Driving momentum for sustainable transportation

Adam Blinick, Patrick Leclerc, Peter Robinson, Sidney Ribaux

This post was originally published in Policy Options: The Public Forum for the Public Good

Recent policy moves are encouraging, but Canada needs to do more to wrestle with the climate impact of its transportation sector.

Canada has a tailpipe problem. The country’s 24 million or so cars and trucks together generated 23% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2014, and were responsible for three quarters of the growth in energy-related carbon emissions since 1990.

As our economy and our population grows, the number of kilometres driven and the congestion in our cities also rise. While some people in our big urban centres are showing less attachment to vehicle ownership than in decades past, the overall trend is towards rising emissions.

If we’re going to achieve our climate goals and do our fair share to ensure the planet continues to be a safe place to live, we need to turn this trend around.

The good news is, around the world a mobility revolution is gathering momentum. And Canada is wisely getting in on the action, with policies and investments that open the door wider for zero-carbon transportation. But if we are not ambitious in our plans, and deliberate about their implementation, we will miss out on opportunities to be industrial and environmental leaders.

Meaningful investments are being made in public transit, responding to the demands of Canadian cities. This modal shift towards more public transit will reduce emissions and congestion dramatically. And thanks to green procurement policies by transit systems and municipalities across Canada, a new generation of cleaner buses and other green transit technology will help to further reduce transportation emissions beyond just taking cars off the road.

There is also a growing demand in Canada for flexible solutions in lieu of single car ownership. Shared mobility services are rapidly growing in Canada and currently include car sharing (Car2Go, Communauto, Modo etc.), ride sharing (Uber, openride, ride share etc.) and car pooling. And let’s not forget the potential for self-driving cars to provide on-demand transportation services. Recently, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined with the chief executive of BlackBerry Ltd. to announce the company was refocusing the 400 employees it has in Ottawa to work specifically on making software for autonomous vehicles.

As our governments put dollars into transit infrastructure, adjust regulations to promote fuel efficient engines, and encourage people to consider bicycles and electric vehicles (EVs), we can see a path to a healthier planet, cleaner air in our cities, and economies that work efficiently.

In its recent Fall Economic Statement, Ottawa committed $25.3 billion over the coming 11 years to strengthen and expand transit across the country. This will include new light rail in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, and Surrey, a new subway line in Vancouver, and regional commuter rail in Toronto and Hamilton. With adequate land use planning to encourage densification, public transit investments linked to bike paths, walking paths and shared mobility services, can offer the mobility solutions Canadians need. The benefits of these investments will be felt for generations to come.

Electric vehicles are also part of the solution and are becoming the easiest choice to make for those who need a vehicle. They’re fun to drive, cheap to run, and affordable to maintain.  A battery powered vehicle can reduce emissions by 45 to 98 percent compared to a gasoline vehicle.

There will be two million electric vehicles on the world’s roads before the end of 2016. The pent-up demand for the Tesla Model 3 is palpable; as battery costs plunge, demand will surge. In November, Motor Trend awarded The GM Bolt, which boasts an estimated 300+ kilometers of range per charge, its Car of the Year trophy.

Read the full post on Policy Options' website

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