Environmental Defence and Équiterre report

We all have our own reasons for advocating for better transit – it improves equity, it helps people who are low income, it offers freedom to people who don’t drive, it reduces pollution and traffic …

The Environmental Defence and Équiterre, an environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities has just released a study on how Canada can double public transit ridership by 2035. Improving public transit can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 65 million tons between 2024 and 2035 which is the equivalent of the annual emissions from 20 million cars.

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The report, “Putting Wheels on the Bus” can be found here: PUTTING WHEELS ON THE BUS - Environmental Defence

In the report, they list five specific things that Canada can do to promote public transit:

1.Fund Public Transit Operations to Get More People Riding on Transit

This means making full use of all the extra buses and trains, designing public transit networks to encourage trips beyond "the commute to work" by providing frequent, all-day bus service, and incentivize cities to build dedicated transit right-of-way infrastructure, like bus lanes.

2.Build More Houses Near Public Transit

This would mean implementing zoning policies that require a minimum level of housing density to be built near public transit and eliminate parking minimums.

3.Use Public Transit as a Tool to Advance Equity Goals

This means ensuring that the travel patterns of equity-seeking groups and marginalized people are met through tools like: increased service outside of peak periods, federal operations funding for low-income fare discounts and anti-displacement strategies to ensure those who are most likely to take transit can actually afford to live near it.

4.Implement Zero-Emission Bus Requirements

This would mean shifting one-off electrification funding projects to making zero-emissions public transit a core feature of ongoing, permanent capital funding. The federal government should introduce procurement requirements for zero-emission buses as a condition to receive funding, whilst allowing for flexibility based on city size.

5.Set Clear Goals to Shift People from Cars to Sustainable Transportation

This would mean setting targets to double public transit ridership by 2035 (compared to 2023 levels) and reduce vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) by 35% by 2035 (compared to 2019 levels). This can be done through funding deals that require municipalities to meet minimum targets based on community size that collectively achieve national goals. That also means getting started now by accelerating the Permanent Public Transit Fund to begin in 2024 rather than 2026.

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