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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Public Transportation (large infrastructure focus) for Vancouver, BC: as a key factor in achieving climate change targets.

R Blackie

Public Transportation (large infrastructure focus) for Vancouver, BC: as a key factor in achieving climate change targets.

The City of Vancouver, British Columbia, is experiencing rapid growth which in recent years has outpaced infrastructure development. The goal of this research project was to develop a methodology for measuring the impacts GHG emissions of large infrastructure public transport. The city has set the target of, by 2020, reducing overall CO2 emissions by at least 33%, much of which will depend on how the public transport system is developed. The city is currently completing construction work on the Canada Line, and is in the planning & consultation phase for another similar metro link to the University of British Columbia (UBC). It is, however, not clear the extent of both environmental and societal life-cycle impacts of such projects without a carbon lifecycle analysis.

Examples of public transport systems from other cities of a similar demographic/economic situation are used to compare and contrast what is planned for Vancouver. Analysis of Oslo, Edinburgh and Portland's light rail and tram systems will be used as supporting evidence for Vancouver.

An aspect of this project is to develop a generic carbon footprint calculator that will provide city planners and engineers the ability to input a given transport option, along with the planned physical dimensions and construction type. The groundwork for this tool was technically challenging with the given resources and project timeframe, so it is expected that this will only get to the early development stage.

Public transport ridership is predicted to increase steadily in the city as services become faster, more efficient and more attractive than driving a personal vehicle. The hypothesis is that, upon completion of a broad life cycle impact analysis, that grade-separated rapid transit along the Broadway/UBC corridor will provide the most sustainable transport mode for an assumed operating lifetime of 100 years.



Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.