Climate Change
May 23, 2019

Eric Doherty, The New Green Deal & the Missing Link

Transportation and Land Use Planner Eric Doherty in The Observer has written a thoughtful piece that drills down on the “Climate Emergency”. Earlier this month Canada endorsed the global “Green New Deal” which aims to halve greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution in eleven years.

There are two main causes of GHG in Canada~transportation and the oil & gas industries. Doherty makes a convincing argument that transportation, “the second largest source of GHG pollution in Canada, must not be ignored.”  

We must be politically prudent in having the discussion about the impact of vehicle pollution on climate change. And that will require a complete shift at the federal and provincial levels in terms of what is funded and why, and ensuring that link between GHGs and vehicle use is recognized in effective policy to mitigate climate change. We simply need to stop building roads.

The biggest driver of increased GHG pollution in transportation has been government spending on road and highway expansion in and near urban areas. Governments understand full well that expanding highways results in more traffic and climate pollution. The 2016 Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change (the federal-provincial climate agreement) already commits the federal and provincial governments to shift spending away from things that increase carbon pollution, such as urban highways and airport expansion, to low-carbon transportation including public transit, walking and cycling. However, both federal and provincial governments are largely ignoring this commitment.”

With transportation increasing GHG pollution by 43 percent between 1990 and 2017, public spending on highways increase air pollution. Commuting leads to health problems and isolation.

Doherty identifies several ways to mitigate the transportation GHG impacts.

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In a densifying city that is serious about being sustainable lowering vehicular speed limits within neighbourhoods is a good way to enhance livability for local residents, decrease automobile emissions, plus lower the likelihood of serious injury or death. You would think that in a country with universal health care that lowering vehicular speeds within neighbourhoods would be the right thing to do to foster walking, cycling and interaction among residents.

But we forget that the street fabric and the way that our communities are designed and indeed funded have been for vehicular movement, and that mode of transportation has (pardon the pun) had a free ride.  Auto infrastructure has been funded by the general tax base and not by the user. Cars have gobbled up the majority of shared road space, and our 20th century mindset does not know how to slow them down.

Until now.

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Dr. Bridget Burdett in New Zealand sent along this link to a new article in Science Direct published in  the Journal of Transportation and Health.  Researchers included Corrine Mulley, one of the editors of “Walking~Connecting Sustainable Transport with Health”.

The study looked at the qualitative experience of over three hundred individuals who relocated to suburban areas without good transit or active transportation links to work centres. Since residential development in outlying areas often arrives before public transportation infrastructure, researchers wanted to assess the health impacts of longer and changing commutes on commuters.

Using multiple regression techniques, researchers had some surprising conclusions. Longer commutes and changing the time needed to leave for commutes was found to be directly related to lower mental health levels and the perception of a decrease in wellbeing. But researchers also found that independent car use and not using public transport was associated with “increased happiness”.

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Nothing new or surprising here for Motordomheads, but a real nicely paced visual summary of three case studies: Portland’s Harbour Drive, San Francisco’s Embarcadero and Seattle’s Alaskan Way – real-life examples of what happens when a section of freeway is removed or closed.

Why, why does Carmageddon never happen?  (Confident prediction: same with Vancouver’s Viaducts.)

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From the South China Morning Post:

The son of a Chinese tycoon is buying a C$5.1 million (US$3.8 million) custom Bugatti sports car in Vancouver, apparently with his father’s Union Pay credit card, according to a picture of the invoice the young man posted on Instagram to complain about Canadian taxes.

Ding Chen published a copy of the bill bearing his father Chen Mailin’s name on his Instagram stories, with an exasperated message overlaid in Chinese: “These taxes … my heart feels tired”.

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Speed kills in cities, and in Great Britain many cities are considering lowering speed limits within their jurisdictions to save lives and reduce injuries under the banner “20 (miles per hour) is plenty”. Portland Oregon as part of its commitment to eliminate all road deaths by 2025 has adopted the Vision Zero approach, accepting no road deaths as acceptable on their street networks.

Last year the city of Portland Oregon lowered the speed limits on their municipal road system from a default speed of 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour, or 32 kilometers per hour. In one year, the results are starting to come in, with a death toll on the roads of 34 people in 2018, a reduction from the 45 lives lost in 2017 before the reduced speeds.

There is sea change in the United States regarding road safety. A University of Chicago  poll of 2,000 U.S. residents  showed that 60 percent were “were supportive of using speed and red-light cameras as an automated enforcement tool. Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they would support lowering a speed limit by 5 miles per hour if it was justified with crash data.”

Lowering road speeds in cities has a remarkable impact on crash survival rates for vulnerable road users~a pedestrian has a 20 percent survival rate being crashed into at 30 miles per hour. That increases to 70 percent at 25 miles per hour and to 90 percent at 20 miles per hour. In the United States municipal speed limits are set by each state or territory, with the default speed being 25 miles per hour or 40 kilometers per hour.

The cities of Portland and Eugene have been looking at the safety system and Vision Zero approach embraced by European countries like the Netherlands and Sweden in making their cities safer. A “context-sensitive approach that emphasizes safety for vulnerable road users will lead to safer outcomes on streets in urban areas” 

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London leads in the intersection of  health and transportation planning for safer, healthier cities.  Asthma is a lung disease where the airways of the lungs are swollen and  inflamed, making it harder to breathe.  London, United Kingdom is the first city in the world  introducing ULEZ zones in the inner city. ULEZ stands for Ultra-Low Emission Zone and as reported in the Guardian implementation of this zone will “reduce the 36,000 deaths caused in the UK every year by outdoor pollution.”

London is wasting no time with the zone change happening on April 8. The World Health Organization has identified outdoor air pollution as  causing over 4.2 million premature deaths in low, middle and high income countries around the world. In cities particulates from diesel engines enters the bloodstream and damages heart and circulatory systems, impacting the most vulnerable and low-income. Since London estimates  50 percent of air pollution is from vehicles and 40 percent of that from diesel vehicles, charging more for diesel vehicles’ access to the centre city should be a deterrent and have healthy consequences.

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Over the years, I thought I had seen all the renderings and sketches for the various freeway proposals that had been put forward in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Nope.  The indispensable John Mackie, the Sun journalist with the time, interest and access to the paper’s archives, has pulled out some great pics to illustrate this week’s history column: 1967 — Wacky Bennett and Tom Terrific team up to push for a third crossing.

In the 1960s everybody seemed to have a plan for a new bridge or tunnel at the First Narrows. But nobody wanted to pay for it.

So on March 23, 1967, Social Credit Premier W.A.C. Bennett came up with a funding formula: 40 per cent from the federal government, 40 per cent from the provincial and civic governments, and 20 per cent from the National Harbours Board and the developers of Project 200, a giant highrise development on the downtown waterfront.

Bennett talked Vancouver Mayor Tom Campbell into supporting his plan. But federal Liberal Arthur Laing dismissed it as “ridiculous nonsense.” …

The same day Bennett announced his formula, a consortium of four city engineering firms unveiled a $57-million plan to twin the Lions Gate Bridge.

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Last month I wrote about the prudent initiative in France where the speed on secondary roads has now been cut back from 90 km/h to 80 km/h on the 400,000 kilometers of these roads. “Fifty-five percent of  all road deaths occur on these Class “B”  roads that have no central divider or guard rail. In 32 percent of the fatalities  on these secondary roads the major factor was speed.” 

And if you were wondering, France has 5.1 road deaths per 100,000 population; Canada has more at 6.0 road deaths per 100,000.

As The Guardian observed “The government has compared the 80 km/h limit…to the laws enacted since 1973 requiring the use of seat belts, and the installation of automatic speed radars in 2002. Those laws also drew the ire of thousands of drivers, but contributed to nearly four decades of declines in automobile deaths in France, which reached a historic low of 3,268 in 2013.” 

The reaction in France was mixed, with motoring and car clubs vehemently against the speed reductions, and in December 60 percent of the speed cameras had been vandalised.

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