Sustainable transportation

We work with governments, stakeholders and people to get Canada moving with affordable, dependable, low-carbon transportation options.

Why is transportation important?

Transportation accounts for a quarter of Canada’s carbon emissions. With more than 80 per cent of Canadians now living in urban areas, fast reliable public transit and active and shared transportation options have never been better investments.

It’s time to speed the transition to sustainable alternatives. Governments need to invest in the necessary infrastructure and enact supportive policies, businesses must make zero-emissions vehicles available to consumers and people in Canada can show support by choosing sustainable transportation options.

With your help we can get there.

Everyone benefits from cleaning up our transportation system. Canadians need access to affordable electric vehicles, bike lanes and fast public transportation.

Ian Bruce, Director of Science and Policy

Has Canada stalled on electric vehicles?

Mandatory sales targets are needed to get the wheels rolling!

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Building a sustainable transportation network for Canada

The David Suzuki Foundation is a leading voice in advocating for sustainable transportation options throughout Canada, focusing on electric vehicles, public transportation, active transportation and clean fuel standards. We provide opportunities to take action that will have real results for people throughout Canada.

Our work with the Metro Vancouver Mayors’ Council helped secure federal funding for major transit improvements throughout the region. In Toronto, we worked with local groups to support safer cycling along one of the city’s main arteries. In Quebec, we found that car transportation costs Quebeckers $43 billion a year! Costs include more money for public health, road safety and environmental emergencies.

We are advocating at federal and provincial levels for policies to make electric vehicles more available to people across the country.

Electric vehicles

Improvements in battery technology over the past decade have made electric cars and trucks more realistic options for everyday drivers. Not only are these vehicles more climate-friendly, they also save owners money by requiring less maintenance and running on cheaper power sources. Some provinces, including Quebec and B.C., are leading the way, but progress is slow in other parts of the country. We’re working to change that.

Photo: National Renewable Energy Lab via Flickr

Active transportation

Riding a bike or walking to work reduces carbon emissions and is good for your health and your pocketbook. We’re providing Canadian cities with ideas on how they can invest in active transportation infrastructure.

Public transportation

Fast, affordable, reliable public transportation networks in urban environments provide massive benefits to the communities that invest in them. Providing options other than driving a personal vehicle helps get cars off the road, reduces congestion, alleviates stress and significantly improves health. Fewer cars on the road also means smoother movement of goods, a boon to local economies.

Clean fuel standard

It may be the least flashy of our focus areas, but clean fuel standards can have a major effect in reducing carbon emissions from gasoline during transition phases. As Canada shifts to options like electric vehicles and public and active transportation, cleaner-burning fuels reduce pollution impacts. Cleaner fuels are transition options as we move toward a fossil-fuel-free transportation future.

Photo: National Renewable Energy Lab via Flickr

Sustainable transportation in Canada

01

Canada is ready for an electric vehicle boom

Most electric cars in Canada will be powered by clean electricity. But even in provinces that are still working to phase out coal, EVs are up to three times more efficient than gas-powered cars and create less carbon pollution.

02

Transit improves air quality

Traffic-related air pollution in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is responsible for about 1,000 early deaths and 3,000 to 4,000 hospital admissions each year for strokes, heart attacks, lung infections and asthma.

03

Clean fuel standards are working in B.C.

B.C.’s clean fuel standard is responsible for one-quarter of the province’s emissions reductions between 2007 and 2012.

EVs are great! Help spread the word

Transportation is a big contributor to climate change emissions. Your letter to the editor can encourage more people to make the switch to electric.

Write your letter

Canada needs more EVs

In 2018, electric vehicles accounted for just 2.5 per cent of total vehicle sales in Canada, far from the global goal of 30 per cent by 2030. We need to ramp up the transition to electric vehicles!

The federal government wants to boost electric vehicle sales to 10 per cent by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040.

Temporary purchase incentive programs are boosting EV sales. Ottawa has a three-year rebate program and Quebec and B.C. also offer zero emission vehicle rebates. Now we need mandatory national sales targets to help the transition.

Government actions are needed to get EVs in the hands of Canadians who want them. It’s a great way to reduce emissions from the transportation sector.

Ian Bruce, Director of Science and Policy

Cycling and active transportation

Making cycling and walking easier is a great climate response. Switching from gasoline-powered cars to cycling is a great way to reduce carbon pollution. People will only make that switch if they believe that cycling infrastructure is safe. This is why we’re supporting safe, separated bike lanes, especially in urban environments.

We’re helping build a network of protected bike lanes across Canada’s most populous city. Lessons we learn in Toronto will help us grow support for bike lanes throughout Canada. We inform city councils about benefits, poll residents to understand values, advocate for policy reform and educate.

Aerial view of cars, bikes and pedestrians sharing the road

Did you know?

Bike lanes aren’t just popular for cyclists. A 2018 Ekos poll we commissioned found 75 per cent of drivers support Toronto bike lanes!

Where we are now:

  • In 2017, we helped convince Toronto city council to build a protected bike lane on Bloor Street, the city’s main east-west thoroughfare.
  • In 2018, we helped to pass a 25-year plan for downtown Toronto that prioritizes cycling, walking and public transit over private car use.
  • Now, we’re urging council to build more protected bike lanes and extend the Bloor lane westward to High Park. We’re also advocating for new lanes on the main arterial in the city’s east end, Danforth Avenue and Yonge Street, a central north-south route.

Most of the fuel used to power a car is either lost or used to propel the massive vehicle, whereas fuelling a bike’s engine — that’s you — requires only a healthy diet.

David Suzuki

Transit: Better connections, health and lower carbon footprints

Metro Vancouver is growing and so is its transit system. TransLink, the region’s transit authority, is planning to expand transit journeys with new rapid transit, more fast buses, walking and cycling infrastructure and shared mobility like vanpooling.

TransLink is consulting the public on how to make the investments sustainable and fair. How does the region deal with congestion? Making transit accessible for all? The arrival of autonomous vehicles and ride hailing? Share your ideas!

We’re part of the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition: business, unions, health, active transportation and students advocating for best transit and transportation solutions for the region.

Our report, Breaking Gridlock, helped shape the B.C. government’s support. 

Public transportation facts

01

Investment

The federal and B.C. governments contributed $4.1-billion to a 10-year transportation infrastructure plan in 2018

02

Density

More dense neighbourhoods are associated with lower energy use and travelling shorter distances by car

03

Health

People who live in walkable neighbourhoods are 39 per cent less likely to have diabetes than those in car-dependent areas.

What is a clean fuel standard?

A clean fuel standard brings in cleaner fuels by requiring that the amount of carbon over a fuel’s lifecycle be reduced. Pollution in the fuels can be reduced during production, transportation or combustion stages. It’s a way to make fuels cleaner and reduce carbon emissions.

Canada is developing a clean fuel standard. It will require fuel producers, distributors and importers to reduce the amount of carbon pollution in fuels.

Clean fuel standards promote:

  • Growth in renewables and clean energy
  • Transition to renewable fuels in transportation, industrial and building sectors
  • New market options to choose less-polluting energy sources like biofuels
  • Cost-effectiveness through trading and banking emission credits

Energy modelling regarding how Canada can meet its emission targets by 2050 shows the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels from 74 per cent today to 25 per cent or less. This standard is one way for Canada to reduce carbon pollution.

Clean fuel standard facts

01

Meeting our targets

Biofuels in Canada will need to increase from four per cent today to 15 per cent or more by 2050

02

California by example

In California, the alternative fuel share increased by 30 per cent under a clean fuel standard

03

Maximum impact

It’s the single largest policy to reduce carbon emissions in Canada’s climate plan

Pond alge used as a combustible clean fuel

Sustainable biofuels

To protect against environmental damage from expanding biofuels, a clean fuel standard must include:   

  • Sustainability criteria to limit deforestation and habitat damage (e.g., don’t allow forests to be cleared for corn plantations for biofuel use)  
  • Assurances that forests supplying biofuels are harvested sustainably

Photo: Green Energy Futures via Flickr

Science and Learning Centre