Greening Canada's Passenger Transportation Systems:

The Environmental, Economic and Social Benefits
of a National Rapid Train System for Canada


Brief presented to
The Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation
July 13, 1990

Submitted by David McRobert
Pollution Probe Foundation,
12 Madison Ave. Toronto, Ontario M5R 1S2

Executive Summary

Pollution Probe believes that one of the reasons why Canadians were outraged by the cuts made to VIA Rail is that the federal government had failed to take into account the environmental implications of the cutbacks.

According to research presented in this brief, the environmental costs of excessive reliance on car, bus and truck transportation that these cutbacks are certain to encourage will prove staggering.

Pollution Probe calls on the federal government to reconsider its decision to cut certain VIA Rail routes. In the alternative, we recommend the establishment of a rapid train system in Canada to ensure that massive reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, NOx, VOC and other pollutants from fossil-powered motor vehicles are achieved in the next decade. In our view, this mode of transportation could protect Canada's environment, prove economically feasible, and offer passenger convenience for both regional and cross-country transportation.



Executive Summary Introduction

The Environmental Benefits of Rapid Train Systems
A) Reductions in Carbon Dioxide Emissions
B) Control of NOx/VOCs Emissions and Ground-Level Ozone
C) Prevention of Needless Destruction of Greenspace
D) Conservation of Valuable Non-renewable Resources

Social and Economic Benefits of Rapid Train Systems
A) Fostering Environmental Attitudes
B) Encouraging National Unity
C) Enhanced Tourism
D) Reductions in Congestion at Major Airports
E) Reductions in Road Congestion
F) Improved Transportation Research and Development

A Major Obstacle: Subsidies to Car Owners


Summary of Recommendations


Pollution Probe is a charitable organization dedicated to protecting the environment. Since 1969, Pollution Probe has initiated action on many fronts including air and water pollution, toxics in food, acid rain and improved regulation of municipal and industrial waste. Our organization has a critical perspective on the environmental implications of transportation systems and for more than two decades has raised concerns about the hidden environmental costs of excessive reliance on certain technologies such as the automobile and airplane.(1) Accordingly, Pollution Probe is pleased to be able to present this brief to the Royal Commission on National Passenger Transportation.

In making recommendations related to a national passenger transportation system in Canada, Pollution Probe supports a system that gives environmental considerations top priority. Decision-making and fund allocations must recognize the profound impacts of transportation systems on the environment.

Pollution Probe endorses public transportation initiatives that are consistent with the legislative and policy reforms that our organization supports. Recently, Pollution Probe joined with other groups to produce a joint report advocating a five-point plan to green Ontario's transportation system.(2) We hope that this submission will contribute to the greening of Canada's passenger transportation systems.

In our view the steady decline of railways in Canada and other industrial nations is a disturbing signal that most governments have failed to appreciate the important benefits of energy-efficient, public transportation. It is an absurdity that subsidies to rail transportation are controversial in Canada while highway construction programmes which subsidize car drivers and encourage excessive light duty vehicle (i.e. cars, vans and small trucks) use continue unabated.(3) In contrast, Europeans have had the foresight to support clean and quiet long-distance railroads for more than a century. In addition to providing an effective mode of transportation, these railroads are a source of pride for Europeans. It is our view that Canadians have much to learn from the European nations with respect to the benefits of rapid transit and rapid train systems in Canada.

Following this argument, Pollution Probe urges the development of a national rapid train system and expanded inter-city transit services because we believe these systems would encourage many Canadians to follow the lead of Europeans and leave their cars at home. We feel that, when given the choice and provided with information on the environmental impacts of air and car transportation, many Canadians would opt instead to travel to other cities or commute to work in more comfortable and convenient trains and buses.

Despite our overall endorsement of public transportation systems and the concept of national rapid trains, we feel it is necessary to qualify our support. It is difficult for Pollution Probe to comment on any initiative without detail as to what kind of system might be proposed and what the particular environmental implications of that system might be. Pollution Probe's reaction to a national passenger transportation system will inevitably differ depending on the anticipated performance levels on noise, fuel efficiency and air emissions that might be attained by a given system.

An effective national passenger transportation system for Canada must include dependable service for both short and longer distances. A clear benefit of a national rapid train system is its versatility; rapid trains can be employed for short, medium-length and long distances. As the furor over the VIA Rail cutbacks announced by the federal government in October 1989 has shown, many Canadians recognize the critical importance of alternative modes of transportation other than the car or airplane, and support the re-establishment of a reliable, safe, efficient, and environmentally-appropriate railway system throughout Canada.

To be effective, a "green transportation system" will require extensive co-ordination with existing regional and local transit systems and future transit initiatives. Effective co-ordination between national, provincial and local initiatives will help to ensure that the system will address the transportation needs of all regions through intergrated rail and bus services.

Before beginning our analysis of the positive benefits that we think might flow from the development of a national rapid train system, we wish to make two general comments on the concept of a rapid train system, comments which reflect Pollution Probe policies on environmental matters. Our first general comment is that we support the renovation and retrofitting of existing infrastructure and technology whenever possible to promote resource conservation and ensure heritage buildings and other valued equipment and facilities are not needlessly destroyed. Thus, where technologically possible, Pollution Probe recommends the modification and renovation of existing railway right-of-ways, track beds, railway cars, engines and other facilities as an alternative to the construction of totally new equipment, tracks and facilities. This explains why we have used the term "development" to describe the eventual implementation of a rapid train system in Canada rather the term "construction." Accordingly, Pollution Probe urges the Royal Commission to consider the advantages associated with preservation, retrofitting and renovation of parts of existing facilities, equipment and infrastructure.

Pending further information, Pollution Probe also prefers enhanced, 200 km/h operations on up-graded existing CN or CP Rail right-of-ways to the construction of any new dedicated right-of-ways required for a new 300 km/h or 400 km/h maglev technology. Many advocates of rapid train systems argue that existing VIA Rail equipment and most existing infrastructure would be ill-suited to a rapid train system but our researchers have yet to be persuaded this issue has been fully explored.

The recent rapid train proposal submitted by ABB Group to the Ontario/Quebec Rapid Train Task Force is one example of a proposal that would use existing right-of-ways while still reaching speeds of 250 km/h. At this point, we cannot assess the environmental impacts of that particular proposal, but it lends credence to the possibility of rapid train technology that could be developed without construction of an entirely new rail system. While there may be some benefits to faster trains, we think that the associated negative costs including higher energy consumption rates, increased risk of accidents occurring and greater expense outweigh the benefits.

Another general comment is that Pollution Probe believes that new attitudes towards tourism and travel must be encouraged.

Obviously passenger transportation has been indispensable in promoting economic, political, cultural and social development in Canada over the past century. However, despite its past benefits, transportation technology like the airplane and the car must be re-assessed in favour of more efficient, environmentally-acceptable transportation and communications technologies. In our view, some of the business travel that now takes place would probably not be required if more emphasis were placed on existing technologies like tele-conferencing. It would be desirable if Canadian governments could encourage businesses to travel less than they now do through tax reductions and other incentive plans.

Another subject that is related to the development of responsible tourism is public education to encourage attitude changes related to the speed of travel. Many first world residents believe that inter-city and international travel should be as rapid as possible. Thus, for the wealthy in our society, the prime alternatives to the automobile are high-speed trains and airplanes. For those people willing to spend less but willing to take longer (and, in particular, low income people who cannot afford the high-speed alternatives), low-speed trains and buses are available. Pollution Probe researchers believe that too much emphasis has been placed, to the detriment of the environment, on high-speed travel. We urge the Royal Commission to recommend the development of public education programmes to foster attitude changes that will de-emphasize speed as a factor in inter-city and international travel.

For the reasons outlined in this discussion and taking into account the caveats listed above, we support the concept of rapid train systems at the present time. What follows below is a discussion of various themes under four sections titled: 1) The Environmental Benefits of Rapid Train Systems; 2) The Economic and Social Benefits of Rapid Train Systems; 3) A Major Obstacle: Subsidies to Car Owners; 4) Conclusion. On a separate sheet at the end of the brief, our key recommendations to the Royal Commission are summarized.


The Environmental Benefits of Rapid Train Systems

Pollution Probe researchers have long called for tougher regulation of environmental problems associated with transportation, particularly those stemming from the operation of cars. Presently, two car and airplane-related pollution problems that make up part of Pollution Probe's programs are global warming and air quality. These problems result from emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, lead, toluene, xylene, ethylene dibromide and chlorofluorocarbons (used in air conditioners).(4)

Another environmental problem associated with car use is the production of over two hundred and twenty million litres of used motor oil each year, over half of which finds its way into the Canadian environment. Obviously production of these emissions and pollutants would be reduced if Canadians began to rely on rapid train systems to a greater degree, and Pollution Probe supports rapid train systems to the extent that they may contribute to these reductions.

In this brief, Pollution Probe has identified numerous environmental benefits that we would expect to accompany the development of a rapid train system in Canada. In this brief we have concentrated on four of these benefits: a) reductions in carbon dioxide emissions; b) control of emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ground-level ozone; c) prevention of needless destruction of greenspace; d) conservation of valuable non-renewable resources.

A) Reductions in Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Reducing the toxics pumped into our air by cars and other fossil-fuel powered vehicles is an important reason for supporting the development of rapid train systems in Canada. However, Pollution Probe endorses most forms of rapid transit because they are relatively energy-efficient and environmentally-appropriate and will significantly reduce CO2 emissions, a major greenhouse gas. Pollution Probe has grave concerns about the long term survival of the planet due to the greenhouse effect. Human activities have always resulted in the production of greenhouse gases but the scale of production has increased phenomenally in the last century, due in part to the so-called "industrial revolution". As a result, our civilization is faced with the prospect of significant climate change due to global warming.

Rapid climate change could have serious environmental consequences including the melting of polar ice caps, flooding of areas adjacent to oceans, drought and increased forest fires in northern parts of Canada. As a result, some scientists predict that global emissions of carbon dioxide will have to be reduced by 70 per cent if we hope to avert a global warming crisis. At an international conference in Toronto in 1988, scientists, policy-makers and politicians agreed that industrial nations such as Canada should meet an interim reduction of 20% by the year 2005.(5) The federal government promised to meet this interim reduction target in the 1988 federal election. However, in May 1990, the federal government committed only to stabilize 1990 levels of carbon dioxide by the year 2005. More recently, the federal government appears to have adopted a rhetorical position on the issue of global warming. Canadian provinces have yet to endorse any targets or time schedules.

Canadians contribute about 2.5% of global energy-related CO2 emissions each year.(6) While CO2 is only part of the greenhouse gas story, it is a vital one. Carbon dioxide from cars account for approximately 15% of the total Canadian CO2 emissions, making car drivers one of the biggest producers of this greenhouse gas. It was no surprise to Pollution Probe when former federal Minister of the Environment Lucien Bouchard identified "encouragement of mass transit systems and fleet fuel efficiency" as one of the means to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.(7)

Researchers at Pollution Probe think that the automobile was never designed to meet the needs that it now purports to serve and has evolved into a major polluting and energy-wasteful mode of transportation in Canada. This explains why we waste as much energy as we now do and use so much CO2 in our energy-intensive transportation systems.(8) We believe that governments in Canada must undertake drastic programmes to promote energy conservation and reduce our CO2 contributions. In March 1990 Pollution Probe joined a Coalition of Canadian environmental groups and called for a commitment to energy conservation in Canada that will be needed to fight global warming.(9) In our view, rapid train systems in Canada, if utilized properly and promoted effectively, could reduce our current CO2 emission patterns and help to avert the eventual destruction of the global ecosystem, particularly if the train system that is developed relies on alternative fuels.

In addition to developing a rapid train system and promoting the use of alternative fuels, the federal government could help speed reductions to carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector by a commitment to emissions reductions in the transportation sector. Pollution Probe recommends that any strategic planning for a national passenger transportation system incorporate the Toronto conference target of 20 per cent reduction in 1988 carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2005.

B) Control of NOx/VOCs Emissions and Ground-Level Ozone

Pollution Probe supports the development of rapid train systems in Canada to link regional centres because of the growing problems associated with emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It has been estimated that car emissions account for at least 20% of NOx and more than 24% of VOCs emissions in the QWC.

It is noteworthy that some VOCs found in car emissions like benzene, toluene, acetaldehyde, xylene and ethylene dibromide are considered extremely toxic to humans and it is desirable to identify mechanisms to reduce their emission levels as a matter of public policy. In the presence of sunlight, VOCs catalyze reactions between NOx and oxygen to produce what is commonly called ground-level ozone (which is the major component of urban smog). The federal government has established the acceptable ground-level ozone threshold at 82 parts per billion. Medical research shows that exposure to levels of ground-level ozone above this threshold causes damage to respiratory systems in animals and humans and that young children and older adults are at risk when acceptable levels are exceeded.(10) Meanwhile, air quality experts in Environment Canada and the provincial environment ministries have collected data showing exceedances of the federal level take place on an almost daily basis in most large Canadian cities in the summer months.(11)

Researchers have also linked elevated ozone levels to damages to forests, crops, and plants. More specifically, agricultural researchers have also estimated that ground-level ozone causes crop damage in the order of $70 million in Ontario alone, and more than $2 billion in the United States. While some of this pollution is exported to Canada via the United States, Canadians clearly must shoulder a large part of the blame for the ground-level ozone problem in our urban-industrial heartland.

Acid rain is another environmental problem to which car and airplane emissions contribute. NOx can combine with sulphuric acid and other chemicals to form acid rain and increase acid deposition in Canadian lakes, streams, soil and forests.

Finally, on a global level, nitrous oxide emissions from jets flying near or through the ozone layer have been linked to stratospheric ozone depletion.(12)

In the transportation sector, car and air travel are two modes of transportation which, in terms of distance travelled, produce the bulk of emissions that contribute to elevated levels of ground level ozone. While current train technologies also produce NOx and VOC emissions, Pollution Probe believes that significant opportunities exist to reduce ground-level ozone production in Canada through encouragement of greater reliance on rapid train systems which will in turn decrease our use of car and air travel.

C) Prevention of Needless Destruction of Greenspace

Pollution Probe regards the preservation of agricultural land and greenspace in cities, towns and rural areas as vital to the ecological integrity of the Canadian landscape. Highways now dominate the southern Canadian landscape. Pollution Probe researchers estimate that successive Ontario governments have paved over a million hectares of land to construct the 160,000 kilometres of highways in the province. Some of Canada's highways have been constructed on the nation's best farmland, a legacy of pavement that we believe future generations will question in the next century when they need to reclaim some of this land for growing food and recreational use.

According to Transport 2000, a Canadian group that has worked on issues related to public transportation for more than a decade, new highways require approximately 6.5 hectares of land per kilometre (about 20 acres of land per mile). In contrast, rail lines require just one-third of this amount. While some provincial governments already have policies and laws in place to promote agricultural land conservation, these policies have met with only limited success. One reason these policies have failed is that provincial governments in Canada have failed to develop land use planning policies that are transit-oriented. In our view, planning and zoning laws, policies and programs must be devised to promote the evolution of economically practical public transportation systems. The federal government should require provincial and municipal governments to redevelop land along railway corridors to encourage appropraite densities which support transit services and compact integrated communities. Pollution Probe feels that rapid train systems in Canada would help to reduce the current pressure for highway construction and "land development" (probably better described as suburban sprawl) in Canadian provinces.

D) Conservation of Valuable Non-renewable Resources

Another advantage of rapid train systems is that they could ensure greater rates of conservation of non-renewable resources such as oil and gas. Pollution Probe researchers estimate, based on a Swiss study, that a fully loaded compact car requires 3.5 times more fuel than a modern European or Japanese train per passenger kilometre, that a truck requires 8.7 times more fuel and that jet planes require more than 6.5 times more fuel than a modern train. Even if these estimates are not directly applicable in the Canadian context (motor vehicle efficiency in Canada is generally worse), they do suggest that gas-powered cars and trucks consume more precious hydrocarbon resources and are much more damaging to the environment than rapid train systems and other alternatives.

Reducing the amount of travel by car and air will not only result in a reduction in our use of fossil fuels, it will produce a corresponding reduction in Canadian emissions of carbon dioxide, essential in the fight against global warming.


Social and Economic Benefits of Rapid Train Systems

Pollution Probe has also identified some social and economic benefits that we feel would result from the development of rapid train systems in Canada. These benefits are discussed briefly below.

A) Fostering Environmental Attitudes

An important social benefit that would stem from the development of a national rapid train system is the fostering of positive environmental attitudes among Canadians. To solve environmental problems, the basic attitudes and lifestyles of Canadians must inevitably change to give priority to the environment. In terms of transportation, this means Canadians will have to drive less, fly less, and make a switch to travelling by rail and public transit. The trade-off of convenience for environmental protection and preservation is one that Canadians must make not only in transportation decisions, but in other lifestyle decisions as well. A national transportation system that purposely priorizes environmental concerns over economic considerations or convenience will stress the importance of environmental protection and highlight the lifestyle changes that are implicit in environmental transportation systems.

B) Promoting National Unity

In the aftermath of the failed Meech Lake Accord, national unity is high on the list of Canadian national concerns. Historically, the cross-country rail system has been both a crucial transportation link between the east and west, a cultural symbol and a nation-builder. When the massive cuts to VIA rail were announced in 1989, the widespread opposition to the cuts demonstrated that Canadians continue to view the railway as a unifying force in Canada. While the environmental implications of the cuts were a strong concern, so too was the loss of the cultural and historical significance of the national rail service.

Pollution Probe believes that a coast-to-coast national rapid train service would help to remedy the loss of the VIA rail service by promoting Canada's cultural diversity and helping to restore our sense of national unity. A rapid train system for Canada could also provide improved links between urban centres and rural areas if it is integrated with local and regional bus services. Integrating the rapid train and bus systems would ensure that people who live in rural parts of Canada receive adequate transportation services.

C) Enhanced Tourism

Pollution Probe supports the development of "responsible tourism" that reflects environmental choices, an option outlined in a recent Pollution Probe publication called The Canadian Green Consumer Guide(13). This approach to tourism is consistent with what is often termed as the "conserver lifestyle." Thus, the travel method should foster local diplomacy and travellers should travel "closer to the ground" because this is cheaper, more stimulating and provides greater benefit to the local economy. Ideally, responsible tourism entails walking and bicycling to tourist destinations whenever possible and engaging in low impact activities on arrival at a destination.

In our view, Pollution Probe's long-term goal of promoting responsible tourism is consistent with the development of rapid train systems in Canada. We believe that one of the benefits that could result from the development of improved rapid train systems in Canada would be enhanced tourism.

Given that tourism seems likely to continue to expand modestly as the importance of the "information economy" grows in the industrial nations and that American markets will expand in the decades ahead due to free trade, we recognize that rapid trains could play a significant role in diverting passengers from conventional motor vehicle and jet plane trips.

E) Reductions in Congestion at Major Airports

At present, a federal government panel appointed under the Environmental Assessment and Review Process (EARP) is considering the desirability of expanding the facilities provided at Pearson International Airport in Mississauga. According to media reports, many residents are infuriated by the prospect of further expansion at Pearson. However, municipal politicians and tourism industry representatives have made a persuasive argument that Toronto's reputation as a conference centre and tourist attraction will decline dramatically in the next decade if efforts are not made to expand Pearson's facilities. In our view, a rapid train system between national urban centres would greatly relieve the current congestion problems at Pearson. Accordingly, expansions at Pearson Airport and at airports in other towns and cities would not be required, saving governments money and eliminating the potential for further environmental and social problems stemming from air travel.

F) Reductions in Road Congestion

Pollution Probe believes that major economic and social benefits would result from reduced road congestion in major cities such as Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto if a rapid train system were established. The American Public Transit Association has estimated that every full rail car that travels into American cities removes 75-125 cars from traffic.(14) Some of the derivative benefits flowing from reductions in road congestion would include quicker deliveries of goods and services in urban centres, reduced driver stress, fewer car accidents, and lower car insurance premiums.

G) Improved Transportation Research and Development

For several decades Canadian governments have lamented the lack of research and development undertaken by multinational corporations in Canada. In our view, development of an indigenous rapid train system could foster a host of related research and development opportunities and stimulate industrial development and activities which could have numerous long-term benefits for Canada.

Possible areas for research include rapid train, energy efficiency and alternative fuel technologies. Increased research and development could result in positive economic opportunities if it enables Canada to export new technology to other countries.


A Major Obstacle: Subsidies to Car Owners

Pollution Probe has always taken a negative view of the huge subsidies provided to car owners. In fact, staff at Pollution Probe were among the first representatives from Canadian Environmental Non-government Organizations (ENGOs) to celebrate the analysis of true cost of car operation developed first by academics such as Ivan Illich. In his book Energy and Equity (15), Illich showed that cars are not a very efficient mode of transportation when public and private costs of their operation are assessed. Illich argued that, rather than liberating people, the car has enslaved them and most urban residents would be far better off and would possess a superior quality of life if they did not purchase cars.

In 1978, a book prepared for Pollution Probe titled The Conserver Solution (16) extended Illich's arguments to the Canadian context and provided the following assessment of the subsidies received by car owners:

Car owners pay for some of the services they use through taxes included in the price of gasoline. But most of the costs to the public -- costs such as those associated with widening and repairing roads, salaries of traffic policemen, land taken out of public use to provide parking areas, increased hospital facilities to take care of accident victims and more courtrooms to take care of victimizers -- are paid for from the general tax revenues, from car driver and non-driver alike.

These hidden subsidies make car-driving seem more economical than it in fact is, and lead many people to prefer cars to public transit. Because of the bargain, some buy two and even three cars. Many use cars when public transit would be as convenient.(17)

The author went on to argue that car drivers should be required to pay their own way. Pollution Probe feels that if such an approach were implemented and car drivers were forced to pay higher gasoline taxes and highway tolls, enormous revenues could be generated. This money could then be channelled into projects such as the development of rapid train systems throughout Canada.

It is difficult to estimate how much more car drivers and the driver/owners of other light duty vehicles should pay to burn the gasoline they use to power their vehicles. Recently, Luc Gagnon, a Quebec environmentalist and vice-president of L'Union Quebecoise pour la Conservation de la Nature, calculated the explicit and hidden costs of operation of a sub-compact car in Quebec.(18) After accounting for the cost of road construction and repairs, and the various other social and environmental costs associated with car use, he found that the subsidies to car owners amount to approximately $5,000 per year.(19) This would suggest that the carbon tax which should be imposed is substantial, perhaps in the order of 30 cents per litre of gasoline consumed.

In sum, we think that subsidies to car owners constitute an enormous barrier to the development of alternative transportation systems and fuel-switching in existing light duty vehicles. This conclusion is supported by a 1984 American study on the future of the automobile (20) which concluded, after reviewing whether rival modes of transport might diminish the relative importance of the car in developed nations, that

there is no evidence of a shift in mode share away from automobiles in any of the developed countries, and for the longer period under consideration in this study we have found no convincing arguments that probable improvements in service and reductions in costs for competing modes will have any noticeable effect on the purchase and use of automobiles.

We urge you to convey the importance of removal of existing subsidies to car owners in order to improve the success of any rapid train systems that are established in Canada. Ideally, a joint federal/provincial Task Force on should be established as soon as possible to examine imposition of a carbon tax (21) or gasoline taxes to remove subsidies to car drivers.(22) Pollution Probe researchers believe that a carbon tax would be the most sensible policy instrument to achieve substantial carbon dioxide emission reductions.

To ensure that a policy instrument such as carbon taxes are adopted in Canada, Pollution Probe urges you to recommend that the federal and provincial Ministers of Energy and the Environment convene a meeting on this subject in early 1991. Other policy instruments that reflect polluter pays principle and full-cost accounting philosophies of environmental management should be considered at this meeting. Until these subsidies to car drivers/owners are removed, we doubt that other environmentally-sound systems such as the rapid train option will be able to compete with the car.



Pollution Probe believes that one of the reasons why Canadians were outraged by the cuts made to VIA Rail is that the federal government had failed to take into account the environmental implications of the cutbacks. According to research presented in this report, the environmental costs of excessive reliance on car, bus and truck transportation that these cutbacks are certain to encourage will prove staggering. Thus, Pollution Probe calls on the federal government to reconsider its decision to cut certain VIA Rail routes. In the alternative, we recommend the establishment of a rapid train system in Canada to ensure that massive reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide, NOx, VOC and other pollutants from fossil-powered motor vehicles are achieved in the next decade.

From the letters and phone calls Pollution Probe receives every day, we know that protection of the global environment is an issue that most Canadians care about a great deal. We urge the members of the Royal Commission to recognize this concern for environmental protection and place an appropriate emphasis on the environmental benefits and costs of rapid train systems in their deliberations. In addition, we request that the reportof your final commission reflect the ideas and recommendations that have been outlined in this brief.


Summary of Recommendations

1) DEVELOP A NATIONAL RAPID TRAIN SYSTEM. Canada should seriously examine the possibility of a national rapid train system to meet the need for inter-city and cross-country passenger travel.

2) REUSE PRESENT FACILITIES. Where technologically possible, Pollution Probe recommends the retrofitting, renovation, and preservation of exisitng railway capacity, equipment, infrastructure, and facilities to promote resource, land, and heritage conservation.

3) REDUCE CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS. The national transportation plan should incorporate targets and time schedules to reduce 1988 levels of carbon dioxide emissions from the transportation sector by 20 per cent by the year 2005.

4) CONDUCT THOROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENTS. Project proposals involving the construction or implementation of any part of a national transportation system should involve an environmental impact assessment which examines the environmental and social implications of the proposal and its alternatives.

5) INSTITUTE STANDARDS FOR AUTO EMISSIONS AND FUEL EFFICIENCY. The national transportation plan should be complemented by tough regulations for auto emissions and fuel efficiency standards.

6) ESTABLISH INTER-CITY TRANSIT SYSTEMS. The federal government should aid provinces in establishing effective inter-city transit systems -- rail in densely populated areas, and bus in less dense areas -- to discourage the use of cars for travelling between cities.

7) IMPLEMENT FULL COST ACCOUNTING FOR DRIVERS. The federal government should examine full-cost accounting for drivers as a means to reduce the use of cars in Canada and raise revenue for projects such as a national rapid train system. Two possible economic measures are i) highway tolls, and ii) a carbon tax to discourage the use of fossil fuels and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

8) CONDUCT RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT. The federal government should invest in the development of new energy efficient and more environmentally-sound technology for rapid train systems that could be used both in and outside of Canada.

9) CO-ORDINATION OF FEDERAL, PROVINCIAL, AND MUNICIPAL TRANSPORTATION INITIATIVES. The federal government should ensure that the national transportation system is integrated with regional and local transportation systems.



1 For an overview of recent Pollution Probe thinking on transportation issues, see Pollution Probe (Ed.) with W. Troyer and G. Moss, The Canadian Green Consumer Guide (1989). Toronto: McClelland and Stewart; pp. 117-125. Unfortunately, Pollution Probe does not have an updated policy statement on transportation issues at the present time. However, elements of such a policy are now in place and an updated policy should be available in the summer of 1990.

2 Pollution Probe, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Transport 2000, Environmentalists Plan Toronto and Access to Transportation in Our Neighborhoods, Greening Ontario's Transportation: A Public Campaign, June 12, 1990. Available from: Pollution Probe, 12 Madison Ave, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 2S1; Tel. 416-926-1907.

3 On the questions of subsidies provided for highway construction, see M. Hamer, Wheels within Wheels: A Study of the Road Lobby (1987). London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Hamer shows that the "road lobby" is a powerful political alliance in Britain, one that uses its money and wealth to favour cars and trucks over other modes of transport.

4 Pollution Probe, Car Pollution: A Primer on Automobile Emissions (1980). Toronto: Pollution Probe Foundation.

5 "The Changing Atmosphere: Implications for Global Security", Conference Statement, Toronto, Ontario, 27-30 June 1988. In: D.E. Abrahamson (Ed.) The Challenege of Global Warming (1989). Colevo, California and Washington, D.C.: Island Press; pp. 44-62.

6 Ontario Ministry of Energy, Global Warming: Towards a Strategy for Ontario, Toronto: Ministry of Energy, 1990, p.6.

7 The Hon. Lucien Bouchard, "Speaking Notes", Symposium on the Arctic and Global Change, October 25, 1989.

8 It could be argued that the standard Model T car was developed by Henry Ford to provide an efficient replacement for the farm buggy that everyone could afford. Ford was convinced that the American market wanted and needed a vehicle to enable them to migrate back and forth between rural farms and towns and growing urban centres, particularly between areas where railway service was sporadic. Before the destruction of street railways in major American cities in the 1920s and 1930s, servicing this need was one of the main reasons why people purchased cars. Today Canadians use cars mostly for intra-urban transit (producing 85% of our CO2 emissions this way) even though public transit alternatives are usually available and environmentalists believe that life-style changes are required to ensure that Canadians use less energy for transportation. For further discussion, see R. Torrie, D. Brooks et al., 2025: Soft Energy Futures for Canada -- 1988 Update, (Feb. 1988). Prepared for Energy Caucus, Canadian Environmental Network for Submission to the Energy Options Policy Review, Federal Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Ottawa: CEN.

9 Pollution Probe is a founding member of the Ontario Coalition on Global Warming. The Coalition, which was launched on March 19, 1990, intends to build grassroots support for "A Ten Point Plan for Government Action on Global Warming", an agenda developed by representatives of dozens of Canadian environmental non-government organizations (ENGOs) at a meeting in early March 1990. The Ten Point Plan calls for federal measures to upgrade fuel economy standards for cars and trucks and for the investigation of a carbon tax by Ottawa. In addition, the Ten Point Plan calls on the provincial governments of Canada establish public transportation policies and promote land use policies which encourage use of public transit.

10 Cathy Read, "Even low levels of ozone in smog harm lungs", New Scientist, 9 September 1989, p. 40.

11. Federal/Provincial Long Range Transport of Air Pollutants Steering Committee, Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), Management Plan for Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), First Edition, Draft, March 1990. Ottawa: NOx/VOCs Consultation Office, Environment Canada.

12 Transport 2000, "Potential Environmental Impact of Increased Emissions Related to Proposed Medium-Term Measures" prepared for the Federal Environmental Assessment of Air Transportation Proposals in the Toronto Area. (April 1990). The report states, "Globally, jet flight has a major impact on the ozone layer because the plane is spewing NOx into the atmosphere at great height... If Canada is to meet its international obligations to reduce the production of ozone depleteing chemicals, we should not encourage growth in the air mode transportation."

13. Pollution Probe (Ed.) with W. Troyer and G. Moss, The Canadian Green Consumer Guide (1989), supra note 1 at pp. 138-156.

14 American Public Transit Association, Final Report: Transit 2000 Task Force (1989). Washington: APTA. This Task Force, established in 1987, also recommended the following policies to enhance public transportation in the United States: integrate transportation and other national priorities; provide viable options to dependence on cars; retool and redirect Federal transportation programmes; and increase investment in public transportation systems and services.

15 I. Illich, Energy and Equity: Ideas in Progress (1973). London: Calder and Boyars.

16 L. Solomon, The Conserver Solution (1978). Toronto: Doubleday Canada.

17 Ibid, p. 54.

18 Luc Gagnon, "Cars and the Polluter-Pay Principle", In: Jo Davis (ed.), Not a Sentimental Journey: What's Behind the VIA Rail Cuts, What You Can Do About It (1990). Waterloo: Gunbyfield Publishing; pp. 103-110.

19 See also, M. Renner, "Rethinking Transportation", In: L. Brown et al. State of the World 1989 (1989). Washington: Worldwatch Institute; pp. 97-112. At p. 110, Renner suggests that total subsidies to U.S. car drivers may surpass $300 billion each year.

20 A. Altshuler et al., The Future of the Automobile: The Report of MIT's International Automobile Program (1984). Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. While Pollution Probe researchers would argue with this position and point to data showing greater interest in behavioral changes to protect the environment, it is unclear how many people are willing to give up their cars as long as operation costs are subsidized so greatly.

21 On the need for carbon taxes, see Greenprint for Canada Committee, Greenprint for Canada: A Federal Agenda for the Environment (1989). Ottawa: Greenprint for Canada Committee; pp. 20-23.

22 For a comparison of carbaon taxes and gasoline taxes, see William U. Chandler and A. K. Nicholls, "Assessing Carbon Emissions Control Strategies: A Carbon Tax or a Gasoline Tax?", Draft Paper prepared for American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, ACEEE Policy Paper No. 3, February 1990. Chandler and Nicholls estimate that a carbon tax would reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by two to three times as much as a gasoline tax. ??