Driving Down Carbon with better transportation policies

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Toronto — Making key improvements to personal transportation policies would result in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to taking one million vehicles off the road and also reduce driving time for commuters, says a new report by the Pembina Institute.

The Ontario government’s recent budget decision to delay investment in public transit, however, could prevent the province from meeting its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and reducing congestion.

“Transportation is the largest and fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario,” says the lead author of the report, Cherise Burda. “Suspending transit funding is absolutely the wrong direction — the results of our report show that the province urgently needs to step up efforts to improve transportation, not step back.”

The report, Driving Down Carbon, measures greenhouse gas emissions from the personal transportation sector — how Ontarians get to work, school and shopping every day — and examines the effectiveness of current government policies at reducing these emissions over time.

Personal transportation policies from the government include the Metrolinx transit plan and the Places to Grow urban growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, as well as the new federal regulations for vehicle efficiency announced last week.

The report finds that current personal transportation policies are on the right track and will result in modest changes, but faster, tougher action and specific improvements are still needed.

“Ontario needs to get in the fast lane on transportation,” adds Burda. “There is a huge gap between where we are now and where we need to be to meet our 2020 climate targets. How the province addresses transportation in the next few years can make the difference.”

To bring Ontario closer to meeting its climate targets, Driving Down Carbon proposes improvements to current policies such as:

  • Strengthening the Places to Grow plan to put tougher limits on sprawl and locate more future population growth close to transit
  • Developing and implementing transit plans for centres outside the Metrolinx plan
  • Introducing an array of commuter choice options to leave the car at home and get to work faster
  • Electrifying GO Trains
  • Improving and introducing measures to improve vehicle efficiency, including zero-emission electric vehicles

“The province needs to get in high gear before it loses its edge as a climate leader,” says Burda. “Quebec is showing leadership on sustainable transportation by raising provincial and regional fuel taxes to fund transit, and investing in made-in-province electric buses. Ontario, in contrast, has stalled its bus replacement program, and its capital leads OECD cities with world class gridlock and longest commute times.”

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