Could the LRT help reduce greenhouse effect?

Posted on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Illustration of the Ottawa Light Rail Train

Photo credit : University of Ottawa

Could the LRT help reduce greenhouse effect?

A rising trend in some countries, urban rail transit systems are an alternative to freight transport through cities.

Freight transit using existing urban railways could now be possible in Canada with some effort, according to Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa Professors Onur Ozturk and Jonathan Patrick. Their research shows that quality of life in cities can be improved by creating a model that helps reduce greenhouse effects, traffic congestion, and the risk of spills or serious accidents on the roads.

Their solution? The Freight on Transit (FOT) model. This system has the potential to alleviate some of the most devastating environmental challenges by reducing the number of trucks driving through our cities. During his appointment at Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, Professor Ozturk was involved in research that developed projects with industry collaborators, such as Public Transport Paris, with the purpose of creating more energy-efficient cities. They were looking for strategies that used existing transit infrastructure to move merchandise within the city. Professor Ozturk developed a framework of a decision-making model that allows the subway line to be shared between passenger trains and freight trains. A case study showed that the city reduced the number of trucks by 10,000 per year, eliminating nearly 290 tons of CO2 and 19 tons of nitrogen.

Many Canadian cities already have the necessary infrastructure in place that can be used to transport freight using railways.  In fact, there is no reason why the Freight on Transit model couldn’t be implemented in Ottawa in the near future.

But who will gain from this? Reducing the number of heavy trucks circulating in our cities not only makes them cleaner, it allows us to make a safer and more efficient public transport system that benefits drivers, public transport and private freight companies, not to mention the environment.

FOT challenges like time constraints can be easily overcome with the mathematical tool Professors Ozturk and Patrick developed to update the rail schedule without creating further delays for passengers. 

As for safety, just as supermarkets don’t usually allow their employees to organize products on shelves between 6 am and 9 pm, for their clients’ safety, similarly, if passengers are waiting for the train on a platform then that platform would not be used for loading freight at that time.

Imagine if systems like this were to be implemented in Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, the impact it would have on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The FOT may just be the next best thing to have environmental savings.


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