Trottier Symposium on Sustainable Engineering, Energy and Design

Full Event

Now that the nations of the world have agreed to act on climate change, and that most of them have set GHG reduction goals, it is time to take serious actions at reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. Since a large fraction of them are consumed – quite inefficiently, moreover – for transporting goods and people, reaching these goals will require major transformations of this sector of activity. So, the Annual Trottier Symposium series will contribute to this mandatory energy transition by dedicating its fourth symposium to the transport sector and the challenges it faces, by exploring a number of possible futures, knowing that many upcoming technologies make a transition to a low-carbon society more likely each day.
Technology alone will not be enough, however. But the introduction of new, disruptive technologies is the occasion to re-evaluate our portfolio of transit tools. And if by the same occasion we revisit the goals of transportation, urban design, and the public and private vision, not only can we obtain environmental benefits, but also economic and social ones.

A successful transition will be more likely if we first ask ourselves the right questions. Ours is: “What’s fuelling the transition?” What will be yours?

Meet our speakers

Anthony Perl

Professor of Urban Studies and Political Science at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver)


This presentation will assess the legacy of urban mobility infrastructure development in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver to identify each city’s point of departure for a post-carbon mobility transition. Options for expanding electric mobility infrastructure will be considered, along with urban development strategies that encourage accessibility by nonmotorised travel. Finally, the role of disruptive mobility agents from autonomous vehicle producers to ride sharing organisations will be examined. The elements of a transition strategy to post-carbon mobility can each be identified on the horizon, but it remains to be seen whether any or all of Canada’s big cities will seize the opportunity to assemble these pieces into an effective package. The stakes for doing so are considerable, and the ability to initiate such a transition would make a material difference in the future resilience of Canadian cities and suburbs

Hervé Levifve

Technical advisor to deputy mayor of Paris in charge of transport, travel, highways and public spaces


Major metropolitan areas, with their high concentration of jobs, dwellings, businesses and visitors, require a huge number of flows to function. While we may have witnessed progress over time in passenger mobility, with fewer individual motorized trips and an increased use of public transit and active modes of travel such as cycling, the picture is different for the mobility of goods: dominated by road transport, with increases in traffic bound up with new forms of consumption. Examining the situation more closely, two contrary forces are found to be at work: a drive towards pooling and rationalization among the bigger players, but fragmentation and multiplication of flows among the smaller ones, such as instant delivery enabled by mobile applications. The logistical ecosystem responds to meet the demands made of it: we get delivered, stores attract crowds, restaurateurs cook, and materials get delivered to construction sites. But at the cost of increases in pollution, congestion and the unpleasantness of work. Communities and businesses today are innovating to find solutions: toughening up access regulations, mobilizing property to serve logistics in urban areas, new forms of organization, calls for innovation, pooling of flows, intelligent solutions to the delivery of parcels to individuals. There is no single solution, but a set of avenues that take into account the diversity of urban fabrics and are tailored to the fifty or so economic sectors that are present in cities. Somewhere between rusticity and innovation, we put forward a panorama of ecological economic solutions for consideration.

Marie-Hélène Massot

Professor at École d’Urbanisme de Paris, Université Paris EST-Créteil

Talk Overview – April 12th Everyday mobility done differently: Why and how?

The main metaphors used to describe contemporary societies involve references to two major themes that are central to studies of the mobility of people in space, here understood as the practice of travel in the conduct of daily life: contraction of time and expansion of territories. Expansion of space at every scale, from economic and cultural globalization and its attendant social issues through to the formation of megalopolises; contraction of time, with a macrosociology (Bauman, Beck, Giddens and many others) that emphasizes the generalization of movement, the acceleration of change, the need for reflexivity and flexibility, and the omnipresence of uncertainty. Microsociology also points to much that is pertinent, including the end of routines and our zapping behaviours.

Shuttling between the demands of hypermodernity, the evolution of the territory of daily life, the identification of behavioural rationalities and the observation of strategies deployed by actors provides the foundation for our reflections on how tomorrow’s mobility will be thought out and organized.

Peter Norton

Associate professor of history in the Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

Talk Overview – April 11th Strange Utopia: Recovering History to Find Our Future


Technology innovation gives us new choices and new means to pursue them, but it doesn’t tell us what we should seek. Yet strangely we often find technology itself cast as the answer. The proffered high-tech solutions are “data driven,” as if no one need ask which data matter or what they really tell us. Asking such questions does not make you a Luddite. It means you appreciate the best that technology has to offer: new means to pursue ends of humans’ choosing. It’s to recognize that we have a spectrum of choices —high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech.

To insist on access to the full spectrum is to recognize that the end is not autonomous systems, but autonomous humans. We should have learned this already. Generations ago, North Americans were sold a utopian vision of freedom delivered by technology. An elusive future in which we could drive anywhere at any time and park for free when we got there was presented with a promise of freedom, but it delivered only car dependency, a deprivation of choice that is antagonistic to freedom. Pursuing this mirage has been fantastically expensive by numerous measures. We hear that technology will now let us pursue the drive-anywhere future more successfully, as if the failure is in the technology itself, and not in human choices.

The drive-anywhere ideal was not a mass preference, but was product sold on the basis of extravagant promises that could not be kept. Those who sold it also justified it by embedding it in a historical trajectory of their own design— a misleading history written to convince us that the drive-anywhere city is the city we always really wanted. We cannot choose the future we want until we recover the history we lost as a casualty of this campaign. It’s a neglected history that offers to recover for us the full spectrum of means— high-tech, low-tech, and no-tech— to seek a future of our choosing.