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.
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 help win safe bike lanes along major arteries like Bloor Street and University Avenue. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Sustainable transportation in Canada
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
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
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
Emergency transit funding vital in pandemic – and beyond
It’s also crucial that, as Canada comes out of the pandemic, it addresses the climate crisis. To this end, we urge not only emergency spending but a federal commitment to make transit funding permanent.
Climate Change and Transportation Policy Analyst
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.
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.
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 advocating for permanent bike lanes on the city’s major east-end arterial, Danforth Avenue, and on Toronto’s main north-south thoroughfare, Yonge Street.
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.
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
The federal and B.C. governments contributed $4.1-billion to a 10-year transportation infrastructure plan in 2018
More dense neighbourhoods are associated with lower energy use and travelling shorter distances by car
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
Meeting our targets
Biofuels in Canada will need to increase from four per cent today to 15 per cent or more by 2050
California by example
In California, the alternative fuel share increased by 30 per cent under a clean fuel standard
It’s the single largest policy to reduce carbon emissions in Canada’s climate plan
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
Read our reports
Willing to Downsize? Understanding Consumer Demand for SUVs in Metro Vancouver
Big, heavy, polluting vehicles make it difficult to bend down carbon emissions. Eighty per cent of new vehicle sales in Canada are sport utility vehicles or light-duty trucks. This report explores what motivates consumer interest in SUVs, and what conditions might lead consumers to shift toward smaller vehicles.
Clearing the Air: Transportation, Land Use and Carbon Emissions in Metro Vancouver
Cities and regions like Metro Vancouver can change their built environments and use smart growth policies to reduce their carbon emissions. But how effective are these policies in reducing emissions from personal transportation when they occur alongside senior government policies promoting energy efficiency and fuel switching?
New Mobility and Autonomous Vehicles: Impacts on Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Metro Vancouver
New technologies, like self-driving or autonomous vehicles, will be game-changers as they arrive on our streets. This report looks at how new mobility could affect greenhouse gas emissions in Metro Vancouver. Strategies that reduce carbon emissions and improve well-being for AV introduction are highlighted.