What’s the best way to clear the air in Toronto? Take some of the thousands of cars off the highways that lead into and out of the city. Motor vehicles, as I demonstrated last year, are by far the biggest source of Toronto smog and greenhouse gases.
Today, the Ontario and Canadian federal governments announced a major step toward dealing with the transportation-smog issue in Toronto. As part of a massive $7 billion transfer from Ottawa to Ontario, a group of federal and provincial cabinet ministers promised money to add 204 streetcars and 126 subway cars to Toronto’s transit system. The feds finally confirmed they will put cash toward the long-delayed Spadina subway extension.
Good moves. Toronto’s streetcars and subways are electric powered. The subway extension will make reliable, inexpensive, ultra low-emission transportation available to residents in the 905 region north of the city. Currently, most 905-ers drive into the Big Smoke.
Ultra-low emission transportation? Yes, absolutely. In 2006, the Toronto Transit Commission used nearly 453 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, mostly to power subways and streetcars. That electricity came with roughly 124,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs), not to mention lots of carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, and nitrogen oxides.
(I base this estimate on the average emission intensity of Ontario electricity, which, according to Electric Power Statistics, was 274 grams per kilowatt hour at eleven a.m. on Thursday, July 24, 2008.)
The GHGs related to the TTC’s electric power consumption are less than one percent of the GHGs that light-duty gasoline vehicles in Ontario, the majority of which are in Toronto, emitted in 2004 (see Environment Canada’s Ontario GHG emission tables).
I will soon publish GHG comparisons of subway and gasoline–powered vehicle trips in Toronto. Stay tuned.
The biggest gains will be made when people put on a virtual reality helmet to go to work or attend a sports event. The internet can eliminate a lot of travel.
I used to think so too Randal, until I tried it for a year and realized my extrovert tendency cannot be denied. Working via the net just blurs the lines between work and non-work, but I think we’re still more efficient when we work mostly in offices.