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Getting around in the Arctic

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The harsh climate and dispersed population north of 60 make it tough to move people and goods. Building and maintaining road or rail infrastructure is difficult in many areas. Marine transport is possible in coastal areas, but only in the warmest months. Often, air transport is the only option.

The three northern territories had about 10,500 km of roads in 2003, of which 3,100 km were paved. The Northwest Territories reported 121 km of railroad in 2007; the other territories had none.

Nunavut and the Northwest Territories send and receive cargo by sea; most of the activity is in Nunavut.

For passengers, however, aviation is key: people in the territories have a high propensity to travel by air. Citizens of Iqaluit and Yellowknife report more trips per capita than citizens of any other Canadian city. As well, the number of aircraft takeoffs and landings in Iqaluit, Yellowknife and Whitehorse generally rose from 2003 to 2007.