Environment Policy Transportation

Big Moves: Vancouver Climate Emergency Action Plan

The City of Vancouver recently approved Big Moves: Climate Emergency Action Plan. It is comprehensive and helps address many additional goals including affordability, public health and social equity. These broad benefits can help build broad public support.

Big Move 1: by 2030, 90% of people live within an easy walk/roll of their daily needs. Make low-cost sustainable transportation options easy, safe and reliable for all Vancouverites, so that people get to work, school and other destinations without needing to rely on gas and diesel vehicles and the noise and pollution they produce.

Big Move 2: By 2030, two thirds of all trips in Vancouver will be made on foot, bike or transit.

Big Move 3: By 2030, 50% of the kilometres driven on Vancouver’s roads will be by zero emissions vehicles.

Big Move 4: By 2030, the carbon pollution from buildings will be cut in half from 2007 levels.

Big Move 5: By 2030, the embodied emissions from new buildings will be reduced by 40% compared to a 2018 baseline.

Additional goals: Ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live and work in zero emissions buildings, and is able to benefit from the comfort, quiet, healthy air, and lower energy costs they offer.

Share the costs of reducing our carbon pollution in ways that reflect people’s ability to contribute to that transition.

Create new and varied opportunities for people to participate in a zero-carbon economy, including the support people need to transition to those opportunities.

Affordability Transportation

Multi-Modal South Island Transportation Solutions

Here’s an old joke: A motorist stops on a rural road and asks a local farmer, “How do I get to Midville?”

The farmer ponders for a moment and replies, “Sorry. Ya can’t get there from here.”

That is funny because we know that, given proper directions and sufficient fuel, motorists can reach virtually any destination connected to a public road. The farmer must be wrong. But for numerous travellers who rely on public transit, many destinations really are inaccessible: “you can’t get there from here.”

Currently, many Vancouver Island communities have terrible intercity transit service. For example, between Duncan and Victoria there are only four daily trips, all departing Duncan before 6:30 am and returning late afternoons. There is no reverse commute or evening service, and only three weekend trips. The fare is $10 each way. Service to Nanaimo is even worse. There are only one or two buses per day, with $24-34 one-way fares. This combination of poor service and high prices explains why less than 0.1% of trips over the Malahat are made by public transit.

It wasn’t always that way and needn’t be in the future. With more multi-modal planning, we can ensure that everybody, including transit users, have convenient and affordable mobility options. Everybody benefits, including people who use those services, and motorists who experience less traffic congestion, crash risk, and chauffeuring burdens.

The BC Ministry of Transportation and Highways new South Island Transportation Strategy identifies various ways to solve regional transportation problems. These include giant Saanich Inlet bridges ($2.25-2.74 billion), Malahat Highway expansions ($560-967 million), and commuter rail service ($513+ million). However, the Strategy ignores the most cost-effective and beneficial option: frequent and affordable bus service between Victoria and Nanaimo, with at least hourly departures from 6:00 am until 11:00 pm, and prices no greater than two local fares, so a one-way trip between Victoria and Nanaimo costs less than $5. Because it requires no new infrastructure, bus transit is by far the most cost-effective travel option, saving hundreds of millions of dollars that can be reinvested in other critical services. It would take advantage of the Island Highway’s new bus lanes between Victoria and Langford, which makes bus commuting faster than driving to many destinations.

This speed helps make transit useful and attractive, increasing ridership, but even more important is service frequency and operating hours. For many trips, travellers need to know that if they miss one departure they can catch another, or another, or another, late into the evening.

Many travellers will use bus service if it is frequent and affordable. For example, 22% of Sooke-to-Victoria commuters take transit because it is frequent and affordable. The #61 bus makes 30 daily round trips, starting before 6:00 am and continuing until after midnight, with rush hour express service. Fares are just $2.50 one-way, or $5.00 for an unlimited-use daily pass. Similarly, 20-40% of weekday trips between Fraser Valley towns, such as Langley and Pitt Meadows, to Vancouver, are by public transit.

The Strategy includes various incentives to encourage travellers to use the most efficient option for each trip, such as commute trip reduction programs and mobility. If implemented with frequent and affordable transit service, this approach should attract a significant portion of trips, including travellers who cannot drive, and motorists who want to avoid driving stress or save money. This can be the cheapest way to reduce Malahat Highway congestion and accidents.

Many people are enamored with rail transit. I certainly appreciate the romance of trains. However, regardless of whether or not service is reestablished on the E&N line, Island travellers need frequent and affordable bus service. According to the South Island Transportation Strategy it would cost more than one billion dollars to provide just one daily train that departs Courtenay early weekday mornings and returns late afternoons, with $10-30 one-way fares. If ridership grows sufficiently, a second daily train may be added by 2038, but the Strategy includes no reverse commute, evening and weekend service. Because the rail line ends in Vic West, most travellers must transfer to buses to reach their final destinations. For many trips, buses will be faster, more affordable and convenient than either rail or driving. As a result, even if rail service is reestablished many travellers will need bus transit if they want to depart earlier or stay later than the train, travel on weekends, or reach destinations away from the train stations.

For the last century, transportation planning has favored automobile travel. This is unfair and inefficient. It deprives many people of their independence, and it increases consumer costs, traffic and parking congestion, accidents and pollution. We can do better.

It’s time to implement more multi-modal solutions to Vancouver Island’s transportation problems. The South Island Transportation Strategy contains many good ideas, but overlooks one of the most important: frequent and affordable intercity bus service connecting our communities.

For more information see, Rethinking Malahat Solutions, Or, Why Spend a Billion Dollars if a Million Dollar Solution is Better Overall?

Affordability Environment Policy Political Transportation

Climate Action – Our Local Emission Reduction Action Plan

Thousands of people, including many young activists and a parade of killer whales,  gathered outside the legislature last Friday as part of the worldwide climate strike.

Now what? How can we achieve our emission reduction targets in ways that also support other economic, social and environmental goals?

Cities for Everyone has solutions! Our transportation and neighborhood development action plans can achieve our region’s emission reduction goals, and provide other economic, social and environmental co-benefits.

Travel Change and Emission Reduction Targets

  • CRD: Reduce GHG emissions 61% below 2007 levels, by 2038, increase Victoria area transit mode share to 12% and double walking and bicycling by 2030.
  • Victoria: 55% of trips are by walking and bicycling and 100% of neighborhood are “complete” by 2041, 25% of trips are by transit and 100% of personal vehicles are renewably powered by 2050.
  • Canada: Reduce 2005 emission levels 30% by 2030.
  • British Columbia: Reduce 2007 emission levels 40% by 2030, 60% by 2040 and 80% by 2050.

Below are highlights.

Our Efficient and Equitable Transportation Action Plan

  1. Accelerate regional transit plan implementation. Implement the regional Transit Future plan in ten rather than 25 years. Increase transit funding by 50-100% ($125-250 annual per capita).
  2. Improve interregional transit connections. Provide frequent and affordable transit service from Victoria to Duncan/Nanaimo and Vancouver. Coordinate planning and services among provincial and regional agencies.
  3. Improve active transport (walking and bicycling) conditions. The CRD has a Regional Pedestrian & Cycling Masterplan, and local governments are improving walking and bicycling conditions, but implementation is slow due to inadequate funds. Increase active transport program funding by $50-100 annual per capita.
  4. Implement Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs. Local and regional governments can Implement TDM strategies and require TDM programs by large employers, as proposed in the CRD’s TDM strategy.
  5. Transit Oriented Development. Coordinate transit improvements and local policy reforms to create compact, walkable neighborhoods along frequent transit. Peer communities, including EdmontonHamilton and Saskatoon, have TOD guidelines and incentives.
  6. Eliminate or reduce minimum parking requirements and develop programs to more efficiently manage parking. Many cities are eliminating or significantly reducing parking requirements, so residents are no longer required to pay for parking spaces they don’t need.
  7. Encourage electric vehicles. Develop recharging stations. Encourage electric vehicle purchase.
  8. Encourage efficient commercial transport.
    Develop freight transport management plans and programs.

If fully implemented these eight policies can significantly reduce automobile travel and emissions, especially if supported by provincial and national strategies such as fuel tax increases, pay-as-you-drive vehicle insurance and registration fees, and electric vehicle incentives.

Our Affordable and Inclusive Neighborhood Action Plan

  1. Pre-zone areas designated for multi-family in the Official Community Plan (OCP). This will reduce infill development costs, increasing moderate-priced project feasibility.
  2. Allow an additional story for corner lots, larger lots (at least 1,000 square meters), and on busier streets (arterials or subarterials). These are locations where taller buildings have less impact on neighbours.
  3. Exempt moderate-priced housing from inclusivity mandates. This encourages developers to build more moderate-price units, which directly increases affordability for moderate-income households, and for lower-income households through filtering.
  4. Reduce fees and approval requirements for smaller and moderate-priced infill developments, since these are the projects we most need.
  5. Reduce or eliminate parking requirements and require or encourage unbundling (parking rented separately from housing units), so residents are not forced to pay for parking spaces they do not need. Many cities are doing this now to increase affordability, allow more compact development and reduce traffic problems. See: Progress on Parking Minimum Removals 
  6. Allow higher densities and building heights in exchange for more affordable units. Target densities can be applied in accessible locations, for example, at least three stories along minor arterials and four stories along major arterials.
  7. Mandate or reward energy-efficient housing, and
    support efficiency retrofits of existing homes.
    Building energy is a major financial cost and source
    of emissions, so improving efficiency helps achieve
    affordability and environmental goals.
  8. Improve affordable housing design. Municipal governments can support contests, planning charrettes and workshops to encourage better design. The Affordable Housing Design Advisor, the Missing Middle Website, and Portland’s Infill Design Project provide resources for improving lower-priced housing design.
  9. Subsidize housing for people with special needs, including those with disabilities and low incomes.

The figure below shows how location affects resident’s vehicle travel and carbon emissions. Households located in suburban, single-family houses drive about three times more and produce about three times the transportation emissions as comparable households located in walkable urban neighborhoods. In addition to reducing emissions, these automobile travel reductions and fuel savings increase affordability, as well as reducing other traffic problems.

Household Vehicle Travel and Emissions by Location (Salon 2014)

These development policies can significantly reduce energy consumption and pollution emissions, while also increasing affordability, public health and economic opportunity. We can create more affordable, inclusive and successful communities!

Affordability Policy Political Transportation

Vancouver is Making Room for More Affordable Housing

Vancouver’s new Making Room Strategy includes policy reforms to allow more affordable infill development in walkable urban neighborhoods. It will allow townhouses, duplexes and low-rise apartments in neighborhoods currently zoned for single family housing, more and bigger laneway homes, and explore more affordable home ownership options.

The Making Room housing program was created to address a key objective of the Housing Vancouver Strategy—shifting towards the “right supply” of housing which meets the needs of people who live and work in Vancouver. It includes specific targets for increasing the supply of various affordable housing types, including townhouses, purpose built rentals, condominiums, laneway and coach housing, and supportive social housing. The largest categories of new housing are moderate-priced purposed-built rental housing and condominiums, with $1,250 to $3,750 monthly rents or mortgages, reflecting the needs of middle-income families.

The Making Room program’s overall objective is to enable greater housing choices in existing low-density neighbourhoods, which include approximately 65,000 lots. It represents a transition away from neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood planning to a comprehensive, city-wide approach. The program includes all neighbourhoods outside of the City Core area (Downtown and Broadway Corridor), and will establish principles and a consistent decision-making approach to identifying housing options in each neighbourhood.

According to Dan Garrison, Vancouver’s housing policy assistant director,“Our ability to sustain the city going forward into the future and the kinds of diversity that we have in it is going to depend on a certain amount of change. Retaining the amount of low density, single, detached forms of housing, it’s going to be a real struggle to deliver the kinds of affordability and housing options we need.”

The same changes are needed in Victoria to increase affordable housing options. Currently, more than half of the City’s developable land base is limited to single-family homes (see map below), which now average $860,000. By allowing more compact housing types in residential neighborhoods, these policies will more affordable housing development, both market and subsidized units.

Most of Victoria’s residential neighbourhoods are zoned for single-family housing (indicated in yellow in this map) and exclude more compact and affordable housing types.


Compact infill allows affordable housing to be built in walkable urban neighborhoods where transportation costs are low, providing true affordability.

Thank you, Vancouver, for showing the way to more affordable infill!

Affordability Policy Political Transportation

Toward More Comprehensive and Multimodal Transportation Planning in BC

Cities for Everyone recognizes the importance of affordable transportation options as well as housing options. Although housing is, on average, a larger cost burden, it is also more variable: households in automobile-dependent areas, where every adult owns a personal vehicle, often spent ten times as much on transport as car-free households in walkable urban neighborhoods.

Who is responsible for improving affordable transport options? Local governments are responsible for pedestrian and cycling improvements, and BC Transit is responsible for local transit services, but there is a critical leadership gap for multimodal planning between communities, which makes it difficult for residents to live car-free if they must frequently travel to other areas. Hopefully, this will change.

The new BC Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure,  MLA Claire Trevena of Northern Vancouver Island, has a mandate to increase affordability and inclusivity, improve rural services, and reduce climate change emissions. The Ministry can do this with more comprehensive and multimodal planning, which recognzies the important roles that walking, cycling and public transit play in an efficient and equitable transportation system.

Below is a letter that I just sent to Minister Trevena, in CfE’s name. Please let us know what you think.

You can send your own letter to:

Honourable Claire Trevena (

Deputy Minister Grant Main (


Honourable Claire Trevena

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure

Parliament Buildings Victoria, British Columbia V8V 1X4

15 September 2017

Re: Toward More Comprehensive and Multimodal Transportation Planning in BC

Dear Minister Trevena,

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure.

I am writing to you as a representative of Cities for Everyone, an independent organization that advocates for more inclusive and affordable housing and transportation policies. I want to identify some ways that MoTI planning practices undervalue investments in affordable transportation options, and ways to correct this. These reforms are consistent with your Mandate Letter which highlights the importance of increasing affordability and inclusivity, improving rural services, and reducing climate change emissions.

An efficient and equitable transportation system must be diverse in order to serve diverse demands, including the mobility needs of people who for any reason rely on non-auto modes. In a typical community, 20-40% of residents cannot, should not or prefer not to drive, and will use non-auto modes (walking, cycling and public transit) if they are convenient and attractive. This is good news overall because those modes tend to be space efficient (they reduce traffic and parking congestion), healthy, energy efficient and low-polluting. Credible research indicates that improving non-auto modes increases traffic safety, public health, economic mobility (the chance that a child raised in poverty will become economically successful as an adult), and regional economic productivity.

MoTI planning practices do a poor job of responding to these demands, resulting in inadequate support for walking, cycling and public transportation. This reflects an old, outdated paradigm which evaluated transport system performance primarily from motorists’ perspective, using indicators such as roadway level-of-service, average congestion delay, and distance-based crash rates (e.g., crash casualties per billion vehicle-kilometers). The old paradigm lacks indicators for non-auto travel conditions, and for overall transportation affordability (total transportation costs borne by households).

Other government agencies support multimodal transport planning: local governments support active transport (walking and cycling), and BC Transit supports local public transit services, but there are critical gaps which only the MoTI can fill. Let me offer three specific examples.

  1. Vancouver Island Bus Service. The MoTI has commissioned several studies examining ways to reduce traffic problems on the Malahat highway. Their terms of reference only consider direct traffic impacts on that stretch of roadway, and so only valued public transit improvements to the degree it would benefit motorists; additional benefits, such as downstream congestion and accident reductions, parking cost savings, improved mobility options for non-drivers, consumer savings and affordability where not considered, although they are certainly important to many transportation system users. More comprehensive and multimodal planning would recognize more potential benefits from improving and encouraging public transportation on this corridor.

Public transport services on that corridor are currently limited: four daily BC Transit trips between Duncan and Victoria timed to serve commuters, plus five, relatively expensive Greyhound trips between Nanaimo and Victoria. Greyhound now plans to reduce this service. Yet, a small fraction of proposed investments to expand the Malahat highway , estimated in 2007 to range from $200 million to $1.5 billion, could finance hourly bus service that would provide true convenience and affordability, and attract more travellers out of cars, reducing congestion and accident risk to motorists.

  1. Victoria to Vancouver Public Transit Service Quality. It is possible, but not very convenient, to travel between Victoria and Vancouver by public transportation. This could be improved with a little coordination between BC Transit, BC Ferries and Translink to provide improved user information and wayfinding, integrated fares (one ticket for a bus, ferry and Skytrain trip), transit tickets sold in ferry gift shops, covered bus waiting areas, prepaid fares allowing quick passenger loading, more frequent and less crowded buses with luggage racks, plus express bus service between Skytrain and Tsawwassan terminals.

Let me offer an example. All buses between Skytrain and Tsawwassan terminals stop at the Ladner Exchange. The payment system requires bus drivers to check fares. Due to these delays passengers must line up more than an hour before ferry departures for a trip that could take less than a half-hour. Express bus service could leave 15 minutes later, saving traveler time and reducing stress. In 2012 the MoTI valued travel time at $15.94/hr/person, or about $20 adjusted for inflation, indicating that 15-minute savings for 100 passengers is worth $500, plus bus operating savings. This could provide a high economic return.

Improving transit service on this corridor will require coordination between BC Transit, BC Ferries and Translink. Providing this coordination is a role for MoTI.

  • Rural Public Transport. Comprehensive and multimodal planning recognizes the travel needs of non-drivers, and therefore the importance of providing public transport services in rural communities. The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has an important role to play in supporting such services. Other jurisdictions have effective and cost effective programs to do this, as described in the appendix.

More comprehensive and multimodal transportation planning provides many benefits, including direct benefits to people who use the improved non-auto modes, and indirect benefits to motorists who enjoy reduced traffic and parking congestion, increased safety and reduced chauffeuring burdens. Everybody wins!

However, delivering these will require policy and planning reforms to create a more level playing field between different modes. Fortunately, British Columbia is recognized as a world leader of multimodal planning, with excellent examples in Vancouver, Victoria and even Kamloops, but these innovations have not been fully incorporated into the MoTI. We therefore recommend the following actions for your Ministry to implement more comprehensive and multimodal planning:

  • Apply more comprehensive analysis of transportation investments which recognizes the additional direct and indirect benefits that result from active and public transport improvements, including road and parking facility cost savings (including downstream impacts), consumer savings and affordability, improved mobility for non-drivers, increased safety, improved public fitness and healthy, energy conservation, emission reductions and local economic development.
  • Apply least cost planning, so investments in alternative modes and demand management programs are considered equally with roadway capacity expansions, accounting for all impacts.
  • Establish multimodal performance indicators which measure, not only the ease of traveling by automobile, but also the ease of travel by non-auto modes. Use this to identify travel corridors that lack non-auto travel options.
  • Provide leadership, including planning analysis, funding and interagency coordination, to improve non-auto travel options, both in rural areas that currently lack public transport, and along major urban and intercity travel corridors where public transit service quality (convenience, comfort, speed, frequency and integration) could be better.
  • Sponsor conferences to explore how the MoTI can implement more multimodal planning, and support professional development programs involving Ministry staff and contractors to operationalize those policies and practices.

This is an exciting opportunity to provide more inclusive, affordable, resource efficient, safer, healthier, less polluting and more economically efficient transportation options in our province.


Todd Litman

Cities for Everyone


Appendix – Examples of Rural Public Transit Services

Travel Washington Intercity Bus Program

For many years, Washington State’s intercity bus service was declining, leaving may rural communities without scheduled public transportation to other towns and cities. In response, Washington State created the Travel Washington Intercity Bus Program which contracts with private companies to provide services to many rural communities. It relies largely on Federal grants and so requires minimal state funds. The State Department of Transportation works with communities to design the program and select service providers. Program Manager, Steve Abernathy, says that this approach has garnered strong community support. “When the Gold Line (northeastern Washington) was announced, communities were falling over each other to see who could bring the most to the ribbon cutting.”

Washington Intercity Bus Network 

Washington State supports an intercity bus network that serves rural areas and smaller towns.


The intercity buses connect to local transit services and are catalysts for private investment. Homes, hotels and banks are being developed around transit centers, and their parking lots are sometimes used for farmers’ markets and concerts.  Abernathy describes the program as, “allowing people to stay where they want to live, yet still have the mobility, connections and access to the state, national and international transportation network. It allows older adults to stay in the communities where they have friends, where they raised their children and where they are part of a community.”

Washington State Rural Public Transit

Washington State has several programs to help rural communities plan, coordinate and fund local public transit services. Public transit is provided through government agencies, and community transportation providers which include private non-profit, private for-profit and Tribal organizations. These organizations can access various federal, state and local funds, including voter-approved special taxes. The Washington State Department of Transportation provides administrative and technical assistance to regional transportation planning organizations and public transit service providers.


As a result of these resources, most rural counties in Washington State have coordinated public transit services, which provide travel to and within most communities. For example, it is possible to travel around the Olympic Peninsula, visiting many small communities, Indian reservations and tourist destinations, using the Olympic Transit Loop, which consists of six different but coordinated local public transit agencies, as illustrated below.

Olympic Peninsula Public Transportation

It is possible to circle the Olympic Peninsula and visit most communities using integrated local public transit services.


Rural and Small Town Transit Service Innovations

Many rural areas and small towns are implementing transit service partnerships and management innovations:

  • Some communities offer TaxiBus service: passengers must reserve a ride, and are carried between numerous fixed stop locations in the community by taxis which can pick up other passengers during the same trip.
  • Some small towns offer once- or twice-a-week bus services to regional centers to allow residents to access healthcare services and stores.
  • Some community transportation organizations provide seasonal or special bus services to recreation activities, such as beaches or ski hills, and to special events such as fairs and festivals.
  • Some small towns support vanpooling or commuter bus service to help residents commute to nearby cities.


The Rural Overland Utility Transit

The Rural Overland Utility Transit (TROUT) provides public transport services in eight rural municipalities with approximately 15,000 permanent residents in central Ontario, Canada. It supports various types of transportation services, including scheduled regional routes, door-to-door demand response, special event and charter transport, depending on community needs and resources. The program has a $300,000 total annual budget (about $20 annual per capita), of which $60,000 is generated by fares and $240,000 ($16 per capita) by public subsidies.



The Community Transportation Association of Idaho (CTAI) is a non-profit organization which supports the development of multi-modal transportation services in Idaho communities, including fixed route, demand response and ridesharing services. CTAI helps distribute federal and state funds. Agencies must have a coordinated plan in order to receive these funds. To meet the requirement, the state is divided into 17 local networks that meet to talk about community needs and implementation strategies. The CTAI employs a full-time mobility manager in each of Idaho’s six transportation districts. These managers facilitate the coordinated planning process and bring together key stakeholders, elected officials and leaders from the senior center or agency on aging. Executive director Heather Wheeler explains, “One of the key things the CTAI is doing is trying to bring mobility options to the rural communities so individuals can maintain their rural lifestyle and have access to health care, work, school or other necessary appointments.”


Affordability Transportation

Affordability as Well as Emission Reductions

City streets should accommodate diverse users and uses.

A couple months ago, Focus Magazine Publisher David Broadland posted a column, “Mayor Helps’ 1.5 Percent Solution,” which criticized downtown Victoria bikelanes. I responded with a CfE column, Stop Griping: Bicycling Benefits Victoria, to which Broadland recently criticized in Difficult conversations on the steep descent ahead. All this give-and-take offers a nice teaching moment about the importance of considering affordability goals into policy debates.

Broadland is correct that, although his column implied that downtown bikelanes are wasteful and unfair, he didn’t actually use those words as my column suggested. However, his latest column continues with two critical mistakes which have important implications for affordability.

First, Broadland argues that regional policies should have only one goal: reducing climate change emissions. Although that certainly is important, there are other goals to consider, including affordability and economic opportunity. Some strategies, such as subsidizing electric cars, reduce emissions but provide few other benefits. Improving affordable and efficient modes such as walking, cycling and public transit, and increasing the portion of residents who live in walkable urban neighborhoods, not only help reduce pollution emissions, they also help increase affordability, reduce traffic and parking congestion, improve mobility options and economic opportunities for non-drivers, and improve public fitness and health. Smart policies favour these win-win solutions.

Second, Broadland ignores the ability of walking, cycling an public transit to leverage additional reductions in motor vehicle travel. This occurs because a short walking or cycling trip often substitutes for a longer automobile trip, or described differently, once people get a car they tend to use it, so transportation and development policies that help households reduce their vehicle ownership provide large reductions in per capita vehicle travel and associated costs.

For example, one study found that installing sidewalks on all streets in a typical North American community would increase per capita walking and cycling by 0.097 average daily miles, and reduce automobile travel by 1.142 daily vehicle-miles, about 12 miles of reduced driving for each mile of increased active travel, and residents in Transit Oriented Developments drive about half as many annual miles and spend far less money on transportation as residents of more automobile-dependent areas.

Having been car-free for nearly a decade, I can report from personal experience that walking, cycling and public transit are all helpful in allowing a household to reduce its vehicle ownership, and therefore its annual vehicle travel and transportation emissions. Walking is most suitable for trips less than a kilometer, public transit is most suitable for trips more than five kilometers, and cycling is generally the most time- and financially-efficient mode for trips within this range.

Because of this leverage factor, mode share (portion of trips made by a mode) is a poor indicator of transportation system efficiency since it does not directly measure travel distance, and therefore the energy savings from more compact, infill development. In his recent column, Broadland criticizes the Netherlands because, although the country is famous for cycling, 73% of travel is my automobile, as if that is a sign of failure, but in fact, despite comparable incomes the Dutch produce about half the per capita transport emissions as in Canada, as illustrated below. This is good news – it suggests that we can achieve our emission reduction targets with policies that also increase affordability.

Affordability Transportation

Stop Griping: Bicycling Benefits Victoria

A transportation system must be diverse in order to serve diverse demands. Walking, cycling, public transit and automobile travel all have important roles to play in an efficient and equitable city.


Focus Magazine Publisher David Broadland’s recent column, “Mayor Helps’ 1.5 Percent Solution,” complains that Victoria’s downtown bikelanes are wasteful and unfair to motorists. His arguments reflect fundamental misunderstandings of cycling impacts and benefits.

If we listen to critics like Broadland, we will implement a weak bicycle improvement program which places cycling facilities where they are cheap to build and never conflict with motor vehicle travel, resulting in bike lanes that look nice but do little to serve cyclists’ daily travel needs. If we want useful bicycle facilities that help solve transportation problems we must implement a strong program which places cycling facilities where they are needed. Although more costly and disruptive, a strong bicycle program can provide large benefits.

In a typical urban community, 20-40% of travellers cannot, should not, or prefer not to drive, and this portion is probably higher in Victoria due to our demographics (lots of youths, seniors, people with disabilities and struggling artists) and geography (a compact downtown and walkable neighborhoods).

An efficient and equitable transportation system must be diverse in order to serve these diverse demands, so travellers can choose the most appropriate mode for each trip. For many decades streets were designed to maximize automobile traffic flow, with little consideration for other modes. This is inefficient and unfair to non-drivers. Transportation planning is now becoming more multimodal, in recognition that streets must accommodate diverse users and uses, including walking, cycling, public transit, private automobiles, delivery and emergency vehicles, local businesses and residents.

Broadland’s column reflects the old paradigm which considered cycling unimportant. Times have changed. Cyclists just want a fair share of public resources (transportation funding and road space). What would be fair? You could argue that it should be about equal to cycling’s mode share: if 5% of trips are by cycling then it would be fair to invest 5% of public resources in cycling facilities, but this is backward looking since it reflects the travel patterns that occur under current conditions, ignoring “latent demand,” the additional cycling trips that some travellers want to make but cannot due to inadequate facilities. To respond to these demands it would be fair to invest the portion of money and road space that reflects the mode share after those programs are completed; if comprehensive planning is likely to results in 10% cycling mode share, it would be fair to invest 10% of transportation funds and road space in cycling facilities.

Even this could be considered inadequate. We are now emerging from a century of automobile-oriented transportation planning: for many decades there was little investment in walking, cycling and public transit. This can justify additional investments to make up for past underfunding. In addition, we can recognize that cycling provides both transportation and recreational benefits – cycling ranks as one of the most popular forms of exercise and recreation – so cycling facilities can be funded through both transportation budgets and through parks and recreation budgets.

Critics like Broadland imply that cycling facilities only benefit a small number of serious cyclists – those who ride expensive racing bikes wearing lycra. These critics couldn’t be more wrong. Those of us who ride regularly are able to hold our own on busy arterials; protected bike lanes are needed to allow inexperienced, less confident people bicycle. It has proven successful – the lane is full of diverse users, including many new riders who would not otherwise bike downtown.

Broadland begins by criticizing travel surveys. He is right that most surveys are incomplete and biased, but not the way he suggests. Conventional travel surveys were designed to measure motor vehicle travel; they tend to undercount short trips, off-peak travel, non-commute travel, travel by children, recreational travel, and walking and cycling trips to access motorized modes (the census classifies a bike-bus-walk trip simply as a transit trip, and walking trips between parked cars and destinations are generally ignored even if they involve several blocks of walking on public sidewalks). As a result, the actual number of walking and cycling trips is much greater than conventional travel statistics indicate.

There is now good research showing that improving bicycling conditions can significantly increase cycling activity. For example, five years after a major U.S. Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program invested about $100 per capita in pedestrian and cycling improvements in four typical communities, walking trips increased 23% and cycling trips 48%, mostly for utilitarian purposes. Similarly, a review of travel impacts in several U.S. cities found that adding protected bike lanes increased ridership on that street by 21% to 171%.

We now have good success stories. Starting in the 1960s, Davis, California and Eugene, Oregon started developing an extensive bike network. Although there was no economic analysis demonstrating that these investments were cost effective, their local officials realized intuitively that cycling improvements are worthwhile. Since then, both cities have experienced high cycling mode shares and low per capita automobile travel compared with other U.S. cities, and both cities have experienced much lower than average traffic fatality rates, demonstrating that bike-friendly cities are safer for all road users.

According to the CRD travel survey, in 2011 there were 4,796 average daily cycling trips to, from and within Victoria, representing 7% of the total 72,667 trips. If the City’s comprehensive bicycle program can increase cycling trips by 20-170%, as research suggests, this can reduce a few thousand urban-peak automobile trips, and their associated costs. Virtually everybody benefits if the travellers who want to cycle are able to do so, because it helps reduce traffic and parking congestion and therefore roadway facility costs, saves users money and increases affordability (savings to lower-income households), reduces total traffic accidents, improves public fitness and health, and improves mobility options for non-drivers. Even people who don’t bicycle benefit from reduced congestion and parking problems, and reduced chauffeuring burdens.

Automobile travel requires far more road space than cycling or public transit.


Broadland criticizes the downtown bike lanes because, he argues, they can do little to reduce regional automobile trips. This confuses local and regional scales: downtown cycling improvements are justified to address downtown transportation goals, regional policies will be needed to address regional goals.

Broadland assumes that the only reason for increasing bicycling is to reduce climate emissions. This ignores the many other benefits that cycling provides, including direct savings and benefits to users, plus savings and benefits to non-users including reduced traffic and parking congestion.

In an accompanying video, Focus Magazine argues that bike lanes cause traffic delays that increase pollution emission, a silly argument. A typical car consumes less than one liter of fuel per hour when idling, or about 7 grams of fuel during 25 seconds of delay so each additional bicycle commuter offsets a couple hundred car intersection delays. Delays and emissions caused by bike lanes are insignificant compared with those that result form traffic congestion caused by too many automobiles driving on urban roads. The best solution is to reduce automobile traffic by making space-efficient modes more attractive.

Broadland is hyper-sensitive to delays that bike lanes may cause motorists but ignores the much larger delays and risks that automobile traffic imposes on cyclists, and therefore the justification for separated cycling facilities. Just as railroad companies have a responsibility to help pay for rail crossings to protect motorists, motorists should help pay for protected bike lanes that reduce the risks their vehicles impose on cyclists.

By extrapolating the Pandora bike lane cost to other downtown arterials, Broadland estimates that Victoria’s cycling program will cost $16 million, which is almost certainly an exaggeration since the first project is always more costly than those that follow. Described that way, the bike program sounds expensive, but you could equally say that its cost is equivalent to just 320 downtown parking spaces, 18% of the McKenzie Intersection improvements, about $6 annual per urban core resident, or less than two-cents-per-day per capita. Cycling costs are tiny compared with what residents, governments and businesses spend on vehicles, fuel roads and parking facilities in automobile dependent communities, and compared with the potential savings from reduced driving.

This is not a “war on cars.” A multimodal transportation system is no more anti-car than a healthy diet is anti-food. Motorists have good reasons to support cycling improvements.


Affordability Transportation

Housing for People, Not Cars

No laws require housing for people, but most zoning codes require a generous number of parking spaces to be included in developments, which is an inefficient and unfair subsidy for cars. It forces car-free households to pay for parking spaces that they don’t need or want, and is a major constraint on affordable infill development. 

Including driveways and access lanes, a typical urban parking space requires 250-350 square feet of land and costs and costs between $10,000, for a surface space up to $60,000 for a structured or underground space. In order to meet minimum parking requirements, townhouses and apartments must devote more land to parking than to buildings. Meeting these requirements adds little to the cost of a million-dollar home, but typically increases the cost of a small, low-priced apartment by 10-30%, and since the occupants of such apartments are often car-free, it is an unfair burden.

Considering land, construction and operating costs, each parking space has a $1,000-3,000 annualized value, and because zoning codes result in two to six off-street parking spaces per motor vehicle (one at home, one at the worksite, and a share of parking at various commercial destinations), for each dollar a motorist spends on their vehicle somebody must spend more than a dollar to provide parking for it, representing a huge subsidy of automobile travel. This is also inefficient because most parking lots are seldom full, representing a wasted resource.

This is not to suggest that everybody should forego automobile travel and all parking spaces should be eliminated, but there are better ways to satisfy parking needs through more efficient management. Many communities significantly reduce or eliminate their minimum parking requirements, particularly for lower-priced housing in walkable urban neighborhoods, allowing developers to decide how much parking to provide based on market demand. They apply various management strategies to ensure that parking facilities are used as efficiently as possible. This is one of the most important policy reforms for increasing affordability and encouraging more efficient transportation.

For More Information

Mikhail Chester, et al. (2015), “Parking Infrastructure: A Constraint on or Opportunity for Urban Redevelopment? A Study of Los Angeles County Parking Supply and Growth, Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 81, No. 4, pp. 268-286; website:

Joshua Engel-Yan and Dylan Passmore (2010), “Assessing Alternative Approaches to Setting Parking Requirements,” ITE Journal, Vo. 80, No. 12, December, 30-25.

King County Right Size Parking Project.

Todd Litman (2014), Parking Requirement Impacts on Housing Affordability, Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Todd Litman (2016), Parking Management: Strategies, Evaluation and Planning, Victoria Transport Policy Institute.

Donald Shoup (2005), The High Cost of Free Parking, Planners Press.

Richard Willson (2015), Parking Management for Smart Growth, Island Press.