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Vancouver- alternative transit capital of North America

Global consumption of fossil fuels are on the rise at an alarming rate. Much of this usage comes from transportation. While fuel efficiency continues to improve, the combustion that occurs during driving, even with recent improvements to vehicle efficiency, still release large amounts of CO2 & other GHG's, which are responsible for trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere, resulting in global warming. Individuals are, in greater and greater numbers, opting for more environmentally responsible solutions to this global problem by carpooling, buying hybrid vehicles, and walking or cycling when convenient.

Many major cities don’t have appropriate infrastructure for safe cycling or walking, or don’t have reliable mass transit systems. These problems continue to turn people off of to ditching their cars for more sustainable options. Infrastructure is an important investment for cities that wish to be more environmentally friendly. Cities could learn a lot from Vancouver, the alternative transit capital of North America

In Vancouver, 10% of work commutes are done on bicycle, which is more than other North American cities of similar size. Even more trips are taken by foot within city limits. Vancouver has a goal of increasing walking as a major form of transportation for trips within city limits. Vancouver took steps to ensure they didn’t fall victim to city planning pitfalls, that frequently result when attempting to move towards more “active transportation” (i.e. walking and cycling).

Vancouver is the only major North American city without a freeway running through it. In the late 1960s, residents first rejected a plan that would separate the city from the iconic waterfront with a freeway, and no such freeway plan has passed in Vancouver since then. This transit dilemma led to the development of the SkyTrain, the world’s longest fully automated metropolitan train system, the West Coast Express, SeaBus, and the development of streetcars.There are SkyTrain lines connecting downtown Vancouver with other major nearby Canadian cities and connecting to the Vancouver International airport, as well as new lines, running to such places as the Waterfront. Vancouver also has the West Coast Express, a commuter rail service, for travel within the city.

In addition to the SkyTrain & West Coast Express, Vancouver offers the SeaBus. There are 3 double-decker ferries in the SeaBus fleet, each holding up to 400 passengers. Each ferry does 2-4 trips an hour, and runs over 100 hours per week. The trips run under 15 minutes most of the time, and connect Waterfront Station (SkyTrain terminals) and downtown Vancouver, with North Vancouver's markets and Transit Exchange. 

The 2010 Winter Olympics were also a source of increased solutions for greater cycling and pedestrian ease of transit, and less automotive traffic. One major change was the creation of large, safe, and expansive bike lanes. Vancouver has also invested a lot of money and time into expanding their mass transportation network. While initially, an expensive investment, at around $2 billion, plans like these can actually be sourced with freed up funds from areas like road repair, which are not as needed, as there are fewer cars on the road. Vancouver today has a vast network of buses, trollies, Commuter Shuttles and even NightBus routes. 

Vancouver’s next goal is to have 66% of all trips made by walking, cycling, or public transit by 2040. To do this, the city will continue to make investments in large, protected bike lanes, better sidestreet lighting, and improved crosswalks. These safety measures, in combination with increased proliferation of educational materials about why using these modes of transportation is important for the environment, and about how to use these modes of transportation safely and efficiently, are the best ways to increase alternative transportation and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.


For more information on Vancouver's alternative transit, please see: green city: Vancouver


Snippet from the 'green city - Vancouver article'-

"Pedestrians are a priority in Vancouver, as walking is encouraged by citywide programs that maintain the city's natural beauty. Vancouver has land-use patterns that encourage walking and biking through creating high-density city centers and even widening sidewalks. The city features over 250 miles of bike trails. The city encourages alternative transportation modes. Public transit options include the cities' buses, streetcars, SkyTrain, SeaBus and West Coast Express, all of which use the latest clean energy technologies. Vancouver requires all new single family residences to have electric car plug-ins, focusing on this technology in order to encourage zero emission vehicles."