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Municipalities like Victoria know we can't build our way out of traffic congestion

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Traffic on 401 Highway in Toronto. Image: Danielle Scott/Wikimedia Commons

The City of Victoria recently sent a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, B.C.'s Premier Horgan and key Ministers requesting the prompt and complete implementation of the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change promise to shift investments from higher to lower emitting types of transportation. 

Behind this letter is a truth known by transportation circles that is just now breaking into the mainstream -- you can't build your way out of traffic congestion. Building more urban highways is incompatible with climate progress in the transportation sector, and it increases traffic.

This statement is backed up both by experience and academic study, for example this 2007 study that found "adding one mile of new highway lane will increase CO2 pollution by more then 1000 tons over 50 years." 

In other words, if you build it, the cars will fill it. 

This is a key reason why transportation emissions continue to rise, not fall. For example, between 1990 and 2014 transportation pollution increased 42 per cent. Since transportation is the second largest source of climate pollution in Canada, second only to the oil and gas sector, reversing this trend is essential.

BC chapters have known this truth for a while and have been effectively mobilizing around it.

In Metro Vancouver, Council chapters have had considerable success in shifting spending to transit including by helping to stop the $500 million North Fraser Perimeter Road. The Delta-Richmond chapter recently helped win a high-profile campaign against the proposed $4 billion, 10-lane, Massey Tunnel Replacement project.

Eric Doherty, transportation planning consultant and member of the Council's Victoria chapter is helping the Council of Canadians prepare tools for chapters to encourage their municipalities to send similar letters calling for the federal government to prioritize this promise of shifting from higher to lower emitting types of transportation infrastructure, including shifting from more spending on urban highways to investing in public transit, cycling and walking. More on this soon!

This article originally appeared on The Council of Canadians blog

Image: Danielle Scott/Wikimedia Commons

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