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3. Safe Zero-Carbon Transportation

Vision for 2050

People can easily get around within and between neighbourhoods via networks of safe, accessible sidewalks, bike paths, and frequent transit. As these sustainable choices increase, there is less need for people to use a car. All vehicles are zero-emissions, resulting in cleaner air and a quieter city.

Like most North American cities, Surrey's infrastructure has historically focused on personal vehicles. Today, transportation contributes 45% of Surrey's community greenhouse gas emissions, with the large majority coming from passenger vehicles, while roads occupy roughly 20% of the nonagricultural land in Surrey. Reliance on personal vehicles also leads to traffic congestion, traffic-related injuries and fatalities, and emits health-harming air contaminants. By 2041, Surrey is expected to become the most populous city in British Columbia In this context, we need to significantly update our transportation system by shifting to sustainable modes that will curb these negative impacts.

Transitioning to electric and zero-emissions vehicles is also critical for reducing emissions and air pollution. This transition is already underway thanks to a combination of market trends, federal and provincial regulations, and City policies and investments. In 2021, council approved the City’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy. The City provides public EV charging at various public facilities, and plans to more than double the number of chargers in the next three years. The City also established one of the first EV-ready bylaws for new development.

However, EVs are not an equitable or affordable option for many residents. And we simply don’t have the space for wider roads, regardless of whether they are gas-powered or electric. The figure below compares the overall carbon pollution and public space impacts of various transportation modes.

Figure D3.  Carbon pollution and public space impacts by transportation mode in Metro Vancouver, B.C

Considering these factors, this strategy takes a holistic approach by prioritizing a shift to walking, cycling, and transit while continuing to support vehicle electrification.

The figure below illustrates transportation modes that contribute the most to a healthy community. This puts walking, cycling, public transit, and shared vehicles ahead of personal vehicles. “Walking” encompasses mobility aids, such as wheelchairs and seated mobility scooters that operate at walking speeds and use sidewalks. “Cycling” refers to bicycles, adaptive cycles, e-bikes, kick-scooters, etc.

Figure D5. Hierarchy of sustainable transportation modes

Transporting goods is shown separately in the figure. Surrey’s size and strategic location give the city a crucial role in both the national and local economy, facilitating long-distance goods movement via air, ship and rail, and local goods movement within communities.

While it will not always be feasible to prioritize more sustainable modes on every road due to space limitations and site-specific factors, applying this hierarchy to guide decision-making over time will help reduce carbon pollution, save lives, and improve health and equity. This hierarchy echoes a similar diagram in the provincial CleanBC Roadmap to 2030. Both the City and the Province will need to apply this hierarchy to reach the provincial targets for sustainable modes.

Taken together, the goals, shifts, and supporting actions for Safe Zero-Carbon Transportation will go a long way to reducing Surrey’s community carbon pollution to meet the interim and 2050 targets. Shifting to prioritize walking, cycling and transit over personal vehicles has well-documented co-benefits for health and equity, reducing congestion and improving climate resilience. Investing in walking and cycling infrastructure has also been shown to have positive economic impacts on surrounding businesses, while supporting job creation and helping to reduce the cost of living.

The CCAS, together with the Surrey Transportation Plan underway, offers a timely opportunity to turn the corner toward a healthier, safer, and more equitable transportation system.

  • Greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles (% reduction from 2010)
  • Resident trips taken by walking, cycling, and transit (%)
  • Total resident vehicle kilometers travelled (% reduction from 2019)