Sustainability | Renewable Energy

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Vancouver's Goal is to Become "The Greenest City in the World"

Urban Planning, Green Building in Vancouver

downtown Vancouver

Vancouver has the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) of any major city in North America. Vancouver runs on over 90% renewable energy, thanks to the city's large supply of hydroelectricity.

The city is retrofitting buildings citywide to increase energy efficiency and has a citywide mandate to do so. Vancouver has also invested a lot of money and time into expanding its mass transportation network.

Vancouver today has a vast network of buses, trolleys, rail, commuter shuttles, and even SeaBus routes. Vancouver's Climate Action Team created the city's Greenest City Action Plan (GCAP), and this plan was adopted by the city council. The GCAP includes:

Vancouver's Green Initiatives

View of Vancouver from Stanley Park

Vancouver is already one of the world's most sustainable cities, but is now trying to become the "greenest city in the world". Around 95% of Vancouver's electricity is supplied by renewable energy (85% hydroelectricity, and a modest amount of other renewables). Vancouver was the first major city in North America to commit to 100% renewable energy of their energy production and consumption needs.

Urban planning has been relied on in order to keep Vancouver's city design as clean and efficient as possible, with a concept called eco-density. This refers to building vertically (as in skyscrapers), as opposed to urban sprawl. The City of Vancouver has the goal of building only energy efficient buildings for new building in the city, so that, along with retrofits, all buildings in the city are to be carbon neutral by 2030. In addition to carbon neutral buildings, the sewers, parks, water utilities, roadways, and energy supply in the city, are being worked on in Vancouver with the goal of becoming "the greenest city on earth".

quiet setting on one of Stanley Park's lakes

Already, over 92% of Vancouver's residents live within a 5-minute walk of public green space. Vancouver's largest park, Stanley Park, is a little larger in size than even NYC's Central Park. Here's a little blurb about Vancouver's Stanley Park -

"Explore the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoy scenic views of water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park's famous Seawall. Discover kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures. The park offers a wide range of unforgettable experiences for all ages and interests, including Canada’s largest aquarium."   FROM  -

Sustainable Transit in Vancouver |

Pedestrians and cyclists are a priority in Vancouver, as walking is encouraged by citywide programs that maintain the city's natural beauty with green spaces along most city sidewalks and bike paths. Vancouver has land-use patterns that encourage walking and biking by creating high-density city centers and even widening sidewalks.

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver were a source of increased solutions, that have been maintained, 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. The city features over 279 miles of bike trails.

Vancouver encourages alternative transportation modes. Public transit in Vancouver like SkyTrain, which is expanding beyond its 300 fully automated rapid-transit SkyTrain train cars, is the largest autonomous mass public transit system in the world. Another step toward modernization of transportation in Vancouver is that the city of Vancouver requires all new condos in the city have electric vehicle charging stations, focusing on this technology in order to encourage zero emission vehicles.

Mass public transit options in Vancouver include TransLink's extensive public bus systemstrolleybuses, TransLink's light rapid transit rail, and commuter rail lines (SkyTrain and West Coast Express); and SeaBus. All of Vancouver's mass transit options utilize some of the latest cutting-edge clean energy technologies. TransLink has added electric and hybrid buses to its bus fleet, and plans further electrification of Vancouver's fleet of buses. TransLink has a goal of reducing its GHG emissions from its entire mass transit fleet by 80% by 2050, with a more immediate goal of 45% GHG reduction by 2030.

Vancouver SkyTrain and Vancouver skyline

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 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 standout city of North America

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 in Vancouver led to the development of the SkyTrain, one of the world’s longest fully automated metropolitan train systems, the West Coast Express, SeaBus, and the development of trolleybuses. There are SkyTrain lines connecting downtown Vancouver with other major nearby Canadian cities and connecting to the Vancouver International airport, as well as new rail lines, running to such places as the Waterfront.

Vancouver SeaBus

In addition to the SkyTrain & West Coast Express, Vancouver offers the SeaBus. There are 3 double-decker ferries in the SeaBus fleet (and Vancouver is offering a brand new SeaBus), 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.

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 side-street lighting, and improved crosswalks. Vancouver has implemented these safety measures, in combination with the 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.

Please click & read:

Vancouver - Greenest City 2020

Vancouver - Alternative transit capital of North America

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  1. Please let us here at Green City Times know what you think in a comment; and we’ll try and answer any questions as well.

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    [Dan Braff is the founder of GCT –

    Daniel Braff]

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