Sustainable Cities Collective has re-launched as Smart Cities Dive! Click here to learn more!

Making Our Communities More Liveable: A Tale of Five Canadian Cities

Across Canada, a growing number of policy makers, planners and residents want their communities —neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities— to be more liveable, that is, more able to provide their residents with increasing opportunities to enjoy a high quality of life.

green mobility

Green mobility options, such as public transit, walking and biking can have invaluable contributions towards making our communities more liveable.

In fact, when strategically planned, designed, managed and combined with other community components —such as other sustainable modes of transport, high density housing and mixed-use buildings and neighbourhoods—  green mobility options can make it possible for residents to go to the places they need or want to go, quickly, conveniently, safely, comfortably and economically, and without having to drive their private cars at all times. They can also make it possible for residents to have increased opportunities for socializing and exercising —and therefore, staying more mentally and physically active and fit. And because green mobility options can also have positive effects on the quality of the environment in our communities, they can also make it possible for residents to breath fresher air —as compared to residents living in communities where the use of the private automobile prevails— and, therefore, also enjoy improvements in their health, well-being and life expectancy. And improvements in the health and well-being of the residents can further lead to considerable savings in health care costs for them —individually— and their community.

And the increased availability and use of green mobility options in a community can result in additional benefits —both for the community and the residents. For the community, for instance, it can result in lower levels of energy requirements; in lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions; in a greater capacity and opportunity to serve the transportation needs of all segments of the population; and in lower infrastructure costs —as it is easier and less expensive to build, manage and maintain infrastructures for public transit, walking and cycling, than it is to build, manage and maintain infrastructures for the private automobile. As for the residents, using green mobility options, instead of driving a car, can result in shorter commuting times for many of them —as their chances to get caught in traffic congestion are minimized; and for all, in lower commuting costs —as their parking costs, car operating and maintenance costs, car insurance costs and risks of getting involved in a car accident can be lessened.

This article looks at five Canadian cities —Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver— and demonstrates that cities with higher housing densities, are more likely to have higher proportions of their workers commuting to work via green mobility options, than cities with lower housing densities.

 

Image

Montreal as seen from its 200-hectare Mont Royal Park - September 30, 2013

Montreal is the largest city of the province of Quebec and the second largest city of Canada. It is located on the island of Montreal and is well known as one of the most European-like cities in North America and as a cycling city. It is also famous for its underground city and its excellent shopping, gourmet food, active nightlife and film and music festivals.
 
Montreal's public transit consists of a metro and bus network, paratransit service for people with functional limitations, and the public taxi, which is a form of transport provided in low-density areas where it is not possible to establish regular bus services, according to the Sociéte de Transport de Montréal. Five commuter rail lines connect downtown Montreal with 83 municipalities in the Montreal metropolitan region, according to L'Agence métropolitaine de transport de la région de Montréal; and the 747 bus line links several downtown metro stations with Pierre Trudeau International Airport. A bus shuttle service links the same airport with the VIA Rail train station in Dorval, a suburb of Montreal.
 
Public transportation is considered as Montreal's preferred transportation mode for the future. And in order to encourage the use of transit, the City's Master Plan aims to intensify real-estate development near metro and commuter train stations, as well as certain public transportation corridors, according to City of Montreal Master Plan.
 
The modal share of transport on the Island of Montreal is expected to change from 2008 to 2020 as follows: car only from 48% to 41%, public transit from 32% to 37%, active transportation (walking and biking) from 15% to 18%, and other motorized modes of transport from 5% to 4%, according to the STM's Strategic Plan 2020.
 
Montreal has nearly 600 kilometres of dedicated bikeways, according to Tourisme-Montreal. And Quebec Cycling, a non-profit organization, runs two programs designed to promote the use of active transportation in the city. The first, "Operation Bike-to-Work" supports employees who want to cycle to work and employers who want to encourage their employees to cycle to work.The second, "On-foot, by bike, active city" promotes active and safe travel in municipalities —especially near schools—  to improve health, the environment and the well-being of citizens, according to Vélo Québec 
  
ottowa view 
Ottawa as seen from the Canadian Museum of Civilization, across the Ottawa River - September 25, 2013
 
Ottawa is Canada's national capital and is located in Eastern Ontario, on the south side of the Ottawa River. It borders, across the same river, the second largest city of the province of Quebec, Gatineau. And the two cities together form Canada's National Capital Region. 
 
Ottawa's public transit is operated by OC Transpo and consists of an integrated bus and train service. The bus service runs on a rapid Transitway — a dedicated bus lane system — across the City, with connections to local neighbourhoods, Ottawa's International airport and downtown Gatineau. The train service — known as the O-Train— runs on an eight kilometre Rapid Rail line from Bayview Transitway station, just west of Ottawa's downtown, to Greenboro Station, a few km south of Carleton University.
 
OC Transpo also provides transportation services for people with disabilities who are unable to take conventional transit (through Para Transit); for people living in rural communities who need or want to access city services through public transit (through Rural Partners Routes); and for rural residents who want to get into town for shopping and other city activities (through Rural Shopper's Bus), according to OC Transpo 
 
In early October of 2013, Ottawa embarked upon building the Confederation Line, a state-of-the-art Light Rail Transit, which, when completed over the next five years, will be a key component of OC Transpo's integrated transit network. In fact, at that time, it will connect strategically to the existing Bus Rapid Transitway and to the O-Train, and the three together, will move people in Ottawa faster and in more comfort than ever before, according to the City of Ottawa.    
 
Ottawa's current bikeway network is nearly 541 km long, including 258 km of off-roadway pathways. But biking is becoming increasingly popular and important and Ottawa has a 20 year (2008-2028) Cycling Plan (OCP) whose vision is to develop a City-wide, visible and connected 2,508.1 km long cycling network of on and off-road facilities that is actively used by all types of cyclists.
 
This network would be supported by various programs, policies and strategies that would help to identify Ottawa as the premiere cycling capital of Canada, and as one of the most sustainable transportation cities in the world. An important goal of the OCP is to triple the number of person-trips made by bicycle in the City from 4,500 in 2001 to 12,000 by 2021.
 
The OCP is consistent with the priorities and objectives set in the 2007-2010 City Council's Strategic Directions Report, which include reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20% by 2012, and requiring walking, transit and cycling oriented communities and employment centres, according to the Ottawa Cycling Plan.                                                              
 
BRT 
Bike shelters along Ottawa's Bus Rapid Transitway make commuting to work via green mobility options easier year-round.
 
Ottawa also has a 20-plus year (2009-2031) pedestrian plan whose vision is to "facilitate year-round walking in the City of Ottawa as a comfortable, realistic, viable, well integrated and well used component of the transportation system in the City," according to Ottawa Pedestrian Plan.
 
The City recently initiated Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031—a city-wide review of land, transportation and infrastructure policies that builds on the current Official Plan's strategic directions towards supporting more compact, sustainable and affordable growth while emphasizing transit-oriented development to maximize the City's investment in rapid transit expansion, according to the City of Ottawa                 
 
toronto
 
Toronto as seen from its charming, off shore, 325-hectare Toronto Island Park - September 9, 2013 
 
Toronto is Canada's largest city and Canada's largest economic centre. It is located in southern Ontario along a 51-km section of the north-western shore of Lake Ontario, nearly 165 km east of Niagara Falls.
 
Toronto's public transit —one of the largest in North America— is operated by the TTC and consists of a bus, streetcar and subway network. The TTC operates several regular bus routes connecting Toronto with Toronto Pearson International Airport (PIA); Wheel-Trans which provides door-to-door accessible transit service for persons with physical disabilities; and 13 bus routes going into Toronto's neighbouring municipalities (neighbouring transit agencies also operate over 30 bus routes connecting either with the TTC subway system or other surface routes). Toronto's public transit is also integrated with Go transit, the regional public transit service for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, which connects two Toronto subway stations with Toronto PIA by bus rapid transit, and several other Toronto locations with municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area by train and bus rapid transit, according to the TTC and Go Transit.    
     
Currently, the City is developing a 1,000 km Bikeway Network that will ultimately link cyclists with neighbourhoods and destinations across the city. It will serve commuter and recreational cycling and comprise connected bicycle lanes, shared roadway routes and multi-use pathways in parklands and hydro and rail corridors. When completed, all Toronto residents will be within a five-minute bicycle ride to the Bikeway Network," according to Toronto Bikeway Network.    
 
Toronto also wants to become a great place for walking, and to that end, it has established a walking strategy whose aim is to "build a physical and cultural environment that supports and encourages walking, including vibrant streets, parks, public squares and neighbourhoods where people will choose to walk more often. By envisioning a city where high-quality walking environments are seamlessly integrated with public transit, cycling and other sustainable modes of travel, the Strategy sets out a plan that will produce tangible environmental, health and social benefits for residents and visitors to Toronto," according to Toronto Walking Strategy    
     
alberta     
Calgary as seen from the observation platform of its nearly 190-metre-high downtown Calgary Tower - June 24, 2012
    
Calgary is the largest city in the province of Alberta, and also the city with the fifth largest Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) of Canada, after the CMAs of Ottawa-Gatineau (fourth largest), Vancouver (third largest), Montreal (second largest) and Toronto (the largest).
         
For many years, Calgary has been an important national and international tourist destination, particularly because of its renowned annual Stampede, and its proximity to the Canadian Rocky Mountains —with famous Banff and Lake Louise. However, over the past few years, and thanks to its important and rapidly growing petroleum industry, Calgary has been growing faster than ever before and it is now becoming one of the strongest economic centres of Canada.    

 
Image
Lake Louise is about 180 km west of Calgary's downtown - Photo taken on 25 June 2009
      
Calgary's public transit consists of a Light Rail Transit system —or CTrain— and a bus and community shuttle network. Access Calgary, a division of Calgary Transit, provides transport services for Calgarians with disabilities. 
     
Currently, the CTrain carries more passengers than any other light rail system in North America (over 280,000 every weekday); and since September 2001, its electricity has been entirely generated by 12 wind turbines making it a 100 per cent emissions free light rail system, the only one of its kind in North America, according to Calgary Transit   
      
Calgary's communities, parks and natural areas are connected by an extensive network of pedestrian and cycling paths that can be used for walking, running, rollerblading or cycling. In fact, Calgary has the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America —938 km of pathways plus 290 km of on-street bikeways— according to The City of Calgary.
    
An important goal of the Calgary Transportation Plan (CTP) is to enable public transit, walking and cycling as the preferred mobility choices for more people. Of all daily trips made by Calgarians in 2009, 14% were on foot/bike, 9% were on public transit and 77% on vehicles (both single occupant vehicles and high occupancy vehicles). Based on the recommended land use pattern and transportation systems contained in the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and the CTP, these per cents are projected to change to 20-25%, 15-20% and 65-55% respectively by year 2069.
    
The CTP and MDP represent a new direction for transportation in Calgary. The more compact form of development envisioned in the MDP will bring homes, jobs, services and amenities closer together. This will make non-automobile modes of travel more convenient and therefore give Calgarians choices when travelling around the city. More choices means that Calgary's transportation system will, among other things, improve overall mobility, better withstand energy costs, and reduce energy use and emissions, according to the 2009 Calgary Transportation Plan.
   
   
Image
Vancouver as seen from Burrard Bridge looking East - Photo courtesy of Urban Pattern Associates, Ottawa, Ontario
       
Vancouver is a coastal and seaport city, and the largest city of the province of British Columbia. Its geography is superb: situated on the western half of the beautiful Burrard Peninsula, east of the Strait of Georgia, south of the English Bay and the Burrard Inlet, and north of the Fraser River. Vancouver is also a unique city in that, like no other city, it has been ranked for several years as the world's most liveable city by The Economist's Intelligence Unit.
      
Vancouver's public transit combines multiple transport modes, including: a bus network; a light rapid transit system consisting of three Sky Train lines, two that connect downtown Vancouver with the cities of Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey, and another one that connects downtown Vancouver to the Vancouver international airport and the city of Richmond; HandyDart, which provides door-to-door service for people with disabilities; the SeaBus, a passenger ferry connecting downtown Vancouver with the North Shore; and the West Coast Express, an interregional train connecting Downtown Vancouver to Mission (a district municipality), according to The City of Vancouver.
     
Vancouver is one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in Canada. It has a bikeway network that is nearly 255 km long, according to the City of Vancouver Bicycle Program Coordinator.
    
Vancouver's famous Stanley Park —which lies immediately north-west of the City's downtown— offers nearly 400 hectares of natural beauty, and plenty of opportunities for recreational walking and biking.
   
Vancouver is one of the most green mobility options oriented cities in Canada. In 2008, 40% of all trips in the City were on foot, bike or transit. The City's current target is making the majority (over 50%) of all trips in the City on foot, bike and transit by year 2020 and, at least, two-thirds of all trips in the City on foot, bike and transit by 2040, according to Transportation 2040, a long-term strategic vision for the City of Vancouver.
    
And "Vancouver is also rising to meet the green transportation challenge by creating compact neighbourhoods with higher density to provide easy access to work, shopping and recreation. Remarkably, the City has shifted investment to walking, cycling and transit infrastructure instead of building new roads," according to City of Vancouver Greenest City 2020 Action Plan.
     
THE FIVE CITIES —AMONG THE TOP-25 MOST LIVEABLE CITIES IN THE WORLD
   
Between 2010 and 2013 —at one time or another— Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver have been ranked among the top-25 most liveable cities in the world by one or more of the three most widely known world's-most-liveable-cities surveys. Vancouver, which was ranked for several years in a row until 2011 as the most liveable city in the world by The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Survey, has been ranked by the same survey as the 3rd most liveable city in the world over the past three years —2011, 2012 and 2013. And the same survey has ranked Toronto and Calgary, respectively, as the fourth and fifth most liveable cities in the world for the last four years —2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 —Exhibit 1
  
Image
   Exhibit 1- See links to sources in reference # [1]
 
The methodology used to determine the degree of liveability of a city by the surveys named in Exhibit 1 seems to be rather simple. For instance, The Economist Intelligence Unit's Global Liveability Survey "assesses which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions. Each city is assigned a rating of relative comfort for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories: stability; healthcare; culture and environment; education; and infrastructure. Each factor in each city is rated as acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable. For qualitative indicators, a rating is awarded based on the judgment of in–house analysts and in–city contributors. For quantitative indicators, a rating is calculated based on the relative performance of a number of external data points. The scores are then compiled and weighted to provide a score of 1–100, where 1 is considered intolerable and 100 is considered ideal." 


COMMUNITY ASPECTS —AND THE FIVE CITIES

Cities are perhaps the best places to test planning theories and practices. They can also be the best places to learn from when one is exploring and developing new ideas and innovative planning theories and practices that can be used to make other communities more liveable. Therefore, in the next section we will look further at the five cities. We will look at them in terms of seven community aspects: land area, population size, population density, housing density, green mobility options, commuting time to work, and Greenhouse Gas emissions from private vehicle operation; and we will also find out how the five cities compare with one another in terms of these six community aspects.

When looking at the five cities, not only will we look at their Census Subdivisions (CSDs), but also at their Census Metropolitan Areas. As we will see, CSDs can be quite different from CMAs, and for several reasons.
 
But before we get into our next discussions, let us make sure we understand what CSDs and CMAs are all about. Census Subdivision (CSD) is the general term for municipalities (as determined by provincial/territorial legislation in Canada) for statistical purposes. On the other hand, a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) is formed by one or more adjacent municipalities centred on a population centre (known as the core). A CMA must have a total population of at least 100,000 people of which 50,000 or more must live in the core. To be included in the CMA, other adjacent municipalities must have a high degree of integration with the core, as measured by commuting flows derived from previous census place of work data, according to Statistics Canada.
 
Now, let us take a look at the CSDs and CMAs of the five cities, and find out how they compare with one another. 

LAND AREA

Of the CSDs of all five cities:
  • Ottawa's has the largest land area and
  • Vancouver's the smallest

And of the CMAs of all five cities:
  • Toronto's has the largest land area and 
  • Vancouver's the smallest —Exhibit 2
 
Image
Exhibit 2 - Link to sources (NHS) Profile. 2011


POPULATION SIZE 

Of the CSDs of all five cities:
  • Toronto's has the largest population and 
  • Vancouver's the smallest

And of the CMAs of all five cities:
  • Toronto's has the largest population and 
  • Ottawa's the smallest —Exhibit 3
Image
Exhibit 3 - Link to sources (NHS) Profile. 2011


POPULATION DENSITY

The land areas of CSDs and CMAs often include a mix of urban, suburban and rural areas. When looking into data regarding population and housing densities in the CSDs and CMAs below, it is important to bear in mind that these data refer to average densities across the entire land areas of the CSDs or CMAs being considered and that, therefore, they reflect the average densities of the particular mix of urban, suburban and rural areas that exists in such CSDs or CMAs.

Of the CSDs of all five cities:
  • Vancouver's has the highest population density and 
  • Ottawa's the lowest

And of the CMAs of all five cities:
  • Toronto's has the highest population density and
  • Calgary's the lowest —Exhibit 4

Generally, the population density of the CSD of a city is many times higher than the population density of the CMA of the same city

For instance, in 2011, the population densities of the CSDs of Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa were respectively about 6.5 - 5.6 - 5 - 4.4 and 1.1 times higher than the population densities of their corresponding CMAs -Exhibit 4 
 
Image 
Exhibit 4 - Link to sources (NHS) Profile. 2011 


HOUSING DENSITY

For simplicity in the discussions of this article, the term "high housing density" means "a high proportion of apartments, including both apartments in buildings with fewer than five stories and apartments in buildings with five or more stories." Conversely, the term "low housing density" means "a low proportion of apartments, including both apartments in buildings with fewer than five stories and apartments in buildings with five or more stories."                                                                          
 
Of the CSDs of all five cities:
  • Montreal' has the highest housing density and
  • Calgary's the lowest
 
And conversely:
  • Calgary's has the largest share of single-detached houses and
  • Montreal's the lowest —Exhibit 5 
Image
Exhibit 5 - Link to sources GeoSearch 2011
  
 
Of the CMAs of all five cities:
  • Montreal's has the highest housing density and
  • Calgary's the lowest
 
And conversely:
  • Calgary has the largest share of single-detached houses and 
  • Montreal's the smallest —Exhibit 6 
Image 
Exhibit 6 - Link to sources GeoSearch 2011
  

Generally, the housing density of the CSD of a city is higher than the housing density of the CMA of the same city  
 
For example, in 2011, the housing densities of the CSDs of Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary were respectively 1.43 - 1.49 - 1.5 - 1.03 and 1.07 times higher than the housing densities of their corresponding CMAs -Exhibits 5 & 6 


GREEN MOBILITY                                                                                          
 
Image
Exhibit 7 - Link to sources (NHS) Profile. 2011                                                                                                                                            
Montreal's CSD -the CSD with the highest housing density of all five cities- has the largest proportion of workers that walk or bike or take the public transit to work        

In fact, in 2001, 48% of the workers in Montreal's CSD, 46.9% of the workers in Vancouver's CSD, 46.1% of the workers in Toronto's CSD, 32.3% of the workers in Ottawa's CSD, and 23.5% of the workers in Calgary's CSD commuted to work on foot, or by bike, or by public transit —Exhibit 7  

Of all five CSDs, Toronto's has the largest proportion of workers that take public transit to work                                                                                               

In 2011, in a head-to-head race towards green mobility, Toronto's CSD had the largest percentage of workers commuting to work by public transit (36.6%) followed closely by Montreal's (36.3%). Meanwhile, 30% of the workers in Vancouver's CSD, 22.5% of the workers in Ottawa's CSD, and 17.2% of the workers in Calgary's CSD, commuted to work by public transit —Exhibit 7.

Remarkably, Vancouver's CSD not only had the largest proportion of workers walking to work (12.5%), but also the largest proportion of workers biking to work (4.4%) —Exhibit 7 

Also remarkable is that the CSDs of Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary ranked 1-through-5,  respectively, in terms of the proportion of their workers that commuted to work by public transit or on foot —with 1 indicating the largest proportion of workers and 5 the smallest. They also ranked 1-through-5, respectively, in terms of the proportion of their workers that commuted to work by public transit or by bike. 

In fact, nearly 45%, 44%, 42.5%, 30% and 22% of the workers in the CSDs of Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary, respectively, commuted to work by public transit or on foot. And nearly 39.5%, 39%, 34%, 25%, and 17.5% of the workers in the CSDs of the same cities, and in the same order, commuted to work by public transit or by bike —Exhibit 7
 
Furthermore, the CSDs of Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Calgary ranked 1-through-5, respectively, in terms of the proportion of their workers that commuted to work by bike —with 1 indicating the largest proportion of workers and 5 the smallest. They also ranked 1-through-5, respectively, in terms of the proportion of their workers that commuted to work by bike or on foot —Exhibit 7
 
Image
Exhibit 8 - Link to sources (NHS) Profile. 2011                                                                                                                                              
Of all five CMAS, Toronto's has the largest proportion of workers that take public transit to work
 
In 2011,Toronto's CMA had the largest percentage of workers commuting to work by public transit (23.3%) followed closely by Montreal's (22.2%), Ottawa (21.8%) and Vancouver's (19.7). Meanwhile Calgary's CMA lagged behind, with  only 15.9% of its workers commuting to work by public transit —Exhibit 8 
 
Of all five CMAs, Ottawa's has the largest proportion of workers that walk, bike or take public transit to work 
 
In 2011,of all five CMAs, Ottawa's had the largest proportion of workers that commuted to work on foot, by bike or by public transit (31.3%), followed respectively by Montreal's (29.3%), Toronto's (29.1%) and Vancouver's (27.8%). The smallest proportion of workers that commute to work on foot, bike or public transit was Calgary's (22%) —Exhibit 8 
 
Remarkably, Ottawa's CMA has also the largest share of workers that walk to work (7.1%), and the largest share of workers that bike to work (2.4%) —Exhibit 8 

Also remarkably is that the CMAs of Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Toronto ranked 1-through-5,  respectively, in terms of the proportion of their workers that commuted to work by bike —with 1 indicating the highest proportion of workers and 5 the smallest. They also ranked 1-through-5, respectively, in terms of the proportion of their workers that commuted to work by bike or on foot —Exhibit 8
 
Walking or biking is an option for many commuters who live close to their place of work, according to a Statistics Canada report. Such report also says that in 2011, among all the 33 CMAs in Canada, walking or biking was most common in the CMA of the city of Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, where this green mobility option was used by approximately one commuter in six (10.9% walked and 5.9% biked).[2] The proportion of commuters walking or biking to work in Victoria's CMA (16.8%) was a close match to the proportion of commuters who walked or biked to work in Vancouver's CSD in 2011 (16.9%) —Exhibit 7   
 
A higher proprtion of workers walk, bike or take public transit to work in the CSDs, than in the CMAs  
 
In fact, in 2011, the proportion of workers commuting to work on public transit, foot or bike in the CSDs of all five cities were higher than the proportion of their counterparts in the corresponding CMAs —Exhibits 7 & 8 
 
But the gap between the share of the workers that walk, bike or take public transit to work in the CSD of a city, and the proportion of their counterparts in the CMA of the same city, can be substantially bigger in the larger cities than in the smaller cities 

In fact, the differential in the three larger cities —Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto—  was 18.7, 19.1 and 17 percentage points respectively, as compared to only 1 and 1.5 percentage points respectively in the two smaller cities —Ottawa and Calgary— Exhibits 7 & 8 

COMMUTING TIME TO WORK
 
Image 
Exhibit 9 - Link to sources 2011 National Household Survey: Data tables

Commuters travelling to work by private vehicle in Ottawa's CMA spend the shortest average travel time (23.5 minutes) as compared to their counterparts in the CMAs of Calgary (24.7minutes), Vancouver(26.4 minutes), Montreal(26.9 minutes) and Toronto(29.3minutes)  
 
Commuters travelling to work by public transit in Ottawa's CMA spend the shortest average travel time (38.8 minutes) as compared to their counterparts in the CMAs of Vancouver(40.9 minutes),Calgary (41.4 minutes), Montreal(43.1 minutes) and Toronto(47.5 minutes)
 
Commuters walking to work in Montreal's CMA spend the shortest average travel time (13.3 minutes) as compared to their counterparts in the CMAs of Vancouver (14.4 minutes), Toronto (14.8 minutes), Ottawa (15.5 minutes) and Calgary (15.8 minutes)
 
Commuters biking to work in Montreal's CMA spend the shortest average travel time (21.4 minutes) as compared to their counterparts in the CMAs of Ottawa (22 minutes), Toronto (22.7 minutes), Vancouver (23.8 minutes),and Calgary (24.2 minutes)
 
Commuters  walking or biking to work in Montreal's CMA spend the shortest average travel time (15.3 minutes) as compared to their counterparts in the CMAs of Toronto (16.4 minutes), Vancouver (16.5 minutes), Ottawa (17.2 minutes) and Calgary (17.4 minutes) 

Commuters travelling to work by green mobility options in Ottawa's CMA spend the shortest average travel time (32.2 minutes) as compared to their counterparts in the CMAs of Vancouver(33.8 minutes),Calgary (34.8 minutes), Montreal(36.4 minutes) and Toronto(41.3 minutes) —Exhibit 9
 
The higher the housing density in a CMA of a city, the shorter time it takes to walk to work

In fact, in 2011, the CMAs of Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary ranked 1-through-5, respectively, in terms of their housing density, with 1 indicating the highest housing density and 5 the lowest —Exhibit 6. At the same time, the same CMAs, in the same order, also ranked 1-through-5, respectively, in terms of the average travel time spent by commuters walking to work, with 1 indicating the shortest average travel time and 5 the longest  -Exhibit 9

On average, it takes longer time to commute to work by public transit than it does by private vehicle
 
In 2011, in each of the five CMAs, the average commuting time to work was shorter by private vehicle than it was by public transit. That was also the case when considering the average commuting time to work by private vehicle of all five CMAs (26.2 minutes) and the average commuting time to work by public transit of all five CMAs (42.3 minutes); in this case, on average, it took about 1.6 times longer to commute by public transit than it did by private vehicle —Exhibit 9
 
Average commuting times, however, rarely tell a story like it is. And there can often be cases of commuting times that deviate substantially from the average. In my own experience, for example, I find that for people who live and work within a 10-15 minute walk, or 20-25 minute bike ride, from a transit station where they can take "rapid transit" to work, commuting to work by public transit can be significantly less time consuming than commuting to work by private vehicle, particularly within rush hour periods. On the other hand, I also find that when people have to take regular public transit routes, and/or make public transit transfers, on their way to work, commuting to work by public transit can take considerably more time than commuting to work by private vehicle, particularly within non rush hour periods, when public transit service is usually less frequent.
 
By and large, the larger the population of a CMA, the longer it takes to commute to work, but not all the time

In 2011, the CMAs of Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa —which had respectively the largest, second largest and smallest  population of all five CMAs— had, in the same order, the longest, second longest and shortest average commuting time to work by private vehicle, public transit and GMOs. And the CMAs of Vancouver and Calgary  —which had respectively the third and fourth largest population of all five CMAs — had, in the same order, the third and fourth longest average commuting time to work by private vehicle (26.4 and 24.7 minutes respectively) —Exhibits 3 and 9
 
However, this abundantly clear trend reversed between the CMAs of Vancouver and Calgary with respect to the average commuting time to work by public transit and GMOs. In fact, even though the population of Vancouver's CMA is nearly twice as large as the population of Calgary's CMA, the average commuting time to work by public transit (41.4 minutes) and by GMOs (34.8 minutes) in Calgary's CMA were higher than the average commuting times to work by public transit (40.9 minutes) and by GMOs (33.8 minutes) in Vancouver's CMA —Exhibits 3 and 9
 
Generally, the higher the population density of a CMA, the longer it takes to commute to work by public transit, but not always 

In 2011,the CMAs of Toronto and Montreal —which had respectively the highest and second highest population densities of all five CMAs— had also, in the same order, the longest and second longest average commuting time to work by public transit (47.5 and 43.1 minutes respectively) —Exhibits 4 and 9

However, this trend did not follow through all the times. For example, in Vancouver's CMA —where the population density is more than three times higher than in Calgary's CMA— the average commuting time to work by public transit (40.9 minutes) was shorter than the average commuting time to work by public transit in Calgary's CMA (41.4 minutes). Also, in Ottawa's CMA —where the population density is nearly 1.2 times higher than the population density in Calgary's CMA— the average commuting time to work by public transit (38.8 minutes) was shorter than the average commuting time to work by public transit in Calgary's CMA (41.4 minutes) —Exhibits 4 and 9  

 
GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS FROM PRIVATE VEHICLE OPERATION

The main types of greenhouse gases produced by the combustion of fuels in vehicles are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Among these three greenhouse gases, in 2007, carbon dioxide (CO2) accounted for 98% while methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) accounted for the balance, according to a report by Statistics Canada.[3] The problem with these gases is that their accumulative concentration in the atmosphere can cause the earth's climate to change. The term "climate change" is defined as "changes in long-term weather patterns caused by natural phenomena and human activities that alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the build-up of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which trap heat and reflect it back to the Earth's surface. In Canada, the impact of climate change may be felt in extreme weather events, the reduction of fresh water resources, increased risk and severity of forest fires and pest infestations, a reduction in arctic ice and an acceleration of glacial melting.[4] 

The transportation sector in Canada emits a significant amount of these greenhouse gases. In 2011, for example, the transportation sector produced 199 Mt of CO2 equivalent, or just over 28% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada (702 Mt of CO2 equivalent); road transportation, in particular, generated 135 Mt of CO2 equivalent, or nearly 68% of the greenhouse emissions within the transportation sector (199 ); and within road transportation, light-duty gasoline vehicles, light-duty gasoline trucks, and heavy-duty gasoline vehicles, altogether, produced nearly 90 Mt of CO2 equivalent, or just about 45% of the total greenhouse gases produced by the transport sector.[5]   

The level of greenhouse gases produced by the transport sector in Canada in 2007 was similar to that produced in 2011; for example, in 2007, light-duty gasoline vehicles, light-duty gasoline trucks, and heavy-duty gasoline vehicles, altogether, produced 89.45% Mt of CO2 equivalent, or nearly 46% of the total greenhouse gases produced by the transport sector (195).[6]                                                 
 
 
 
Toronto's CMA —the CMA with the largest population and the highest population density of all five CMAs— has also the greatest households' greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicle operation  

In fact, in 2007, Toronto's CMA had the greatest greenhouse gas emissions of all five CMAs (6,760 kt of CO2), and Ottawa-Gatineau's the least (1,706 kt of CO2) —Exhibit 10
 
Meanwhile Montreal's had the lowest per capita GHG emissions of the five CMAs (1,219 kg of CO2 equivalent), and Calgary's the highest (1,844 kg of CO2 equivalent) —Exhibit 10
 
 
PLANNING THEORIES AND PRACTICES —WHAT ELSE CAN WE LEARN FROM THE FIVE CITIES 

Exhibit11 shows the ranking of the five cities by CSDs and CMAs in terms of five community aspects: population size (PS), population density (PD), housing density (HD), the proportion of workers that commuted to work by green mobility options (GMO), and greenhouse gas emissions from private vehicle operation (GHGe). These rankings in combination with information in exhibits 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 10, demonstrate the following:
 
Image
 
 
1. CMAs with smaller populations are likely to offer a cleaner and, therefore, healthier environment than CMAs with larger populations

Rationale: The CMAs of Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto ranked respectively # 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 under GHGe CMA of Exhibit 11 because they had correspondingly the lowest, second lowest, third highest, second highest and highest level of Greenhouse Gas emissions from private vehicle operation of all five CMAs —Exhibit 10. They also ranked # 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 under PS CMA of Exhibit 11 because they had, in the same order, the smallest, second smallest, third largest, second largest and largest population of all five CMAs — Exhibits 3. Thus, demonstrating that CMAs with smaller populations are likely to offer a cleaner and, therefore, healthier environment than CMAs with larger populations.
 

According to the Report on the State of Health + Urbanism (2013) by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism (p. 22): "High levels of carbon dioxide is linked to asthma-related deaths (Galea and Vlahov, 2005). One of the primary causes of air pollution in urban environments in addition to industrial outputs is car emissions due to traffic congestion. People who live near highways typically have higher rates of asthma due to high levels of particulate matter in the air (Jackson and Kochtitzy, 2009). Road congestion not only has environmental effects but can also cause stress and raise levels of aggression in drivers. Automobile-related crashes and fatalities have been linked to congested roadways (Jackson, 2003)." 


2.— CMAs with larger population sizes and densities are likely to have lower per capita GHG emissions from private vehicle operation than CMAs with smaller population sizes and densities                                       

Rationale: The CMAs of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver ranked respectively # 1, 2, and 3 under both PS CMA and PD CMA of Exhibit 11 because they had correspondingly the largest, second largest and third largest population sizes, and the largest, second largest and third largest population densities of all five CMAs —Exhibits 3 & 4; meanwhile, they also ranked # 3, 1 and 2 —Exhibit 10— because they had respectively the third lowest, the lowest and the second lowest per capita GHG emissions from private vehicle operation of all five CMAs. On the other hand, the CMAs of Ottawa and Calgary ranked # 5 and 4, respectively under PS CMA, and # 4 and 5 respectively under PD CMA of Exhibit 11 because they had, in the same order, the smallest and the second smallest population sizes —Exhibit 3— and the second smallest and the smallest population densities of all five CMAs — Exhibits 4; meanwhile they also ranked # 4 and 5 respectively —Exhibit 10— because they had correspondingly the second largest, and the largest per capita GHG emissions from private vehicle operation of all five CMAs. Thus, demonstrating that CMAs with larger population sizes and densities are likely to have lower per capita GHG emissions from private vehicle operation than CMAs with smaller population sizes and densities.
 
3. — CSDs with smaller land areas are likely to have higher population densities than CSDs with larger land areas, but not all the time
                                                                         
Rationale: According to Exhibit 2, the CSDs of Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Ottawa ranked respectively # 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 because they had correspondingly the smallest, second smallest, third largest, second largest, and largest land area of all five CSDs. Meanwhile the same CSDs, in the same order, also ranked # 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 under PD CSD of Exhibit 11 because they had respectively the highest, second highest, third highest, fourth highest and fifth highest population density of all five CSDs —Exhibits 4— Thus, demonstrating that CSDs with smaller land areas are likely to have higher population densities than CSDs with larger land areas.

However, this correlation may be an artifact of population growth, changes in political boundaries, and variations in the shares of urban, suburban and rural areas in the five CSDs in question. For example, while the population in all five CSDs has been growing relatively fast over the past years, Vancouver's CSD's land area has remained relatively unchanged in size and increasingly urban, with little of the newer suburbs and minimal rural areas; conversely, the size of Calgary's CSD's land area has grown considerably overtime through annexation of lands from neighbouring municipalities, and it now includes new suburbs and rural areas; and Ottawa's CSD's land area, which recently grew to a great extent through the amalgamation of several neighbouring municipalities, now includes additional suburbs and rural areas. 
 
4. — CSDs with higher housing densities are likely to have higher proportions of their workers commuting to work via green mobility options than CSDs with lower housing densities  

Rationale: The CSDs of Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary ranked respectively # 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 under HD CSD of Exhibit 11 because they had respectively the highest, second highest, third highest, fourth highest and fifth highest housing density of all five CSDs —Exhibit 5. They also ranked respectively # 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 under (TPT, W, B) CSD because they had, in the same order, the highest, second highest, third highest, fourth highest and fifth highest proportion of workers commuting to work by public transit, or by bike, or on foot of all five CSDs —Exhibit 7. Thus, demonstrating that cities with higher housing densities are likely to have higher proportions of their workers commuting to work via green mobility options than cities with lower housing densities.
 
CONCLUSION

This article looked at five Canadian cities —Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. It highlighted some of their geographic and demographic characteristics, and planning strategies and practices related to green mobility options; compared their CSDs and CMAs with one another in terms of seven community aspects; arrived at a variety of statistical conclusions; and demonstrated a number of planning theories —most particularly, that Cities with higher housing densities are likely to have higher proportions of their workers commuting to work via green mobility options than cities with lower housing densities.
 
Clearly, the information in this article is rich and thought-provoking and, therefore, provides an opportunity for policy makers, planners and residents to identify and examine a wide range of options that could make their communities more liveable. The next step will be for them to explore the potential benefits of a number of these options, prioritize them according to their needs and wants, and find out what kinds of innovations and actions would be necessary to implement the most promising ones in their communities.                                                                                      

 

Acknowledgements

1. Luis Rodriguez wishes to thank Dr. Ray Tomalty for his thoughtful and valuable comments on a previous version of this article. Dr. Tomalty is a Principal of Smart Cities Research Services & Adjunct Professor at the School of Urban Planning at McGill University in Montreal

2. This article contains text and statistical data that have been reproduced or adapted from official work published by the Government of Canada and the reproductions or adaptations have not been produced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Government of Canada.

 

References

_____________________________________________      

[1] Sources - Exhibit 1: 1) The Economist, Intelligence Unit, Liveability Report, Global liveability survey, January 2010. 2) Melbourne Remains Most Liveable City in the World, by Minh Bui, August 15, 2012 , Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Businessweek, the Economist Intelligence Unit. 3) Melbourne - world's most liveable city for third year in a row, 28 August 2013, Invest Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, the Economist Intelligence Unit. 4) Four Canadian cities make top 25 in Mercer Quality of Living Survey article by Meghan Potkins published in the National Post on 26 May 2010. 5) 20112012 Mercer Quality of Living Survey Worldwide Rankings. 6) Monocle Magazine has released its annual Quality of Life rankings for 2010, Jamie Song, PSFK London 2013, June 16, 2010. Monocle Magazine. 7) The World's Highest Quality Of Life Is Still In Europe, by Sarah Rappaport, Business Insider, July 6, 2011. Monocle Magazine. 8) The Monocle Global Quality of Life Survey, 2012 and 2013, by Monocle. Retrieved on 12/09/2013.

[2] NHS in Brief Commuting to work National Household Survey (NHS), 2011. Statistics Canada. p 4 Catalogue no. 99-012-2011003. Published by authority of the Minister for Statistics Canada. Minister of Industry, 2013. Retrieved on 7/11/2013

[3] Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Private Vehicles in Canada, 1990 to 2007. Analytical paper by Berouk Terefe, Environment Accounts and Statistics Analytical and Technical Paper Series. Environment Accounts and Statistics Division, Statistics Canada. P 6-7. Catalogue no. 16-001-M, no.12. Published by authority of the Minister responsible for Statistics Canada. Minister of Industry, 2010. May 2010. Retrieved on 28/08/2013.

[4] National Inventory Report 1990-2011. Green Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The Canadian Government's Submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Chapter 1, p. 30-31 of  Part 1 of the Main Report  which is housed in: United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change. National Inventory Submissions 2013. 2013. Annex 1 Party GHG Inventory Submissions, under Canada NIR. 15 April 2013. Retrieved on 29/08/2013.

[5] National Inventory Report 1990-2011. Green Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The Canadian Government's Submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Executive Summary, p 22 Table S-2, Canada's GHG Emissions 1990-2011 by IPCC Sector, and Chapter 2, p 55, Table 2-7 GHG Emissions from Transport,  Selected Years. Part 1 of the Main Report  which is housed in: United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change. National Inventory Submissions 2013. Annex 1 Party GHG Inventory Submissions, under Canada NIR. 15 April 2013. Retrieved on 29/08/2013.

[6] National Inventory Report 1990-2011. Green Gas Sources and Sinks in Canada. The Canadian Government's Submission to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Chapter 2, p 55, Table 2-7 GHG Emissions from Transport, Selected Years.  Part 1 of the Main Report  which is housed in: United Nations. Framework Convention on Climate Change. National Inventory Submissions 2013. Annex 1 Party GHG Inventory Submissions, under Canada NIR. 15 April 2013. Retrieved on 29/08/2013.