From today’s staff report on the 2019 Greenest City Action Plan Implementation Update:

The chart says that by 2018 people in Vancouver took more trips by foot, bike and transit than by motor vehicles.  And did it sooner than expected.

That’s not news to a lot of people who read PT – but it’s still extraordinary.  Especially since those targets are often overly ambitious, assuming that the politicians who vote for them won’t be around to see the results.

Here’s another chart that affirms the previous one: distances driven are consistently dropping.

We’re doing something very right.

So to the doubters and deniers: don’t ignore real achievement or dismiss success.  It’s too easy to be cynical, and it’s destructive.


  1. There are people who buy bigger trucks and SUVs and counteract much of the gains. Some actually do it out of spite. Some just buy the propaganda that they can’t make a difference or that they are safer in the big cocoon.

    We’re doing a lot right and we should celebrate that. Yet, there are those who continue to defend those who don’t give a damn on the premise that we should be free to do what you want in a free country. TB?

    They miss the point. A wise man once said, ” with absolute freedom comes absolute responsibility”.

    Are we ready?

  2. Curious: are these stats only about Vancouver city residents’ trips within the city? Or do they include others journeying into Vancouver for work etc. and Vancouver residents travelling to other municipalities?
    If the latter, the stats are very impressive!

    1. The City of Vancouver is to be congratulated on its achievements. It’s interesting to note moreover that it’s not just the proportion of trips that are moving towards greater proportions of trips by walking, cycling and public transit, but that in some cases that the actual number of vehicle trips are decreasing or constant despite increasing population.

      These data are, however, only for the City of Vancouver. Suburban population within Metro and for the Abbotsford area are increasing at a faster rate than the City’s, and while mode of travel may be stable, the numbers of personal and commercial vehicles using our roads is increasing.

  3. One big reason: it’s miserable to drive. And it’s getting worse. I’m not complaining (though I drive), or proposing that drivers be punished (they shouldn’t). But I think it is worth keeping in mind when considering futile efforts to feed the motordom beast.

    When the Yes side in the referendum threatend that we would soon be stuck in gridlock, I figured it was exaggeration (it was also bad messaging). Traffic was busy, but (in my area at least) it wasn’t *that* bad. A year or so later, it was that bad. Car trips beyond the immediate area or during peak times (which is almost always) are to be avoided if at all possible. An older friend on Main St refuses to visit us in North Burnaby on weeknights before 7 PM. The traffic drives him insane.

    I think we hit an inflection point. The network adapts, responding linearly to demand by redirecting it – up to the point whet the network is full. Then the whole thing becomes brittle. At first, when a road is congested, cars take alternative routes. Eventually, alternative after alternative fills up and congestion cascades through the system until everything is full. Once that happens, each car added has a slowing effect on the entire network.

    Traffic is undergoing a phase change from gas (expanding to fill the space around it) to liquid (forced together by space constraints). Under the pressure of fixed geometry, travelers can suffer in the viscous liquid of traffic, which threatens to crystalize into immobility at any moment, or they can vaporize out – leave their cars to walk, bike or bus. Like water boiling, the change will not be gradual: it will come nearly all at once. The painful physical reality is that we have more people, but we cannot build enough roads to accommodate them. Those people have to go somewhere.

    It’s one thing for driving to cost more. It’s another for it to actually be slower. Or, almost as bad, less reliable: fast is no good if you can’t depend on it to get you there on time. (My main reason for preferring the train: I can estimate arrival accurately to within a couple of minutes.) The moment a bike or bus becomes faster than driving, it becomes the mode of choice for a whole new group of people. I think that’s where we are as the phase change ripples out from the centre.

  4. Gord, how about posting about the proposal being considered by the Premier’s Office for a commute trip reduction program that would be mandatory for all large B.C. employers (both public and private sector)? Similar to what Washington State has had in place since 1991 – where it is credited with an ~8% reduction in VMT. Costs WADoT less than $3M/year to operate. How else could we reduce congestion that much for so little? And surely we could do CRT better in B.C.

  5. A milestone report and good commentary. Kudos!

    Geof has a good point about speed, but I think the expense of driving could become a more important limitation. It will take a decade to flood the car market with EVs, even with Toyota now planning to shift production into overdrive and reach 50% of its world production by 2025, while other majors retool for EVs as well. However, EVs cannot and should never be promoted as a complete replacement for all cars mobilized by internal combustion engines.

    During that transition in the ’20s there will be the plateau and increasing decline of US shale oil production as it reaches its geological constraints in all five plays, according to David Hughes and Arthur Berman, two independent geoscientists and oil analysts who routinely drill holes in industry hype. US shale was the catalyst for today’s world glut and still-affordable prices at the pump. Alberta contributed to this scenario through concurrent pre-2014 overproduction, and is now suffering the consequences while blaming everybody else, from Trudeau (despite a multi-billion dollar tranche of corporate welfare to buy an unnecessary pipeline) to Tides-funded “ecoterrorists.”

    The fact is, the liquid carbon fuel industry depends on gas tanks, and will see some hard times as gas tanks start to get a lot smaller or disappear relative to the price of fuel. Those who feel that their insecurities require assuaging through buying big trucks for non-commercial use will be forced to ride a roller coaster of price swings overlain by an insidious upward trend. The airline industry is very sensitive to these trends and responds nearly instantaneously with higher fuel surcharges.

    The stars seem to be aligning for a remarkable scenario to materialize in the next decade. The likely decline of the shale boom will crimp world oil supply, thus higher fuel prices are on the horizon because cheap conventional oil reserves have long been in decline, leaving the expensive and energy-intensive stuff like tar sands bitumen. At the same time EVs will hit the market in huge numbers and will be limited primarily by the domestic electricity supply and people choosing not to drive as much as they did before. Then we have record transit demand and TransLink’s response coupled with some decent federal and provincial funding at long last, though still not nearly enough. The GTA and greater Montreal are in a similar position.

    When looking at it from a climate change perspective, transit powered by clean electricity cannot come soon enough, even when the overall amount of per capita energy consumption must be reduced by a third or more as oil starts leaving the stage. That is, a 1:1 unit of energy replacement from oil to electricity is not possible given the advantage of the high energy density of oil and the lack of electrical generation and distribution infrastructure. A major focus on creating a more pedestrian-oriented urbanism is a natural partner with a frequent transit network and energy conservation.

    Vancouverites could ideally be spectators in the prime half-line seats with a great view of the action on the field with suburbanites bashing around, stuck in a scrum and knee-deep in quagmire.

    1. A decade to flood market with EVs? Make that 3-4 .. unless price points come down dramatically fast and charge infrastructure ramps up fats it’ll be far FAR more than a decade.

      Eco-terrorists is the right term to use for folks actively destabilizing Canadian energy industry while importing dictator oil into E-Canada unobstructed ..

      1. Price points are coming down dramatically and charge infrastructure is ramping up fast. Typical Beyer… always looking in the rear view mirror as all conservatives do.

        Not that EVs are the answer. But we’re also seeing a strong decline in VKT. When will Beyer ever learn?

        By the way, ICE vehicle sales have plateaued or have been in decline globally for several years.

        As usual… what’s your point Beyer?

        1. Neat stats and chart. Thanks. I’d say it’s more like a plateau with a very slight recent decline. Still, it’s a meaningful piece of evidence that cars are reaching their zenith in societal dependence. Jeff Kenworthy found a similar trend earlier in his 2015 work ‘The End of Car Dependency’ and discovered that was due primarily to the huge growth in metro systems in Asian and European cities.

          1. The chart includes EVs which have just recently begun to show up as a small but growing percentage of sales. EVs were already over 1% of sales in 2017 and are about 3% now. That would tip the decline a little further.

      2. “Eco-terrorists is the right term …”

        Straight out of Rebel media along with “ethical” oil. You know you’re deep into the propagandashere when the word “energy” is commonly used as a proxy for fossil fuels.

        1. Energy comes in many forms. Even Site C was opposed .. remember ? And if we envision 1M (or you, 2M) new EVS in BC in a decade or 2 (or you, in less than a decade) the we ought to plan then build 2-3 more Site C dams NOW. Somehow I do not see that though. Do you ?

          As such a multi-decade slow transition is the far more likely scenario. A car lasts 20+ years, unlike a cell phone, which gets replaced every 3-4 years. The EV business case for consumers is not wildly compelling and nor is it for car companies. Very expensive to retool. That’s why most large firms like Ford, VW, GM or Toyota go slow. Yes somewhat lower op costs if electricity stays at 10 cents per kwh, but will it ? Add battery replacement costs and total cost per km is about the same as an ICE vehicle.

          Economics matter. Economics dictate pace of change. Ergo: slower than “being flooded in a decade” .. far far slower !

          1. Beyer spouting erroneous figures out of his head again. The average age of a car is 11.4 years.

            So far, EV batteries appear to be outlasting their cars even though those cars are using older battery technology. It is likely that newer batteries will last even longer. But even if they do need replacement, for those who really rack up the distance, they have a resale value for other uses. There is also good reason to believe that EVs themselves will last longer than ICE cars because the drive train is so much simpler.

            The technology to produce electricity without big dams is robust and getting cheaper. We don’t need more Site Cs and probably don’t even need it. EVs use a fraction of the energy as ICE cars. Economics, Beyer, is why EVs will win out, and quickly. All bets are that they will be cheaper to purchase by about 2022. They are already cheaper to own over their life. Growth of 60%/year for almost a decade for such a big ticket purchase is massive. It’s massive for a reason.

            If electricity rates go up it’ll just encourage more people to go solar or more communities to pitch in on neighbourhood energy. Economics, Beyer. The means to make electricity keeps getting cheaper while the means to provide gasoline keeps getting more expensive.

            ICE cars appear to already be in decline and that’s just going to accelerate exponentially.

            And finally, you’ve entirely missed Alex’s point.

            As usual.

          2. Toyota is not moving slowly. Half of all their vehicle sales will be electric in a bit more than five years. That’s 5 million vehicles, based on 2018 production of a titch over 10 million sales. Toyota, VW and Renault are the top three car makers and all if them are heading deep into electrics. Moreover, in 2018 the production of EVs world wide increased by 75% over the previous year.

            That is the definition of a major trend. That’s also big bucks. Economy matters.

            Regarding mobile phones, we are still using our old Galaxy III’s, now going on eight years strong. As long as they work we won’t be upgrading.

          3. Not sure if BC will need more power generation capacity for the EVs since they can be charged overnight when demand is lower. Because BC’s hydro generation happens 24/7 with little regard to instantaneous demand, all the EVs, eBikes and eScooters can serve as a massive battery for the grid – with the grid drawing from parked vehicles to meet demand surges. My hope is that BC will soon recognize the need for less hydro generation – and we will opt not to flood behind Site C.

      3. Better research capital investment in hybrid and electric vehicles by the biggest manufacturers. Over 100 billion in the next five years. You can bet on 3 – 4 decades if you like, the allocation of capital in the industry says otherwise.

    2. You could be right. I have been hearing this prediction about fracking since it started bringi oil prices down, and am seeing rumblings about it happening now. I don’t follow the issue closely, but I find it plausible that we will hit the wall on EROI and see prices spike. Peak oil didn’t happen when it was predicted, but that’s true of bear markets too. The time will come. If it does, then that could be the most important factor.

      Though I worry the consequences could be so great that how we get around will be the least of our problems. Some people have described fossil fuels as the economic equivalent of slaves. Previous societies relied on slavery to generate the surplus that allowed civilization to flourish. I suspect that fossil fuel energy has been the real enabler of our wealth and democracy (capitalism only harnessed it, technical innovation was about finding uses for it). Lose fossil fuels and we could lose growth – and with it the political compromise that makes democracy and human rights possible. (The deal: we can have some of a growing pie as long as the elites get most of it.) And then there’s climate change. A rock and a hard place.

      1. It’s hard to refute the hard geological evidence about the severe decline rates of oil and gas production from fracked hard rock. Hughes discovered an over all average decline rate in all US shale plays of over 50% a year, and some wells as much as 90% after just 12 months. The Bakken and Eagle Ford (2 out of 5 plays so far) are plateaued and entering decline. The sweet spots are tapped leaving only the lesser and more expensive to exploit formations. Further, the shale companies are carrying huge debt and not a lot of profit, which explains why they just keep drilling faster and ensuring the cliff edge and precipitous decline will be met at full bore, just to make the debt payments. This from independent professionals who have done the math and based their calculations on industry’s own production data, while ignoring the hype.

        Northeast BC’s big Montney and Horn River shale plays are subject to the same geological constraints as anywhere else. Hughes also did the math there. This is why BC’s LNG boom will not last as long as promoters say. I am not concerned that Indigenous people may succeed in blocking gas supply lines; they will help save BC residents from the mythologies of Boom cycles, which are always, without fail, highly subsidized and followed by Bust. It would be wiser to develop BC’s huge renewable electricity potential and devote it to clean industries, better quality urbanism and improved intercity electric rail network.

        Peak CHEAP oil occurred long ago. Same with a more favourable energy return on energy invested ratio. At the peak of cheap and easy conventional oil both early Alberta and Saudi Arabia had an EROEI of around 100:1. Today the tar sands are 3:1. There’s an extremely important lesson in these facts. Some propagandists and media supporters wax poetic about the huge scale of fossil resources left, but tend to duck out of the room when the hard, educated questions about the technical feasibility and costs of bringing unconventionals to market are asked.

        It is apparent to some that there will be an energy falldown as fossil fuel use peaks out through price volatility, technological disruption (e.g. renewables, conservation, EVs…) and action on climate change shifts into ever higher gears. Perhaps 1/3 of our entire energy consumption will disappear under these circumstances. This is why BC should jump ahead to the next logical phase of the Clean Energy BC policy and plan for 80-90% clean energy in the entire domestic economy by 2030. Why BC? Because Canada under its two biggest ruling parties has proven it’s incapable of scientific literacy or fulfilling key promises. Lead by example locally and regionally.

  6. Nary a mention of the fact the viaduct removal seems to be wisely backburnered by the new civic regime, as we have more pressing demands on our tax dollars.

  7. Some of the other charts in that report are a good deal less encouraging, but I agree that the mode shift is important and worth celebrating.

    We could stand to put things in context, too: Vancouver has not imposed draconian, absolute rules on motorists. The VKT reduction has been achieved mainly by reducing the implicit public subsidies for motoring, in quite gentle ways. Other jurisdictions, with more urgent pollution and congestion problems, have used far blunter instruments, like allowing only vehicles with even-numbered license plates to drive on certain days of the week, odd-numbered the rest of the time. Singapore’s taxes make car ownership an indulgence for the wealthy.* Vancouver by contrast has made decent progress (still too slow) with really quite modest efforts.

    Sometimes I think the City could stand to float a few of these more drastic proposals, let the screaming subside, and then say ‘Oh, relax, that was only a thought experiment. There will be no summary executions for loud mufflers. Instead…we’re doubling the cost of street parking and putting bike lanes down Broadway.’ Sighs of relief from the motordom lobby. In North America, the Overton window for transportation has been stuck way over on the all-cars, all-the-time end of the spectrum, for generations. We really need to get the idea of no-cars-at-all-ever into the public consciousness, just so the reasonable proposals in the middle don’t sound so radical.


    1. What draws you so compellingly to the naysayers? Our advancement as a species never came from them. You seem to appreciate how far we’ve come yet resist how far we can go. Why do you always look forward into the rear view mirror?

      I’m fascinated by how the Americans threw their energy into the moonshot for no other reason than to beat the USSR. Yet for the truly important issues of today they want others to go first. It is the end of the “American Dream” in that sense. And Beyer aligns wholeheartedly with that race to the bottom rather than a vision for the future. Why do you want us to remain in the caves Beyer? What holds you so steadfast to the past? Why do you cling to those who have so little understanding of our potential? What’s in it for you?

  8. Y V R is in Richmond . When a plane refuels it makes Richmond the dirty city instead of Vancouver—— the carbon footprint for the electric car driving vancouver resident flying for work or vacation is higher than the guy with the an old V 8 S U V who does not fly

    1. What about the V8 SUV driver who flies for work or vacation?

      While regions and countries can work toward climate solutions, ultimately it is the individual, billions of them, that must make the difference. Countries (or cities or provinces and states) do not emit CO2. The cumulation of individuals do. Policies of broader regions can help individuals reduce GHGs more than they can by themselves. But, in the end, it is the individual that must reduce their emissions.

      That’s why blaming “China” or “India” or even “The USA” is a false narrative. Individuals cannot make a difference but millions of individuals can and do.

  9. Totally agree, Ron.
    For a long while now, I’ve been allowing myself a total annual C02 budget of 3 tonnes per year (close to what the 2011 UN World Economic and Social Survey says per person is sustainable). I calculate my C02 emissions for everything and then see how much is left over for travel and plan accordingly. Average C02 footprint for a Canadian in 2010 was 15.7 tonnes.

    Helps that I’m a vegetarian who rarely eats eggs or cheese, won’t travel in cars, buys all clothing second hand, rarely buys ‘stuff’, grows a lot of organic veg and fruit, canning the surplus for the winter and that our electricity here is almost all based on renewables. Also will help that the transit route I use most often in the winter (when not riding my bike) has been changing from diesel to hybrid.

    Am I having any fun and doing any travel – yes and yes!

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