We’ve all heard the unnerving predictions of how climate change is going to affect future generations, as well as our own. Although we may never see any drastic changes to our local environment, generations to come may not be so fortunate. Satellites have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate (NASA, 2018). With increasing amounts of carbon dioxide being pumped into the atmosphere each day, every individual has an opportunity to lower their carbon footprint through environmentally friendly forms of transportation.
by Matt Hardwick
Over 1 million people will be migrating to the Vancouver metropolitan area during the next 40 years, causing congestion, parking, insurance, and travel times to get progressively worse. Yet for some reason, the number of cars in the Lower Mainland is growing at twice the rate of our population. Thankfully, BC is home to an increasing number of rideshare options at our disposal. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, shared cars produce 0.32 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year, which is 10-36 times less than the average driver (Modo, 2014). Plus, using car share services significantly lowers yearly transportation costs. Owning a car costs the average Canadian between $8,600 and $13,000 a year, which doesn’t even include insurance, fuel, and maintenance (Global News, 2017). In the Lower Mainland, there are four main car sharing companies currently operating: Zipcar, Evo, Car2Go & Modo.
Each company provides a similar service with variations in rates, home parking zones, and methods of booking. At BCIT Burnaby, there are Evo cars waiting for you in the Northwest parking lot, and Modo can be parked for free at any of our campuses.
If paying 14 cents/minute sounds like too much, try carpooling with your friends and classmates. Carpooling is one of the most beneficial forms of transportation available and not only does it share many of the same cost benefits of ridesharing, but carpooling massively lowers the number of cars on the road, ultimately reducing congestion and greenhouse gas emissions. In Canada, 78% of all trips are made with one driver in the car. Sharing a ride with one other person to campus and back would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.72 kilograms (roughly the weight of a 10-pin bowling ball!) If you were to share a ride all year long, together you would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 893 kilograms (Transport Canada, 2016). Other benefits of carpooling include: the ability to drive in the HOV lane, prolonged life of your personal vehicle, and a chance to build relationships with your classmates. Just avoid spilling coffee on their seat.
Perhaps the most frowned upon method of eco-transportation is public transit. You don’t have to be Elon Musk to see that mass public transit systems are filled with restricted travel times, late buses, and often extremely rude people. Even though public transit is associated with these stigmas, Vancouver’s transit system is the third most sustainable in North America (Arcadis, 2017). As students, convenience is a key player in everyday decisions. With the U-Pass, public transit becomes an easy, consistent mode of transportation.
Commutes that generally involve a majority of highway driving will be longer on transit, however commutes with a majority of city driving are equal, if not quicker using transit. By 2050, Translink hopes to be operating solely on renewable energy. This goal aligns with outgoing Mayor Gregor Robertson’s hopes of Vancouver becoming the World’s Greenest City by 2020. Buses only need to carry 3-8 people to break even with a car on CO2 emissions. Take the darn bus!
Lastly, I want to talk about ‘active transportation.’ Active transportation includes walking, running, and cycling, and enables the concept of connected communities. For instance, people travelling on foot and bike are more likely to engage in a friendly interaction during their trip than people travelling by transit or vehicle (City of Vancouver, 2016). Active transportation is the healthiest form of environmentally friendly transportation and produces zero carbon dioxide emissions. For those that do not believe they are in good enough shape to ride to school, I have news for you: electric bikes (or e-bikes) are becoming more and more affordable. You can now get an entry level e-bike for $1500. E-bikes are regular bicycles with a battery-powered “pedal assist.” When you hop on and push the pedals, a small motor engages and gives you a boost, so you can zip up hills with a loaded backpack. You can expect to get between 55 to 160 kilometres out of your battery before it needs a recharge (Bicycling Mag, 2018). At least 50% of all trips taken are under 10km which is only a 30min ride on an e-bike. With big transportation companies looking into e-bikes, and cities searching for ways to relieve traffic congestion, bike infrastructure will only continue to improve.
As our population grows, and cities expand, the planet will continue to heat up. Carbon dioxide levels will continue to rise and so will ocean water levels. The good news is, every individual can make a difference and slow down this process of deterioration. By leaving the car at home, or choosing a more sustainable mode of transportation, you are reducing your personal carbon footprint and contributing to the climate change initiatives of today’s society. The decisions we make today will have a greater effect on the generations to come. Whether you decide to drive halfway to school and hop on a train, or bike to a classmate’s house to carpool, I encourage you to use environmentally friendly transportation and help generate awareness of climate change.