Climate and Energy
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy.
What a source of power!
I hope we don't have to wait 'til oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
- Thomas Edison

Ten Ways to Enjoy Public Transit

1. Hop on the Bus
In my ideal community, a bus comes every 10 minutes, no more than a five-minute walk from home. It’s effectively free, since it’s paid for on municipal taxes, the way students pay for their U-Trip bus rides in their student fees. The bus shelters are clean and comfortable, and tell you electronically when the next bus is due. On the bus, there is good humour, occasional music, and always a friendly “thankyou” to the driver. Can it be done? Yes – it’s already happening in Hasselt, Belgium, and with Boulder’s Eco Pass.


2. Ride the Rails
In my ideal country, a high-speed rail network would crisscross the land, as it already does in parts of Europe. Edmonton to Toronto would take 12 hours, travelling at 300 kph. The trains would be electric, powered by renewable energy, and be the pride of Canada. Many cities would also have regional services connecting communities at 125 kph.


3. Alight on Light Rail Transit
In my ideal city, light rail transit would bring commuters in and out of town with the minimum of fuss, above or below ground, on the land or on rails. It already happens in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and dozens of American and European cities. Maybe Victoria, next? In some they go underground, in others they ride above the traffic. On London’s Tube, nobody talks. In Melbourne, Australia, I’m sure they do.


4. Make a Beeline for Bus Rapid Transit
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), or busways, was invented in the Brazilian city of Curitiba, using dedicated lanes, articulated buses, raised platforms for rapid boarding, smartcard ticketing, and over-rides at the traffic lights. BRT’s advocates say it’s as good as LRT for a fraction of the cost, up to 20% faster than regular buses, and can be operational within three years. In Colombia, Bogota is planning an upgrade to its BRT that will take five million passengers a day.

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5. Find Bliss in Bikesharing
In Paris, there are 20,000 public Vélib bikes on the city’s streets, which you can rent from 1,450 bike stands, one every 300 metres. You join with a credit card, pay $48 a year, and the first half hour is free. In Montreal, where they have just arrived, they call them Bixi-Bikes. Stuttgart, in Germany, is setting up 1,200 electric bicycles at 250 stations, with plans for 12,000 bikes in years to come.


6. Find Conviviality in Carsharing
Carsharing started in Switzerland in 1987 and soon spread to Canada, with Montreal, Quebec, Vancouver, and Victoria all being pioneers. To grasp its potential, look at  Philadelphia, where 55,000 people have joined the non-profit PhillyCarshare, including the city government and many businesses. The idea is now undergoing a fusion with electric vehicles – Berlin and Paris are being set up with small electric cars and citywide battery charging posts. The green, sustainable future is arriving far more rapidly than most people realize.


7. Find Rapport in Ridesharing
If a car is going there, why not share the ride? Quebec has had AlloStop for 25 years, and Nelson, BC, has a ridesharing website. Still in BC, Pender Island has a series of Car Stops (like bus stops), and Cortes Island has a Green Rider Program, with a sign that drivers carry in the window to show they’re rideshare friendly. To see where this is going, look at Britain, where Liftshare has 294,000 members who have registered 64 million trips for the next 12 months, and ridesharing has gone mainstream in a very big way.

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8. Teleport Yourself through E-Sharing

Why travel at all, when you can teleport yourself electronically, as many people are already doing through Skype, webinars, and videoconferences? The promise is enormous, with 3-D holographic teleportation on the horizon – but roll on the public videoconferencing centres, where it will be cheap and easy to connect.


9.  Sail Far on a Ferry
Will the ferries still be able to run, when there’s no cheap oil left? The Solar Sailor is operating on Sydney Harbour, Australia, and SkySails has tests underway for wind-pulled vessels, but the only realistic future fuel may be biodiesel grown from algae, if we’re willing to pay the price and set aside the land to grow the algae.

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10. Hope in the Sky
Maybe we can, maybe we can’t. When oil returns to $150 a barrel and oil production passes the peak of no return, we’re all going to have to think differently about flying. Richard Branson hopes aviation may have a biodiesel future, if the fuel chemists can find a way to stop biodiesel from turning into gel at altitude. Or maybe we’ll be travelling far more slowly at low altitude, in helium-biodiesel blimps.


Guy Dauncey is author of the newly published book The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming.

First published in Corporate Knights Magazine, December 2008