Clean and Affordable Energy Approach to Improve Life Quality and Transportation in Ontario

New UOIT study estimates $30 billion transportation-associated costs without government action

TORONTO and OSHAWA, ON, June 24, 2015 /CNW/ - New research from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) in Oshawa suggests Ontario can save billions of dollars in fuel costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 100 million tonnes by 2050 if it can address long overdue transportation issues and implement solutions that include increased reliance on natural gas- and electric-powered vehicles.

The study, which focuses on the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the Highway 401-407 corridor, takes into account that traffic congestion is already costing Torontonians approximately $6 billion per year due to higher fuel consumption, increased health-care costs and eroded real estate values. By exploring alternative transportation options such as the expansion of natural gas and electric vehicles, especially for heavy-duty trucking fleets, as well as the introduction of a Highway 401/407 rapid transit system throughout the GTA and southwestern Ontario, considerable benefits emerge for both Ontario's environment and economy.

"The transportation sector is the number one contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario," says Bob Betts, spokesperson for the Ontario Natural Gas Alliance. "And with major events such as the Pan Am Games magnifying congestion issues, tackling this problem head on has become a clear priority."

Led by UOIT professor Dr. Daniel Hoornweg, the study was prepared as part of ongoing transportation work through the university's Jeffrey S. Boyce Research Chair in Natural Gas as a Transportation Fuel. The research takes an integrated retrospective view from 2050, and concludes that a long-term approach focusing on clean and affordable solutions is feasible with the use of electric-powered personal vehicles and natural gas-powered buses and heavy-duty trucks. "A large-scale transportation initiative emphasizing mobility, connectivity, integration and leadership is important for Ontario and Canada," says Dr. Hoornweg.

CONGESTION ISSUES - A HIGH PRICE TO PAY

In the 1930s, the Ontario government launched a solution to the province's traffic congestion challenges— through development of Highway 401. Construction began after World War II and the final section was completed in 1968. As the country's busiest highway, it has long served as the spine that anchors much of the province's economy and enviable quality of life. Ontarians now stand at a similar, again crowded, crossroad.

In fact, provincial costs associated with congestion are expected to rise to $15 billion by 2030, and likely more than double that again by 2050, according to the study. Key findings also suggest that by 2050, the Toronto region and linked cities such as Montreal, London, Peterborough, Kingston and Ottawa will need to be served by an extensive rapid transit system. This transit system should be complemented with dedicated heavy-duty truck routes and shared local commuter vehicle routes. The study recommends these vehicles should switch from gasoline and diesel to natural gas, while light duty personal vehicles should be electric-powered.

The potential changes, according to the study, would contribute to decreased greenhouse gas emissions, increased economic productivity and an improved transportation infrastructure.

"As a minimum, the proposed approach which includes making the switch to other cleaner, safer and more affordable energy alternatives, would provide fuel savings costs of some $76 billion and reduced greenhouse gas emissions of more than 100 million tonnes by 2050," says Dr. Hoornweg.

THREE OPTIONS — A SPECTRUM OF OPPORTUNITY

Congestion, infrastructure, transportation and energy are only some of the pressing issues with which Ontario is struggling. But new energy technologies offer Ontario motorists a wide range of solutions.

"Other provinces are already making commitments towards a more sustainable future," says Betts. "There is no reason for Ontario, the largest economy in Canada, to lag behind. Let us start with smart transportation and cleaner energy."

Dr. Hoornweg's study proposes three broad options that offer a comprehensive plan to develop transportation infrastructure within an integrated transit system.

Clean energy as a more sustainable fuel source
Natural gas is rapidly recognized as a less expensive and cleaner transportation fuel source than gasoline and diesel. A smart solution is to take advantage of this affordable, clean resource—by expanding current market penetration of electric and natural gas vehicles.

Commuters pitch-in
The approach suggests encouraging commuters to use privately-owned or shared electric vehicles to drive to work or locally in conjunction with a Highway 401/407 rapid transit (RT) system. This RT system would include stops stations at strategic major interchanges where associated electric vehicle lots would be located.

Effective population
By improving transportation throughout the GTA, the region's effective population can increase, allowing more people to participate in the local economy. This scenario includes the expansion of the bus rapid transit system to Waterloo, Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Kingston and Montreal, along with publicly available electric vehicles at parking lots. In addition, passengers can drive electric vehicles and share rides to home or work, and recharge them at parking lots and homes mostly at night.

For more information, visit cleanandaffordable.ca

About ONGA

The Ontario Natural Gas Alliance (ONGA) is a partnership between two of Ontario's leading natural gas distribution companies, Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas. ONGA was created to help the public understand the vital role natural gas can play in Ontario's future-forward clean energy mix. ONGA is dedicated to education around the many positive attributes of natural gas, including its affordability, cleanliness and potential to fuel an economic revitalization that will create jobs and expand Ontario's economy.  For more information, please visit: www.cleanandaffordable.ca.

SOURCE Ontario Natural Gas Alliance

For further information: For more information, to obtain a copy of the study, or to schedule an interview, please contact: PM Rendon, DDB Public Relations, 416-972-7784, paul-mark.rendon@can.ddbpr.com

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Ontario Natural Gas Alliance

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