What started as a simple visit to Europe in 1985 for musician and consultant Martin Collier developed into a life-long journey to improve the way we get around.
“Growing up in Montreal I had always biked,” said Collier, founder of Transport Futures. “In elementary school I always biked to school. When I got to high school I took transit. When I left home and I was living and playing rock and roll I didn’t have a car so I biked everywhere or walked.”
In 1985 at the age of 25 he took a trip to Europe.
“I realized how amazing the infrastructure was in terms of trains and cycling even back in '85,” said Collier. “Now 32 years later it is way better.”
The experience inspired Collier to examine transportation infrastructure in Canada and to seek ways to implement safer, cheaper and more sustainable transportation policies.
“We have to have a framework on how we assess the projects whether it is for pedestrian, bike, car or transit infrastructure,” he said. “You have to say how is that money spent for the best projects looking at climate change and quality of life.”
As part of his work he organizes conferences such as the Transport Futures Intercity Travel Conference coming up on Nov. 27 in Toronto that bring together experts from around the world.
“It is looking at rail and bus services mainly in Ontario but learning from these other jurisdictions such as Germany the US and the UK,” said Collier. “ We are looking at how customer service by rail and by bus can be improved through transportation integration.”
Often the plans utilize existing infrastructure more efficiently and provide incentives such as mobility pricing, which includes road pricing and parking fees.
The focus is both on recognizing the best policies and convincing decision makers to implement those policies.
“How do you make these decisions because it can get political some times,” said Collier. “Everyone is doing the best they can given what they know but they often aren’t looking at the long term.”
Collier was born in Montreal where, influenced by his father who operated an energy conservation business, he developed an interest in environmental issues.
As early as Grade 4 he took part in environmental activism staging protests and community cleanups.
He went on to study at Bishop’s University, Champlain College and Queens University where, in 1982, he graduated with a degree in psychology and business.
During that time he worked for his father, played in folk rock bands and managed and promoted other bands. Playing and writing music continues to be an artistic outlet and side gig for Collier.
In 1992 he began working and volunteering in Toronto with nonprofits focused on urban planning and transportation issues.
He decided to go back to school and graduated from York University in 2004 with a master’s degree in environmental studies.
In 2006 he established Healthy Transport Consulting the parent company of Transport Futures.
He recognizes the cultural resistance to adopting policies established in Europe and the US but believes we can benefit from sharing the best ideas wherever the come from.
“In Europe there is much more coordination of the transportation system providers unlike the fragmented services here but it doesn’t mean we can’t do it. We just have to work better at integrating and coordinating. For me it is really about using existing infrastructure because that will be cheaper.”
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story referred to Martin Collier's company as Transportation Futures Consulting. The company's correct name is Transport Futures.