Wade Alcock, Michelle Bigg, Jodine Kraatz, and Shaun Quinn
Original report produced in 2002
Undergraduate project supervised by Ann Dale
Edited by Chris Ling
Published January 11, 2008
This study proposes various short-, medium-, and long-term recommendations on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the personal transportation sector. The recommendations were based on information gathered through extensive literature research and interviews, as a result of an undergraduate science research project, supervised by Dr. Ann Dale. The interviewees were selected based on their expertise in the personal transportation field, and consisted of people from government, non-government organizations and educational institutions.
The study was sponsored by the Green Budget Coalition (GBC) in cooperation with Royal Roads University in 2002; this project was developed to identify the student perspective on opportunities for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions from the personal transportation sector. The GBC is an alliance of 16 environmental and conservation groups, several of which have researched and produced numerous publications on transportation and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
Sustainable Development Characteristics
While reducing harmful air pollutants has been the main focus for much of the air quality legislation impacting the transportation sector, greenhouse gas emissions are of greater concern as they contribute to global climate change. The impact of climate change on a global scale is predicted to have catastrophic effects on the earth’s ecosystem and its function.
Personal transportation represents the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country. This characteristic alone provides substantial opportunity for GHG emissions reductions in Canada. In addition to the benefits that GHG reductions may yield, simultaneous reductions of the various other auto emissions may also improve air quality.
Critical Success Factors
- Encourage Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to support employers in providing tax-free transit passes.
- Support provincial governments and transit authorities in utilizing cost-benefit analyses models for transit investment decisions.
- Create a Sustainable Transportation Fund in partnership with other agencies and organizations.
- Implement a green-tax on gasoline to raise revenues for ethanol production.
- Implement a technology standard requiring all grades of gasoline to contain a minimum of 10% ethanol.
- Utilize fleet vehicle purchasing power to drive the demand for alternative fuel vehicles.
- Provide funding to Health Canada for a health-based anti-driving advertising campaign.
- Encourage / require Canadian municipalities to establish growth strategies that incorporate urban growth boundaries and TDM systems.
- Support natural gas refueling stations and promote the production and use of natural gas vehicles.
- Initiate and support natural gas refueling stations and promote the production and use of natural gas vehicles
- Create a Sustainable Transportation Fund to ensure long-term funding for municipalities to invest in transit capital.
- Establish a hydrogen fulled transportation system.
Financial Costs and Funding Sources
The federal government could apply a variety of economic measures to achieve the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector. In the short-term, a green-tax on gasoline would make drivers pay for the costs that they are imposing on society and promote alternative forms of transportation. Revenue that is generated from the green-tax on gasoline could be redirected toward ethanol production and a technology standard could be implemented to ensure all grades of gasoline in Canada contain a minimum of 10% ethanol. As well, subsidies could be shifted from unclean energy resources in order to guide the energy market toward the desired sustainable alternatives such as hydrogen energy. The Canadian government must strategically plan and use its purchasing power to influence the market demand and price of alternative fuels.
There are seven key areas of sustainable development that are the focus of any development of a personal transportation:
1. Implement Environmentally Sustainable Transportation (EST): Federal government action on environmentally sustainable transportation (EST) could be accelerated, increased and further coordinated. This includes implementing a variety of strategies such as Transportation Demand Management (TDM) and employer-provided tax-free transit passes.
2. Create A Sustainable Transportation Fund: A Sustainable Transportation Fund could be created by the federal government in partnership with other agencies and organizations under the guidance of a multi-stakeholder body to do the following: designate funds exclusively to support public transportation, investment in public transportation infrastructure, alternative urban design and alternative modes of transportation. This long-term fund could provide support to successful applicants, enabling transit agencies and municipalities to plan and invest in long-term environmentally sustainable transportation solutions.
3. Implement Urban Growth Boundaries: Municipalities need to be encouraged/ required to establish effective, yet realistic urban growth boundaries considering effective use of TDM strategies. This should reduce spatial expansion of the city by delineating the urban parameter. Concentrating growth within urban centers may create population densities that are able to sustain viable and efficient transit systems.
4. Create Efficient and Effective Transit Systems: Long-term funding must be made available to reduce transit capital and operational costs. Additionally, plans could be developed to improve and expand transit services to meet increasing demands. This funding could help enable municipalities and transit providers to invest in the most socially, environmentally and economically beneficial modes of transit.
5.. Alternative Fuels as an Option for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: In the short-term, government support to increase demand and reduce capital costs for the production of ethanol is essential and regulations requiring the use of ethanol-blended fuels must be established. The mid-term initiatives could prepare for the long-term objectives by supporting the development of natural gas refueling stations and promoting the production and use of vehicles fuelled by natural gas. In the long-term, a hydrogen fuelled transportation system and refueling infrastructure could to be established. A full life cycle analysis for all potential sources of hydrogen production and distribution could be conducted and integrated into a long-term objective plan. Government support for technological advancement through strategic planning, subsidies, tax breaks, and effective use of buying power may create an efficient conversion toward this sustainable alternative.
6. Social Paradigm Shift in Canada to Promote Sustainable Transportation: A health-based anti-driving advertising campaign by Health Canada to promote the necessary paradigm shift in the attitudes and behaviors of Canadians may promote awareness of the connection between driving habits, air quality, and human health concerns. This attitude shift could reduce reliance on the personal automobile and support more sustainable modes of transportation. These measures could be implemented in the short-term to provide long-term benefits.
It is evident that a diversity of changes and incentives have be made in the personal transportation sector to protect the health of humans and the environment, to improve the quality of life in urban centers and to ensure community sustainable development in the future.
Canada is in a unique position globally to make changes in the personal transportation sector and can seize the opportunity to become a global leader in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector for the following reasons:
- The need to make change is proven and undisputed, as the transportation sector in Canada is the single largest growing contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the country. Canada has a skilled work force capable of developing and implementing new transportation technologies, including alternative fuel and alternative vehicle technologies that could be sold around the world.
- The federal government has the regulatory capability and a multitude of economic incentives that could be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmentally sustainable transportation initiatives including TDM strategies and employer-provided, tax-free transit passes.
- The federal government has the ability to influence, support and provide resources to municipalities that could encourage the implementation of urban growth boundaries and other planning initiatives that promote environmentally sustainable economic development.
- The federal government could use the various tools to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector and help meet international obligations.
- Educational campaigns by agencies such as the federal Department of Health to change individual attitudes toward driving are likely to be successful based on the success of campaigns aimed at changing people’s attitudes about smoking cigarettes.
Short- and long-term action to implement measures to reduce greenhouse gases in the personal transportation sector could result in social, economic and environmental benefits. Additionally, action taken may reduce the effects of global climate change resulting from greenhouse gases produced in the Canadian transportation sector.
Education and changing attitudes to personal vehicles could also enhance improvements to quality of life and the environment arising from policy implementation. If strong action is taken by all levels of government and the public on environmentally sustainable transportation now, Canada could maintain its high quality of life.
Detailed Background Case Description
Environmentally Sustainable Transportation (EST)
Environmentally Sustainable Transportation (EST) is becoming an important focus for governments around the world due to the increasing number of vehicles on roads, increasing traffic congestion, poor air quality in urban areas, increasing health concerns related to emissions and the impact of vehicle emissions on global climate change. Canada is the ninth highest emitter per capita of greenhouse gases and emissions have increased by 19.6% above 1990 levels (Environment Canada, 2002). In Canada, despite the sense of urgency expressed by many agencies and organizations and the many current efforts to address EST, progress has been slow and difficult to measure thus far. Furthermore, there doesn’t appear to be a declining trend in personal driving behavior as roads continue to become even more congested and more vehicles are put on the road each year.
Achieving EST is likely to require a combination of multiple approaches such as improving public transit systems, supporting and encouraging alternative modes of transportation, encouraging innovation of renewable energy technologies and increasing standards for vehicle emissions (PMCTF, 2002). These changes require a strong commitment and economic investment by governments and organizations to initiate a paradigm shift in public attitude.
Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies could be part of the solution, many of which are cost-neutral and relatively easy to support in the short term. Transport Canada encourages TDM strategies and could develop a dedicated source of funding, such as a sustainable transportation fund (STF), for long-term solutions that require additional resources to achieve significant changes toward sustainable transportation
Mechanisms for taking action include implementing changes in government policy that offer incentives for people to take alternative forms of transportation. An example of an economic incentive requiring government support that would be more environmentally sustainable than subsidizing personal automobile use is the employer-provided, tax-free transit passes. Many notable reports address the need for change in the transportation sector and recommend the tax-free transit passes including the Transportation Climate Change Table Options Paper (1999) and PMCTF (2002) both of which identify this as a priority.
The federal government has a responsibility both domestically and internationally to support environmentally sustainable transportation initiatives. Domestically, progress appears slow despite countless reports and efforts (from agencies such as Transport Canada) identifying TDM strategies that promote environmentally sustainable transportation. Federal action is needed to fundamentally change public opinion and behavior concerning transportation. This could be initiated through aggressive advertising campaigns similar to stop smoking campaigns.
Internationally, the federal government has a responsibility (as a member of organizations like the OECD) to take action on environmentally sustainable transportation initiatives. Additionally, the action in this area could lend credibility to Canada’s international efforts in the Sustainable Cities Initiative.
A Sustainable Transportation Fund (STF) is required to support transportation initiatives that require long-term planning (15-20 years) including transit system improvements, implementation of alternative urban design and research and development of alternative fuels and vehicles. Currently, the patchwork of funding sources that exist are inadequate to deal with country-wide growing transportation issues, which results in short-term planning initiatives (usually 5 years or less). Examples of these funds include the Green Municipal Enabling Fund (GMEF), the Green Municipal Investment Fund (GMIF), the Sustainable Development Technology Fund, the Sustainable Highway Infrastructure Fund, and the Strategic Infrastructure Fund. In addition, the reduction in funding from provinces to municipalities for transit systems has further increased the need for a dedicated funding source at a federal level.
STF could be developed by a multi-stakeholder body and through consultation with appropriate agencies and organizations. This body could develop eligibility criteria for funding to ensure that resources are appropriately directed toward initiatives that support sustainability in the transportation sector. Financially, the fund could be built by redirecting the resources that would have been allocated to support transportation projects to a dedicated STF. Additionally, resources to build the STF could be generated by allocating a portion of the federal gas tax and a portion of road user charges to this fund. Using these economic instruments to develop the fund may make it virtually cost neutral.
Support for a dedicated funding source has come from the Prime Minister’s Caucus Task Force on Urban Issues, the Transportation Climate Change Table, the Canadian Urban Transit Association, HLB Decision Economics Inc., the Green Budget Coalition and others. Each of these groups has recommended that funding for areas such as transit capital and operation could be made available through a federal government fund or program.
Urban Growth Planning
Transportation officials in Portland accredit much of their success in reducing GHG emissions from the personal transportation section to their format of city planning, more specifically to the use of urban growth boundaries (UGBs). The lack of sufficient population densities is one of the largest barriers to effective transit systems in Canada today. Current systems of city planning and design prohibit the establishment of urban densities that support effective mass transit systems. Rob MacDonald, contracted to issue a report for the David Suzuki Foundation, believes that a minimum density of 40-50 persons/hectare would be required to make transit systems viable in Canada. This problem is perpetuated through municipal zoning laws that frequently prescribe low-density zoning. Urban design and zoning bylaws dictate both the number of persons per unit area, and ultimately the driving patterns of the entire urban region. Thus, the adoption of UGBs at the municipal level will potentially increase population densities in Canadian urban areas to levels that can better sustain effective and viable transit systems. Additionally, increasing population densities by limiting urban sprawl is necessary if transit, bicycle, and pedestrian modes of transport are going to be looked at as a mechanism for reducing vehicle miles traveled in the personal transportation sector.
Urban growth boundaries could be designed with TDM strategies that integrate development plans with pedestrian, bicycle, and transit routes in order to increase the demand, efficiency, and effectiveness of alternative modes of transport. UGBs must also focus on maximizing other transportation demand management strategies. Municipalities could be encouraged to implement UGBs. Although the federal government cannot directly install UGBs, it is not unprecedented to require that municipalities adopt these initiatives.
At an economic level, UGBs can potentially save municipalities millions of dollars from reduced infrastructure costs for roadways, utility distribution systems and municipal services (1000 Friends of Oregon, 2002). A Rutgers University case study performed on New Jersey concluded that implementing UGBs would save the taxpayers $1.3 billion in infrastructure costs over 20 years. It is estimating that the city school districts alone would save $4 million per year in avoided maintenance costs. The Portland State University Center for Urban Studies concluded that building subdivisions adjacent to existing facilities would reduce infrastructure costs by 27%.
Efficient and Effective Transit
Transport Canada commissioned three background studies (released in March 2002) on the state of transit, proposing a national vision for urban transit to 2020 and provided a cost-benefit framework and model that evaluates transit and highway investments. They were commissioned, in part, due to the increased federal interest in transportation issues. Also, many groups have identified that funding for transit systems from the provinces to municipalities has been greatly reduced over the past decade and municipalities are unable to maintain, improve and expand transit systems.
Part of the reason that transit systems in Canada are under-funded is because comprehensive full cost-benefit analyses that are comparable to highway investment are not being utilized during decision-making. Additionally, externalities including environmental and social costs and benefits have not traditionally been a part of the decision making process. These factors have resulted in the transit systems appearing to be less cost effective than highway investment. HLB (2002) has created a cost-benefit analysis framework that identifies the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits to assist transit authorities and municipalities in investment decision-making. This may also assist federal and provincial governments in appropriately allocating resources.
From an environmental perspective, taking any form of transit over the personal automobile could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions since the personal automobile generates 40% of all emissions in the transportation sector (Transportation Climate Change Table, 1998). Similarly, using vehicle distribution analyses in the Cost-Benefit Framework and Model for the Evaluation of Transit and Highway Investments produced by HLB, shows that the majority of emissions are generated from personal use vehicles (comprised of gasoline fueled cars, light-duty pickup trucks,and diesel fueled cars), which represent >95% of the vehicle distribution. Efficient transit systems are capable of providing substantial emissions reductions by converting drivers to passengers. On average, a bus replaces approximately 50 cars on the road (at peak travel times) whereas Canadian cars traveling in cities carry 1.3 people on average (Center for Sustainable Transportation, 1998).
From a social perspective, using HLB’s Model, transit is shown to be an essential service to those below the poverty level as 50% of people riding the bus are in this category. All modes of transit (bus, bus rapid transit, light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail) provide an important service to those using transit for work and/or medical visits. Additionally, a significant proportion of riders are willing to change their mode of transportation from the car to transit if investments are made to transit systems that reduce travel time, increase reliability, and improve the levels of service.
From an economic perspective, infrastructure investment in modes of transportation other than the personal automobile is cheaper if measured per kilometer. It is estimated that the construction costs of an urban expressway is $60 million per kilometer whereas rail is $9 million and bike infrastructure per kilometer is $0.05 million (Center for Sustainable Transportation, 1998). Also, traffic congestion can threaten economic efficiency due to lost working hours.
Efficient transit systems provide a significant component of the solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation. However, currently, there are over 18 million cars and light trucks on the road in Canada (the second highest number of automobiles per capita in the world) (Transportation Climate Change Table, 1998). Furthermore, automobiles and light trucks produce over 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions that comprised 25% of all greenhouse gases produced in Canada in 1997 by the transportation sector. This makes transportation the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Canada (Transportation Climate Change Table Options Paper, 1999).
Energy security issues, air quality concerns, and the mitigation of global climate change and are all driving the current interest in developing ATFs (Energy Information Administration 1994).
Since different ATFs require different refueling infrastructures, on-board storage mechanisms, and engine and emission control technologies than gasoline or diesel fuels, their widespread introduction will probably require government assistance (Energy Information Administration 1994). Economic tools such as tax exemptions, capital cost subsidies, fuel and emission standards, effective use of federal purchasing power, and support for research, development and demonstration will likely be necessary to promote the production and use of alternative fuels. This is particularly true since many alternative fueled vehicles are perceived as being more costly than their conventionally fuelled counterparts. However, the value of alternative fuels could not be directly compared with gasoline because the cost of gasoline does not reflect the subsidies and tax benefits that are incorporated into the market price, nor does it account for its detrimental affects on the environment. The full cost analysis of converting to efficient ATFs provides both economic and environmentally sustainable sense.
A variety of alternative fuel types have been developed to power the automobile, such as hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), methanol, ethanol, electricity, biodiesel, solar energy and P-series. Some vehicles (hybrids) have been developed to provide a slow transition toward the use of alternate fuels. These commonly involve the integrated use of gas and electrical power sources.
Ethanol is a renewable, GHG neutral fuel that can be used now in existing vehicles to provide economically significant emissions reductions. A 10% blend of ethanol (E10) in gasoline can be used in any vehicle and many of the newer vehicles being produced are capable of running on 85% (E85) and 95% blends (E95). The addition of ethanol increases the octane rating of gasoline, which may inadvertently improve fuel efficiency and increase horsepower while reducing engine wear and tear (Climate Change Solutions 2002). Ethanol is a carbon neutral fuel as the biomass from which the ethanol was produced will have absorbed the equivalent amount of CO2 (during its vegetative growth) to that emitted from its combustion.
The primary barrier to standardizing ethanol’s widespread use is the current inability to produce large enough quantities at an economically competitive rate. However, recent technologies are enabling its production from cellulose or lignocelluloses (from wood fiber) and for producing ethanol from wood waste, all of which combine to greatly reduce the production costs of ethanol.
The production of ethanol from wood wastes in British Columbia alone, could supply half of Canada’s gasoline with 10% ethanol at an economically competitive rate. Since 1974, technological improvements have reduced the production costs of ethanol from wood by approximately $2.20/litre (from $2.50/litre to $0.30/litre) and future production costs are expected to be about $0.22/litre (Natural Resources Canada 2002).
The utilization of natural gas as a transportation fuel can be incorporated into a regional plan to support national energy security, reduce atmospheric pollution, and act as the bridge to a hydrogen fuel-cell transportation system. Since natural gas is an abundant, domestically available product in Canada, as an ATF it can dramatically reduce dependence on foreign oil. In addition, the exhaust emissions from natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are much lower than those from gasoline vehicles.A typical dedicated NGV can reduce exhaust emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) by 70 percent, non-methane organic gas (NMOG) by 87 percent, oxides of nitrogen (NOx) by 87 percent and carbon dioxide (CO2) by almost 20 percent below those of gasoline vehicles (NGVC 2002). Natural gas has low emissions and can be made available through existing distribution. Vehicle storage of natural gas must be in either a compressed gaseous state (CNG) or in a liquefied state (LNG) (AFDC 2002).
Although a natural gas pipeline distribution system is currently well developed to serve the majority of residential and industrial consumers throughout North America, the natural gas refueling infrastructure has not been well established for transportation. In 1999 there were roughly 20,000 natural gas vehicles in Canada, supported by only about 135 public refueling stations that are broadly dispersed (Transport Canada 1999). An expansion of the current distribution system to service more vehicle refueling stations may increase demand for natural gas as an ATF, thus increasing revenue to recover the capital costs incurred from such expansions. Economic gains and GHG emission reductions can also be achieved by recovering and using otherwise lost or flared natural gas sources such as landfill gases. Most vehicles can be easily converted to run on natural gas and since the price of natural gas on average is 30 percent less than gasoline prices, the initial conversion cost could be quickly recovered.
Although the technical and environmental benefits of using hydrogen as a transportation fuel have long been acknowledged, there is renewed interest now because new technology appears to make it commercially feasible in the near future. Hydrogen gas is currently being integrated into newly designed combustion engines and electric fuel cell vehicles. Hydrogen-powered, fuel cell or hybrid electric cars are expected to have fuel costs comparable to today's gasoline cars. This alternative vehicle technology represents a potential trillion-dollar-a-year market worldwide. When fuelled by pure hydrogen fuel cells are pollution-free - producing only electricity, heat and water (Transport Canada 1999). On-board storage of hydrogen (similar to that of natural gas) can be accomplished by using high-pressure storage tanks that compress the hydrogen, or insulated storage tanks at low temperature and pressure to store it as liquid hydrogen (Energy Information Administration 1994).
Since hydrogen is available domestically, this offers the potential for dramatically reducing the need for imported oil. In addition, it also provides great opportunities to reduce the health costs attributed to urban air pollution and to potentially eliminate GHG emissions from the transportation sector. An appropriate source and method of hydrogen production however, has created much debate. Although it is recommended that hydrogen be initially produced from natural gas, there are a wide variety of resources and methods available for hydrogen production. However, the future success of the fuel cell and the impact on GHG emissions will vary greatly depending on the life cycle of hydrogen production and use.
Social Paradigm Shift in Canada to Promote Sustainable Transportation
Gas is not expensive enough to promote a change in driving behavior and automobile travel remains convenient enough that millions of Canadians still commute alone in their cars on a daily basis. In addition the lack of alternatives gives the public no incentive to change their driving habits. Therefore, a series of incentives initiated by the Federal Government are necessary to promote an attitude and behavioral shift. The incentives that are necessary to promote this attitude shift can be generalized into two main approaches:
- decreasing the convenience of the personal automobile by promoting Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies and the use of mass transit; and,
- diminishing the desirability of the personal automobile through graphic, health-based advertising.
Promoting TDM strategies and making alternative modes of transportation increasingly favorable may help reduce the amount of personal automobile use by making driving less convenient. TDM involves a variety of measures that work together to reduce the amount of vehicles on the road while maximizing the overall movement of people. The overall goal of implementing TDM strategies is to promote environmentally sustainable transportation and therefore can be applied to any city, especially in city centers where there are a large number of commuters including Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. TDM strategies can be implemented relatively cost neutral, and are an effective solution for reducing GHG’s in the personal transportation sector.
Since people will always require a means of transportation it is simply not enough to make driving inconvenient. Reliable and feasible alternatives must be offered and these alternatives must be cheaper or at minimum comparatively priced with the use of the personal automobile. In addition to the implementation of biking, ride-share and telecommuting programs, increasing the availability and convenience of transit systems should also help to get people out of their cars.
Transit would be an effective alternative to driving, however the demand needs to be created in order to make transit both cost and energy efficient. Creating a demand for transit involves implementing a variety of mechanisms and changing people’s current perceptions of transit systems. According to a 2002 Canadian public opinion poll, Canadian citizens feel that current public transit systems are slow, unreliable, inconvenient, dirty and unsafe (Public Policy Forum, 2002). These attitudes need to be changed before Canadians are likely to accept transit as a viable option to the personal automobile, and the way to do this is by increasing transit’s desirability through advertisement.
Advertising the health consequences associated with vehicle pollution would be an effective way to achieve an attitude shift amongst Canadians. This would be similar to the Anti-Smoking Campaign that Health Canada is currently running. Driving could be made undesirable through advertising graphic images and explicit wording. If people are visually exposed to the real costs and damages caused by driving related emissions they may begin to consider the consequences of their actions and choices.
The serious implications that global climate change is likely to have on Canadians are likely to be made public. Global climate change could have the potential to have direct results on Canadians by affecting their physical and mental health and an indirect result by damaging Canada’s social structure. Federal and Provincial government spending will likely have to increase to cover both the medical costs (i.e. asthma medication and respiratory surgeries) and social costs of having a less productive society (i.e. increased sick days and less full time employees). Canadians should be aware of these details because it will be their health that may be compromised and their tax dollars spent. However, much of this could be avoided if they changed their behaviors and attitudes towards sustainable modes of transportation.
As is typical with many large-scale issues, people often take a ‘freeloader’ attitude, and typically feel that their individual efforts won’t make a large enough difference to bother. This attitude can be changed through advertising campaigns similar to stop smoking campaigns, that help convince people of the dangers and impacts that driving a car have on the environment, their health and the health of their loved ones.
Resources and References
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