Monday, January 28, 2008

In the News...

Metrolinx to release Active Transportation Green Paper
A draft version of the Metrolinx (formerly the Greater Toronto Transportation Authority) Green Paper on Active Transportation is up for approval by its board this Friday, January 25th, and will then be released for public comment.
You can read the report by clicking here
Viva sets wheels in motion for rapid transit on Yonge
The wheels are in motion for officials to move forward with rapid transit on Yonge Street. The question is, will it be bus lanes or subway line? In 2005, Viva launched its 20-year transportation plan. Its second phase is a $1.8 billion project to install bus-only lanes on Yonge Street, between Steeles Avenue and Highway 7, then north to Bernard Street in Richmond Hill.
Thornhill Post, P. 9, January 31, 2008
StatsCan: Our car addiction is growing
Don't you just love statistics that challenge conventions and puncture presumptions? Until recently, my favourite batch were those suggesting that U.S. states that permit citizens to carry concealed handguns have lower rates of violent crime. Citing those statistics is like sticking a mischievous finger in the eye of anyone who wants to ban handguns in Canada. My latest favourite, though, is a new Statistics Canada report showing that despite all the gum-beating we do about protecting the environment, Canadians are actually more dependent on their cars with each passing year, even in big cities with good public transit.
Hamilton Spectator, P. 19, January 25, 2008
News Release: Consultation begin for Canada's first motor vehicle fuel consumption regulation
OTTAWA - Transport Canada is reminding Canadians that consultations for the country's first motor vehicle fuel consumption regulations have begun, as announced on January 17, 2008 by the Honourable Lawrence Cannon, Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The Government of Canada recognizes that the transportation sector is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada and for the first time the government will regulate the fuel consumption of cars and light trucks, beginning with the 2011 model year.
Transport Canada, January 23, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Parkway Bike Path, Queen's, NY

Transit in Canada

Western urban dwellers love their cars
REBECCA DUBE Globe and Mail January 23, 2008
City living doesn't mean a car-free existence - in fact, 69 per cent of people living in Canada's largest cities travel everywhere by car, according to a Statistics Canada survey released yesterday that details urban driving habits.

Most likely to buckle up are baby-boomer men in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, while Montreal women aged 18 to 24 are least likely to drive downtown.

But the biggest predictor of your driving habits is not who you are, but in what kind of neighbourhood you live.

"The way our cities are built has a huge impact on our dependency on cars," says Martin Turcotte, the study's author and a social-science researcher with Statscan.
Canadians increasingly depend on cars, despite growing concerns about pollution from auto emissions and even though we're steadily congregating in cities with public transit.

The proportion of adults who travel exclusively by car increased from 68 per cent in 1992 to 74 per cent in 2005, according to Statscan. Meanwhile, the proportion of Canadians who cycled or walked at least one trip a day fell to 19 per cent from 26 per cent during the same period.

The aging of the population may be partly to blame, Mr. Turcotte says, but the type of neighbourhood influences driving and walking decisions even more strongly than creaky knees. More people want to live in cities, but most new houses are built in low-density neighbourhoods far from the city centre, where people live a more suburban and car-dependent lifestyle.

"Many neighbourhoods are designed in such a way there's no other possibility than travelling with your car," Mr. Turcotte says.

Car culture influences everything from zoning rulings to the decision many cities make to plow snow off streets before they clear the sidewalks, says Preston Schiller, a professor with Queen's University's school of urban and regional planning.

"If we want to take this issue seriously, we need to start with feet first; we need to make communities more walkable," Dr. Schiller says. "You can't just plop down a high-rise condo out in the middle of nowhere and expect miracles to happen."

Mr. Turcotte found a huge difference in the composition of urban neighbourhoods across Canada. In Montreal, for instance, 93 per cent of inner-city neighbourhoods are high-density, defined as mostly multifamily homes and apartment buildings rather than detached single-family houses. By contrast, only 30 per cent of Calgary's downtown housing is high-density.

The different types of housing translate directly into different ways of travelling, Mr. Turcotte says. Only 29 per cent of downtown Montreal residents made all their trips by car, compared with 66 per cent of Calgary's inner-city dwellers.

Statscan looked at driving patterns gleaned from the 2005 general social survey, which asked Canadians about the trips they made on one particular day. Trips were defined as travel with a practical purpose - cycling or walking for exercise or pleasure did not count.

Car culture
The percentage of people in major Canadian cities (18 and over) who made all their trips (on the reference day) using a car compared with those who used public transit for at least one trip.
Toronto 66% 16%
Montreal 65% 18%
Vancouver 69% 12%
Ottawa 71% 15%
Calgary 75% 12%
Edmonton 77% 9%
Quebec 74% 9%
Winnipeg 72% 10%
Medium cities 75% 7%
Smaller cities 81% 3%

Transit in Canada. It's a joke
JOHN BARBER Jan. 23/08

I remember talking to an Edmonton friend about the Kyoto Protocol back when sophisticated opinion in Alberta held the thing to be little better than a Communist plot.

"What's the alternative?" he asked sarcastically, after a long, detailed denunciation of naive environmentalism. "Public transit?"

He was so scathing he shut me right up. But at the time we were riding a minivan through suburban Calgary, which is to say Calgary, so what could I say? Public transit was not an alternative. To suggest it was would have been blindly Toronto-centric.

A Montrealer might have made the same mistake, but the fact remains: The only Canadians for whom public transit is a welcome alternative to car travel generally live within a few kilometres of two, maybe three, widely separated city centres.

"Residents of Calgary and Edmonton are more dependent on their cars than those living in other large census metropolitan areas," Statistics Canada reported yesterday, summarizing the findings of a new study. But why single them out? With respect to car dependency, they are identical to Canadians in medium cities and small towns, indeed everywhere else except those few constrained centres.

Transit-dependent, pedestrian-friendly Canada - urban Canada, in effect - is vanishingly small in size.

Only 29 per cent of Montrealers living in the very centre of town travel everywhere by car, according to the study, compared with 43 per cent of equivalent Torontonians. But a majority of people living farther than five kilo metres from the centre of each city travel everywhere by car. A majority of all Vancouverites, no matter where in town they live, still go everywhere by car.

No wonder successive national governments in this country, alone in the developed world, have pretended they aren't responsible for ' public transit: Seen clearly, the challenge seems hopeless.

It isn't getting any easier, according to Statistics Canada, despite demographic trends that are piling more of the country's population into urban centres.

Depressingly, the share of adult Canadians "who went everywhere by car" has risen from two-thirds to three-quarters since 1992, according to the study. Over the same period, the share of Canadians who occasionally walked or rode bikes has dropped from one-quarter to less than one-fifth.

Transit in Canada? A joke. "How can we explain why Canadians, most of whom live in large metropolitan regions, now need their cars more than ever to go about their daily business?" the study asks.

There are lots of potential answers, beginning with the fact that there is still nothing remotely urban about so-called urban development in Canada today. But attitudes always show up. Age and sex are just as likely as location to create driving dependence, according to the study.

Male baby boomers, no matter where they live, are the worst offenders. They are also the ones, according to my own experience, who complain most trenchantly about the lack of alternatives. But if every car trip is so necessary, why do older people take more than twice as many of them as younger people? The answer is that they can afford to. Even given a reasonable alternative, Canadians who own cars overwhelmingly choose to use them, more and more, for every conceivable trip - including millions of unnecessary ones. They rationalize by saying there is no alternative, which is often true but just as often not.

Look to the future and what do you see? Suburban Calgary from sea to sea.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Report recommends new road tolls, gas tax

A study released today suggests you pay even more for your daily commute. Financing Public Transit and Transportation in the Greater Toronto Area and Hamilton (GTAH) was commissioned by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario and authored by Trent University economics professor Harry Kitchen. In his report, Mr. Kitchen said the time has come for governments to act boldly to rein in the infrastructure spending deficit as property taxes and user fees just aren't cutting it.
York Region Era Banner, January 21, 2008

Lukewarm response to road tolls; New study proposes tolls for highways, but don't expect to see them anytime soon
Ontario should follow the example set by some European countries and charge drivers road tolls, congestion fees and gas levies to pay for necessary highway upgrades and improved public transit, a study recommended yesterday. Although the province's former finance minister is already putting the brakes on the proposal, the study's author said the extra charges on 400-series highways and major thoroughfares around the Greater Toronto Area would help reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and traffic jams by getting people off the roads.
Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo Record, P.A3, January 22, 2008

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Who Killed the Electric Car? - Documentary

It's mind-boggling to know that from 1996 to 2001, GM produced the EV1, an electric car so good that people who had one said they'd never go back to gas. Despite being a waiting list to get an EV1, GM took back all the cars, destroyed them, and claimed there was no demand.

Who killed the electric car
:? oil companies, car companies, the US government, California Air Resources Board, and the hydrogen fuel cell.

It's a no brainer. We need electric cars and plug-in hybrids. The technology exists today.
See the documentary, and sign the Canadian National Campaign for Electric Vehicles:
And also at Plug-in America

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Clear-cutting our forests

Some of the current forestry practices, even here in Ontario, are very short-sighted. In 2005 I witnessed first-hand the clear-cutting of our Northern Ontario boreal forest while driving on a logging road north of the Agoki River (see photos below).

"A forest is far more than trees. It includes the soil, with all its interdependent bugs, fungi, burrowing mammals, grownd-covers and undergrowth, the trees themselves, the birds and animals living in or moving through it, the natural water systems and the air. A forest is a balanced ecosystem. If you destroy that balance, you are going to be in trouble." -Merv Wilkinson
"By selective logging at or below the growth rate of the trees in a forest, trees can be profitably harvested indefinitely instead of once every hundred years or more. Nor is the diversity that is the key to resilience and regeneration sacrificed when trees are selectively removed." -David Suzuki

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Paved paradise

GO Transit abandons pedestrian-friendly station to build jumbo parking lot for car-happy commuters.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

ITDP Sustainable Transport Awards

Please come and join us celebrate these cities that are

transforming their streets and fighting climate change

to create high-quality public spaces

Being held at the
Washington Hilton
International Ballroom West
1919 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Doors open at 6:00
With hors d’ouevres and beverages
Award ceremony begins at 6:30
All are welcome!

For more information about our award and previous winners, visit: