The Sustainable Prosperity, Pembina Institute report “Putting Transportation on Track in the GTHA” provides the most up-to-date data comparing transportation emissions from rail with those of cars and trucks in urban centres similar to the GTHA, concluding that rail is by far the cleaner, greener and more sustainable option.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Road transportation is responsible for a majority of smog-producing criteria air contaminants (CACs), causing illness and resulting in 440 deaths in Toronto alone and costing $2.2 billion per year. The death toll in Ontario is 9,500 per year.
  • Transportation is the largest and fastest growing source of GHG emissions in Ontario.
  • Road- based passenger travel contributes significantly more GHG emissions than rail and is two to four times as emission-intensive as rail, yet currently 70-90% of transportation in the GTHA takes place on roads.
  • Freight trucks contribute 12 times as much GHG emissions and are five times as emission-intensive compared to rail.


“Current discussions between decision-makers and the public about the Regional Transportation Plan for the GTHA, must be grounded in fact,” said Sustainable Prosperity’s David Thompson, the report’s author.

“While for the most part it is common sense that rail is better than road, this report provides decision makers and the public with hard facts and figures and clearly shows that building a comprehensive public transit system and encouraging people and freight shippers to use rail is good for our health, our air, and our planet.”

Sustainable Prosperity and Pembina intend the report to contribute to the public’s understanding of why the Ontario government’s comprehensive plan to build new rapid transit infrastructure and shift car trips into transit is so important.

“We know that the pollutants that cause smog in the GTHA are 90% lower per person using rail-based transit than a person using single-occupancy road-based transportation. There is an opportunity here for decision-makers to do the right thing and clean up transportation in Greater Toronto,” said Cherise Burda, Ontario policy director with the Pembina Institute.

“The health impacts for the region are some of the worst in urban Canada and the solution is straight forward – provide rail options that result in cleaner transit and a cleaner region.

The report “Putting Transportation on Track in the GTHA” highlights the environmental implications for the future of transportation in the GTHA and adds to the economic and social analysis provided in the earlier report co-authored by Sustainable Prosperity “Time to Get Serious: Reliable Funding for GTHA Transit/ Transportation Infrastructure” that clearly identified the urgent need for a better transportation system, predicting a population increase in the GTHA of three million by 2031 and an additional 1.5 million cars on the road.

For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Wesanko, Sustainable Prosperity, 604.347.5988
jwesanko at sustainableprosperity.ca

Full release and media backgrounder available here.