Why Invest In Sustainable Transportation?
Transportation is the third largest source of emissions in Alberta, representing 11% of emissions in 2013. But despite the challenge this presents, the popular appeal of transportation infrastructure improvements and immense benefits beyond emissions reduction helps to justify the expenditure of both economic and political capital on this issue. Public transportation investments are consistently well-received by voters and parties often compete on the strength of their public transportation platforms. There is good reason for this: public transportation is directly related to social, economic and environmental outcomes. For example, a 2012 Pembina Institute study entitled Behind the Wheel: Opportunities for Canadians to drive less, reduce pollution and save money notes that replacing a car with public transportation allows an individual to save almost $10,000 annually and reduce personal transportation emissions by 60%. On the social side, there is research noting the relationship between economic development and access to transit. Specifically, the 2010 Three Cities within Toronto report indicates that the poorest neighbourhoods in the city also have the poorest access to Toronto’s rapid transit system. However, an aggressive shift towards public transit will require a rate of growth in transit networks much greater than is presently occurring. Indeed, the Pembina Institute’s Fast Cities report notes that only 21% of Calgary residents live within 1km of rapid transit.
Beyond public transportation; walking, cycling and electric vehicles (EVs) are key components of a sustainable transportation strategy. A Pembina Institute study, Options for Reducing GHG Emissions in Calgary, notes that the benefits of investing in walking and cycling networks may be four to five times greater than the costs when health benefits, improved air quality and reduced noise and parking costs are factored in. In this context, cycling infrastructure may include separated bike lanes, improved wayfinding for cyclists and bicycle parking and storage. Pedestrian infrastructure may include improvements to make walking “easier, safer and more attractive.” Improvements leading to a pedestrian-oriented design can reduce local vehicle kilometers travelled by up to 10% within a specific neighbourhood.
EVs in particular should be the focus of special attention from government. In conjunction with a clean grid, EVs have the potential to significantly reduce emissions from the transportation sector. A Pembina Institute study notes that the life cycle GHG emissions of an EV are approximately 82% lower than that of a gasoline vehicle. The study goes on to examine three communities in British Columbia and finds that if EV use grows substantially, a 25% reduction in GHG emissions from passenger vehicles and light trucks could be expected by 2035 relative to 2007 levels.
Alberta Green Economy Network (AGEN) therefore recommend that the Government of Alberta:
- Ensure that Alberta invests in creating the infrastructure to support electric vehicles (EVs) throughout the province, including in rural communities, and in partnership with First Nations and Metis governments.
- Set a target for EV use in Alberta and create a plan to convert the government’s fleet to electric and plugin hybrid electric vehicles.
- Increase funding to cities and rural municipalities for walking and bicycle infrastructure, including dedicated support to single use transportation alternatives for rural, First Nations and Metis communities.
- Provide increased, stable and predictable funding to urban municipalities as well as First Nations, Metis and rural communities to invest in public transit infrastructure and operations, beyond what is currently planned within the funding allocations for the Municipal Sustainability Initiative and intended rural bus service initiative.