Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

The Canadian Press: First Canada-wide survey ranking urban transportation puts B.C. cities on top

with 3 comments

The Canadian Press:

VANCOUVER – The first Canada-wide survey ranking green urban transportation policies puts two B.C. cities at the top of a list of 27 urban areas.

The GreenApple Canada study, backed by the Appleton Foundation, gives Victoria the best marks for environmentally friendly transportation but Foundation spokesman Barry Appleton says the city still receives a “B” because it has lots of room for improvement.

Vancouver ranked second, followed by Ottawa-Gatineau in third place with Winnipeg fourth and Toronto and Montreal tied for fifth.

Twenty-seventh spot went to St. John’s, N.L. because Appleton says the city announced acceptable green transportation policies but failed to follow through.

Appleton gave special nods to Hamilton for its leadership on anti-idling bylaws while Calgary is applauded for providing free transit in its downtown core.

The survey, which will become an annual event, considered everything from public transit infrastructure to air quality measures, anti-idling bylaws and even the total number of hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles in taxi or bus fleets.

And that’s it. The entire story. I tried to find the study but so far with no luck. What I cannot for the life of me understand is what they mean by “public transit infrastructure” – since the only fixed facilities in Victoria would be the place where buses are stored and maintained out by Gorge Road. There is no other fixed facility that I am aware of that BC Transit provides. And there are no “air quality measures” in Victoria either other than those which apply to BC as a whole. And “alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles in bus and taxi fleets” cannot be a large number either – unless they count 10% biodiesel as an alternative fuel, and even then I cannot recall if that is used in Victoria. There is certainly no natural gas for vehicles on the Island – apart from one compressor at the leg put in for Moe Sihota and not used, and an installation at the Sidney municipal yard, which at least stopped misuse of municipally provided vehicle fuel.

And how does Vancouver come second? I assume it covers the entire Metro area. Yes, we have a few Prius taxis and there is quite a bit of fixed infrastructure (does Canada Line under construction count?) but it’s coverage is nowhere near as comprehensive as the Montreal metro, or even the TTC’s combination of subways and surface light rail (and streetcars of course).

What worries me with surveys of this kind is the readiness with which this kind of nonsense gets picked up by local pols and pr puffs. They are complacent enough already. And complacency is one of the best ways I know to convince yourself that you don’t need to try harder. And if any region needs to try much, much harder in the field of “green urban transportation policies” it is Metro Vancouver, since our current fetish for expanding freeways, covering prime agricultural land for container storage and railyards, and filling the shallows of Roberts Bank with yet more fill cannot be seen in any sense as “green”.

I suggest that GreenApple (whoever they are) need to look at outcome not policies. Look at indicators that actually means something. Like percentage mode share for transit, walking and cycling – which is very good in downtown Vancouver and pretty poor most everywhere else. Or percentage of the registered vehicle fleet which is oversized SUVs, old full sized cars and trucks used solely for personal transportation. It takes a lot of hybrids to offset that kind of fuel consumption.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 22, 2007 at 9:37 am

3 Responses

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  1. Hello Stephen

    I found the report posted on the appletonfoundation website – link following

    On a quick read of Montreal – it appears the reported is weighted towards the adoption of technology. Montreal ranks highest in ridership, density, etc but low in technology adoption thus in only gets a ranking below Victoria and Vancouver which I guess have adopted more technologies.

    I share your concern about how it wil get interpreted in BC.


    September 22, 2007 at 11:00 am

  2. Thanks for that link Ron

    Here is the list of criteria they used

    Air Quality
    CO2 from retail fuel sales per capita, tonnes (2005)
    Median of daily maximum observed CO, parts per million (2005)
    Median of daily maximum observed O3, parts per billion(2005)
    Registered vehicles per capita (2005)

    Public Policy
    % population living in a municipality with an anti-idling by-law (2007)
    % housing starts in row and apartment units (2006)
    Trip reduction programs, employees of CMA’s major city: discounted bus pass. (June 2007)
    Provincial incentives/credits to buy 2007 hybrid automobile instead of gasoline model (August 2007)

    Transportation Policy
    Housing stock % row and apartment (2001)
    Annual public transit regular revenue KMs travelled per capita, 000s (2005)
    % labour force walking, bicycling or taking public transit to work (2001)
    Free transit in the core? (June 2007)
    Population-weighted monthly adult transit pass cost (2007) * 12 / Median household income (2005)
    % of labour force holding employer-issued transit passes (December 2006)

    Technology Adoption
    % transit fleet using AFV (March 2007)
    No. hybrid or AFV taxis / Total No. of Taxis. (2007)
    % municipal road fleet using AFV (12/31/2006)

    Stephen Rees

    September 22, 2007 at 12:13 pm

  3. Clarification

    It seems that the use of the term “infrastructure” comes from The Canadian Press. I suspect that they did not actually read the report or its very extensive separate document on methodology.

    Victoria does well because it has B10 – but so does a consortium of municipal fleets in Greater Vancouver. CNG is not counted as an alternative fuel, so the Translink and Vancouver taxi fleets that use this cleaner fuel (in terms of common air contaminants) get no credit. This is justified by the fact that CNG is a fossil fuel. Victoria also does well since the provincial government introduced a transit pass for its employees back in 1994 – I know, I had one. Given the high percentage of Victoria employees who work for the province, this helps a lot. Vancouver has very few large employers – but lots of very small companies which makes issuing employer based passes much harder to do. Vancouver should have got credit for the use of electricity in trolleybuses and SkyTrain – but it is not clear of the use of emissions free existing hydroelectricity here got us a leg up over Ontario which uses coal and nuclear as well. Vancouver also got the advantage of the use of a one zone pass price for the fare indicator – and not an average pas price based on use (two and three zone passes being much more expensive but with lower sales). Victoria also got credit for its experimental hybrid buses – Vancouver has not got any. I do not understand why “commuter coach” gets excluded – it is better than the car obviously – and I am also less than confident that whoever filled in the form at Translink recognised that electricity is indeed an alternative fuel. Existing trolleys tend not to get noticed in these kinds of surveys since they are not seen as “innovative”. I really had to twist some arms to get a tiny bit of credit from the Environment Canada Municipal Fund (administered by FCM) when Translink ordered the new trolleys.

    Stephen Rees

    September 22, 2007 at 12:56 pm

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