Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oulu vs Vancouver

Oulu, Finland sounds like an interesting place.  A subarctic climate  but with more than 500 km of bike routes (mostly separated).  Vancouver is at about 400 km, most not separated.  And their modal share for cycling is between 20 and 37%.  If Vancouver is going to be the world's greenest city we need to catch up with cities like Oulu.  Unfortunately some of those candidates running for mayor want us to fall further behind.

[photo courtesy  City of Oulu, Finland ]

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Media Ignores Motor Vehicle Subsidies

One of the big news stories here in Vancouver this morning is the announcement of a funding proposal for the long delayed Evergreen line. Rather than focus on the benefits of expanding cleaner transportation options most of the media seems focused on the two cent gasoline tax increase that will be used to fund the project.  CBC radio is encouraging drivers to phone in and complain about the tax.

But there is no mention of the fact that driving is highly subsidized here in the Lower Mainland.  Reports by Metro Vancouver and the provincial Ministry of Transport estimate the subsidy to be as much as 6 billion dollars per year.  It is unlikely that this small tax increase will come close to covering that subsidy.

There is broad consensus that we need to make significant cuts to our greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions.  Both the provincial government and some municipalities have set targets of 80%.  With transportation being the largest source of ghg emissions in our region it is clear we have to give drivers incentives to change their behaviour as well as cleaner options.

Given this imperative the two cent tax increase seems far too low.

[illustration from Translink]

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More Evidence of BC Climate Leadership Failure

Canada's latest greenhouse gas emission inventory report was quietly released this week.  The numbers are from 2009 (it takes over a year to compile the numbers and for some reason Canada seems to be about a month behind most other nations).

The release came only a few days after BC's new premier Christy Clark had announced her commitment to BC's "leadership" on climate change.  So, how do the numbers reflect this "leadership"?

At first glance the 2009 emissions numbers for BC look hopeful.  They are down 3.3% compared to the previous year.  But is this decrease the result of macro economic factors in 2009 or good public policy?  It appears it would be the economics - emissions actually declined for every Canadian province during 2009.
In fact, BC was the third WORST province in annual percentage change between 2008 and 2009.  Only Saskatchewan and Quebec preformed worse (To be fair to Quebec their emissions are actually below 1990 levels - BC's are 28% higher).

Yes, even Alberta had preformed better than BC on a year to year basis.  And they have done so both years since BC introduced the carbon tax.

Although it is still early in the carbon tax regime I think it is becoming increasing clear that this policy measure is inadequate if other policies are not in line with the government's goal of ghg reductions.

The largest increases for BC emissions during the period since 1990 have come from Mining / Fossil Fuel Industries and Road Transportation.  And it is in these two areas that the government continues to show no leadership when it comes to emission reductions. 

The BC Liberals have continued to support and expand subsidies to the oil and gas industry.  At the same time that have invested millions in highway expansion while delaying transit projects.  Their own documents show that significant emission increases can be expected from these projects.

Let's hope the world can find better examples of climate change leadership than BC.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Getting Serious about Earth Day

Earth Day is usually about rallies in parks, maybe some tree planting and recently corporate sponsored events.  But residents in Metro Vancouver took things to another level this Earth Day when they took direct action against climate change.

The largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the Metro Vancouver region is transportation.  Despite this fact the provincial government is in the middle of several large highway expansion projects.  On April 22nd a group of local residents began occupation of a highway construction site.  They have set up tents, barricades, an outdoor kitchen, toilet facilities, a solar power centre and appear to there for the long term. About 25 are currently camped out, vowing to stay and stop the freeway they call a ‘climate crime.’

"Gateway's goal with the South Fraser Perimeter Highway is to triple truck traffic. What they don't tell you is that means triple the pollution, too," says North Delta resident Richelle Giberson. "I live three doors up from where this freeway is slated to go. My windows get coated in black soot from the truck exhaust already; it scares me to think about what it could be like in a few years.”

“We are planting these trees on the freeway route to demonstrate that we are fed up with battling asthma and cancers,” explains PJ Lilley, a Surrey organizer with “As a mom with kids at a school near the highway ‘fall-out zone’, I want to see a stop to the insanity of paving over our last green spaces on the Fraser River just to bring more trucks and pollution to our communities. Christy Clark’s government is not putting ‘families first’, money must go to transit, schools and health care instead.”

The province is spending an estimated $2 billion on the new South Fraser freeway and is planning to spend up to $1 billion more on the North Fraser Perimeter Road through New Westminster. Meanwhile, this week, Translink is cutting bus service.

"TransLink has cut bus service to save a few million, and meanwhile the province is spending billions on freeways which increase our dependency on cars and tar sands oil," explains Bob Ages of the Council of Canadians national board. “1950’s thinking won’t solve the problems of the 21st century.”

"We must stop spending public money to make the climate crisis worse, and shift the money to solutions like public transit and electric trains" says Eric Doherty with the Council of Canadians Vancouver / Burnaby Chapter. “It’s time for all concerned people to take a stand against these freeway projects that are cooking our planet.”

The freeway site occupation is an initiative of local residents and climate justice activists from, local Council of Canadians chapters, and the Critical Criminology Working Group at Kwantlen University, and is endorsed by the over 20 groups listed at

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Trucking Myths

The StopThePave Earth Day Action has inspired a serious of tweets from Dan at

Unfortunately these tweets promulgate myths about greenhosue gas (ghg) emissions and transportation.  I guess there is still a lot of work to be done to educate the public around these issues.  And in that spirit here are some of those myths:

1. Building more highways will reduce congestion, fuel consumption and ghg emissions.
There is no evidence to support this idea. In fact, the evidence all points to highway expansion increasing emissions.  The proponents of the SFPR and the other gateway program projects even admit this in their own documentation. The provincial government studies, conducted as part of the Environmental Assessment Process, project an increase of 176,000 tonnes per year in greenhouse gas emissions (

Gordon Price of UBC has issued a challenge for someone to show him one example of  city that has reduced congestion through highway expansion. So far no one has taken him up on the challenge.

A study by the Sightline Institute estimates that "..each extra lane-mile built will increase emissions of carbon-dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, by more than 100,000 tons over 50 years. "

2. People have other transportation choices but don't use them.
There is plenty of evidence that many parts of Metro Vancouver are under-serviced when it comes it transit.  Anyone who has spent time travelling in cities outside North America will realize how far we have to go in giving people real transportation choices.  Zurich is often cited as a good example of this.  Many car owners leave their vehicles at home and use public transit because of the excellent service it offers.

3. We should focus on reducing emission from trains
One study found that road-based passenger travel has 2 to 4 times the emissions of rail based travel.  The study also found that trucks emit 12 times the ghg emissions as rail and five times as much of other emissions.

What does make sense is targeting the largest source of ghg emissions which in our region is light duty vehicles.  Heavy duty trucks are farther down the list.  And trains even further.

4. We need more highways to transport goods.

There is plenty of excess capacity on the existing road net work for commercial truck traffic.  For example, only about 10% of the traffic on the Port Mann is truck traffic.  By giving passenger commuters other options we free up this road space for trucks.

Monday, February 14, 2011

CO2 emissions, cycling and the Hornby Bike Lane

In the ten years leading up to 2009 Copenhagen reduced CO2 emissions by 20% (40% since 1990).  During that time the cycling modal share increased by over 19% and the amount of "cycle tracks" (segregated bike lanes) increased by over 9%.  Copenhagen found that adding cycle tracks to a road section resulted in a 20% increase in cycling.