A new study from MaRS shows that ride-sharing services like UberPOOL and Lyft Line could play a significant role in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in major Canadian cities.

If deployed at scale, these services—together with other types of “microtransit,” such as carpooling and commuter shuttles—could cut 588,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over five years in the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area alone. That’s equivalent to 5.7 per cent of personal transportation emissions.

The study, which was commissioned by The Atmospheric Fund and Coop Carbone and conducted by MaRS Data Catalyst, illustrates the potential for these services to contribute to smarter commuting that could result in reduced commuter traffic and less pollution from cars each year.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Replacing five per cent of personal car travel with a mixed types of microtransit could reduce emissions from personal transportation by 5.7 per cent in the GTHA and 3.8 per cent in Montreal over five years.
  • There is consumer demand for microtransit to fill gaps in existing transport networks in the GTHA. Particularly promising opportunities are: bridging the gap between commuters’ homes and suburban rail stations (the so-called “last mile” problem that prevents drivers switching to public transit); transporting shift workers to and from work; and connecting low-density neighbourhoods that are underserved by transit.
  • Further study of travel patterns and potential scale of adoption among commuters is a necessary first step to growing microtransit in the GTHA. Pilot projects, focusing on the high-priority cases identified above, will help determine approaches to implementation, such as licensing changes and building public-private partnerships.

The study provides a preliminary framework to explore how microtransit could help address transportation challenges in Canada’s largest cities.

Earlier this week, MaRS hosted a summit of key stakeholders in the sector—including transit agencies such as Metrolinx, governments, environmental groups and sharing economy companies such as Uber and Zipcar—to discuss the steps needed to put the recommendations into action.

Microtransit: An assessment of potential to drive greenhouse gas reductions

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Sasha Sud

Sasha Sud leads transportation and energy programs at MaRS. See more…