Stephen Rees's blog

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

Road Emissions Dominate Global Transport Emissions

with 13 comments

Science Daily

The world’s car park is growing. It has become so big that the impact of emissions from today’s road traffic on the global temperature in 2100 will be six times greater than that from today’s air traffic.

Today’s global road emissions have a strong and long-lasting effect on climate. After 100 years these emissions will lead to a temperature increase that is six times greater than the temperature increase from today’s air transport, according to a new CICERO study. The study includes the effects of all climate-relevant components of the emissions, not only CO2.

The Livable Region Strategic Plan in 1995 introduced a policy of increasing transportation choice. Not what many opponents of sensible land use and transportation planning say “forcing people out of their cars”. This emotive appeal to anti-planning sensibilities (“government bad, market good”) had no foundation in fact. The old GVRD (and the new Metro) had no powers to force anyone to do anything. The idea was that if the alternatives – walking, cycling and transit, could be made more attractive then car use would fall.  Perhaps not in absolute terms, as the population was also expected to grow – and again there is nothing regional government can do about that either. But if walking and cycling could be made safer (cars are much safer now than they were, but casualties among road users not encased in a steel cage have got much worse) and transit service made more frequent and convenient it was expected that the share of trips by single occupant vehicles would decline.

That has not happened. There are a number of reasons for that, often discussed here, but the most obvious and glaring departure from the LRSP is the continuing spread of urban development based around car use. In much of the region density remains low and access to transit is therefore very poor. Not only that but investments in rapid transit have been concentrated in one part of the region and most car users can realistically say that the choice of other modes is not available to them. Most of the region’s homes are on streets that have no sidewalks and are remote from both safe paths for cycling and good transit service.

The current provincial government has been trying to claim that it is concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, and makes much of its (for Canada) unique carbon tax.  But that so far has had no discernible effect and at its planned levels with not have much. As gas prices have recently fallen significantly much of the fuss made about the carbon tax’s supposed impact on remote communities looks a bit overdone. And for as long as the lack of reasonable alternatives continues, this is not going to change. But incredibly the provincial government is also pressing ahead with expansion of its freeway network in this region. And houses are being pulled down – and trucks routed past schoolyards in the name of increased trade. As though plastic toys from China were more important than having schoolyard air free of diesel particulate.

The truck superhighway will be less than 300 feet from the schoolyard. Diesel particulate is measurable up to 500 metres. There is no safe level for exposure to diesel particulate, which is a known carcinogen.

Bridgeview Elementary School from the South Fraser Perimeter Road. The truck superhighway will be less than 300 feet from the schoolyard. Diesel particulate is measurable up to 500 metres. There is no safe level for exposure to diesel particulate, which is a known carcinogen.

Not only that but there is a great deal of trumpeting of a transit plan – even though it is not funded and the one new rapid transit line that has been committed to (the Evergreen Line) still is not fully funded, and is not expected to start construction any time soon. Even though the South Fraser Perimeter Road preload is going in long before a P3 partner has been selected. The haste with which this particular project is proceeding is hard to understand, given the steep decline in the justification for this road due to changes in the world’s economy that are not going to be short term. Deltaport two years ago was badly congested. Long line ups of trucks backed up along Deltaport Way as far as Highway #17. That is no longer the case. Container ships at the berth are now an infrequent sight – and there is never more than one at a time. It is unusual now to see a train waiting outside the yard to unload.

The overwhelming conclusion one is forced to draw is that Gordon Campbell and Kevin Falcon pay transit and greenhouse gas emissions reductions lip service – no more. The road expansion programs are, in fact, much more to do with property speculation than anything else. Just like the Sea to Sky Highway was really about opening up Squamish for high priced residential development for commuters (the Olympics being a PR ruse and nothing more) the SFPR is about industrial development along the south bank of the Fraser and the expansion of Highway #1 is to create more suburban sprawl in Langley and beyond.

The region’s transportation authority has been directly complicit in these plans. And when it looked like it might actually raise serious questions about the government’s intentions, it was reorganised to ensure its compliance. The major projects that the agency is currently engaged in  – and which are seriously threatening its financial viability as a transit provider – are major roads. The Golden Ears Bridge does nothing for traffic congestion but wonders for encouraging suburban growth in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows – something never contemplated in the LRSP. Yes, people who now wait for the Albion Ferry will have a quicker journey – but what no one seems to have noticed is that those people have deliberately chosen a route which gives them a nice quiet break in their journey so that they can relax and read for a while. The total trip time via the nearest available crossings not being much different to waiting for the ferry. But why are two low density municipalities outside the Growth Concentration Area the first priority for a major capital project? Because it can be built and paid for by tolls.

Translink abandoned strategic planning some time ago. It now simply wants to be “seen to be doing something”. The decisions are made in Victoria – and any pretense that the region’s growth strategy is important has been abandoned too. It is the Port’s growth strategy that is cited as the reason for the new freeways.  But the Port is not publicly accountable and can pursue any strategy it chooses as it has the financial ability to finance its own expansions. And has been allowed to proceed with them regardless of any environmental impact. The processes of evaluation and mitigation of these effects being a transparent sham. Thanks largely to the efforts of the same Kevin Falcon when “Minister of Deregulation” and Gordon Campbell’s slashing of the ministry responsible for our environment.

At the same time a series of tv advertisements nearly indistinguishable from party political ads have been running trumpeting BC as “the best place on earth”. Pure propaganda. Because under this government’s mandate the salmon and the orcas have declined close to extinction. The pine beetle has had free range. The forest industry has almost completely disappeared – with only the export of raw logs and the production of wood chips for fuel continuing. Yes the economy has been remarkably buoyant – but with oil and gas prices at record highs for most of the last few years that was not exactly difficult. the impact on communities impacted by drilling of course has been largely ignored – since they are remote and small. Mines, coal bed methane and lots of run of the river hydro projects – many of which are much more environmentally destructive than anyone imagined a few years ago – have also helped.

It is not just that we have resolutely stuck to “business as usual” in this province. We had an opportunity to turn things around, and change our ways to create a better future for everyone. BC was once a leader in environmental regulation, and in creating new technologies that held (its was said) great promise for the future. There is not much evidence of any of that now. The Premier’s ridiculous “hydrogen highway” looks like it will not be started, let alone completed, since there are still no hydrogen cars in any numbers. One BC manufacturer of electric vehicles has moved to Asia in the face of official obfuscation.

Most urban regions of the world now do much better than we do in terms of pedestrian streets (we have none) cycling facilities and rapid transit provision. Everywhere else has recognised the role of government is getting transit oriented development [see footnote], with vibrant mixed use areas, easily accessible and highly sought after. We are no longer going to be the region planners come to visit to see how it was done. Once upon a time, Vancouver said no to a city centre freeway, and started a new direction in high density development in its city centre. But what people coming here now remark on is how poor our suburban development is, and how little progress we have made outside of the downtown of Vancouver.

The only thing that has stopped the Gadarene rush to satisfy the greed of the markets was when a private power project threated the Pitt River and its park.  One public meeting was all it took. But there is still only sporadic small scale opposition to freeway expansion, and it is largely ignored, even though the case against this development is much stronger than that of the Pitt. Do we really care more about parks than our children? Is the ability to go for a nice hike at the weekend more important than having breathable air in our communities? Do we really not care about global warming and the emissions that are accelerating it?

Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO). “Road Emissions Dominate Global Transport Emissions.” ScienceDaily 28 November 2008. 29 November 2008 <­ /releases/2008/11/081121081355.htm>.



Vehicle Trip Reduction Impacts of Transit-Oriented Housing

A survey of 17 transit-oriented developments (TOD) in five U.S. metropolitan areas
showed that vehicle trips per dwelling unit were substantially below what the Insti-
tute of Transportation Engineer’s Trip Generation manual estimates. Over a typical
weekday period, the surveyed TOD housing projects averaged 44 percent fewer vehi-
cle trips than that estimated by the manual (3.754 versus 6.715). Vehicle trip rates of
transit-oriented housing projects were particularly low in metropolitan Washington,
D.C. and Portland, Oregon, both known for successful TOD planning at the regional
and corridor levels. Trip rates also generally fell as neighborhood densities increased.
Local officials should account for the lower automobile use of those residing in TOD
housing through such measures as traffic impact-fee adjustments and reduced off-
street parking requirements.

Robert Cervero, University of California, Berkeley, and G.B. Arrington, PB Placemaking in  Journal of Public Transportation Volume 11 No 3 2008

Written by Stephen Rees

November 29, 2008 at 9:29 am

13 Responses

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  1. How Vancouver keeps getting that “most livable city” or whatever that award is escapes me.

    Do those judges even travel past South Granville?


    November 29, 2008 at 9:51 am

  2. When I first lived in the UK in 1974, there was already a great push to reduce diesel particulate as it was deemed responsible for all sorts of illness including cancer. And we do nothing here?

    Malcolm J.

    November 29, 2008 at 4:52 pm

  3. It is not that we do nothing. In Canada we simply follow the US – so we have the same regulations governing engine emissions and fuel standards. Most of these started with the California Air Resources Board, and eventually get absorbed by the EPA – or they did until the Bush era stifled all progress.

    The EU has much tougher engine standards, and has developed newer types of diesel engine, which are not used here. Europe has also long encouraged the use of diesel as opposed to gasoline (“petrol”) as it is more energy efficient. So diesel engines are more widespread in cars and light trucks than here.

    BC in the case of the SFPR acknowledges that particulates will be a health issue – but claims that is an economic benefit as it will provide more employment in the health sector. (I am NOT making this up!)

    Though the Ministry of Transportation tries to give the data “a good spin,” Hunt says, it acknowledges in its own reports, in Technical Volume 16, page 51, that “human health is the second largest category impacted by the Gateway program” and “economic impact is very high because the estimated economic damages from PM 2.5 (Diesel particulate matter 2.5 microns and smaller) related health problems per tonne of PM 2.5 emissions are substantial.”

    Moreover, the data acknowledges that “close proximity to a major roadway has a higher cancer rate and has higher respiratory disease rates.”

    According to Volume 7, page 50 of Gateway’s own reports, the short-term health effects of diesel exhaust inhalation include headaches, eye, nose, throat and bronchial irritation, fatigue, stomach aches, nausea and compromised pulmonary function. “There is growing epidemiological evidence that increased cardiorespiratory mortalities follow increased ambient concentrations of diesel particulate matter,” it notes.

    Dark by any standard. But hey, there’s good news: Vol. 16, p. 39 of an Environmental Assessment Office report states that “with increased air pollution there can possibly be increased employment (eg. in the health sector) because of the economic activity associated with correcting the results of its impacts.”

    Source: Surrey Now March 8 2007

    Stephen Rees

    November 29, 2008 at 5:16 pm

  4. I am stunned!

    Malcolm J.

    November 29, 2008 at 7:37 pm

  5. […] of road travel is higher than that of air travel, on a emissions basis. Stephen Rees of Vancouver talks a little bit about what this means for the lower mainland region. Of course, Gateway is championed by the same Kevin Falcon that today announced the […]

  6. While diesel engines are indeed more efficient than gas engines, it’s a mistake to believe that they are cleaner in terms of health-affecting emissions.

    I believe California’s rules are actually stricter than Europe’s, at least until recently – which is one reason you see barely any of those european diesels on sale in the North American market. Even the very best of them only qualify for California’s laxest category (“Tier 2, Bin 5”) and there has basically been a race between California’s improving regs and the manufacturers ability to keep up which resulted in a couple of recent years with no diesel cars on sale at all in either the US or Canada.

    The main reason for diesel’s popularity in europe is simply that diesel is taxed less than gasoline there. At a resource level, diesel is in fact more expensive than gas, but due to the difference in taxation it is still cheaper at the (european) pump.

    BTW Stephen, I had to laugh out loud at the idea that people taking the Albion Ferry have “deliberately chosen a route which gives them a nice quiet break in their journey so that they can relax and read for a while”. I suspect you are gently pulling our collective leg…


    November 29, 2008 at 10:22 pm

  7. I have heard it argued that one impact of the California regs was to reduce the amount of PM10 but increase the amount of PM2.5. The issue being that at such small scale it is very difficult to count particles. The newer engines may produce a smaller volume of emissions in terms of total weight emitted over a period of time – but actually produce a larger number of the tiniest, most dangerous particles.

    I am not an engineer but I understand that the newer European diesel engines have a much more advanced fuel delivery system, which reduces the amount of unburnt oil in the exhaust.

    Originally the tax advantage for diesel was designed to aid businesses over private motorists: diesel engines being widely used in commercial vehicles. The manufacturers however got around that by producing very good small engines designed for cars. Now diesel is favoured as it requires less energy to refine and thus has a (small) ghg advantage.

    Perhaps, Mark, you have not used the ferry. People line up, turn off their engines and settle in for a four to five sailing wait. They could probably drive to the Port Mann or Mission bridge in that time, but it would be both more stressful and expensive in gasoline. Many commuters like a journey that is longer as it gives them a time of their own to decompress between work and home. This is more noticeable with train users than drivers, but perhaps ferry users enjoy the peace and quiet of the ferry line up and the gentle voyage. Nicer than driving in heavy cut throat traffic. That was certainly my experience recently when I chose the Mill Bay ferry instead of the drive over the Malahat

    Stephen Rees

    November 29, 2008 at 10:50 pm

  8. Stephen: Bless you for not beating around the bush and for showing everyone what heartless, ruthless, unprincipled people are making the transportation decisions in this province and how little they care about our most vulnerable citizens – children. Appreciate you telling it like it is “…houses are being pulled down – and trucks routed past schoolyards in the name of increased trade. As though plastic toys from China were more important than having schoolyard air free of diesel particulate.” while government bulletins on the Gateway Program spout rhetoric about the benefits of the South Fraser Freeway including “… reduced truck traffic on our residential streets… reduced traffic noise through neighborhoods…” Well as anyone looking at your picture can see the truck traffic of the freeway will be right in the middle of residential streets and through our Bridgeview neighborhood. A picture is worth a thousand words and this one along with your hard hitting words are sure to help everyone understand why our Bridgeview Action Group is so making so much noise and why Bernadette “No Trucking Freeway” Keenan keeps hitting the Campaign trail to get the message out against this Freeway. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Bernadette

    Bernadette Keenan

    November 30, 2008 at 4:43 am

  9. PS

    I think this means your closing comments may no longer apply.

    Bernadette Keenan

    November 30, 2008 at 4:48 am

  10. and before I forget, thanks to Donna Passmore who arranged for Stephen along with Jane Sterk, leader of the Provincial Green Party; Don Hunt of Sunbury Neighborhood Association and Cathy Tingskov of CAW – More Buses Now to meet with Sonia Nazar of Bridgeview in Motion; Bernadette “No Trucking Freeway” Keenan and representatives of the Bridgeview Community Action Group.

    Bernadette Keenan

    November 30, 2008 at 6:08 am

  11. I can so relate to the points you have made here. I used to work for a trucking company. Three years ago, most of our business was container work. It was difficult to book an appointment. The container work slowed down for our local business’s needs about two years ago.

    When the Gateway consultants arrived to push options on our local community of Bridgeview (no options to say we didn’t want it). Residents would continue to tell them that we needed proper drainage and sidewalks in place before they could start. With their plan they will close off three exits/entrances. My road was the first they closed off (with no warning). I meet with seniors at the local coffee place and one senior told me how difficult it is now to get there by his bike. He had always used the street that just got closed (safe and quite of traffic). He now has to use a commercial street that has no side walks or a safe shoulder to ride on (both sides of the street our used for the workers of the business establishments). Now he is forced to drive to the coffee shop (much safer?), and now he is not going to get the exercise he needs.

    With these exits closing there is going to be more traffic moving through the community. With no safe sidewalks in place (we do have some, but they have seen better days, they are heaved up in places causing people to trip and are not safe for strollers or too narrow or flooded over when there is heavy rains, so pedestrians are forced to use the streets).

    Currently, when there is an accident on Pattullo Bridge, Bridgeview gets traffic congestion. This congestion is not caused by local residences, but by other neighbourhood drivers speeding through hoping to beat the traffic that is backed up on Scott Road, and Bridgeview Drive. This makes it difficult for Bridgeview residents to get out of there own driveways, because of the speeding traffic and the backup along 112A Avenue, 126A Street and 128 Street.

    Now with Gateway, and the already busy King George Hwy. and Bridgeview Drive, the Bridgeview community is going to be surrounded by diesel particulate. We will not be able to get in and out of our community safely. And no one cares.

    So much for consultation with people and open government.

    Sonia Nazar

    November 30, 2008 at 9:09 am

  12. “with increased air pollution there can possibly be increased employment (eg. in the health sector) because of the economic activity associated with correcting the results of its impacts.”

    Now THERE is some traditional economic thinking.

    Let’s get that GDP UP UP UP!!!

    :rolls eyes:


    November 30, 2008 at 11:04 am

  13. I need to reiterate my statement regarding no one cares. I should state the current government, federally, provincially, or civically don’t care (Surrey First under Mayor Diane Watts).

    As Steve remarked about increased employment in the health sector, that the government actually states this in the documents regarding Gateway, is ludicrous. Value of life has no meaning to the current Liberal government.

    Sonia Nazar

    November 30, 2008 at 11:57 am

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