Thursday, October 09, 2008

Open Letter to Gordon Campbell

I would like thank you for setting a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia by 33 per cent by 2020. This is an important step (although the science seems to indicate that we must reduce emissions even more quickly – 90% by 20301). As well, I thank you for introducing a carbon tax that is also small step towards reaching that goal.

In planning to meet these goals it would make sense to tackle the largest contributions to greenhouse gas emissions first.

As you may know here in the Lower Mainland the largest source of green house gas emissions is light vehicles. If we are going to meet the targets you have set out we will have to dramatically reduce the amount of single-occupancy vehicles (SOV) trips and replace those with trips on public transit (preferably electric powered). The mainstream available technology for light vehicles, such as hybrid propulsion, will not make enough of a difference to meet your targets even if the majority of car users purchase new vehicles immediately.

Given these facts the Gateway Program as it is currently planned does not make any sense. Why build more lanes on Highway One if we are going to have to reduce SOV trips so significantly that those lanes are no longer needed? Once SOV trips are reduced there will be plenty of room for transit and the 8-10% of current traffic that is trucks.

All experts agree that Gateway Program as currently planned will actually increase emissions. The Gateway Program should be revamped and all plans for highway expansion (with the exception of transit queue-jumper lanes) should be removed.

Please don't respond by telling me that transit is included in your plans. The 17% target for the distant future is too little too late. Many world-class western cities already have transit modal shares of 20-50%. We should striving to match these numbers as soon as possible.

Please don't respond by telling me that we need highway expansion to expand transit. Studies have been done that show queue jumpers would allow buses to easily move over the bridge – especially if traffic is reduced once people have the option of using transit.

Please keep your promise to fight climate change and redesign the Gateway Program.


Rob Baxter

1As described by Monbiot in Heat based on a paper by Chris D. Jones et al., published in Geophysical Research Letters.

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