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.

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