Whether we like it or not, Vancouver is a dirtier shade of green than we want to admit. As a city notoriously packed with idling cars, it is one of the main contributors that puts Canada among the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions per capita in the world.
To make matters worse, we are creatures of habit. We justify filing up that $70 tank of gas because it gets us from point A to point B every week without the stresses often associated with transit.
However, when one takes into account the damages we are doing to our environment due to driving—carbon dioxide emissions, air contamination and water toxicity—reconsidering transit and bicycling may be the key that helps our city flourish ecologically.
Vancouver’s challenge is this: as a city with over 578,000 residents, we must actively seek out ways to reduce our carbon footprint on the Earth while we still can. In Mayor Gregor Robertson’s eyes, it is with hope that we are able to become the greenest city by 2020.
Following the Compass
With the introduction of the new Compass Card in the fall of 2014, commuters will have the accessibility of all Translink services in the back of their pockets. Starting off at a mere $6 with a 14 per cent discount versus cash fares, Vancouverites will need only to tap their cards onto blue readers upon entering and exiting all Translink services.
Not only will the system be convenient for riders, it’ll also beneficial to the company. By easily identifying where the bulk of travellers are commuting to, Translink will be able to indicate where additional services need to be implemented.
To make the offer more enticing, each card will be preloaded with a free three-zone fare, providing a King George to Waterfront ride at no additional cost. With payment options including vending machines at Skytrain stations, retailers across the city, online and by phone, transiting will be made easy for even the most reluctant of commuters.
Vancouver is also set to join the ranks of cities worldwide to adopt a public bike share program in early 2014. Run and operated by Alta Bicycle Shares, the program will see over 1,500 bikes distributed across 125 solar-powered stations throughout the city, equipped with helmet vending machines to comply with British Columbian laws.
As an alternative to driving, the bike share program hopes to reduce the need for cars, increase an interest in city cycling and extend a healthy transportation option to the residents of Vancouver. Riders will be able to purchase daily, weekly and annual passes, with the program only costing participants if they use it for more than 30 minutes a day.
Over the past decade, there has been a significant increase in the number of programs worldwide. In 2007, only 60 could be found, almost exclusively in Europe. Today, nearly 500 bike shares have been established on every continent including programs in London, New York and Ottawa. Montreal’s program has seen great success since its launch in 2009, having saved over 1,360 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. Lyon, France’s bike share program, arguably the most successful to date, has prevented over 8,000 tonnes of CO2 pollution since launching in 2005.
The Lower Fraser Valley has one of the worst smog problems in Canada with greenhouse gas emissions from personal cars having risen by more than 35 per cent in Canada since 1990, contributing 4.51 million tonnes of toxins into the atmosphere. As the third highest emitter of vehicle pollution in the country, Vancouver must take the necessary steps to ensure that generations to come will have a place to live free of harmful pollution.
It’s as simple as hopping onto a bike, jumping aboard a Skytrain or grabbing an umbrella and walking through one of the most beautiful cities this country has to offer. Before you know it, you’ll start to enjoy the exercise you’re getting, the clean air you’re breathing and you’ll grow an appreciation for the place you call home.
Photo Credits: Tourism Vancouver, BC Translink & Wikipedia