Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why are Canadian Cities Tops for Transit?

Request for Information: Canadian Ridership (Human Transit, Oct. 7, 2010)

Also discussed here: Further cause for Canadian Triumphalism (Human Transit, Oct. 8, 2010)

This post on Jarrett Walker’s Human Transit blog is quite striking from the point of view, at least, of this Canadian blogger (in Ottawa, no less) who despairs of the apparent lack of use of public transit and addiction to cars for commuting – and here we are top of the heap!

Jarrett asked why? – when Ottawa, followed closely by two other sprawled, relatively low population density cities, Edmonton and Calgary, ranks higher than larger cities  such as Vancouver – or Melbourne and Sydney in Australia. My guess, as a meteorologist, is the cold climate at these three cities which reaches a peak at the same time as transit demand peaks because of work and school and with mid-winter temperatures as low as minus 40 (in either Fahrenheit or Celsius) – and at those temperatures, cars sometimes don’t start, so that the bus is the only way to get to work. Average mid winter “normal” temperatures were extracted for some of the cities noted in the graph (see below) from the climate archives in Canada and Australia.  Clearly, Canadian cities in January are much colder than in Australia with one third of the days with minima below –20 deg C, while Australian cities are basking in temperatures in the mid teens - do they even know what snow is? This theory does not work in Ozland- there must be something else  to explain why Melbourne riders use transit so much more than in Perth.

City                  Average Winter            trips/cap/yr      Days below –20C

Max Temp(C)

Ottawa                 -6.1                              165                            9

Calgary               -2.8                              145                           9.2

Edmonton            -8                               140                        12.8


Melbourne            13                                125

Sydney                    17                               110

Adelaide               14.9                              60

Perth                      17.9                             75
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