profession to critically reflect on systemic issues affecting both the profession and dominant planning approaches. In a profession charged with planning for the coming generations of people living in urban and rural settings, we must ask why the professionals employed to carry out this work do not reflect the diversity of the Canadian communities they plan.

In the absence of this diversity, how can planning understand the contexts of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (POC) communities, as well as address the issues these communities face: displacement, gentrification, socio-economic polarization, food insecurity, homelessness and gun and police violence.

In 2019, a team of University of Toronto masters in planning students sought to answer the question within the scope of the Greater Toronto region. They posed this research question: what experiences did Black, Indigenous, and other persons of colour have in navigating their planning education and work life?”

Click here to read the full article. 

Click here to learn more about MIPOC.

Professor Steven Farber and Mischa Young examine the wait-time of Uber’s wheelchair accessible service (UberWAV) in Toronto – Transport Findings

Click here to read their results.

Alum Kara Naklicki shares tips on career building and her experiences working for the City of Toronto – UofT Arts & Science News

“A lot of times, organizations are just doing the status quo, and if someone has a really well-thought-out idea that has the potential to move their work forward, they’re definitely willing to consider it. With an open job posting, there might be hundreds of people applying. If you’re proposing unique things, you have no competition.”

Click here to read the full article. 

Matti Siemiatycki discusses city improvements for the ‘new normal’ – Arts & Science News

“We need to build back better, do things differently, respond to the health challenges that have arisen from the pandemic. The housing crisis must be addressed and conditions improved for low wage workers. And we need to do things like improve bus service in the inner suburbs, invest in dedicated bike lanes and make the city more walkable and not so dominated by cars.

In short, we need to rebuild a society that’s more equitable, sustainable and just.”

Click here to read the full article.