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Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics

Section I : Transportation in Canada

Transportation provides people and businesses with services that are fundamental to our standard of living and well-being. The transportation system connects communities by moving people and goods and, in an increasingly globalized world, it is vital to trade and competitiveness.

In Canada, we demand much from transportation, with our geographically dispersed yet highly urbanized population and heavy dependence on trade.

Our transportation system has more kilometres of roads per person than almost any other nation. It also includes: 10 major international airports and 300 smaller ones; 72,093 km of operating railroad tracks; and more than 300 commercial ports and harbours, which provide access to three oceans and the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway System.   1, 2

Our rising population and continued growth in trade are pushing up transport-related energy usage as never before. We rank near the top in per capita use of fossil fuels, and we pay a price: from greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution to contamination of water and soil.

Large portions of land are devoted to transportation and wildlife habitat is fragmented by its infrastructure. Transportation's effects on the environment are felt locally and globally.

Governments and businesses are running programs and developing new techniques and technologies to help reduce transportation’s impact on the environment. Individuals also play a role.

Transportation trends

Transportation: an economic driver

The 'transportation industries'—those that use aircraft, trucks, trains, ships or other equipment to provide transportation services to clients for a fee—accounted for 3.7% of Canada's economic output as measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2000. While this makes up a significant share of economic activity, recent research shows that transportation services contribute far more to the economy if we look beyond the 'for-hire' transportation industry. 3 This is because many non-transportation industries, from forestry and logging to wholesale trade, produce their own transportation services by operating fleets of trucks, buses or ships. When the value of these 'in- house' transportation services is added to the mix, the contribution of transportation to GDP jumps to 6.3%. This places transportation's contribution ahead of retail trade, construction and the mining, oil and gas industries. The number one occupation among men, according to the 2001 census, was truck driver.

When we talk about 'transportation,' the use of private vehicles to get around in our daily lives is also a significant component of the overall picture.

Moving people: how Canadians get around

Canadians must cover a lot of ground—both to cover the distance between far-flung urban centres and to move around within them. As a result, they are very dependent on passenger transportation (text table 1.1 ).

As in most developed countries, Canadians are very reliant on the automobile. From the postwar era onwards, vehicle ownership rates were spurred on by relatively low prices for vehicles and gasoline, increased spending on expressways and road systems, and socioeconomic factors like higher household incomes, smaller-sized households, and more women entering the workforce. 4 In 1951 there were nearly 5 people for every vehicle registered in Canada. By the mid-1980’s this number had fallen to less than two persons per vehicle (chart 1.1 ).

As the number of vehicles continued to climb, consumer tastes shifted away from the family sedan towards light trucks—vans, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and pickups. From 2000 to 2005, the number of light trucks on Canadian roads grew by more than one-quarter, while the number of cars and station wagons fell by 1%. In 2005, vans, SUVs and pickups made up 42% of the 18 million light vehicles 5 on the road in Canada. These vehicles tend to use more fuel than cars and station wagons (text table 1.2 ).

Growing rates of urbanization

While our widespread dependence on the automobile can be attributed to many factors, suburban expansion may be one of the most important. In 2001, 80% of the Canadian population lived in an urban area compared to just under 76% two decades earlier. For the majority of these urban areas, population growth has been fastest in the suburban fringe.

At the same time, employment growth in the suburbs has been on the rise. According to the Census, between 1996 and 2001, for each new job created within a 5 km radius of a city core, nearly five were created in the suburbs.

As more people and jobs have become 'suburbanized,' commuting patterns have become more complex and diffuse. The suburb-to-city-core commuting route, the one that is most easily supported by traditional public transit systems, has increasingly given way to suburb-to-suburb commutes. Even reverse daily commuting—from city core to suburb—is becoming more common.

Canadians living or working in more distant suburbs are much more likely to drive to work than to use the bus or some other means (text table 1.3  ).

According to the General Social Survey of time use, the proportion of workers in Canada who used the bus or subway to get to and from work remained steady at about 12% between 1992 and 2005. In large urban areas, where service is more accessible to commuters, this proportion was higher—20% of workers in Canada’s six largest metropolitan areas used the bus or subway for part or all of their commute in 1992 and 2005. 6

Whether they use public transit or travel by automobile, workers are spending more time commuting to and from work. Average commute time varies from region to region, but for Canada as a whole, commuters spent an average of 63 minutes getting to work and back again in 2005, compared to 59 minutes in 1998 and 54 minutes in 1992. 7

                                                        Passenger movement
Passenger- kilometres 1 Passenger trips
Cars and light trucks     463,156     12,017
Urban transit     .     1,628
Air     90,326     42
Intercity bus     .     15
Rail     1,426     4
1 . Passenger-kilometres are derived by multiplying the number of passengers by distance travelled.
Source(s): Transportation Division, Canadian Vehicle Survey, 2004 (revised), catalogue no. 53-223-X; Aviation Service Bulletin, catalogue no. 51-004-X, Vol. 37, no. 6; Rail in Canada, 2004, catalogue no. 52-216-X.
Chart 1.1Road motor vehicles
Note(s):  In 1999, Statistics Canada changed the data collection methodology for road motor vehicles. Some of the difference in the vehicle trend after 1999 may be attributable to this methodological change.
Source(s):  Canadian Political Science Association and Social Science Research Council of Canada, 1965, Historical Statistics of Canada, M.C. Urquhart, catalogue no. HA746 U7, Toronto; 1983, Historical Statistics of Canada, Second Edition, F.H. Leacy (edition), catalogue no. 11-516-X and CANSIM tables 051-0001, 405-0001 and 405-0004.
                         Vehicles Vehicle- kilometres Passenger- kilometres Litres of gasoline Distribution Distance driven Persons per vehicle Fuel efficiency
Vehicles Vehicle- kilometres Passenger- kilometres Litres of gasoline
  millions billions percent thousand of kilometres number litres per 100  kilometres
Total light vehicles 1 18.0 287.7 493.7 29.2 E 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 16.0 1.7 10.6
Light trucks or vans  
Van 2.9 53.6 111.7 6.0 E 16.1 18.6 22.6 20.7 18.5 2.1 11.5
Sport utility vehicle 1.4 23.3 45.0 F 7.9 8.1 9.1 ... 16.5 1.9 ...
Pickup 3.3 49.5 76.8 5.9 E 18.3 17.2 15.6 20.4 15.0 1.6 14.0
Cars and station wagons  
Car 10.0 154.3 249.7 13.6 E 55.7 53.6 50.6 46.6 15.4 1.6 9.1
Station wagon 0.3 5.1 7.9 F 1.7 1.8 1.6 ... 16.7 1.6 ...
1. Includes other vehicle types in addition to light trucks and light automobiles.
Note(s): These data exclude the territories. Figures may not add up to totals due to rounding.
Source(s): CANSIM tables 405-0062, 405-0063, 405-0064, 405-0114 and 405-0115.

Freight transport

As with the movement of people, demand for freight transportation has grown steadily in recent decades and continues to rise—especially the demand for truck transport.

In Canada, more goods are shipped by water (443 million tonnes in 2003) and rail (338 million tonnes) than by any other means; the lion's share of coal, lumber and other heavy bulk goods is carried by these behemoths of transport. For-hire trucking followed closely in third place, carrying 305 million tonnes (chart 1.2 ). Air cargo ranked a distant fourth, carrying 663 thousand tonnes 8 of mainly high-value goods in 2003. 

Although trucking’s share takes third place in weight terms, its importance in the overall scheme of freight transportation has grown substantially. From 1990 to 2003, the amount of freight carried by the for-hire trucking industry grew nearly three times faster (75%) than all other modes combined (up a collective 27% over the same period).

What's more, these numbers do not include goods shipped by 'private trucking'—trucking fleets owned or leased by companies outside of the trucking industry who look after their own shipping—or by small and local for-hire carriers. In economic output terms—as measured by GDP—private trucking and delivery services accounted for more than half (58%) of trucking's overall contribution to GDP in 2000. 9

                             Public transportation Driver Passenger Walk Bicycle Other
Residence to city centre                                                                              
0 to 5 kilometres             16.5             61.2             6.6             12.2             2.5             1.1
5 to 10 kilometres             20.7             65.3             6.8             5.0             1.4             0.7
10 to 15 kilometres             17.8             70.0             6.9             3.8             0.8             0.7
15 to 20 kilometres             15.8             71.8             7.5             3.6             0.7             0.6
20 to 25 kilometres             12.2             76.1             7.6             3.0             0.5             0.6
More than 25 kilometres             7.0             80.1             7.6             3.9             0.7             0.7
Residence to job 1                                                                              
0 to 5 kilometres             14.9             57.0             8.3             15.8             2.7             1.3
5 to 10 kilometres             19.8             70.5             7.2             0.8             1.0             0.6
10 to 15 kilometres             17.0             75.6             6.1             0.5             0.4             0.4
15 to 20 kilometres             14.5             78.6             5.8             0.5             0.2             0.4
20 to 25 kilometres             13.3             80.2             5.5             0.5             0.1             0.4
More than 25 kilometres             11.1             79.2             5.9             2.6             0.4             0.8
1. Some individuals reside in a different census metropolitan area from which they work. Consequently, these results must be interpreted with caution.
Note(s): Includes all individuals aged 15 and older working at a usual place of work in census metropolitan areas.
Source(s): "Work and Commuting in Census Metropolitan Areas, 1996-2001, Trends and Conditions in Census Metropolitan Areas", catalogue no.  89-613-M.
Chart 1.2Freight shipped for selected modes of transport
1. These figures pertain only to Canada-based for-hire trucking carriers.
Source(s):  Shipping in Canada, catalogue no. 54-205-X; Rail in Canada, catalogue no. 52-216-X; Trucking in Canada, catalogue no. 53-222-X.

Trucking and trade

Spurred on by trade agreements—from the Auto Pact (1966) to NAFTA (1994)—Canada's trade with the US grew by 191% from 1990 to 2005. 10 As bilateral trading partners go, Canada and the US rank first in the world.

For the for-hire trucking industry, this has meant an ever-increasing demand for freight movement over the border. On a tonne-kilometre basis (taking weight of shipments and distance traveled into account) truck traffic moving across the Canada-US border grew five times faster than domestic traffic, between 1990 and 2003 (chart 1.3 ).

A booming 'scheduled' economy

The ability to deliver goods door-to-door—in sync with customers' production and distribution needs—has made trucking a highly valued service for the scheduled economy. The 'just-in-time' delivery of freight, where parts and products are scheduled to arrive as they are needed, helps firms stay leaner and more competitive by reducing the costs of carrying large inventories. 11  From 1992 to 2005, manufacturers were able to reduce inventories as a share of shipments by 15%, 12 thanks in part to more frequent deliveries by truck.

Fuelling the economy

Growing demand for both passenger and freight transportation continues to push up demand for gasoline and diesel fuel in Canada. From 1990 to 2004, the volume of fuel purchased at the pump grew by more than 20%. Over the same period, growing demand for trucking (particularly for the services of heavy trucks) helped push up fuel consumption by road transport and urban transit by more than 70%. While most retail pump sales are made to individuals, some commercial vehicles including taxis and fleet vehicles also purchase retail fuel (text table 1.4 ).

While overall fuel consumption by the transportation industry continues to rise, the 'intensity' with which transport industries are using energy has tended to fall over time. Put another way, when comparing energy use to economic output, these industries are using less and less energy for each thousand dollars of real gross domestic product in transportation services (chart 1.4 ).

Chart 1.3Domestic and transborder shipments by truck1
1. These figures pertain only to Canada-based for-hire trucking carriers.
Source(s):  Trucking in Canada, catalogue no. 53-222-X.
Chart 1.4Energy intensities1 for selected transportation industries
1. Based on gigajoules of energy per thousand dollars of real gross domestic product in transportation services.
Source(s):  CANSIM tables 153-0032 and 379-0017.
                     Total Railways Airlines 2 Marine 2 Road transport and urban transit Retail sales (pumps)
          thousands of cubic metres
1990         45,991         2,313         4,078         2,640         4,419         32,541
1991         44,484         2,143         3,687         2,733         4,474         31,447
1992         45,596         2,241         3,921         2,711         4,657         32,067
1993         46,537         2,233         3,756         2,397         5,104         33,048
1994         49,086         2,310         4,015         2,574         5,979         34,208
1995         49,560         2,092         4,244         2,523         6,450         34,251
1996         51,005         2,046         4,941         2,480         6,690         34,849
1997         52,562         2,074         5,082         2,481         7,147         35,778
1998         54,158         1,999         5,227         2,919         7,197         36,817
1999         55,688         2,116         5,583         2,741         7,345         37,902
2000         55,880         2,169         5,634         2,801         7,175         38,101
2001         55,332         2,132         5,015         3,016         6,721         38,448
2002         55,486         1,934         5,299         2,718         6,871         38,665
2003         56,884         1,928         5,336         2,525         7,368         39,728
2004         59,351         1,959         5,823         2,803         7,573         41,193
1. Refined petroleum products refers to motor gasoline, diesel fuel oil, light fuel oil, heavy fuel oil, aviation gasoline and aviation turbo fuel.
2. Includes fuels purchased in Canada by domestic and foreign companies.
Note(s): Figures may not add up to totals due to rounding.
Source(s): CANSIM tables 128-0003 and 128-0010.

Transportation’s environmental impacts

From urban sprawl and gridlock to air pollution from high-flying jets, the transportation choices we make every day affect the environment.

Significant environmental effects result from the use of fossil fuels. Transportation consumed 31% of all energy used in Canada in 2004, the second largest user after industry (mining, manufacturing, forestry, and construction). 13

Paving over land for highways and parking lots, introducing invasive species (such as zebra mussels in the Great Lakes) and throwing out old tires and used motor oil are other ways transportation can affect the environment (text table 1.5 ).

The air we breathe

A significant portion of regional air pollution results from transportation activities. In Canada, the major air pollutants—known as 'criteria air contaminants' (CAC)—are monitored by the National Air Pollution Surveillance Network at over 150 stations in 55 cities across the country. (Text box  Criteria air contaminants.)

Transportation is a major emitter of three of these contaminants: nearly three-quarters of the carbon monoxide (CO), more than one-half of the nitrogen oxides (NOx) and more than one-quarter of the volatile organic compounds (VOC) in 2004 14 (text table 1.6 ).

The good news is that, over time, transportation's output of CAC has declined. The introduction of catalytic converters, cleaner burning fuels and higher fuel efficiency standards have all contributed to the decrease. For example, NOx emissions from transportation were 19% lower in 2004 than in 1990. In the same period, CO and VOC emissions each dropped 37% (chart 1.5  and text table 1.6 ).

However, these emissions continue to be a concern because of their potential environmental and human health impacts. For example, NOx and VOC are precursors to the formation of ground level ozone—a key component of smog. NOx is also a major contributor to acid rain. Small amounts of CO can slow human response and perception, and prolonged exposure to low levels—or brief exposure to high concentrations—can cause unconsciousness and death.

While the bulk of CAC emissions come from road sources, not all types of vehicles contribute equally to the mix. Heavy-duty vehicles (including tractor trailers, for example) were responsible for 25% of transportation NOx emissions in 2004. Light trucks—vans, SUVs and pickups—contributed 22% of transportation VOC and 31% of transportation CO emissions; light automobiles—cars and station wagons—were accountable for 23% of VOC and 30% of CO.

Criteria air contaminants

Criteria air contaminants: Criteria air contaminants (CAC) are a concern due to potential effects on human health and ecosystems. They include:

Total particulate matter (TPM): Particulate matter is a broad category of air pollutants that includes a range of small solids or liquids varying in size and chemical composition. Total particulate matter refers to all particles with a diameter less than 100 microns.

Particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns (PM10): A subset of TPM consisting of particles that are 10 microns or less in size. Sources include windblown soil, road dust and industrial activities. These particles can travel into the lungs and may be captured by lung tissue.

Particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns (PM2.5): A subset of PM10 consisting of particles that are 2.5 microns or less in size. Particles are formed through the chemical transformation of gases released from sources such as motor vehicles, gas plants and forest fires. PM2.5 is thought to be more dangerous than PM10 because it can travel deeper into the lungs.

Carbon monoxide (CO): A toxic, colourless, odourless gas generated primarily from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. CO displaces oxygen in red blood cells, reducing the amount of oxygen available for respiration.

Nitrogen oxides (NOx): Air pollutants that consist primarily of nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) produced by the reaction of nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2) in air at high temperatures in internal combustion engines and furnaces. Nitrogen oxides contribute to the formation of ozone, the production of particulate matter and acid deposition (including acid rain).

Sulphur oxides (SOx): A group of gases—mainly sulphur dioxide (SO2)—produced by the combustion of fossil fuels and by natural sources such as volcanoes. Sulphur dioxide, a colourless gas with a pungent odour, irritates the upper respiratory tract in humans and leads to acid rain.

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Any organic compound that has a high tendency to pass from the solid or liquid state to the vapour state under typical environmental conditions. Such compounds participate in a range of processes that lead to atmospheric pollution, including the formation of ground-level ozone, a component of smog.

Source(s): Human Activity and the Environment 2000, catalogue no. 11-509-X. Wood Buffalo Environmental Association, Glossary and Technical Information, 2006,  (accessed April 17, 2006).

Living in a greenhouse

Naturally occurring greenhouse gases (GHG) help regulate the planet's climate by trapping solar energy, which warms the earth’s surface. However, since industrialization, GHG emissions from human activities have amplified this natural process, and scientists predict that this trend will continue. 15

Transportation is a major source of GHG emissions. In 2004, transportation accounted for 26% of total GHG emissions in Canada and 28% of emissions growth since 1990. Greenhouse gases emitted by transportation include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). 16

From 1990 to 2004, GHG emissions from transportation rose 30%, or almost 45 megatonnes. Our growing dependence on road vehicles to move people and goods was the main contributor to the increase (text table 1.7 ). Eighty-six percent of the increase  in transportation's emissions came from road vehicles, in particular light trucks and heavy-duty vehicles (chart 1.6 ).

SUVs, pickups and vans have grown in popularity. From 2000 to 2005, the fleet of light automobiles fell 1%, while the number of light trucks rose 26%, according to the Canadian Vehicle Survey. 17  Generally, light trucks are heavier and have greater horsepower than cars. In 2005, the average fuel efficiency for cars in the Canadian vehicle fleet was 9.1 L/100 km; for pickups, 14.0 L/100 km; and for vans, 11.5 L/100 km. 18

                     Air Land Water Solid waste Noise Other
Cars and trucks  Air pollution and  greenhouse gas  emissions  Land taken for  highways, roads,  parking lots and other  infrastructure;  extraction of road  building materials;  habitat disturbance;  corridor creation;  release of  contaminants (spills,  road salt) Surface and groundwater  pollution; modification of water systems  through road building Waste oil, tires and  other materials; road  vehicles and parts  taken out of service Noise and vibration  in cities and along  main roads Animal kills; congestion
Trains Air pollution and  greenhouse gas  emissions  Land taken for  terminals, track and  rights of way; habitat  disturbance; corridor  creation Modification of water  systems in railway  construction Rolling stock and  related equipment  taken out of service Noise and vibration  around terminals and  along railway lines Animal kills
Planes     Air pollution and  greenhouse gas  emissions Land taken for  terminals and runways;  habitat disturbance  Modification of water  systems in airport  construction Aircraft and parts  taken out of service Noise and vibration  around airports Bird kills
Water transport    Air pollution and  greenhouse gas  emissions  Land taken for  ports and other  infrastructure;  habitat disturbance  Release of substances  into water (discharge of  ballast water,  oil spills); modi-  fication of water  systems in port  construction,  canal cutting,  and dredging Vessels and parts  taken out  of service Noise and vibration  around terminals and  port facilities Animal kills; introduction of invasive species
Source(s): Human Activity and the Environment 2000, catalogue no.  11-509-X.
                                                        1990 2004 Change 1990 to 2004
                tonnes             percent
Total particulate matter               98,710                70,949                -28
Particulate matter less than or equal to 10 microns               97,444               69,872               -28
Particulate matter less than or equal to 2.5 microns               89,236               63,484               -29
Sulphur oxides               113,431               66,022               -42
Nitrogen oxides               1,577,967               1,274,212               -19
Volatile organic compounds               995,686               630,291               -37
Carbon monoxide               11,746,035               7,375,378               -37
Source(s): Environment Canada, Pollution Data Section.

The share of freight moved by road relative to other types of transportation is also affecting GHG emissions. Just-in-time delivery—in lieu of carrying large inventories—means trucks are making more trips. The number of tractor trailers registered was 32% larger in 2005 than in 2000; the number of straight trucks was up 12%. 19

Chart 1.5Emissions of NOx, CO and VOC from transportation
Source(s):  Environment Canada, Pollution Data Section.
Chart 1.6Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation
Source(s):  Environment Canada, 2006, National Inventory Report, Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, 1990-2004, Gatineau.
                                     Carbon dioxide (CO2) Methane (CH4) Nitrous oxide (N2O) CO2-equivalents 1
1990 2004  1990 2004 1990 2004 1990 2004 Percentage change 1990 to 2004
         kilotonnes        percent
Transportation        142,000         185,000        30        30         20        30        150,000         190,000        29.9
Domestic aviation        6,220        7,590        0.5        0.4        0.6        0.7        6,400        7,800        22.0
Road transportation        103,000        140,000        16        12        12        16        107,000        145,000        35.9
Light automobiles        52,300        48,600        9        4        6        6        54,400        50,600        -7.2
Light trucks        20,900        41,800        4        5        4        8        22,300        44,500        99.6
Heavy-duty vehicles        27,300        48,500        2        3        1        2        27,700        49,100        77.5
Motorcycles        225        214        0.18        0.17        0.00        0.00        230        219        -4.8
Propane and natural gas vehicles        2,160        837        2        1        0.04        0.02        2,200        870        -60.7
Railways        6,320        5,350        0.3        0.3        3        2        7,000        6,000        -15.3
Domestic marine        4,730        6,260        0.4        0.5        1        1        5,000        6,600        31.3
Other        22,000        26,000        10        10        4        6        20,000        30,000        17.9
1. CO2 equivalent emissions are the weighted sum of all greenhouse gas emissions. The following global warming potentials are used as the weights: CO= 1; CH 4 = 21; N2O = 310.
Note(s): Figures may not add up to totals due to rounding.
Source(s): Environment Canada, 2006, National Inventory Report, Greenhouse Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada, 1990-2004, Gatineau.

Aircraft emissions

Aircraft generate many of the same emissions as do vehicles operating on land or ships at sea, including NOx, CO2, SOx and H2O. However, because emissions from aircraft in flight are released at high altitude into highly sensitive atmospheric regions, their impact can be quite different. While carbon dioxide emissions have a similar impact whether emitted from aircraft or sources on the ground, emissions of NOx and the condensation trails left in an airplane's wake have different effects.

The altitude at which emissions of NOx are released is vital in determining their impact. Most NOx emissions from today's aircraft are released in the troposphere (the atmospheric layer extending from the earth's surface to about 10 km) and the lower-most part of the stratosphere (the layer between about 10 km and 50 km) where they react with VOC to produce ozone. At this level, ozone acts as a greenhouse gas. In contrast, the effect of NOx emissions in the upper stratosphere by high-flying supersonic aircraft would have a different effect. Emissions here would result in reduced ozone. This effect is a concern because stratospheric ozone absorbs potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation.

The condensation trails, or contrails, commonly left in a plane's path can also affect climate. Contrails form when the temperature difference between the warm, moist engine exhaust gases and surrounding air is great enough to cause the vapour to reach saturation point and condense to form water droplets. These water droplets rapidly freeze, and the resulting contrails can spread to form cirrus cloud cover.

Contrails and aircraft-induced cirrus clouds affect climate in two ways: they reduce the amount of earth-emitted radiation escaping to space and they increase the amount of solar radiation reflected back into space. The former effect is greater than the latter; as a result, the earth's surface is warmed. One way to negate this impact is by reducing flight altitude. However, this raises concerns such as the restriction of airspace capacity and greater release of CO2 due to less efficient aircraft operation.

Source(s): Grewe, V., M. Dameris, C. Fichter and D.S. Lee, 2002, "Impact of aircraft NOx emissions, Part 2: Effects of lowering the flight altitude,"Meteorologische Zeitschrift, 11, 3: 197-205. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1999, IPCC Special Report: Aviation and the global atmosphere. Plummer, David, Environment Canada, Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, personal communication. Williams, V., R.B. Noland and R. Toumi, 2002, "Reducing the climate change impacts of aviation by restricting cruise altitudes,"Transportation Research, Part D, 7: 451-464.

Land impacts

Transportation affects our land resources in many ways, including the loss of farmland, wetlands and animal habitat to urban sprawl, highway networks and airports. Soil contamination can result from road spills and from waste and litter that is improperly disposed of.

Transportation also consumes many raw materials—from fossil fuels to metals and minerals. In 2003, for example, 245 million tonnes of sand and gravel were mined across Canada, 70% of which was used for road construction, ice control and concrete and asphalt production. 20

Roads and sprawl

With so much distance to cover, Canada's road network comprises more than 1.4 million kilometres of highways and roads (text table 1.8 ), enough to circle the Earth 35 times. In cities, streets and parking lots alone can take up as much as 35% to 50% of available land. 21

Car culture has helped facilitate lower-density development in suburbs and surrounding countryside. With larger lot sizes, longer distances to amenities, meandering roads and fewer public transit options, the car is in some cases the only way to get around. As depicted in figure 1.1 , the prevalence of short-stop streets and cul-de-sacs characteristic of suburban development contrasts sharply with the more easily navigable grid pattern typical of a downtown core.

Huge areas are cleared to develop new residential areas and create transportation corridors: once developed, this land is unlikely to be used for other purposes, such as agriculture. Since many cities started off as farming communities, development and the ensuing road-building often occur on our limited supply of good quality farmland. Forty-six percent of urban land occupies land formerly considered dependable for agriculture. 22 By 2001, 40,400 square kilometres of Canada’s farmland had been lost to other uses, up from 20,000 square kilometres in 1951. Of this total, 29% was used for transportation and utilities, including roads, railways, airports and utility transmission lines (text table 1.9 ).

Figure 1.1
Connectivity, city centre versus suburban

Connectivity, city centre versus suburban
                                Road length Distribution
Freeway 1 Primary highway Secondary highway and major arterial Local street and rural road 2 Total Freeway 1 Primary highway Secondary highway and major arterial Local street and rural road 2
            thousands of two-lane equivalent kilometres           percent
Canada           16.9           85.8           114.6           1,191.6           1,408.8           1.2           6.1           8.1           84.6
Newfoundland and Labrador           0.2           1.4           5.4           20.1           27.1           0.7           5.2           19.9           74.2
Prince Edward Island           0.0           1.3           2.2           2.9           6.5           0.0           20.0           33.8           44.6
Nova Scotia           1.6           2.8           3.3           40.9           48.7           3.3           5.7           6.8           84.0
New Brunswick           1.3           1.5           6.2           67.5           76.6           1.7           2.0           8.1           88.1
Quebec           5.0           10.9           15.1           197.3           228.3           2.2           4.8           6.6           86.4
Ontario           5.7           10.2           34.2           180.4           230.6           2.5           4.4           14.8           78.2
Manitoba           0.2           8.2           10.8           85.3           104.5           0.2           7.8           10.3           81.6
Saskatchewan           0.1           20.5           12.6           216.8           250.3           0.0           8.2           5.0           86.6
Alberta           1.4           15.5           17.3           171.1           205.3           0.7           7.5           8.4           83.3
British Columbia           1.3           9.9           5.2           188.5           204.8           0.6           4.8           2.5           92.0
Yukon Territory           0.0           2.6           0.9           12.5           16.1           0.0           16.1           5.6           77.6
Northwest Territories           0.0           0.8           1.3           8.1           10.1           0.0           7.9           12.9           80.2
Nunavut           0.0           0.0           0.0           0.1           0.1           0.0           0.0           0.0           100.0
1. Freeways are defined as divided highways.
2. Includes roads with paved and unpaved surfaces.
Source(s): Transport Canada, 2004, Transportation in Canada, 2004 Annual Report, catalogue no. T1-10/2004E,  (accessed March 2, 2006).
                                 Urban and rural built-up 2 Transportation and utilities 3 Protected areas and campgrounds Other 4 Total
               square kilometres
1951              11,400              7,400              1,000              200              20,000
1961              12,600              7,400              1,100              300              21,400
1971              14,300              8,200              1,300              500              24,300
1981              18,000              9,800              1,500              1,100              30,400
1991              21,100              10,600              2,100              1,700              35,500
2001              23,200              11,700              3,400              2,100              40,400
1. Includes class 1 to 3 in the Canada Land Inventory agricultural land classification.
2. Includes inventoried human settlements with populations above 1,000, settlements with a population under 1,000, and rural farmsteads and housing lots.
3. Includes roads, railways, airports and utility transmission lines.
4. Includes lumberyards, sewage treatment facilities, dumps, federal real property, cemetaries, pits, quarries, autowreckers and golf courses.
Note: Figures are rounded to the nearest 100.
Source: The loss of dependable agricultural land in Canada, Rural and Small town Canada Analysis Bulletin, Vol. 6, no 1, catalogue no. 21-006-X.

Wildlife and habitat

Besides consuming land, transportation infrastructure can have an impact on wildlife. Wide roads and busy highways can act as a barrier, limiting movement of small and large mammals. At the same time, road and rail corridors can facilitate the spread of plants and wildlife into new areas. Wildlife habitat can also be affected by train derailments and spills.

Animal kills are another way that transportation affects wildlife; however, available data are limited. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia estimates that 2% of annual vehicle collisions in the province involve wildlife. 23 Collisions involving large animals, such as bear, deer and moose can be particularly dangerous. In Banff National Park in Alberta, a project on reducing road impacts on wildlife uses fencing, gates, underpasses and overpasses to limit animal mortality on the highway while allowing animals to cross. 24

The construction of airports and subsequent air traffic can disrupt habitat and result in bird kills. To lessen this danger airports modify habitat, use sirens, cannons, lights and other equipment to discourage birds from approaching. Vancouver International Airport, which is located along a major Pacific bird flyway, reported that control officers killed 1,060 birds in 2005, and another 222 birds were killed in bird strikes with aircraft. 25

Contaminating soils

The risk of soil contamination from transportation and transportation infrastructure is also a concern. Corroding underground gas tanks can leak fuel into surrounding soil. Wood preservation chemicals can leach from railway ties. According to the National Pollutant Release Inventory, 2,704 tonnes of ethylene glycol, which is commonly used to de-ice airplanes, was released onto land in 2004. 26

Oil, gasoline, diesel, antifreeze, coolants and other substances regularly spill or leak onto roads. As they wear and break down, engines, tires and brakes produce pollutants. This mix of chemicals can run off onto surrounding roadsides. Studies show that concentrations of heavy metals are higher near heavily travelled roads. 27

Canadian producers shipped 13.8 million tonnes of salt in 2005, 28 much of it used to de-ice roads. It is estimated that close to 5 million tonnes of road salt are used in Canada each year. 29 Some environmental contamination risks of road salt are increased salinity of soils, damage to vegetation, contamination of ground and surface water, and fish mortality.

An indirect way that transportation can contaminate soil is through acid deposition, which occurs when emissions of sulphur and nitrogen oxides fall to the ground in dry form or as acid rain, fog or snow.

Water resources

Ships and boats releasing ballast water in ports and waterways can introduce alien species (for example, zebra mussels) and contaminate water resources. Transportation infrastructure—roads, railways, airports, ports and canals—can also modify water systems and impact their ecology.

Hydrological impacts

Dredging to allow the passage of larger ships removes bottom sediments, some of which may contain contaminants, and deposits them in a different location. Along with dredging, construction of ports, marinas and canals affects habitat, water flow and, ultimately, biodiversity. Eroded sediment from dirt and gravel roads can reach streams reducing fish spawning.

Impervious surfaces, such as roads and parking lots, affect water resources as well. Natural absorption of rainfall is impossible, so the groundwater under the surface cannot be replenished. Instead, the water runs off quickly along the surface or into storm sewer systems. As a result, streams may receive more water than they are able to accommodate, resulting in flooding. Runoff from roads and parking lots also contains pollutants, such as pulverized rubber, oils and lubricants, and salt in winter months. Some of these contaminants make their way into local water systems. 30

Release of hazardous substances

When we think of spills, we tend to think of catastrophic events such as the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989, which occurred off the coast of Alaska. However, transportation-related spills happen every day on a much smaller scale.

Recreational boats, for example, are also a potential source of water pollution. Spilled fuel and oil, garbage dumped overboard and the use of chlorine bleach and phosphate soaps to clean boats can all affect water and aquatic life. A little can go a long way: a single litre of gasoline can make up to 1 million litres of water unfit for human consumption. 31

Introduction of invasive species

The number one method by which alien invasive species enter Canadian waters is the release of ballast water. It is estimated that at least one-third of the 140 alien invasive species living in the Great Lakes were introduced through discharged ballast water. 32 A full ballast tank is essential for a ship's stability when it is carrying little or no cargo. When cargo is loaded, the ballast water is discharged—along with any organisms living in it.

The zebra mussel—one of the most notorious and problematic invasive species in Canada—was introduced via discharged ballast water. The mussel has achieved densities as great as 300,000 per m2 in the Great Lakes, where it thrives free of its natural predators. 33 This Caspian Sea native was accidentally introduced in 1988.

Release of ballast water is not the only means by which invasive species have been introduced to Canadian waters. Plant and animal life transported on the exterior of ships and boats and movement through canals and other waterways are also potential conduits for invasive species.


Being held up in a traffic jam is frustrating: road construction, bad weather and traffic accidents can all cause congestion. However, where we choose to live, work and play are also contributing factors. As Canadians drive more, traffic congestion is a growing problem in urban areas. It is also a major concern from an environmental standpoint.

Most people use their cars at peak times—during the morning and evening rush hours. In 2005, Canadians drove their cars and trucks 28% more on weekdays than on Saturdays or Sundays, according to the Canadian Vehicle Survey. 34

Idling and slow-moving vehicles caught in stop-and-go traffic use more fuel and, as a result, release more emissions than they would if their trips were made in less time. A recent study by Transport Canada, which looked at the costs of urban traffic congestion for Canada’s nine largest urban areas, estimated that approximately one-half billion litres of fuel is wasted annually because of congestion; this amounts to between 1.2 to 1.4 Mt of GHG emissions, according to the study. The majority of congestion occurs in Toronto, Montréal, and Vancouver, Canada’s largest urban areas. 35

Driving on thin ice

For most of us, an icy road is a driving hazard, but for many Northerners it is an essential part of mobility. Every year, winter roads are constructed over frozen rivers, lakes and rugged areas in northern Canada. For many northern communities these ice highways are the only means by which they can be reached by road.

The road system north of 60° is quite different in each of the three territories. In the Yukon almost all communities are accessible by the all-weather road system. In the Northwest Territories, about half of all communities are accessible by winter roads only and the other half by all-weather roads. No road linkages exist between communities in Nunavut.

Warming winter temperatures in the Canadian North are threatening the reliability of winter roads. Higher temperatures mean a shorter ice season and reduced ice thickness and strength, limiting the weight of vehicles that can travel on it. In addition, more time and money will have to be spent maintaining winter roads to ensure that conditions are safe.

All-weather roads, bridges and runways could also be affected by increasing temperatures. Thawing of the permafrost upon which many of these structures exist could threaten their stability and strength: this must be taken into account when these facilities are built. For example, building the runway at the Yellowknife airport involved digging down to the permafrost and laying insulation to prevent the permafrost from melting.

Source(s): Yukon Conservation Society, 2004, "Northern community impacts and adaptations," Impacts of Climate Change, High School Backgrounder 11,, (accessed March 13, 2006). Transport Canada, 2005, Northern Transportation System Background Paper, (accessed November 18, 2005).

What is being done

Balancing the need to move people and goods with environmental considerations is a major challenge. Government and industry are responding with innovative programs, projects and new technologies. Individuals' choices and behaviours are also key to reducing the environmental impacts of transportation.

The responsibilities of each level of government are explained in the following text box (Government responsibilities).

Demand management

Transportation demand management is a set of strategies to make existing transportation systems more efficient, off-setting or delaying the need for infrastructure investments. Building cities and roads in ways that reduce congestion and bring homes, work and services closer together reduces the distance we need to travel on a daily basis. Flexible hours in the workplace can mute the effect of morning and evening rush hours as the transportation network is used more evenly throughout the day. Telework eliminates the need for commuting altogether. Ride-sharing and public transit take people out of single-occupant vehicles, as can disincentives such as parking fees, road tolls and gasoline taxes.

Some specific projects are highlighted in the following text box (Selected transportation projects).

Transportation infrastructure

Whether it involves building new infrastructure, expanding on current infrastructure or simply making better use of what already exists, infrastructure improvements can help reduce congestion in cities and bottlenecks in inter-city corridors. Improvements in infrastructure design and use can result in reduced environmental impacts.

Relieving pressure at ports

Trade with Asia has grown in recent years and is expected to continue doing so. From 1990 to 2005 Canada's exports to China increased by 315% and imports from China ballooned by over 2,000%. 36 Canada's west coast—particularly the Port of Vancouver and Fraser Port—receives a large portion of Asian freight destined for North America.

As the amount of freight being handled increases, west coast infrastructure has come under strain, resulting in congestion. To relieve the pressure, key congestion areas in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland have been targeted for infrastructure improvements. Replacing swing bridges and building overpasses to separate road and rail traffic along the route to the port in Delta will reduce travel times and increase reliability. This will make rail operations more efficient, improve the flow of local automobile traffic and reduce vehicle idling. 37

Government responsibilities

The municipal, provincial/territorial and federal governments have different responsibilities when it comes to transportation. All three levels are involved in initiatives to reduce transportation-related environmental impacts.


Urban transportation systems and local planning decisions are the responsibility of municipal governments. At the municipal level, initiatives range from public transit improvements to the addition of high-occupancy vehicle lanes. Many of these projects are a combined effort of public and private sector parties.


Provincial/territorial governments are responsible for intraprovincial transportation, including regulations for the provincial/territorial highway systems, marine, rail and air services as well as transportation policy. Passenger and freight on-road vehicles are the focus of the majority of provincial and territorial environmental initiatives because of their relatively large environmental impact.


The federal government is responsible for international and interprovincial transportation. The wide range of potential environmental effects of transportation is reflected in the number of acts and regulations that govern road, rail, marine and air transport; including, for example, the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Canada Shipping Act. Transport Canada is the main federal body responsible for these acts. Regulations and standards for on-road and off-road emissions are the responsibility of Environment Canada under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

As well, expansion of the Port of Prince Rupert will provide a new destination for ships arriving in North America from Asia, helping to reduce congestion. Once complete, the port will be able to receive the largest of container vessels and will be the second largest handling facility on the Canadian west coast. Road and rail links will enable transport to destinations across Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Getting cars off the road

Many commuters prefer driving alone to carpooling or public transit. Transportation demand management projects attempt to make best use of existing transportation infrastructure and invest in alternatives to private vehicles, making public transit or carpooling a more appealing option.

Although it may not feel like it at rush hour, our highways are capable of handling more people if they are used more efficiently. Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec allow buses, emergency vehicles and vehicles carrying at least two people to make use of high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. HOV lanes provide faster travel when other lanes are congested and slow. HOV lanes encourage commuters to carpool or take transit, by making their trip to work much faster. By making better use of existing infrastructure, HOV lanes move more people through congested areas more efficiently.

Buses and trains are the major components of transit systems in Canada's largest cities. The first subway line in Toronto opened in 1952, while the Montreal metro opened in 1966. Light rail transit is used in Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary, and Edmonton. Residents of the Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver regions can use commuter rail, which connects suburbs with the central city. 38

Urban transit and commuter passenger trips have grown in recent years (chart 1.7 ). Passenger trips increased by an average of 3.2% per year from 2001 to 2004.

Selected transportation projects

All levels of government support and foster transportation demand management strategies and efficient urban transportation planning. For example, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' Green Municipal Fund supports transportation-related projects focusing on public transit, municipal fleets, integrated and alternative transportation systems, transportation demand management and transportation planning. Transport Canada's Urban Transportation Showcase Program supports transportation strategies and best practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Whitehorse Driving Diet, Whitehorse, Yukon.

A strategy to reduce automobile use through active transportation infrastructure, public outreach and transportation demand management.

Future Vision for LA Transit, Lethbridge, Alberta.

This project involves expanding transit service, improving the existing service, increasing ridership and cutting fuel consumption using improved technology applications.

Central Okanagan Smart Transit Plan, Kelowna, British Columbia

The project examines options for handling the expected 55% population growth in the region over the next 20 years. It involves preparing transit approaches supporting smart growth, identifying transit priorities, integrating intelligent transportation systems (ITS) technologies and preparing a strategy to develop bus rapid transit and/or rail transit.

Vertigogogo, Ville de Val-Morin, Quebec.

This pilot project will test the suitability of a web-based 'ride-matching' service for residents and tourists in the Laurentides region. Rural taxi services, vanpooling and transportation for the physically disabled will be provided.

SmartBus, Mississauga, Ontario.

A field test is being conducted to examine the usefulness of an intelligent transportation system to improve customer service, boost ridership and cut operating costs.

Transit Station Precinct Parking Study, Burnaby British Columbia.

This study examines parking supply and demand and opportunities for commuters, visitors and residents in and around transit-friendly development located in the city's regional town centre and its two SkyTrain stations.

Saanich Transportation Demand Management Plan, District of Saanich British Columbia.

This project involves development and implementation of a demand management plan for all municipal facilities, including baseline research and benchmarking.

Saskatoon Transit Strategic Plan 2015, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

This long-range planning exercise will determine how Saskatoon Transit should respond to the 20-year downward trend in transit ridership and how the community could maximize the environmental and economic benefits of transit use.

Hybrid Technology and Feasibility Study, Ottawa, Ontario.

This feasibility study will identify the most cost-effective diesel-electric hybrid technology for Ottawa's transit services.

Trolley Bus Replacement Project, Greater Vancouver Regional District, British Columbia

This project has two distinct components: a core project supporting the purchase of electric trolley buses and a component investing in transportation demand management and renewable energy.

Source(s): Federation of Canadian Municipalities, 2006, Green Municipal Fund, (accessed April 25, 2006); Transport Canada, 2006, Urban Transportation Showcase Program, programs/environment/utsp/menu.htm  (accessed July 18, 2006).

Chart 1.7Urban transit and commuter passenger trips
Source(s):  Transportation Division.

The new transit pass tax credit introduced in July 2006 is one initiative that may help get cars off the road. 39 Some transit authorities are also introducing improved amenities and vehicles as well as real time schedule information to improve services and increase ridership.

Accessible communities

Urban planning is another tool used to improve the efficiency of transportation systems. Planning that encourages high-density, mixed-use communities, rather than low-density, single-use communities, can help reduce our reliance on transportation, particularly private vehicle use.

Many cities and regions across the country are embracing smart growth principles, which emphasize more efficient land use and transportation patterns (text table 1.10 ).

Smart growth can be applied to urban, suburban and rural areas. Shorter distances between homes, work, shopping and other services make it easier for people to walk, bike or take the bus.

In urban areas, smart growth promotes pedestrian activity, public transit options, infill and redevelopment; in suburbs, smart growth features medium-density town centres; in rural areas, village centres and main streets.

Ontario and British Columbia have articulated the need to minimize sprawl and direct growth to built-up areas. 40, 41 Vancouver, for example, has a long history of smart growth approaches, including mixing housing, retail and office space downtown, developing mixed-use residential/ commercial uses along transit lines, and allowing secondary suites throughout single-family neighbourhoods. 42

Smart growth is not restricted to large urban centres. In 1998, Okotoks, one of several fast-growing rural towns in the Calgary metropolitan area, developed the Sustainable Okotoks Municipal Development plan, which focuses on land use, mixed residential housing, transportation systems, open space and urban forest. 43

New technologies

Both industry and government are working to develop new technologies to reduce the environmental impacts of transportation. Many of these projects focus on fuel efficiency improvements and alternative fuels. Industry is also looking for ways to curb or prevent pollution in the production of transportation equipment.

Cleaner vehicles

Because road vehicles are responsible for more air pollution and GHG emissions than any other mode of transport, most of the work government and industry are doing to reduce the environmental impacts of transportation has focused on road transport.

The oil crisis of the 1970s prompted the federal government to introduce fuel efficiency standards in 1976. These voluntary company average fuel consumption (CAFC) standards were aligned with the U.S. corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards.

Canada's fleet of light automobiles and light trucks continues to meet CAFC standards (chart 1.8 ), but since the 1980s the standards have not reduced the overall fuel consumption. Most SUVs, vans and pickups fall in the light truck category, whose CAFC standards are less stringent. In recent years, SUVs, vans and pickups have made up a larger share of the fleet.

Chart 1.8Company average fuel consumption (CAFC) goals and fleet averages
Note(s):  Light trucks includes vans, pickups and special-purpose vehicles. Weight limit was 2,722 kilograms prior to 1988 and 3,856 kilograms after 1988. Estimated values for passenger cars and light trucks fleet average for 2002 to 2006.
Source(s):  Transport Canada, no date, Company Average Fuel Consumption, (accessed April 4, 2006).

After purchase, proper vehicle maintenance and driving habits help reduce the environmental impacts of road transportation. Two mandatory inspection and maintenance programs are currently operating in Canada: Ontario's Drive Clean (1999) and British Columbia's AirCare (1992). These programs control emissions in two of the most heavily populated areas of Canada: Southern Ontario (from Windsor to Ottawa) and British Columbia's Lower Fraser Valley (from Lions Bay to Chilliwack). Vehicles five years and older in Ontario and four years and older in B.C. must be tested every second year—they must pass the test before registration can be renewed.

Several models of hybrid-electric vehicles have been on the market since 2000, with more to come in the next few years. Provincial incentives to encourage purchases of these vehicles include sales tax rebates in Ontario 44 and Quebec. 45

Fuel cells, alternative low-carbon fuels, advanced gasoline and diesel engines, advanced powertrains and lightweight materials are just a few of the technologies being looked at by Transport Canada's Advanced Technology Vehicles Program. The program aims to reduce air emissions from on-road vehicles through the introduction of environmentally-friendly vehicles.

These advanced technologies could be vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.3 Mt by 2010—the emissions target set out in a 2005 memorandum of understanding between the federal government and the auto industry. 46

New regulations for heavy-duty trucks will require that all new trucks be much less polluting. These regulations, being phased-in from 2004 through 2010, aim to reduce 90% of particulate matter and 95% of NOx emissions. 47

Several federal programs aim to improve freight transportation. The Freight Efficiency Program encourages rail, marine and air freight carriers to use technology to reduce GHG emissions. FleetSmart offers free, practical advice on energy-efficient vehicles and business practices.

Emission-reduction technologies can also be retrofitted on long-life vehicles, such as buses. For example, Environment Canada has collaborated with the Canadian Urban Transit Association to install diesel oxidation catalysts on board more than 330 urban buses in 15 Canadian cities. 48

Cleaner fuels

Fuels emit air pollutants when burned. To reduce the emissions of some of these smog-forming air pollutants, the federal government has established fuel quality regulations. For example, all diesel fuel sold in Canada must, as of October 2006, meet the new 15 ppm sulphur content standard. The new standard is 97% lower than the previous allowable level of 500 ppm. 49 Interest in alternatives to traditional fuels has grown in recent years (text table 1.11 ). Many alternative fuels are cleaner than today’s gasoline and diesel, and could improve air quality if used widely.

Some alternative fuels are already commercially available. A blended fuel containing 10% ethanol is available at many service stations throughout Canada. It can be used in all vehicles manufactured in 1980 or later. Testing of biodiesel—a diesel substitute made at least in part from organic products—is under way. Natural gas and propane vehicles are commercially available and conventional vehicles can be converted to use these fuels.

Vehicles powered by fuel cells—highly efficient energy- conversion devices that utilize hydrogen—are not yet commercially available, in part because of the lack of a hydrogen distribution network required for refuelling. The British Columbia Hydrogen Highway Project aims to build a hydrogen highway from Vancouver International Airport to Whistler in time for the 2010 Olympics and Paralympics. The demonstration project hopes to speed up the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cells. Project participants include 11 technology providers, six federal and provincial bodies and 12 companies and public agencies who are sponsoring or taking part in projects. 50

Across the country, municipalities are testing alternative fuels for public transit fleets. For example, Saskatoon Transit Services and the Société de transport de Montréal have tested biodiesel for bus fleets. The goal of these studies was to assess how biodiesel works in buses in cold weather, and how it compares with diesel for emissions, fuel economy and engine wear.

The entire ferry and bus fleet in Halifax began using a biodiesel mixture of waste fish oil and diesel in October, 2004. The fuel, known as B-20, is 20% biofuel made with fish oil and 80% regular diesel fuel. Tests have shown that B-20 fuel cuts particulate matter emissions by 18% compared with regular diesel, CO2 by 16% and unburned hydrocarbons by 11%.

Cleaner processes

Canadian companies are investing to protect the environment. Their spending is tracked by Statistics Canada's Survey of Environmental Protection Expenditures. These expenditures are made to reduce the environmental impacts of their manufacturing processes.

The transportation equipment manufacturing industry posted operating expenses of $202 million for environmental protection in 2002, and spent an additional $59 million on capital projects. The largest proportions were devoted to pollution abatement and control processes, waste management and sewerage services, and pollution prevention processes (text table 1.12 ).

Intelligent transportation systems

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) apply computers, communications, control and sensor technology, and management strategies to transportation systems, resulting in safer, more efficient and less congested transportation systems.

In the Toronto region, the COMPASS freeway traffic management system uses traffic monitors on the highway system and complex computer algorithms to detect and manage traffic incidents. System operators assess traffic situations and manage the response. Drivers receive real-time information from overhead signs, a website, media advisories and still-camera or video images. Using this ITS-generated information, drivers can plan their trips better and avoid contributing to traffic congestion.

The system helps curb traffic congestion and improve transportation efficiency. In addition to saving lives, time, money and energy, ITS can also help the environment by reducing fuel consumption and pollutant emissions.

                                         Smart growth Sprawl
Density    Higher-density, clustered activities    Lower-density, dispersed activities
Growth pattern    Infill (brownfield) development    Urban periphery (greenfield) development
Land use mix    Mixed    Single use, segregated
Scale    Human scale;  smaller buildings, blocks and roads Large scale;  larger buildings, blocks, and wide roads
Public services (shops, schools, parks)    Local, distributed, smaller;  accomodates walking access    Regional, consolidated, larger;  may require automobile access
Transport    Multi-modal transportation;  land use patterns that support walking, cycling and  public transit    Automobile-oriented transportation;  land use patterns less conducive to walking, cycling and transit
Connectivity    Highly connected roads, sidewalks and paths,  allowing more direct travel    Hierarchical road network with many unconnected roads  and walkways and barriers to non-motorized travel
Street designs    Streets designed to accommodate a variety of activities;  traffic calming    Streets designed to maximize motor vehicle traffic volume  and speed
Public space    Emphasis on the public realm (streetscapes, pedestrian  areas, public parks)    Emphasis on the private realm  (yards, shopping malls, gated communities)
Source(s): Adapted from Litman, T.A., 2005, Evaluating Criticism of Smart Growth,  (accessed April 3, 2006).
                           What it is Environmental advantages
Biodiesel  A liquid fuel created from vegetable oils and waste oil products.  Renewable fuel; diverts waste from landfills; fewer GHG emissions  than gasoline or diesel on a life cycle basis; non-toxic and biode- gradable
Ethanol  An alcohol produced from fermenting grains and other products  that is blended with gasoline  Renewable fuel; burns more cleanly and completely than gasoline  or diesel on a life cycle basis; fewer GHG emissions than gasoline  or diesel
Natural gas  A mixture of gases found in porous rock formations  Burns more cleanly than gasoline or diesel; fewer GHG emissions  and toxic pollutants than gasoline or diesel
Propane  A pressurized gaseous fuel that is a by-product of natural gas  production  Burns more cleanly than gasoline or diesel; fewer GHG emissions  and toxic pollutants than gasoline or diesel
Fuel cells and hydrogen  Fuel cells generate electricity by electrochemically combining  hydrogen and oxygen  On a life cycle basis, they produce zero or very few emissions  (depending on hydrogen source); no toxic pollutants; only tailpipe  emissions are heat and water vapour if pure hydrogen used
Battery-electric  Powered by motors that draw electricity from on-board storage  batteries  No pollutants or GHG emissions from the tailpipe  or through fuel evaporation
Hybrid Powered by batteries and a conventional internal combustion engine Fewer GHG emissions than conventional gasoline vehicles
Source(s): Natural Ressources Canada, 2005, Vehicle Fuel, (accessed March 29, 2006)
                                                        1996 1997 1998 1  2000 2 2002
                   millions of dollars
Environmental monitoring                                                                                          
Operating expenditures                  5.2                  6.5                  5.8                  6.5                  7.4
Capital expenditures                  0.8                  0.8                  0.7                  0.2                  0.5
Environmental assessments and audits                                                                                          
Operating expenditures                  2.1                  2.7                  2.3                  4.6                  4.5
Capital expenditures                  0.2                  0.2                  0.2                  0.5                  0.3
Reclamation and decommissioning                                                                                          
Operating expenditures                  4.7                  2.8                  18                  2.5                  11.9
Capital expenditures                  3.3                  x                  1                  0.8                  0.7
Wildlife and habitat protection                                                                                          
Operating expenditures                  0.1                  3.8                  0.1                  0.1                  0.1
Capital expenditures                  0.7                  x                  0.2                  0                  0.5
Pollution abatement and control processes (end-of-pipe), waste management and sewerage services                                                                                          
Operating expenditures                  99.5                  101.7                  89.8                  119.3                  134.2
Capital expenditures                  25.3                  24.8                  16.3                  13.7                  29.7
Pollution prevention processes                                                                                          
Operating expenditures                  3.7                  12                  10.8                  15.8                  14.8
Capital expenditures                  31                  93.2                  30.4                  187.9                  27.3
Fees and licenses                                                                                          
Operating expenditures                  0.8                  1.4                  0.9                  1.5                  0.8
Operating expenditures                  9.7                  8.7                  11.7                  19.9                  28.3
Operating expenditures                   125.8                   139.5                   139.4                   170.2                   201.9
Capital expenditures                   61.4                   121.2                   48.7                   203.1                   58.9
1. Before the 1998 reference year establishments were selected based on the 1980 Standard Industrial Classification System (SIC). However, beginning with reference year 1998, industry selection was based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). For further information, see Statistics Canada, 2001, Environmental Protection Expenditures in the Business Sector 1998, catalogue no.  16F0006X, Ottawa.
2. As of reference year 1998, the Survey of Environmental Protection Expenditures is conducted every two years.
Note(s): Figures may not add up to totals due to rounding.
Source(s): Environmental Protection Expenditures in the Business Sector, catalogue no. 16F0006X.

Consumer choices

Each of us plays a role in helping to reduce the impacts of transportation: taking public transit, cycling or walking, using fuel-efficient vehicles and buying locally-produced goods can all help curb the environmental effects of transportation.

The bulk of Canadian households' spending on transportation goes towards buying, leasing, renting and operating private vehicles. In 2004, households spent on average 2% of their total transportation budget on public transit options such as city or commuter buses, subways, streetcars and commuter trains (text table 1.13 ). Meanwhile, transit ridership has increased to close to 1.7 billion trips per year (chart 1.7 ).

Private transportation    7,820
Purchase of automobiles, trucks and vans    2,767
Rented and leased automobiles, trucks and vans    652
Operation of owned and leased automobiles, trucks and vans    4,362
Purchase of automotive accessories    40
Public transportation    806
City or commuter bus, subway, street car and commuter train    189
Taxi    62
Airplane    429
Train    13
Highway bus    18
Other passenger transportation    42
Household moving, storage and delivery services    53
Total    8,626
Source(s): CANSIM table 203-0007.

Canadians now have more environmentally friendly options when choosing a new vehicle, thanks to new automotive technologies and recent product developments such as hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars.

Whether motivated by rising gasoline prices or environmental awareness, consumers are buying more and more of these cars. 51

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