Environmental factors directly related to emissions from cars, such as smog, have been shown to cause increased levels of respiratory problems, and in extreme cases, premature death. While emissions of most smog creating emmissions (including particulates, Ozone, CO, metals, NOx and SOx) per vehicle mile have been reduced, increased vehicle traffic and traffic congestion across North America have worsened smog conditions for many Canadians.
Issue: Urban Planning and Transportation
Major urban areas are constantly faced with the problem of increasing numbers of single occupant vehicle traffic with finite space and resources for highway and road construction. Urban planning, which has paired low density residential areas with high density employment and commercial areas, have made commutes up to 200km per day normal.
Issue: Lifestyle choices and safety.
Safety concerns are a strong motivating factor for lifestyle choices. Suburbs and SUV's are both perceieved to provide safety benefits - people want to raise children in "safe neighborhoods" and drive large, heavy "crash resistant" vehicles. Unfortunately both tend to increase the typical ecological footprint of Canadian lifestyles.
In most urban areas, there isn't land available to build new highways to handle current and future traffic flows. As a result, there are only two possible solutions. Governments can build expensive underground highways such as Boston's "big dig" , currently at an estimated build cost of 14.625 billion US Dollars, (source) or they will have to find ways to reduce the usage of cars in urban areas. A quick estimate shows that in order to build similar projects in just Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 45 billion US Dollars would be required. This is clearly unacceptable and does not address the environmental impacts. Reducing the number of vehicles on the road is clearly the only practical long term solution. One such method is to increase ridership of public transportation.
People will use a service if it is convenient, accessible and inexpensive. Through Federal funding, the government can provide Canadians with a mass transit system that is all of these things.
Free mass transit has significant social benefits in addition to the fiscal advantages and improvements in air quality. Individuals who are unable to afford a car most often rely on mass transit as a necessity. They use the system to get to school, work, do errands, and countless other tasks. A free mass transit system would be a tremendous benefit to people in the lower income brackets as it would improve their mobility while reducing their monthly expenditures.
Pushing for percentages of transportation funds to be put to public transit could help, forcing community designers to take both into account.
Return to transportation subcommittee page.