Pembina Institute

Study: Canadian cities need to accelerate green transportation and urban design

Published May 26, 2010.

May 26, 2010  — Canada's six largest urban areas are making efforts to reduce greenhouse gas pollution, but they must do more to promote green urban design and low-carbon transportation choices, according to a report released today by the Pembina Institute.

The report, Canada's Coolest Cities, examines what the urban areas of Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are doing to encourage low-carbon transportation choices, such as walking, cycling, taking public transit and travelling shorter distances.

The study found that cities have clear targets for fighting climate change and are taking action, but urban areas are continuing to sprawl. The majority of population growth is occurring in low-density suburbs, where people need to travel further and are less likely to walk, bike or take transit.

 "While cities have set ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets, they need to step up their actions on personal transportation to meet these goals," said report co-author Alison Bailie. "Each city has taken positive steps, but they're struggling to keep pace with urban sprawl."

The amount of energy consumed for personal transportation in cities depends largely on urban design and the accessibility of low-carbon transportation choices.

"Local governments have the opportunity and responsibility to take action on reducing emissions, especially those from transportation within their boundaries," Bailie said. "Smart urban design not only decreases energy consumption and environmental impacts, but it also saves money and can make communities more livable."

Provincial and federal governments also have a strong role to play in supporting municipalities by providing clear directions and funding for developing compact communities and low-carbon transportation choices

For detailed findings on each city, view the one-page results summary or view the full case studies. Below, we provide a high-level finding from each city.

Calgary (case study)

Positive Step: Plan It Calgary calls for more compact communities, as well as better transportation options.

Troubling Trend: Most growth occurring in low-density neighbourhoods, which tend to have fewer low-carbon travel options.

Edmonton (case study)

Positive Step: Planning a major expansion of LRT system.

Troubling Trend: Smallest fraction of commuters walking, biking or taking transit of all cities studied.

Montreal (case study)

Positive Step: Both the City and urban area have the highest percentage of commuters walking, biking or taking transit.

Troubling Trend: Urban area growing in wrong direction with a larger fraction of people living in low-density neighbourhoods and proposed projects to increase capacity for cars downtown.

Ottawa (case study)

Positive Step: Among the highest percentage of commuters walking, biking or taking transit of urban areas studied.

Troubling Trend: Relatively high percentage of population lives in low-density neighbourhoods.

Toronto (case study)

Positive Step: Transit City plan includes seven new LRT lines.

Troubling Trend: Suburban municipalities growing 10 times faster than City of Toronto and Transit City funding cut.

Vancouver (case study)

Positive Step: Greenest City Action Plan defines 10 comprehensive goals for 2020.

Troubling Trend: Larger fraction of people living in low-density neighbourhoods than in Montreal or Toronto urban areas.

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For more information, contact:

Alison Bailie
Senior Technical and Policy Advisor, Sustainable Communities Group
Pembina Institute
Tel: 604-874-8558 ext. 222
alisonb@pembina.org

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