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CPCS delivers public transit, climate resilience and adaptation report for CSA Group

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The report’s author, CPCS transportation consultant Nicholas Roberts, gives us an overview.

CPCS: Why look at the impact of climate change on public transit systems for the CSA Group?

Author: Climate change is making public transit systems more vulnerable, interrupting services and damaging infrastructure. There are opportunities for standards to guide and support actions, which can make public transit systems more resilient against the impacts of climate change.

To gain a better understanding of current climate-related risks and opportunities for standards development, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) tasked CPCS with a research project, which culminated into this public-facing report. CPCS is a group of specialists advising leaders worldwide on matters impacting transportation systems.

 

CPCS: What are the primary findings in this CSA transit/climate report?

Author: The report highlights the significant impact of climate change on Canada’s public transportation sector, particularly focusing on passenger rail and bus systems, an area in which CPCS brings a wealth of expertise.

Our research highlights that rising temperatures and extreme weather events are causing severe disruptions and damaging infrastructure. The report also underscores that there are increasing costs associated with building, operating, and maintaining these systems due to climate change.

 

CPCS: What are concrete challenges that Canada’s public transit is facing due to global warming?

Author: Major climate risks include events triggered by intense precipitation and extreme heat, which can disrupt operations and pose health and safety risks. For example, floods and severe winter storms have stranded passenger trains, while melting permafrost in northern Canada is making vital passenger transportation links more vulnerable. Extreme heat also strains electrical systems and risks the occupational health and safety of transit operators, workers and riders.

 

CPCS: How do you expect these public transit challenges to evolve in the near and long term?

Author: In the near term, we expect the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events to increase, exacerbating existing issues. Long term, the continued rise in temperatures and more severe weather patterns will likely demand significant investment in infrastructure adaptation and resiliency measures. This includes upgrading existing systems and developing new standards to ensure that public transit systems can withstand these changing conditions. There also needs to be consideration of how climate risk is shared in long-term contractual agreements, notably between the public and private sector, for building, operating and maintaining infrastructure.

 

CPCS: The report mentions the trend of decarbonizing public transit systems. How does this impact the sector’s vulnerability to climate change?

Author: Decarbonization, such as the shift to electric and hydrogen fuel cell buses and electrified passenger rail, changes the sector’s risk profile. While these technologies are crucial for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, they also introduce new vulnerabilities, particularly related to the reliability of electrical power supply and distribution systems. Ensuring these systems are resilient to climate impacts is essential for maintaining transit operations.

 

CPCS: How are representatives in Canada’s public transportation sector currently responding to these climate adaptation and resiliency challenges?

Author: Many transit agencies are actively working on adaptation strategies. This includes investing in resilient infrastructure, updating operational protocols to handle extreme weather, and incorporating climate risk assessments into their planning processes. However, there is still a need for more standardized approaches and guidelines to effectively manage these risks across the sector.

 

CPCS: What opportunities exist for the development of standards to help respond to climate adaptation and resiliency needs in Canada’s public transit sector?

Author: The report identifies 10 key areas for further exploration in standards development. These opportunity areas span the entire lifecycle of transit assets and systems, from design and planning to construction, operations, and maintenance. Developing robust standards in these areas could significantly enhance the sector’s ability to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change.

 

CPCS: What’s the main takeaway from this report for public transit organizations?

Author: The report emphasizes the urgent need for proactive climate adaptation and resiliency planning. By recognizing the risks and taking steps to address them now, transit agencies and policymakers can protect infrastructure, ensure the safety of transit workers and passengers, and maintain reliable transit services in the face of a changing climate. Developing and adhering to new standards will be a crucial part of this process.

 

Citation

Roberts, N. (2024). Climate Change Resilience and Adaptation for Public Transit. Canadian Standards Association, Toronto, ON.

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