Deep Dive Discussion

Transportation

November 26, 2020

Transportation is the biggest contributor of emissions in the Okanagan valley. In our area, transportation accounts for 67% of greenhouse gas emissions.

What are some ways we can reduce our local transporta)on-related carbon emissions, and can public transit be successful in a mostly rural area?
We had 3 guest speakers, followed by a question & answer period.

 

  • JoAnne Kleb, Public Engagement Officer for the City of Penicton, summarized the process the City is undertaking to create a new Transportation Master Plan. The TMP is based on a “complete transportation approach” which encourages non-motorized means of transport (walking & cycling) and increased use of public transit through infrastructure changes and education, while also contnuing to support movement of goods and travel by vehicle. The goal of this approach is to create and manage a safe transportation system that supports all ages, abilities and modes of transportation, helps meet environmental objectives, and uses infrastructure responsibly. There will be opportunities for public input into the draft TMP when it comes out in the new year (check the ‘Shape Your City’ website).
     

  • Chelsea Mossey, Senior Manager of Government Relations for BC Transit, provided an overview of her organization and its emission reduction goals. BC Transit is the provincial authority responsible for the planning, funding and operation of all transit throughout the province outside of Metro Vancouver. Each local government sets its own priorities, routes and rates while BC Transit holds the contracts with the local operators, which in Penticton is Berry & Smith. In 2018 BC Transit approved a low carbon fleet program to support provincial targets for GHG emissions. The core element is a 10 year fleet-replacement strategy that is expected to reduce annual emissions by about 67% by 2030, and achieve a zero emission fleet by 2040. When additional buses are needed to expand service and as exis:ng buses age out, they will be replaced by electric buses. While this transition to electric is underway, emissions will also be reduced through the use of CNG (compressed natural gas) in medium and heavy duty buses.
     

  • Jim Beattie, Chair of First Things First Okanagan, shared his personal experience using local public transit. Jim noted that our narrow valley lends itself to transit as most of the population is within close proximity to a bus route, e.g. Naramata Rd. For this reason, he suggested to BC Transit that efforts to encourage ridership might be most effective in valley areas like the Okanagan.
     

Questions/Discussion:

BC Transit has previous experience with hydrogen buses (used in 2010 Olympics) and may also consider this technology in their low carbon fleet program, depending what they learn in their initial roll-out of electric buses in 2021/2022.

Narrowing of bus lanes to accommodate bike lanes: BC Transit’s primary concern is safety, so narrowing would need to fit within their lane width guidelines.
 

How can people support the City of Penticton’s TMP?

Need individuals and organizations like FTFO to be agents of change in the community. Everyone can help by supporting awareness ac:vities, providing ideas (e.g. for educating the public, what incentives might help, etc), and by taking part in public feedback forums.

Electric Vehicles - in our area, what are the barriers to people buying and using them?

The group identified cost as the biggest barrier (with range anxiety/number of charging stations as a close second).
 

Discussion points included:

  • -  What will happen to gas vehicles that are replaced by EVs - will they be recycled or will they just be sold and continue to emit GHGs?

  • -  Carbon cost of producing a new EV versus carbon cost of keeping a gas vehicle running.

  • -  Cost amortized over the time you own the car is cheaper for EVs than for gas vehicles.

  • -  Owners of EVs are the best ‘sales people’ as they know firsthand what the savings are and how easy EVs are to maintain and use.

  • -  Upfront cost of EVs is currently higher than equivalent gas models. Costs have already come down and should continue to drop as EVs become more common. Car sharing is another viable option.

  • -  A way to reduce emissions as we transition to EVs would be to have emission standards, which would result in the most polluting cars being taken off the road first.

  • -  Emissions could also be reduced through disincentives for large horsepower vehicles. An example: the Netherlands has a vehicle road tax that is based on the vehicle’s weight (exceptions granted for farm trucks, etc) which results in fewer people driving trucks and other big vehicles. Before we could implement disincentives here. though, viable alternatives need to be available. Electric 4WDs and E-trucks are starting to come on the market.

  • -  Reducing the amount we travel, and/or replacing some of that travel with cycling or other zero-emission methods of getting around, is something we can all do.
     

Other non-carbon (or low-carbon) transporta)on op)ons, such as: car-pooling & car-sharing, bikes, E-bikes, bike rental, hydrail, E-ferries, an)-idling bylaws. Can we encourage some of these locally?

Discussion points included:

  • -  Would an anti-idling bylaw work in Penticton? Provincial anti-idling legislation already exists but it needs to be formalized by each jurisdiction so would need to be adopted as a City bylaw.

  • -  Could the purchase of E-bikes be encouraged through subsidies or other creative means? Nelson, which owns its electrical utility, has a program that allows customers to add to their electricity bill the cost of an E-bike (or home retrofits). Since Penticton also owns its electrical utility, we could do something similar here.

  • -  ‘Fred’ the truck in Naramata is a great example of car-sharing. Fred is currently shared by 15 families who can use the truck whenever it is available. Each family pays $150/year with maintenance being done by all. ICBC is supportive of this project. Fred is owned and insured by one person, with all sharees named on the insurance policy.

  • -  Transit ridership is low, not well promoted, has a ‘low class’ ‘loser cruiser’ image. Other jurisdictions provide free bus use for a period of time to encourage ridership. Can we do this, or are there other strategies to promote increased use of transit?

  • -  Viability of Hydrail or other light rail: more cost-effective than widening the highway; geographically it would work well in our valley (like buses); however, would only happen if mass transit catches on; a downside to in-road light rail is potential for delays due to road construction, parked cars or accidents. Buses can go around such obstacles and allow for route flexibility, e.g. many countries use articulated buses. As per Chelsea’s presentation, buses can run on hydrogen or electricity; dedicated (versus in-road) light rail would avoid traffic jam issues but requires a minimum population size which we don’t have in the Okanagan.

    How to get people to embrace transit?

  • Important to have viable options, e.g. need more frequent bus service between Penticton and Kelowna. BC Transit had planned to add a bus to this route in fall 2020 but the pandemic delayed this. We should ensure this remains on BC Transit’s radar.

    Will we have driverless cars in the foreseeable future?

  • -  From the perspective of a large family, transit isn’t the best option for getting around and large EVs are too expensive, however the lake-to-lake bike route will be ideal for transpor:ng children in a bike trailer with older children riding their own bikes.
     

    Closing comments

    We may schedule a follow-up discussion about the City’s draft Transportation Master Plan when it comes out at the end of January or February. We will provide updates about this in our monthly newsletter.

    The next Deep Dive will be January 28th 7-8:30 on the topic of energy efficiency in buildings.