Recurrent Urban Congestion

As our urban centers continue to grow, future policies and program responses must address costs associated with highway and urban congestion, road construction, accidents, maintenance, etc. According to a 2006 study commissioned by Transport Canada, "the total annual cost of congestion (in 2002 dollars) ranges from $2.3 billion to $3.7 billion for the major urban areas in Canada. More than 90 percent of this cost represents the value of the time lost to auto travellers (drivers and their passengers) in congestion. The remainder represents the value of fuel consumed (around 7 percent) and GHG's emitted under congestion conditions (around 3 percent). The study estimates an increase of 1.2 to 1.4 megatonnes of GHG due to congestion every year".

Further, expansion of existing infrastructure will be challenged by the scarcity of land in Canada's major urban centers. Integrated transportation and land use planning is an essential requirement to achieving a truly efficient freight and passenger system. The need to identify and protect future transportation corridors and multi-modal freight and passenger facilities will ensure that future freight and passenger network capacity is not constrained. With continued urban expansion it is essential that transport corridors, maintenance centres, rail yards and passenger stations, are identified to meet anticipated future growth in interprovincial, North American and international trade and passenger demand. As such, all modes of freight and passenger transportation must be used in the most efficient manner. This can allow for the productivity gains required to maintain Canada's international competitiveness.

While the overall transportation sector generates 28 per cent of Canada's GHGs, however, railways produce less than 4 per cent of this total while moving more than 75 million passengers and close to 70 per cent of all intercity freight every year. Canada's railways conserve fuel, are environmentally friendly and reduce highway congestion. A single freight train is capable of removing more than 300 trucks from our road and highway network. Moreover, trains use a privately owned and financed right of way which is maintained and expanded to the tune of $1.8 billion in 2014 and on which rail operators paid $179 million in property taxes; trucks use a taxpayer-funded roads.

Finally, commuter rail can play a role in alleviating congestion now and into the future. Commuter rail is a major factor in reducing highway congestion, delays, accidents and pollution, and in preserving valuable land in urban areas. The number of rail trips by commuters in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec was more than 71 million in 2014, an increase of 23 per cent in the past decade. The use of commuter rail is a major factor in reducing highway congestion, delays, accidents and pollution, and in preserving valuable land in urban areas. Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver have all seen ridership increases on their commuter rail networks and expansion projects are ongoing in order to meet future demand.


Media Contact:
Alex Paterson
Public Affairs Coordinator
Telephone: (613) 564-8111

To see the difference that you can make by shipping your freight with rail, we invite you to use the RAC's Rail Freight Greenhouse Gas Calculator, click here.

To learn more about LEM Program, click here.

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