So we have a smog advisory in effect today, meaning our air quality is potentially deadly, especially for children and the elderly. The focus of the rapid transit debate has been on financial costs. Yes, upfront costs may be cheaper with buses over light rail but the health and environmental effects of buses are similar to cars. From my scan of the business plan the financial data does not include prices on carbon, which the Ontario has committed to.
In March this year Health Canada released a study showing diesel fumes are significant contributor to pollutant levels. In 2015 diesel cost Canada hundreds premature deaths and billions in lost productivity. Using diesel also increases health care costs, reduced activity days, and chronic respiratory problems. Not just the Canadian government is concerned with this the UK, and the US are also moving to reduce diesel emissions and use. In fact the CDC has been concerned for nearly thirty years. With recent revelations about the auto industry falsifying emission results we will have additional costs of retesting emissions for accuracy.
Using natural gas provides higher infrastructure costs from production to consumption and the environmental impacts are not significantly better. Burning natural gas locally will be cleaner for London’s air but will lead to lower air quality along the production and supply chain. The European Commission and the Union of Concerned Scientists see little benefit in using natural gas for transportation.
Safety is another issue that is not found in the business, at least I didn’t find it. Road travel is the most dangerous ways of travel. The most recent statistics for Canada are for 2014, my rough math suggests we had almost a September 11th level of fatalities on Canadian roads two years ago. Transit has lower accident and crime rates than automobile usage as shown in this report.
LRT is more likely to attract new ridership than BRT, which reduces car usage. As analysis in this article suggests more transit use decreases the accident rate amongst other transit. With LRT’s lower operating costs service could be extended to last call, thus reducing drunk driving incidents. Having LRT track means trolleys could be used in off peak hours when bus service is more expensive.
Finally the quality of life benefits of LRT also need to be looked at. Efficient LRT service allows more money for better quality food, more encouragement to be active physically and socially, and decreases the levels of pollution exposed to. Buses to little to reduce the need to decide between filling the gas tank and filling the fridge. Faster LRT will lower people’s commute times and may increase London’s productivity.
London should remove BRT as an option because it does nothing for our role in reducing greenhouse gases, carcinogens, or the city’s overall safety. LRT is more expensive at the beginning but the financial savings of reduced health care costs and safety costs more than make up for it.