Are transit gaps on rural B.C. islands enough to drive demand for community bus service?

Community planner Ericka Amador researched the feasibility of a community-led bus on Quadra Island as one possible way to address the public transit gap in the rural community. Photo courtesy Ericka Amador

Residents living in isolated communities without public transit and no access to or desire to own cars always face challenges getting to medical appointments, work, essential services and in maintaining social connections.

But the COVID-19 crisis is driving up the risks while simultaneously curbing traditional workarounds that rural residents rely on to navigate the lack of transit.

“I don’t have a car, and it’s never been an issue because hitchhiking was such an easy way to get around,” says Cortes Island resident Kristina Purcell.

“But now with COVID, I don’t know how to get to the ferry or across Quadra (Island),” Purcell said, adding she typically used to hitch rides across the neighbouring island to get to town.

Purcell has lived eight years on Cortes Island, located off B.C.’s west coast and two ferry rides away from the nearest city of Campbell River on Vancouver Island.

Cortes Island resident Kristina Purcell says she used to hitchhike to get to town as a way to get around the lack of public transit, but that option has been nixed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo courtesy Kristina Purcell.

“I’m finding it much more challenging to go Campbell River for medical appointments or to pick up stuff,” she said.

“Now, I try to co-ordinate with someone who is going who is comfortable with me in their car.”

Purcell doesn’t own a vehicle because she grew up in a city with public transit, but managed on Cortes in the past through a combination of biking, walking and flagging rides.

“I just never had a car or felt the need for one,” she said. “But, I’m feeling the need more now.”

Longtime Quadra resident Mike Windrim used to regularly transport people across the island. But not anymore.

“I don’t have a car, and it’s never been an issue because hitchhiking was such an easy way to get around,” Cortes islander Kristina Purcell on how lack of transit and Covid-19 is making getting to “town” for critical services or goods a challenge.

“Since the day I became a resident, I would never pass a hitchhiker on Quadra if I had any room for them. It was a point of pride for me,” Windrim said.

“Since the pandemic arose, I have not once risked picking anyone up. I simply have too many pre-existing conditions.

“I do feel bad about it, but I just can’t afford to make a mistake.”

Quadra and Cortes, like other ferry-dependent island communities or many isolated rural populations, fall outside the traditional public transit model typically based in cities.

“Lots of small communities might not fall under the BC Transit umbrella due to a combination of politics and community priorities,” said community planner Ericka Amador.

“So, alternative transit options are often born of necessity and by grassroots movements because the community can’t convince local government that transit will be successful or sustainable locally.”

Amador researched the feasibility of establishing a community bus on Quadra Island for her thesis for her master’s degree at Vancouver Island University (VIU).

The study examined the social and economic factors and transit needs on Quadra, and in part on Cortes, and looked at how other island communities successfully developed a community bus service.

In particular, Amador explored the Gabriola Island community bus system, known as GERTIE, as both islands have similar populations, demographics and both are just a short ferry ride away from a city with public transit.

As a result, Amador suggested Quadra Island explore the idea of running a small 20-passenger bus on a circular weekday route five times a day and have it connect to busy BC Ferries commuter sailings at the two terminals.

The proposed route would do a loop along West Road and Heriot Bay Road between Quathiaski Cove and Heriot Bay and be timed to connect with Campbell River and Cortes Island ferry sailings.

The net cost of running the service would be $53,600 annually, not including the one-time cost of $40,000 to purchase the bus, according to the study.

The fares would be $2 for one-way ticket, with an anticipated ridership of 4,500 rides annually based on five passengers per hour as demonstrated on similar systems. Based on these figures, its annual revenue is estimated to be $8,600.

The costs of initiating and running a community bus are significant, but other island communities have succeeded in overcoming the financial challenges, Amador said.

A number of B.C. Gulf Islands (Galiano, Mayne, Saturna, Pender and Gabriola) have established some form of micro-transit to address gaps, Amador said.

“Most public transit is heavily subsidized,” she said.

“Each community needs to determine what level of subsidy it’s comfortable with.”

In other community bus systems, grants and donations make up large part of the operating revenue, she said.

Gabriola’s community bus fare revenue is approximately 15 to 20 per cent of total revenue since its inception in 2013, her study found.

Gabriola’s Environmentally Responsible Trans-Island Express, or GERTIE, was a community-led micro-transit initiative that secured some public transit funds with support from the community. Photo courtesy GERTIE.

The system had significant community support and after three years, held a referendum to partially fund the system through community taxes.

A community based micro-transit system often considers the environmental and social value, as well as the economics, noted Amador.

Seniors who can’t (or don’t wish) to drive, youth, people with low incomes, as well as folks who want to get out of their cars for environmental reasons, are potential riders of a Quadra system, she said.

Not to mention tourists, cross-island passengers to Cortes, or commuters on Quadra going to Campbell River.

Should Quadra want to explore a community bus model, the next step is to do broad form consultation to gauge local support and confirm the results of her study, Amador said.

The success of local micro-transit projects depends on community drive, she said.

“From my research, it looks like the deciding factor is an interested group … usually a community organization, or a group of folks who either want to reduce carbon emissions or have a greater purpose to get behind the cause and make it happen.”

Claire Trevena, North Island MLA and B.C.’s Transportation and Infrastructure minister, agreed community initiative is key to securing funding either under the BC Transit model or to establish a community bus.

Trevena said she recognized there was a lot of frustration on the islands about the lack of public transit.

“But the community needs to show that there is the passenger base, the commercial base … before BC Transit will look at it.”

The B.C. government has supported the establishment of some micro-transit options to connect small Indigenous communities to Highway 16 in northern B.C. ­­— infamously known as the Highway of Tears due to the high numbers of disappearances and murders of Indigenous women along the route.

However, there is no dedicated provincial funding to help rural communities with the costs it takes to get a community-led transit project underway, she said.

“We don’t have a pot of money anywhere saying this is going to small communities to help them develop a public or micro-transit system,” Trevena said.

But pointing to the GERTIE system and other initiatives on north Vancouver Island, she noted community agencies, groups and service providers often launch an initiative that later evolves into a more formalized publically funded transit system.

“As government, we look at smaller community needs, but our main focus is the broader public transit (system)” said Trevena.

Regardless, smaller rural communities can still seek support from local government or the province, she said.

“There’s always the opportunity of conversation through the ministry of Transport or Municipal Affairs or the regional district about how best to support the community,” Trevena said.

B.C. rural communities like Quadra and Cortes islands are not exceptional in their struggle with lack of public transit.

Even critical private modes of transport for rural communities find it tough to survive. The only coach company operating on Vancouver Island north of Campbell River wants to shutter the route.

Citing insufficient revenue and ridership, Wilson’s Group, which took over the Tofino Bus Service route to Port Hardy, is applying to the Provincial Transportation Board (PTB) for permission to drop the route.

Plus, many northern B.C. communities lost service from Greyhound Canada in 2018. Covid-19 dealt Greyhound another blow with the company announcing mid-May that it was suspending all intercity service across Canada.

To stem some of the isolation felt by small communities not connected to one another, the province launched BC Bus North, which offered less frequent transport between some of the larger community centres, such as Prince George and Prince Rupert.

With the exception of BC Bus North, the province doesn’t typically fund intercity buses and the PTB will examine how to best to keep North Island communities connected to Campbell River, Trevena said.

“It’s up to the PTB … to decide whether it will accept the (Wilson’s) application or not,” she said.

“I know it’s a huge issue to get from Port Hardy down, and the PTB is aware of that gap in service. And they’ll obviously be looking at options for people when they make that decision.”

Romina Jones typcially travels on Cortes Island by bike, but struggles to get to town two ferry rides away. She’d like to see government subsidize private operators to run shuttles off-island to address the transit gap. Photo courtesy Romina Jones.

Cortes resident Romina Jones gets around the island on her electric bike.

“I’ve never had a car in my life. It’s not a lifestyle I want to partake in,” Jones said.

However, when she moved to Cortes a decade ago, there was a private company running a shuttle across Quadra Island to Campbell River that she could take to medical appointments and to pick up items that couldn’t be delivered.

But the shuttle ceased service about three years ago, and no other private operator has emerged to fill the gap.

“Without the Cortes connection, it’s very challenging,” said Jones, adding now she shops online more when she can.

“It’s restrictive and I have to find ways to get a ride, and that’s not as easy with COVID.”

She would love to see some sort of regular transit return, she said.

“Any type of return would be helpful,” Jones said, adding it would be useful if governments offered subsidies to small companies to make a transportation service more viable.

“It’s odd that it doesn’t exist with climate change, and so many initiatives to get people out of their vehicles,” said Jones.

“It’s just such a shame.”


Rochelle Baker/Local Journalism Initiative/Canada’s National Observer

Now Is the Time – Revolution, Inner and Outer: Part 2

Ed.note: You can find Part 1 of this piece on here.

The Flame of Truth Is Blazing

George Floyd lit a spark that has ignited the world. In the midst of a pandemic, hundreds of thousands are out on the streets, risking their own safety and lives to show solidarity with one man’s death — and the potential for the rising of a new way of life on this planet.

The solidarity that is coming forward, in such a shaky, vulnerable moment, speaks volumes – an extraordinarily auspicious sign of these times, and the ways they are turning. In the middle of a pandemic, climate crisis and economic collapses, people have come out on the streets all around the world to protest the violence of racism, even at the risk of violent attacks on themselves by the forces of suppression. People are rising now to the call of these times, even at the risk of their lives, no longer turning away.

We are at a liminal moment, a turning-point in our evolution, from long-standing patterns of separation and domination to the realization of our true interconnectedness, in our consciousness, actions and systems. This is a call to an evolutionary leap — a now-or-never choice-point — and people are starting to get it. The nature of the patterns we have been subjected to is now clicking in place, as they show themselves ever more clearly; and so are our responses – a movement from domination and violence to communion and care on all levels.

A pivotal point such as this one is no short of a revolution – a conscious turn-around, from the grass-roots, of the unjust patterns of domination and division that have been choking us all. People are reclaiming their breath now, their powers of expression, their very right to live. They are connecting the dots between the patterns that have been breaking us, setting us apart from each other, and coming together to act. The words “I can’t breathe” have been echoing around the world, and people are coming together to reclaim their breath, their voice and their power.

Because the same pattern of domination and destruction pervades all domains of our culture, people are starting to see now that climate action, racial and gender justice all go together; that ecological collapse and economic and social collapse are all related issues, and must be addressed in tandem. They are all consequences of the same pattern of separation, domination and exploitation that reverberates at all levels of our consciousness and society, and need to be uprooted at all levels. The kingpin of both these patterns and the ways to address them lie in their roots, the type of consciousness that underlies them — whether it is divisive or connective, whether it is one of separation or collaborative co-creation. It is there that our choice-point lies, our most powerful leverage for radical transformation.

Climate, Race and Gender Justice All Go Together

Racial justice, gender justice, climate justice, our social, ecological, economic collapses, are not piecemeal issues, that can be addressed in isolation – neither their present isolation from each other, nor ours from each other — they are all intricately interconnected, as we are. We need to see how they are connected, and we need to come together to address them. And now this is happening – the combination of climate crisis, a global pandemic and one man’s death at the hands of a viciously oppressive system has lit the spark that is now bringing the light — the flame of truth and justice erupting, spreading around the world like wildfire.

In his last moment, his dying breath, George Floyd called out for his mother. It is possible it is the Anima Mundi, the World-Mother of us all, the sacred feminine, who in her passion and mercy, has fueled the protests rising up around the world – not the violent ones but the ones passionately standing up for peace and justice, love and well-being for all. George Floyd’s death was the last straw, and the spark, that lit the fire for truth –for goodness, beauty, justice to be done in the world.

Little did he know, when he called out for his mama, that he was becoming a martyr – someone who dies for a cause, for a greater good than himself. In that last call of his dying breath, he ignited something huge, a force that is rising up now all over the planet — a call for justice, truth and love, a call for redemption, his own, and all of life on this planet.

A Revolution from Divisiveness to Connectedness: Our Evolutionary Leap

In our evolutionary journey, individually and collectively, we move from unity to separation, back to unity. We are in the “separation” phase of our evolutionary journey – the peak of materialist, individualist self-seeking, of seemingly endless outer greed and acquisition — and now we have come to the turning point, the time to turn back to our true unity. We see this at all scales and all levels – the entire edifice of our society is trembling, ready to collapse, and bring us back down to Earth, to the true ground of our being, our centre. And the regeneration that follows must also happen at all levels, flowing from the foundation of our being, the spirit of love and unity reverberating, rippling out, rising up, touching and transforming all the dimensions of our being and our global society.

We are at the peak of the phase of separation and domination – that’s why they are so pervasive now, as is their impending demise. We have reached the outermost limit of the outward phase in our separation from our own Source, from our own essence and from our own hearts – that is why everything is so upside-down and backwards, and needs to be reversed. It is why the crises are driving us, forcing us, back to our centre, where we can re-set, come together and start afresh – this time, however, chastened by our lessons, and expressing the spirit of love and unity, caring and community, at all levels.

What Power Do We Allow to Control Us?

We are being carried on a sacred wave, a tsunami of grace – clearing out the old, washing in the new — if we can only flow with it. Anyone who has a sense that there is a sacred force behind all this – a hand of goodness, truth and beauty – is blessed, because in that faith, they become the vehicle for that power, goodness truth and beauty itself, quite apart from whether or not its existence is “objectively” true. The higher power may not be outside us, it may be within us.

In a sense, we make true what we believe in, by the power of that belief, that dedication, itself. This is not sophistry but a crucial key to the way reality works. This works for individuals, but also applies to the collective — if a critical mass of people see the world in a certain way, they will make the world in that image – until, if it is not aligned with a deeper truth, history and time itself will overturn it. This is a hidden secret of life, that is coming to the light of day today, because we desperately need it. This is the key to the Anthropocene, the domination of men on this Earth – its ending, and what is beyond it.

Whether or not we believe in a higher power outside us, we have a higher power within us. Now is the time to call on it, and to act in its name. Nature, science, the events of our world, all are saying the same thing – it is a clarion call. Now is the time to come together, for the sake of ourselves and all others, for the sake of the sacred web of life of which we are all a part.

We will learn what we need to along the way, but we have to jump in now. We are called to an evolutionary leap – from divisiveness to connectedness, from separation to co-creation, from enmity and hate (or complacent apathy) to caring, love in action. We are all part of one human race, and the clock is ticking. It is either now or never. At this zero-hour of the fate of humanity, let us take the leap.

The flame of truth is blazing now, blazing our way to a new world – it can be annihilation or light – which one do we want it to be?

I believe we the people are choosing.



Teaser image credit: Anima Mundi by Robert Fludd.

The Danish green vision

Denmark is a country small in size, yet considered by many as a global frontrunner in the green transition

Fossil-free by 2050

Like many, Denmark was also once entirely dependent on imported oil and other fossil fuels. Today, more than 30 per cent of Denmark’s energy needs come from renewables. We expect to reach 50 per cent by 2030, and by 2050, Denmark will be 100 per cent independent of fossil fuels altogether.

Decoupling economic growth from energy consumption

Reconciling economic growth with ambitious green policies has been Denmark’s hallmark for decades. From 1980, Denmark has managed to decouple economic growth from its overall energy consumption: Danish GDP has increased by 100 per cent, while the Danish energy consumption has only increased by 6 per cent and water consumption has decreased by 40 per cent. This proves that it is possible to create growth without using more energy.

Key concepts of the Danish transition:

Long-term planning, framework legislation and broad political agreements

Since the 1970s, Denmark has had a tradition of enacting agreements with broad political support from all sitting parties in Parliament on energy and environment policy issues. Political stability has been vital in securing long-term investment and establishing ambitious, long-term targets.

Public-private partnership (PPP) models have proved a highly successful way of devising solutions to many of the sustainable development challenges. These effective partnerships are utilised when developing Danish legislation for the green transition. They allow governments to enact regulations and programs with the support of the industry, ensuring successful implementation and adherence.

Although long-term planning, framework legislation and broadly-accepted political agreements are central elements of a global green transition, they will not do the job alone. Fulfilling the 2050-vision will require a genuine paradigm shift in Danish energy policy in the coming years. Whereas water and energy efficiency have become an embedded part of the Danes’ mindsets, the full potential of increased electrification based on renewable power, closer integration of international energy systems as well as the development of efficient, market-based solutions will require careful consideration in the near future.

In Denmark, we see the green transition as an investment in future economic growth, market opportunities and job creation….

Key concepts of the Danish transition:

Holistic approach and integrated systems

Many paths lead to a green, low-carbon economy. Apart from a long-term policy approach, a focus on producing, consuming and managing sustainable energy, ensuring water securitymoving towards a circular economy and creating smart, green and liveable cities are also critical factors. However, no single technology or sector can achieve this transition alone.

35 years of dedicated work towards greening our society has taught Denmark that a holistic approach and collaboration across sectors and borders are paramount in developing integrated, affordable and sustainable solutions.

An example of this is the collaboration between the water and electricity sector, where sludge from wastewater treatment plants is used to produce energy.

Another example is the synergies created in the cogeneration of heat and electricity, where surplus heat from electricity production is used to heat water piped into the district heating system.

In cities, waste from citizens is used to produce heat and electricity.

At yet another level, climate adaptation solutions above ground prevent flooding in the cities, while simultaneously creating greener and more liveable cities.

Finally, a key factor in Denmark’s secure supply and high integration of renewables into its energy system is its electricity trade with neighbouring countries. Therefore, Denmark actively works to develop the Nordic and European integrated electricity market.

Thanks to a holistic and integrated approach to the green transition, Denmark consistently receives high scores from various international actors such as the World Bank, OECDWorld Energy Council and the IEA. Having an energy system with large amounts of green energy, high energy security and competitive energy prices, Denmark has become a green hub for data centres, offering an attractive business environment to large multinational investors such as Apple and Google. As a member of the European Union, Denmark has been asked to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by a considerably larger amount than the bulk of the other European member states.

Green business is good business

The Danish experience over the past decades is evidence that investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and resource optimisation makes good economic sense. The transition to a green economy is also at the heart of the global agenda: Investment in ‘new renewables’ capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuel generation in 2016 for the fifth successive year. Furthermore, in many cases, investment returns on green portfolios now outperform investments in fossil fuels.

Electricity harnessed from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar is one of the cheapest alternatives in the market. In fact,

Onshore wind power is the cheapest energy source in Denmark

Investing in water infrastructure leads to lower maintenance, energy and treatment costs. In a nutshell, short payback times on green solutions make it highly attractive and cost-efficient for cities and industries to make the necessary investments.



Rotterdam Hydrogen project H-vision: blue hydrogen for a green future

Vopak is a partner in the H-vision project.

In H-vision sixteen parties, predominantly from the port of Rotterdam industrial area, collaborate in a detailed study to explore the large-scale production and application of blue hydrogen in the Rotterdam industrial area. 

The objective is supply decarbonized energy by replacing natural gas and coal with blue hydrogen.  It is also studying how residual gases from the refining and chemical industry can be utilized to further enhance sustainability.

Blue hydrogen will enable the industry to deliver a substantial reduction of CO2-emissions and help achieve the Dutch climate goals with a step change in the energy transition before 2030.

Blue hydrogen is obtained from natural gas or industrial residual gasses by splitting them into hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The captured CO2 will be safely stored in empty gas fields in the North Sea or re-used as chemical building blocks.

With H-vision the industry invests in a sustainable future. Blue hydrogen infrastructure and installations are also future proof for a hydrogen economy based on green hydrogen, obtained from water using solar and wind-energy driven electrolysis.

Potential CO2-emissions reductions of 2 megatons per annum in 2025, rising to 6 megatons per annum in 2030 are credibly expected.

H-vision participants are Deltalinqs, TNO, Air Liquide, BP, EBN, Engie, Equinor, Gasunie, GasTerra, Linde, OCI Nitrogen, Port of Rotterdam, Shell, TAQA, Uniper and Koninklijke Vopak. Together they represent the hydrogen value chain, from production to end-users.

Read more about H-vision here. (In Dutch)



Trains are about to go electric.

Battery-electric, that is. While electrical propulsion has been the preferred way to move trains for most of a century, the idea of moving them longer distances via battery is one that’s just now being realized.

Like long-range electric cars, it’s a reality afforded by the energy density and longevity of modern lithium-ion battery packs.

Simply put, the special trains allow some rail routes to go electric where it wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

In Germany, where only about 40 percent of track is electrified, the trains will clean the air along routes that might have been impractical or prohibitively expensive to electrify, the state of Baden-Württemberg has ordered 20 two-car trains built in Germany by Siemens, who will oversee energy consumption and energy costs over a nearly 30-year service period.

It’s the first such order for battery-electric trains for Siemens Mobility, who will deliver them by June 2023. In them, a lithium-ion battery pack is mounted under the train’s floor and is charged while it moves along via overhead lines, using them to both power the train and charge the battery. When the train reaches a stretch of rail with no overhead lines, the battery takes over.

Siemens battery-electric trainSiemens battery-electric train

The new trains are part of Siemens’ Mireo train platform for regional and commuter rail—boasting weight reductions and improved aerodynamics. Configurations range from two to seven cars, and top speed, depending on the version, ranges from 87 to 124 mph.

Germany and France are two markets that have started investing in battery-electric trains. Last month another company, Alstrom, announced that it has a first contract to supply battery-electric regional trains for Germany’s Leipzig-Chemnitz line with three-car trains that can cover up to 75 miles and reach a top speed of 99 mph.

That same company has tested hydrogen fuel-cell power as the alternate source instead of batteries. And the Canadian company Bombardier in 2018 launched the Talent 3, an electro-hybrid train that can cover up to 62 miles on non-electrified track, with a modular approach to configuring motors and batteries.

This is a great thing not only for those who live near high-traffic train tracks but for those who travel by train, because in addition to reducing the reliance on oil, there are some indications it can have a profound effect on health.

A Danish study last year found that traveling on a diesel train can expose you to higher levels of harmful ultrafine particulates than standing next to a busy highway. Researchers found six times the levels of black carbon and 35 times the levels of ultrafine particulates inside passenger trains pulled by diesel locomotives versus electric ones.

Holland still remains the leader for rail electrification; it powers 100 percent of its trains on sustainable energy—almost entirely wind power, buffered by energy storage systems.

GE Transportation battery-electric logomotive projectGE Transportation battery-electric logomotive project

In the U.S., GE Transportation is working on a battery-electric locomotive, in partnership with BNSF, with a heavy-duty freight-train approach—packing in more than 2,400 kilowatt-hours and potentially going hundreds of miles on battery power.

Electrifying even passenger rail in America—or building new high-speed passenger-rail lines—poses a greater challenge than virtually everywhere else in the world with well-developed railroads. Most U.S. passenger rail lines are shared with freight, and according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, less than one percent of all rail miles in the U.S. are electrified, versus more than one-third of global trains.


Austin’s Project Connect given green light

Austin City Council and CapMetro Board approved the final version of the transit expansion plan during a joint session.

A rendering of future light-rail alignment that is part of Project Connect.

The Austin City Council and Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) Board approved the final version of the Project Connect Recommended System Plan during a joint session on June 10. The plan includes multiple locally preferred alternatives and its approval means the program will now proceed with discussions on investments this summer, leading to a transit referendum for voters in the November election.

CapMetro calls Project Connect a bold plan for a high-capacity, regionally connected system that is designed to help ease congestion, reduce carbon emissions and provide equitable transportation options for every resident. The expanded transit system is designed to offer more access to opportunity for education, health care and jobs.

The approved plan includes four new rail lines, 15 new fast and frequent bus routes, additional stations and frequency on the Red Line, 24 new Park & Rides and the transition to a zero-emissions fleet. A key component of the plan is an innovative downtown transit tunnel, which will separate transit services from street traffic, enabling faster, safer and more reliable travel.

“With Austin’s population expected to double by 2040, Project Connect is the right plan for a public transportation system capable of responding to that growth,” said CapMetro Board Chair Wade Cooper. “Getting final approval on the plan is a major milestone as we move forward on realizing this bold vision for Austin’s future. We’re proud to have worked closely with the community to ensure Project Connect has a positive impact on our future.”

Over the past two years, CapMetro has collected community feedback from nearly 60,000 community members, conducted hundreds of community meetings and worked closely with city staff to design the Project Connect transit plan. Additionally, more than 4,000 people shared feedback in recent weeks through a series of virtual community meetings and a virtual open house.

“Now more than ever, Austin needs a transformative mobility plan and we finally have one – created and embraced by our entire community,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “This comprehensive transit system will make our city more equitable while helping us fight climate change and ease congestion.”

Project Connect would help jumpstart the region’s economic recovery by providing a clear investment return and jobs. Economic benefits include:

      • Every dollar invested in public transportation generates approximately four dollars in economic return.
      • Approximately 21,800 jobs will be supported for each billion dollars spent – equaling more than 200,000 jobs over the length of the project.

In August, the city of Austin and CapMetro could take action towards the creation of a joint oversight board – Austin Transit Partnership – that would administer federal and local funding and be responsible for the construction and implementation of Project Connect.


GM CEO confirms electric van, as all-electric future remains a mirage

Fully electric commercial vehicles, like the electric van for delivery fleets that was first reported earlier this month, are “a huge opportunity” for GM, CEO Mary Barra said in a Bloomberg interview Monday.

Barra nodded when asked about the project—reportedly code-named BV1—and added plenty of supporting reasons why the company is considering commercial electric vehicles a part of its future.

“As companies look at what their carbon footprint is and what environmental pledges that they’re going to make, if they have any part of their business that’s delivery or has a fleet need, having commercial vehicles that are all-electric to meet those needs are going to be very important,” Barra said to Bloomberg’s David Rubenstein. “And we think we can also provide a good value equation with the cost of ownership.”

Cruise Origin driverless vehicleCruise Origin driverless vehicle

It marks the first on-the-record acknowledgement of the project from a GM executive. Such a commercial program might help the company reach the economies of scale possible under its BEV3 architecture and the Ultium propulsion toolkit, which includes a modular battery system and exclusive cells co-developed with LG Chem.

GM has made its vision of an “all-electric future”—and its pivot toward an emphasis on EVs and autonomous technology—a primary part of its messaging over the past several years. And company executives have been emphasizing that the coronavirus-induced economic slowdown of recent months hasn’t changed that.

According to Ken Morris, GM’s VP for autonomous and electric vehicle programs, speaking to Green Car Reports last month, the company has fast-tracked the program, ushering one vehicle ahead on its timeline and adding “a lot of things that were not even talked about at EV Day.”

The van project was one of those things not yet revealed, and it might have been the vehicle that was pulled ahead in its timeline. Although Barra said nothing of that, the Reuters exclusive that revealed the project said that the vehicle is expected in the U.S. before the end of 2021. That would beat the all-electric Ford Transit to market—and compete with vans from Rivian and others.

Amazon electric vanAmazon electric van

One soft spot in GM’s strategy is that it has been very reluctant to talk about real numbers and things like expected sales targets. Even Ford, which has shown a similar reluctance over time to disclose targets, noted last month that it’s preparing to keep up with a global market that could be one-third EVs by 2030.

A transition of decades—to make the fleet mostly electric

The transition to EVs will take “a period of years and decades,” Barra explained, considering the 250 million cars in the U.S. fleet and the idea of transitioning all of them. “When you look at different use cases, also affordability—and that’s why we’re working so hard to make sure we’re in a leadership position with battery technology—so EVs are affordable for everyone…it will happen in, I think, a little bit longer period but it will happen.”

“Since we’re a full-line manufacturer with both value brands and luxury brands, we need to make sure we’re providing options for the entire marketplace,” Barra said.

Possible electric Chevrolet Camaro in GM Ultium teaser videoPossible electric Chevrolet Camaro in GM Ultium teaser video

GM has often mentioned its planned $20 billion investment toward EVs from 2020 through 2025, and its aim to sell a million EVs a year in 2025—with 20 distinct EV models heading to market among its global brands by 2023.

With the stronger push to electric, and the recalibration of this year, where does that actually leave GM in terms of volume and market share by the end of the decade, and when does it see the “all-electric future” arriving, with internal combustion engines retired from its offerings? Those are questions Green Car Reports has relayed to the company and CEO through several different channels, and we’ll provide that reply in an update soon.


Paris Mayor: It’s Time for a ’15-Minute City’

In her re-election campaign, Mayor Anne Hidalgo says that every Paris resident should be able to meet their essential needs within a short walk or bike ride.

During the city’s transit strike in December, Parisians got a taste of what being a more foot- and bike-oriented city would feel like. Philipe Lopez/AFP via Getty Images

Paris needs to become a “15-minute city.” That’s the message from the manifesto of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is seeking re-election this March. Hidalgo has been leading a radical overhaul of the city’s mobility culture since taking office in 2014, and has already barred the most polluting vehicles from entry, banished cars from the Seine quayside and reclaimed road space for trees and pedestrians. Now, she says, Paris needs to go one step further and remodel itself so that residents can have all their needs met—be they for work, shopping, health, or culture—within 15 minutes of their own doorstep.
Even in a dense city like Paris, which has more than 21,000 residents per square mile, the concept as laid out by the Hidalgo campaign group Paris en Commun is bold. Taken at a citywide level, it would require a sort of anti-zoning—“deconstructing the city” as Hidalgo adviser Carlos Moreno, a professor at Paris-Sorbonne University, puts it. “There are six things that make an urbanite happy” he told Liberation. “Dwelling in dignity, working in proper conditions, [being able to gain] provisions, well-being, education and leisure. To improve quality of life, you need to reduce the access radius for these functions.” That commitment to bringing all life’s essentials to each neighborhood means creating a more thoroughly integrated urban fabric, where stores mix with homes, bars mix with health centers, and schools with office buildings.
Paris en Commun has created a diagram to illustrate the concept of what should be available within 15 minutes of “Chez Moi” (home).
Paris en Commun’s 15-minute city concept. From the top, clockwise, the headings read: Learn, Work, Share and Re-Use, Get Supplies, Take the Air, Self-Develop and Connect, Look After Yourself, Get Around, Spend, and Eat Well. (Paris en Commun)
This focus on mixing as many uses as possible within the same space challenges much of the planning orthodoxy of the past century or so, which has studiously attempted to separate residential areas from retail, entertainment, manufacturing, and office districts. This geographical division of uses made sense at the dawn of the industrial era, when polluting urban factories posed health risks for those living in their shadows. Car-centric suburban-style zoning further intensified this separation, leading to an era of giant consolidated schools, big-box retail strips, and massive industrial and office parks, all isolated from each other and serviced by networks of roads and parking infrastructure. But the concept of “hyper proximity,” as the French call it, seeks to stitch some the these uses back together, and it’s driving many of the world’s most ambitious community planning projects.
Barcelona’s much-admired “superblocks,” for example, do more than just remove cars from chunks of the city: They’re designed to encourage people living within car-free multi-block zones to expand their daily social lives out into safer, cleaner streets, and to encourage the growth of retail, entertainment, and other services within easy reach. East London’s pioneering Every One Every Day initiative takes the hyper-local development model in a slightly different direction, one designed to boost social cohesion and economic opportunity. Working in London’s poorest borough, the project aims to ensure that a large volume of community-organized social activities, training and business development opportunities are not just available across the city, but specifically reachable in large number within a short distance of participants’ homes.
Meanwhile, in Portland, Oregon, walking-distance-limited neighborhood planning is seen as central to climate action: The city aims to cover 90 percent of the city in so-called “20-minute neighborhoods,” where all basic needs—with the exception of work—can be reached within a third of an hour of walking time. In Australia, Melbourne rolled out a similar pilot in 2018.Hidalgo’s aspirations for Paris build on this idea, but with a local twist. The goal travel time is reduced to 15 minutes, but bike journeys can count. And while it likewise underlines the importance of stores and doctors, it also includes cultural activities and workplaces within its central aspirations.In Paris, this isn’t necessarily such a tall order. The mayor oversees only the 2.2 million residents of the city’s heavily populated historic core, which already enjoys some of the use-mixing that the 15-minute-city concept encourages, thanks to its pre-industrial roots. Paris would have an easier time with the concept than say, sprawling Melbourne, where more radical residential densification may be in order.

Paris en Commun’s manifesto sketches out some details for what this future walkable, hyperlocal city would look like. More Paris road space would be given up to pedestrians and bikes, with car lanes further trimmed down or removed. Planning would try to give public and semi-public spaces multiple uses—so that, for example, daytime schoolyards could become nighttime sports facilities or simply places to cool off on hot summer nights. Smaller retail outlets would be encouraged—bookstores as well as grocery stores—as would workshops making wares using a “Made in Paris” tag as a marketing tool. Everyone would have access to a nearby doctor (and ideally a medical center), while sports therapy facilities would be available in each of the city’s 20 arrondissements.

To improve local cultural offerings, public performance spaces would be set up, notably at the “gates” of Paris — the large, currently car-dominated squares around the inner city’s fringe which once marked entry points through the long-demolished ramparts. Finally, Paris would be populated by a network of “citizen kiosks”—booths staffed by city employees that would offer not just information, but also community cohesion services. Think places where you can drop off and pick up keys, join a local club or buy compost for your balcony plants.Paris en Commun provides some glimpses of what this more self-sufficient, neighborhood-oriented city might look like. The (imaginary) triangular intersection below resembles the current state of many in Paris; there’s some public pedestrian space, but it remains hemmed in by cars, both mobile and parked, and genuinely safe space for pedestrians is limited.
(Nicolas Bascop/Paris en Commun) 
After a superblock-style transformation, several neighborhood streets have been stripped of cars and no longer act as through-routes. This frees up room for new public space, with a small park at one end and a produce garden for residents at the other. New trees, green roofs and balconies, and a fountain would help mitigate the heat island effect and make the area a more pleasant place to linger. Meanwhile, the crossing space has ballooned in size, providing greater priority for pedestrians.
(Nicolas Bascop/Paris en Commun)
In December, transit strikes in Paris in protest of national pension reform gave Parisians an accidental taste of what a 15-minute-city future would look like, at least in terms of the hugely enlarged volume of cyclists on the city’s roads while bus and Metro service was halted. At some points during the strikes (which are still ongoing), bikes started to outnumber cars by two to one—a premonition of what might be to come.
Still, piecing together an entire modern working city around this 15-minute rubric would pose a challenge. In addition to its residents, central Paris attracts vast numbers of tourists who must be fed, housed and transported from neighborhood to neighborhood. Millions more commute into the city for work on regional transit from the vast greater Paris metro area. The people living in self-sufficient squares like the one above might find their rents rise along with the charm. And Paris can’t be transformed into a city that solely serves the needs of affluent locals.Just how Hidalgo would execute the infrastructural changes required remains to be seen. She appears well-positioned to stay in City Hall: She’s leading in the polls (and one of her rivals has pulled out of the race after a sex scandal). Her office has not announced any specific budget or timetable for the 15-minute city concept, which remains perhaps more of a rough blueprint for the future than an imminent makeover, should she be re-elected in March. As a rethink of the way cities should be planned—and exactly who they should serve, and how—it’s an idea that other cities are likely to watch with great interest.


It will take more than a few cycle lanes to make green, pandemic-proof cities

The coronavirus lockdown gave a glimpse of what cleaner cities can look like, but as people turn to private cars for safety from infection, pollution could soar

Paris announced the creation of at least 50 kilometres of temporary bike lanes during the lockdown. (Photo: Camille Gévaudan/Flickr)

As large swathes of the world start to reopen after weeks of coronavirus lockdown, urban planners are rethinking how to build future-proof cities.

The lockdown emptied the roads and cleared the skies over the world’s largest and most polluted cities. It opened a window on what cleaner cities could look, sound and smell like.

At its peak in early April, the slowdown of road, rail and maritime transport contributed the largest drop in global emissions – just under half of a 17% daily fall in CO2 emissions, according to a study published last month in Nature.

Now restrictions are lifting, while the risk of infection puts people off public transport, a shift to private cars threatens to send emissions rocketing. Global emissions have already bounced back to just 5% below pre-pandemic daily levels.

City authorities have a challenge to make sure commuters can travel to work at a safe distance from each other.

‘Final blow’ to aviation climate plan as EU agrees to weaken rules

Many mayors have promised to rebuild greener and fairer. From Mexico City to London and Bogota to Milan, plans for hundreds of kilometres of new bike lanes have been announced – strengthening a pre-pandemic movement to reduce car dominance.

Nearly 40 members of C40, a network of major cities working to address climate change, committed to use the recovery to drive investments in “excellent public services” and increasing community resilience against future threats, including climate change.

This will require a holistic approach, going much further than a few cycle lanes.

“Cycle lanes shouldn’t be an end in themselves – they are a means to live differently,” Carlos Moreno, scientific director of the Entrepreneurship, Territory, Innovation chair at Sorbonne University in Paris and a planning advisor to mayor Anne Hidalgo, told Climate Home News.

Moreno believes the transformation of cities needs to align with a pathway to holding global warming to 1.5C, the tougher target of the Paris Agreement. To achieve that, the best available science says global emissions need to nearly halve by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.

“We have 10 years to radically transform our cities,” he said.

To live within today’s climate, biodiversity and public health constraints, Moreno argues for an overhaul of urban design to bring essential services closer to people’s homes. People get around by foot or cycle and streets are redesigned not merely as places of transit but as “living spaces”.

The pandemic compelled local authorities in densely populated areas to reclaim streets for public use: entire road sections were pedestrianised in Tel Aviv, pavements enlarged in Auckland, parking spaces became bikes lanes in Tirana, and restaurants were encouraged to use outdoor spaces for dining in Vilnius.

Janette Sadik-Khan, former transport commissioner for New York city, said the move would have been considered  “almost revolutionary” a decade ago.

“This is a historic moment when cities can change course,” she wrote in a report by the National Association of City Transportation Officials which she chairs. “Empty lanes… form the outline of the future cities we need to build,” she said.

While there is clear public support for policies that would maintain air quality improvements, private cars are still perceived as the Covid-safe transport option.

“It would be naïve to think the pandemic is going to lead to the death of the car, in a context where public transport is associated with risk,” said Tim Schwanen, director of the Transport Studies Unit at Oxford University’s School of Geography and the Environment.

Comment: Coronavirus shows why we need an economy designed for wellbeing

The swing back to private cars is a serious concern, he told CHN. In the absence of holistic transport policies, it could cause emissions to rebound sharply.

A spike in air pollution would aggravate any future respiratory pandemic. Researchers established a link between long-term exposure to PM2.5 air pollution, much of which comes from diesel cars, and a higher death rate from Covid-19.

Yet in Wuhan, ground zero for the pandemic, car sales boomed to unprecedented levels when the city reopened after being sealed off for weeks.

An Ipsos survey in March found 66% of Chinese respondents used private cars after lockdown, compared with 34% before the outbreak. Use of buses and public transit dropped from 56% to 24%.

The study also found an uptake in people’s intention to buy a car – a trend so stark it is likely to foreshadow a similar rise in other parts of the world, Schwanen said. Early indications suggest this could already be happening.

Data published by Apple Maps on searches for directions to travel by car shows notable increases compared with volumes recorded on 13 January – a 16% rise in the US and 14% in Germany.

“Cities cannot do without public transport. It’s absolutely vital that it is brought back to some forms of normality within the constraints of public health,” Schwanen said.

“There’s no reopening cities w/o reopening transit,” tweeted Sadik-Khan in response to guidance to employers by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggesting incentives for staff to drive private cars to work.

Janette Sadik-Khan@JSadikKhan

The CDC telling workers to drive alone assumes that everyone owns a car and that cities can handle the traffic.

This is a fever dream.

There’s no reopening cities w/o reopening transit. Ruling it out doesn’t make it safer. 

MTA ‘confounded’ by CDC push for people to avoid mass transit

MTA Chairman Pat Foye on Friday blasted a new CDC guidance that businesses encourage employees to avoid mass transit. “The CDC’s latest guidance marks yet another confounding

Coronavirus delays work to protect the world’s poor from climate shocks

There are some positive signs the recovery to Covid-19 could help accelerate the transition to low-carbon transport.

Germany’s economic rescue package, which includes €5.9billion to incentivise electric vehicles and supporting infrastructure, was hailed as a “watershed moment” by local media. Notably, the government snubbed the powerful carmaker lobby’s calls to extend a buyer’s premium to petrol and diesel cars.

The UK, which is presiding over next year’s UN climate talks, has made the move to zero-carbon road transport one of five key themes for Cop26.

Electric cars are not the whole answer. While they pollute less than fossil fuelled cars, they take up the same amount of space, causing congestion.

Yet without government intervention, it could take years for public transport usage to resume to pre-pandemic levels, as confidence in the safety of the networks has eroded, Mike Lydon, of the urban planning firm Street Plans, told CHN.

“Political leaders need really strong messaging about the reality and safety of using public transport,” he said. “A lot of people assume it’s a big risk to take public transport but maybe it’s not as big a risk as they think.”

Japan to launch ‘green recovery’ platform and ministerial meeting

The emphasis on cycling facilities serves a vocal constituency that is “middle class, young and mostly white,” Schwanen said. This risks failing to cater for more vulnerable communities.

“We are far from doing really inclusive transport planning. Given the speed at which things are taking place, this is not given the thought and attention needed,” he added.

It is a political issue.

In the US, calls to “defund the police” are gaining ground. A rallying cry at “black lives matter” protests, it reflects the fact that policing has come to dominate city budgets. Proponents argue public safety would be better served by investment in community-based services, which could include urban redevelopment.

In Paris, the transformation of urban mobility has become a key issue in this year’s mayoral election.

Moreno, of the Sorbonne University, has a vision of a capital where people can access all their needs, including schools, workplaces, supermarkets, hospitals, green spaces, culture and sports facilities, within 15 minutes of their home by walking or cycling.

Anne Hidalgo

La , c’est quoi ? C’est la ville des proximités où l’on trouve tout ce dont on a besoin à moins de 15 minutes de chez soi. C’est la condition de la transformation écologique de la ville, tout en améliorant la vie quotidienne des Parisiens. ⤵️

View image on Twitter

Mayor Hidalgo made the ambitious plan the backbone of her re-election campaign, describing it as “the condition for the city’s ecological transition”. The idea has inspired other cities including Melbourne, Vancouver and Milan to develop similar proposals.

“Environmental and health issues need to be addressed at the local level,” Hidalgo said during an online event on the city’s recovery last month. “In this vision for a 15-minute city, I believe there is a solution for tomorrow.”




The City of Vancouver, British Columbia has adopted an ambitious target to move to 100% renewable energy (RE) by the year 2050. In order to realize the goal of becoming a fully renewable energy-powered community, buildings and transportation systems in the city will need to become highly energy efficient. The intention behind this urban energy transition is to increase quality of life, improve equity, and bolster the economy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

With this commitment in place, the City of Vancouver developed the Renewable City Strategy, which outlines the steps to achieve 100% RE, providing the groundwork for other cities to follow.

Renewable Cities has played an instrumental role in initiating Vancouver’s energy transition. Now, with the 100% RE goal in place, we will continue to support Vancouver and other local governments in implementing this energy agenda. Dozens of local governments in North America have now committed to 100% renewable energy in some form, a number that is increasing every year.



Vancouver has long been a climate and energy leader, and has a strong foundation in sustainable community planning.

In 1990, the City of Vancouver issued its Clouds of Change report, one of the first attempts by a municipality in North America to address climate change. In 2011, city council adopted its award-winning Greenest City Action Plan. This plan outlined specific measures make Vancouver the “greenest city” in the world and laid out an aspiration that the city would “eliminate dependence on fossil fuels.”

In early 2014, Renewable Cities’ founding team began developing a new program focused on the municipal transition to 100% renewable energy. Over the course of a year, the team conducted research and scoping interviews and began building partnerships in advance of the program’s launch event, Global Learning Forum 2015.

Building on this momentum, Vancouver City Council unanimously adopted a comprehensive 100% renewable energy target in March 2015, making it the first jurisdiction in North America to commit to such a target. During the council session where the goal was adopted, members of our team spoke in favour of the resolution.

The Renewable Cities program officially launched at our Global Learning Forum in May 2015, which convened the leaders of the urban energy transition movement and the concept of 100% renewable energy on the map.

During the forum, Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson and City Manager Sadhu Johnston participated in an interactive plenary session where conference participants provided feedback on how to best achieve 100% RE. Our team also facilitated a workshop where international experts provided advice to senior City of Vancouver officials towards achieving 100% renewable energy.


In June and July of 2015, Renewable Cities partnered with the City of Vancouver to help guide the development of the Renewable City Strategy, a first in North America. We provided three independently facilitated dialogues with staff and key stakeholders on the topics of waste, the built environment, and transportation. The workshops provided an open space to explore challenges, opportunities, and quick starts for the City of Vancouver in reaching 100% renewable energy.

These workshops—in addition to advice and feedback solicited from international experts during Global Learning Forum 2015—helped to shape Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy, which was formally adopted in November 2015 during a council session. At this session, Renewable Cities spoke in favour of the groundbreaking plan and subsequently placed a series of op-eds in local media outlets in support.


Since 2015, the City of Vancouver has been working to achieve 100% renewable energy through conservation and supply measures. Notably, Vancouver adopted its Renewable City Action Plan in 2017, setting year 2030 interim targets of 55% renewable energy (currently at 30%) and a 50% GHG reduction target, relative to year 2007 levels.

For the built environment, Vancouver adopted the Zero Emissions Building Plan, is working to expand the neighbourhood energy utility, and unveiled the new Zero Emissions Building Centre of Excellence, in partnership. On transportation, Vancouver developed a new electric vehicle strategy, requiring that all new buildings be 100 per cent EV-ready. Further, after achieving half of all trips made by sustainable modes in 2015, Vancouver is continuing to undertake complete streets redesign and invest in cycling and transit infrastructure.


We will continue to work with the City of Vancouver and other stakeholders in the implementation of 100% renewable energy, both locally and beyond.

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