Transportation Plans

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Planning a Balanced Transport System

Golden's New Public Transit System. / UBCM.The enduring benefit of multi-modal transport systems is not only reduced carbon emissions. By accommodating and encouraging a choice of transportation modes, local governments will also reduce spending on transportation infrastructure, contribute to more vibrant streets and a healthier population, become more energy resilient, improve the environment and reduce traffic congestion.

Local governments have the opportunity and the authority to reduce long-term emissions by taking action now with multi-modal transportation plansMulti-modal refers to planning for:

  1. Pedestrians (walking and wheelchair)
  2. Bicycles (and other wheeled recreational equipment)
  3. Public Transportation
  4. Vehicles (Taxis, Service and Freight,  Multiple Occupant Vehicles, Single Occupant Vehicles)

Transportation emission reduction strategies, such as increasing cycling and pedestrian mode share, provide numerous co-benefits. Cycling and walking not only reduce GHG emissions but also increase population health, reduces infrastructure costs, improves air quality and cuts down on noise pollution and vehicular traffic (eg. It costs as much as twenty times more to support a passenger kilometre of automobile traffic compared to the same distance of bicycle traffic [8]).

Find out how Cycling fits into Transportation Planning under the 'HOW' tab

Find out more about:
Multi-Modal Transportation Network Plans 
Strategic Transportation Plans
Mode-Focused Transportation Plans

Looking for a program? Visit Bike BC: www.toolkit.bc.ca/programs

Climate Action Opportunities through Transportation Plans

Individuals make transportation choices daily: when to go, where and how far to travel, which mode to use. Proactive transportation plans can anticipate and shape our future transportation needs and demands by evolving a balanced transport system with a selection of viable modes to choose from.

Transportation choices and compact land use patterns are mutually supportive:  with concentrated travel destinations and a mix of uses, many low-carbon modes (transit, walking, cycling, vanpools, skateboarding, etc.) are viable and can be chosen instead of driving a car.  

Transportation planning opportunities for climate action are outlined under the Transportation Planing 'HOW' tab. Opportunities include:

  • Multi-Modal Transportation Network Plans
  • Strategic Transportation Plans
  • Mode-Focused Transportation Plans

Local Authority for Transportation Plans

The Local Government Act authorizes and encourages regional and local governments to co-ordinate land use and transportation planning, in Regional Growth Strategies and Official Community Plans.   

The Local Government Act requires governments to set greenhouse gas emission reduction targets as well as policies and strategies to achieve them. Since transportation generates over a quarter of all GHG emissions in Canada [5], it is an important area for climate action.  Many local governments are on centre-stage with innovative transportation plans (see under Transportation Plans "How") that are successfully cutting emissions.    

Benefits of Balanced Transportation Planning

Benefits of sustainable transport planning cover the triple bottom line, with environmental, social and economic paybacks:

Good planning involves more than simply extrapolating past trends,... if we expect demand to become more diverse we will implement different policies, helping to create a more balanced transport system. Todd Litman, Victoria Transport Institute

Reduced GHG Emissions

  • Balanced local transportation planning, coordinated with compact land use planning, cuts GHG emissions by reducing the number of vehicle trips and distance travelled.  
  • The benefit of just one person living in a compact neighbourhood with transportation options, is a saving of two tonnes of carbon emissions per year [13].   This person drives up to 26 % less [9], and walks or bikes to destinations five to 10 times more often [14] than a suburban dweller.    

Reduced Costs of Congestion

  • Traffic congestion harms the Canadian economy to a cost of minimally $3 billion a year. Ninety percent of the cost is attributed to people’s wasted time in their cars during congested conditions, not to mention the health impacts of stress and the vehicle emissions [5].
  • We cannot build our way out of congestion with more and wider roads, because the new space is quickly filled again with more cars.  Efficient anti-congestion transportation planning strategies are Transportation Demand Management and improving modal choice.   

Better Value for Infrastructure Dollars

  • Over 50 % of Canada’s road infrastructure is owned by local governments.  Since roads are expensive to build and maintain, the wisest infrastructure investments are made after planning to accommodate multiple modes of transport on our roads.  
  • Infrastructure that supports cycling, walking and transit costs less than infrastructure to accommodate transportation by car.  Boosting multi-modal transit infrastructure can relieve pressure on local government budgets.
  • It costs as much as twenty times more to support a passenger kilometre of automobile traffic compared to the same distance of bicycle traffic [8].

Vancouver's transportation plan sets priorities on walking and biking. Between 1994 and 2004 walking trips increased 44%, bike trips increased 180%. / Photo courtesy of Laura TateMulti-Modal Transportation Planning Aligns with Support for Active Transportation

  • Just over eight out of ten (82%) Canadians support spending government money on more dedicated bicycle lanes and paths in their community to make streets safer for cyclists, cars and pedestrians [11].
  • More commuters bike to work in BC than in any other province [10].   BC residents’ commitment to active transportation cuts vehicle trips and GHG emissions.
  • Nation-wide, we could reduce vehicle-dependent trips by 100 million across Canada if just 2% more of the Canadian workforce walked or cycled to work [3].   
  • Better infrastructure could get even more people on bikes: extensive bicycle lanes in a community can induce three times the rate of bike commuting compared to rates with more modest infrastructure [8].
  • Over half of Canadians report that they walk for transportation purposes, and 80% would like to do more of it [12].

Transportation planning starts with a good strategy. You can find examples of these strategies under the HOW tab as well as resources for implementation and community education.

Community Examples

[Use the tab above to learn HOW to reduce emissions with this tool.]

[1] Design, Community & Environment, Dr. Reid Ewing, Lawrence Frank and Company, Inc and Dr. Richard Kreutzer, 2007, Understanding the Relationship between Public Health and the Built Environment, A Report Prepared for the LEED-ND Core Committee
[2] David Kriger, ITrans Consulting, 2008, Best Practices for Technical Delivery of Transportation Planning Studies,
[3] Victoria Transportation Policy Institute, Multimodal Level of Service Indicators
[4] Centre for Sustainable Transportation, 2002, Background Paper for a Post-Kyoto Transport Strategy
[5] Conference Board of Canada, 2007, Sustainable Urban Transportation – a Winning Strategy, Conference Board of Canada.
[6] Conference Board of Canada, 2008, Mission Possible: Sustainable Prosperity for Canada
[7] Todd Litman, January 10,2008.   The Future Isn’t What it Used to Be.  Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
[8] Sorensen, 2008. Fact Sheet – the Bicycle, from Seven Wonders for a Cool Planet, Sierra Club Books
[9] Ewing, Bartholomew, Winkelman, Walters, and Chen. 2008. Growing Cooler: the Evidence on Urban Development and Climate Change.  Urban Land Institute
[10] Jade Nornton, 2008.  Going the Distance: Commuting Patterns in BC,  Environmental Statistics, June 2008 (2008-02), BC Statistics. This article reviews commuting patterns in BC and compares among regions for context. 
[11] Built Environment and Active Transportation / Go for Green, (2000).   Making the Case for Active Transportation 
[12] Natural Capitalism Solutions, Local Action Plan Best Bets, Chapter 5, Climate Protection Manual for Cities,
[13] NorthEast Mid-West Institute, Reconnecting America, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Smart Growth America.  July 2008.  Sustainable Urban Redevelopment and Climate Change, for Congressional Briefing
[14] Victoria Transport Institute, Online Encyclopedia