17 Nov Who knew active mobility could be so fun and colourful? 8 80 Cities at Ajax Pumpkinville
On a mild October afternoon, I found myself fumbling on the ground at a park in Ajax, Ont. with a handful of kids, all tangled with strings of colourful ribbons. How did I get here?
Ajax is a commuter suburb about 30 minutes east of Toronto. Dedicated to moving toward sustainable mobility, the Town of Ajax has set an ambitious goal to convert 30 per cent of all trips to walking, biking and transit by 2031.
This is no easy task, as Ajax, like many other suburbs, was built around the automobile. With future infrastructure still being debated and planned, and certainly years away from completion, Ajax needs to find other ways to tackle the issue of congestion and, of course, to meet their 2031 goal.
Enter “transportation demand management,” or TDM. TDM is a set of strategies and policies aiming to adjust people’s travel behaviours, so there is less demand, or at least a better distribution of it, on our roads and highways. One such strategy is to encourage alternatives to driving, from walking to taking public transit to telecommuting. Now the challenge is to get the word out and help people change their habits.
The Town of Ajax teamed up with 8 80 Cities to design and run an awareness campaign, #GetAjaxMoving, promoting five alternative mobility options to its residents: walking, biking, public transit, carpooling and telecommuting. The team developed a set of free interactive transportation toolkits packed with facts, tips and monthly challenges to help people make the switch.
We also reached out to residents at different community events. Pumpkinville was one of them. Held every October, Pumpkinville is one of the most popular family events in town. Why, you ask? Every resident who attends receives a free pumpkin! Determined not to miss this golden opportunity to engage residents, the team set up a drop-in booth and gave out the toolkits and some other useful resources.
In addition to the booth, we created an interactive game about active mobility. In the game, we asked people to reimagine the way they would travel to everyday destinations, such as work, school or parks, if they were to leave their car at home. With a ribbon colour-coded to the mode of transportation they chose, they had to connect their start and end points as if they’d made the actual trip. Many kids who grew up in the suburb were stumped by the idea of life without a car! Soon, the ribbons became a beautiful, intertwining web of active mobility as residents pictured a different future for their community.
Pumpkinville was lot of fun and certainly a hit among young families, and our community outreach work doesn’t stop there. We are organizing another round of pop-up engagement events on Nov. 26, from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Ajax Public Library and noon to 4 p.m. at the Ajax Community Centre. Find out more at ajax.ca/getajaxmoving. Stay tuned for more.