Personal Vehicles Versus Public Transit & The Environmental Case for Public Transit

Personal Vehicles Versus Public Transit

At What Cost?

Car drivers are only paying the direct costs of operating their vehicles, but we’re all paying the rest of the price: congestion, pollution, and road maintenance.  One busload of passengers is responsible for 40 fewer vehicles on the road during rush hours, saves 70,000 litres of fuel, and avoids 175 tonnes of emissions a year.  A single bus can replace up to 50 single-occupancy vehicles. Taking the bus instead of your car reduces GHG by almost 2/3.

The average car will spill:

    • 34.4 Kg of hydrocarbons a year
    • 4029.3 Kg of carbon dioxide (C02)
    • 29.6 Kg of nitrogen oxides (NOx)

Multiply the emissions by each of the over 13 million cars in Canada, and you begin to grasp the magnitude of the problem.   Six of the seven major air pollutants come from cars and light trucks.


    • The average car emits 4 tons of pollutants each year.
    • Fossil fuel consumption is expected to rise 40 percent over the next 25 years.
    • Canadian families are budgeting more for transportation than groceries.
    • The average North American works 27 hours per month to keep their car on the road.
    • The number of automobiles on Canada’s roadways has more than doubled over the past 20 years.
      49 percent of Canadians believe public transit should be improved and expanded.
    • Canada remains the only G7 country without substantial direct federal investment in public transit.
    • The United States Federal Government provides assistance to states and municipalities through a multi-year transit investment program worth up to $7 billion US per year.

Benefits of transit systems:

    • Transit reduces vehicle operating costs for Canadian households by about $5 billion annually.
    • Transit reduces the economic costs of traffic collisions by almost $2.5 billion annually.
    • Transit reduces annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emission by 2.4 million tonnes, valued at $110 million.
    • The economic benefit of Canada’s existing transit systems is at least $10 billion annually.
    • Transit saves about $115 million in annual health care costs related to respiratory illness.

Why Transit?

Transit keeps cities moving at the lowest possible cost.  Without transit, we would need to build more roads than taxpayers or the environment could support.  Furthermore, traffic congestion is expensive for our economy.

Now, more than ever, we need to take a look at environmental concerns like harmful emissions being sent into our atmosphere and their impact on the “greenhouse effect” and global warming.

International studies have found that cities with strong transit systems required significantly lower total public and private spending on transportation and were able to divert saved money to other public priorities, such as healthcare, education and tax cuts,

The Environmental Case for Public Transit

Cities compete globally for investment.  Quality of life is one of the top factors considered by companies when deciding where to locate.  By providing access and mobility to workers, reducing congestion and improving air quality, we can help our cities compete for economic growth.

Strong transit is vital to “smart growth” strategies that help our cities reduce the cost and undesirable impacts of urban sprawl.  Transit reduces the amount of green space that must be paved over for new roads and parking lots.  It also makes cities cleaner, quieter, safer and more convenient for getting around.

A study commissioned by the federal government shows it would cost Canadians 50 percent more to meet new travel demands by car than it would by public transit.  These social costs reflect the impact of growing passenger travel on congestion, road safety and the environment.

We’ve all seen it: hundreds of vehicles scrambling to get somewhere during rush hour, with one person in each. Yet most people living in an urban centre know that something must be done to protect our environment, which is becoming increasingly fragile. Consider a “green” alternative: public transit. Transit Windsor is committed to the design and implementation of a convenient, cost-effective public transportation system that can easily be worked into our daily lives.


“Better transit means fewer cars, fewer cars mean cleaner air, and of course cleaner air means people breathing easier.”  
– Stephen Harper, Former Prime Minister of Canada at the FCM Annual Conference in Toronto, 2010.

“(Transit) is a green investment that also helps you ease urban commutes.  Let’s get it done.”  
– The late Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, FCM Annual conference in Toronto, 2010,

“Excellent public transit and efficient housing in high-density nodes along existing transit corridors will make cities livable and people-friendly.  The federal government must take the lead in funding the ‘greening’ of Canada’s cities.”  
– Green Party of Canada, Vision Green, 2010

Related Links:

Information for this posting is courtesy of the City of Windsor 1 and 2.

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