Sample Geography Research Paper on Public Transit: Land use planning and urban transport in Canada

Public Transit: Land use planning and urban transport in Canada


            It is the work of urban and land use planners to develop policies and recommendations on the best ways to manage land and its resources. Land use planning entails identification of the socioeconomic activities such as recreation, agriculture, and housing. Through the social institutions within the society it is possible to regulate effects such as environmental pollution that results from poor land use planning.  Land use planning entails deciding the level of pollution that is allowed within a given territory through regulating the number of industries located in a particular region.  This is accomplished through means such as light radiation controls, noise control, pre-disposal treatment of solid waste and controlling the level of gas emissions.  There are other controls that land use planners can implement to ensure that land is used effectively for the benefit of the society. The controls determine aspects such as surface ratio of land consumption, floor area ratio, and technical standards of structures within the territory.  Land use planning is based on physical environment that entails the tangible and intangible aspects of land. It includes the layout of buildings in the city and nature of public places such as parks. Land use planning is crucial to the welfare of the society because it protects people from adverse impacts of pollution as well as natural calamities such as floods.

            The policies governing land use planning differ from one region to another depending on the unique needs presented by the nature of the environment. In Canada, the design, location, and other features of buildings in municipalities are governed by land use policy and regulations within the region. Before constructing a building, the sponsors must meet with the local planners to be briefed about the land use policy framework after which they are issued with building permits.  To ensure the consistency in land use for both public and private buildings, one must consider the provincial and territorial legislations. It is through these regulations that the country is able to control environmental pollution by requiring the buildings to have proper drainage systems. The location of the buildings is also determined by the land use planning policies in the country and this helps in reducing the number of industries in a particular municipality. The high level of pollution in the country necessitates the study on the land use planning issues in the country.

            Pollution affects the welfare of the citizens and it has the potential to reduce the productivity of the country (Compares, 2003).  Implementing policies that reduce the level of pollution in the country is less costly compared to measures aimed at containing the adverse impacts of pollution. The Canadian urban planners have the capacity to reduce the level of pollution in the country by implementing the most appropriate regulations on urban planning. The topic of environmental pollution is directly related to planning because through effective planning, it is possible to control factors that contribute to environmental pollution. This paper evaluates the land planning issues in Canada, in particular relating to environmental pollution caused by public transport. The literature review defines the primary researchers in the area as well as the different perspectives among the practitioners and academics. The research also provides an analysis of the state of pollution in the country and concludes by linking research results with personal analysis.

Literature review

            Pollution is a global challenge that countries must address to effectively promote the economic and social welfare of the citizens.  The environmental issue affects the health of people thus reducing their ability to take part in economic activities of the country. The main types of pollution in the country are water air and soil and they lead to adverse environmental impacts that may affect the welfare of the region.  Many scholars and researchers agree that pollution is a global challenge that should be addressed but they have varying opinions on the role of urban planners in fighting pollution through implementation of effective land use policies (Al-Saadi et al, 2005). Emissions by automobiles contribute a significant amount of air pollution in the country; thus, efforts to reduce air pollution must consider the public transport. The amount of air pollution can be reduced by decreasing the number of automobiles in the roads.

            Most of the urban population in the country prefers to access their workstations conveniently using personal cars. This makes the number of automobiles in the urban areas high, increasing the level of air pollution in the urban areas. Through effective land use policies, it is possible to reduce this type of pollution making the country a safe place to live in.  The primary causes of air pollution in the country include emissions from automobiles, industrial gases, wood burning, construction, and agriculture (Ewing, 1999). All these factors are directly related to urban planning as the planners. It is the duty of urban planners to determine the location of constriction sites, the level of gas emissions, the type of chemical to use on agriculture, areas to be cultivated and other activities such as wood burning. It is therefore possible for the urban planners to influence the level of air pollution in the country through regulating the air pollutants.

            Polluted air has many adverse health impacts that affect the well-being of citizens that affects their ability to carry out productive activities in the economy. Due to air pollution a large number of people in the country has been affected by respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Breathing polluted air weakens the tissues of the lungs leading to respiratory complications (Heath & Gifford, 2002). The respiratory complications that lead to premature deaths include asthma and lung cancer. Air pollution also causes inflammation of the heart that may lead to cardiovascular complications such as heart attack.  As a way of cleansing the polluted water, the Canadians add some chemicals such as chlorine to make the drinking water safe. Long-term consumption of water treated using chlorine leads to health complications due to development of illnesses such as cancer of the colon and bladder. Additionally, the water increases the chances of miscarriages in women (Vuchic, 2002). As a result of soil pollution in the environment, people may end up suffering from kidney diseases and skin infections.   Most of the automobile-related pollution is caused by the misguided notion of constructing high speed vehicles to enhance mobility from one region to the other but little attention is paid to the impact of these automobiles on the health and overall welfare of people.  Cities accommodate pr discourage a large number of vehicles according to the way they are designed.  Urban areas that are more accommodative of pedestrians discourage non-motorized means of transport thus reducing level of pollution form motorized vehicles. 

            There are differing debates on public transit in Canada by academics and practitioners. From the practitioner’s perspective, public transit in the country has been influenced by politicization of development projects such as infrastructure. This makes it hard for the urban and regional planners in the country to implement the available land use policies.  The society in the country has formed a mentality that private means of transport is better than the public means thus lowering the demand for public transport. This has resulted in increased number of automobiles on the roads, making it hard to control the level of air pollution in the country. Over a long period of time, the federal government has failed to adequately fund the public transit, leaving the burden to the municipalities.  The Sheppard subway is one of the projects in the country that indicate that public transit is affected by politicization of the transport sector.  The project was completed about 13 years ago after a long period of delay and cost overruns. The politicians hoped to win the support of voters by claiming that they could ensure that the completion of the subway was realized.

            Efficient transportation is one of the factors that determine the level of development in urban centers (Pucher, Korattyswaroopam & Ittyerah, 2004).  Companies depend on transportation systems for mobility of their human and capital resources and the distribution of manufactured goods.  Constructing integrated mass transit systems enhances the movement of employees and other resources from one region to another.  The 2006 census proved that the largest number of people in Canada reside in the urban areas thus the provision of good transit system is among the core objectives of the government.  While economic growth is evident in the urban centers, the government has enhanced development in the suburbs thus increasing the demand for transit. Due to the high demand of transit systems in the country, there is a high level of air pollution that adversely affects the productivity of the people in the region. 

            When land use planning is designed for roads there are high chances of emissions because the system encourages the use of private vehicles in transportation.  Such land use planning does not consider factors such as the distance between the town centers and residential areas, leisure areas and workplaces.  People are forced to travel long distances to access these places thus creating the need for majority of the citizens to own personal means of transport. The increase in number of vehicles on the road makes the roads unattractive to the pedestrians and this discourages the demand for public transport (Vuchic, 2002).  The low demand for public transport increases the demand for personal vehicles and this goes on making the level of air pollution in the region uncontrollable.  Urban transport is determined by the average distance between areas such as shops, leisure parks, workplaces and housing.  The distance between destinations and origins determines to a great extent the demand for motorized means of transport.

            It is evident that the state of modern cities differs from the situation that existed decades ago. The high level of environmental pollution has led to increased activities by countries to contain the situation and promote the well-being of the citizens.  The article by Grimm et al (2008), states that a significant amount of environmental pollution is brought about by activities that take place in the urban areas ranging from transportation to industrial processes. The study is about the way human activities in the modern world present environmental challenges that necessitate changes in land use to reduce the rate of pollution in the environment. More than 50% of the global population lives in the urban areas in the modern era as opposed to the 1990s where only about 10% of the people resided in urban areas. The change in population trends in the urban areas is the primary reason that nations have opted to change their land use policies to match the changing demands of the people. One of the most popular debates about urban planning relates to land use patterns. The academics claim that pollution can be controlled by reducing the number of automobiles on the road. The practitioners on the other hand find this unrealistic claiming that the level of pollution is determined by the land use planning policies that govern a particular region.

            Land use planning is essential in balancing the demand for urban space that is usually limited.  Through proper land use, planning it is possible for a nation to reduce the level of pollution from automobiles by implementing suitable means to reduce the amount of gas emitted.  Reducing the amount of space on the road is an effective way of controlling air pollution from automobiles.  The largest part of urban areas in countries that are highly motorized is dedicated to roads. Reducing the amount of road space per person is an effective way of controlling air pollution and it may encourage the use of public transport.  The relationship between transport and land use is important in enhancing sustainable development in a region. The transport system in a country determines the way land is used with regard to location of houses and businesses. Location of residential buildings further away from the town centers where people work encourages the use of private means of transport that increases

            According to Jerrett et al (2001), there is need to implement land use planning policies in the urban areas to mitigate the adverse impacts of pollution. The authors argue that the failure for the urban and regional planners to implement the land use planning may lead to environmental impacts such as pollution. The role of the government is to promote welfare for all the citizens but this may not be possible if land use policies are not used to fight pollution. The authors argue that people who have lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to be exposed to air pollution than those without. The research was carried out in Hamilton, one of the major industrial areas in the country thus making it suitable for the study. The region is also one of the regions with the highest number of premature deaths resulting from air pollution ranging from 90 to 320 annually. This makes it a suitable place to carry out a study on the need for urban planners to implement appropriate land use policies that address air pollution. There is a debate on urban planning where the efficiency of land use planning is based on political interests in the country. The groups with a higher economic status are less exposed to particulate matter caused by air pollution compared to the ones with lower economic status. This is mostly because the political interests in the country mostly favor the wealthy but not the needy.

            It is possible to control the amount of automobile emissions released into a country’s atmosphere by linking transportation services and land use patterns. Yigiticanlar et al. (2007), suggest that it is possible for urban and regional planners to achieve an effective transit system by applying the accessibility indexing model.  The study was carried out to determine the most suitable accessibility indexing model that can be applied in Queensland and other regions. The authors state that the roles played by transport and land use policies determine the distance taken to reach destinations and in turn this dictates the demand for private means of transport (Tzeng, Lin & Opricovic, 2005). It is important to have accessibility standards in a region as they determine the effectiveness of land use that in turn determines the level of pollution in an environment.

            The primary challenge with urban planning in the modern world is the misplacement of priorities and poor understanding of the term accessibility. In most cases accessibility is mistaken for speedy means of transport leading to manufacture of high speed automobiles. In reality, accessibility implies the ability of people to meet their needs conveniently using the most sustainable means of transport.

            Newman and Kenworthy suggest that the amount of gasoline consumption in cities can be reduced though effective land use planning. The study is based on research carried out in the United States that shows a direct link between the level of gasoline consumption and urban planning.  High consumption of gasoline is directly related to a high degree of air pollution in a given region. This implies that efforts to reduce the high demand for gasoline decreases the level of environmental pollution. The authors cite that the United States authorities have enhanced the efficiency of factors such as reducing consumption of electricity but it is yet to address the issue of reducing the number of automobiles on the roads. One of the ways through which the country can reduce the amount of pollutants emitted from automobiles is by reducing the number of vehicles on the road. Through land use planning, it is possible for the persons responsible for urban and regional planning in Canada to control the level of pollution in the country.  This can be done through planning new land development initiatives or managing the existing land to make it more efficient. The efficiency is determined by the ability to enhance the conditions of public transport for efficient operation. Management of the existing land also entails activities such as changing the demand for public transport by encouraging people to use other means of transport such as bicycles and public means of transport.

            Reduction of per capita car travel can be achieved through implementing development initiatives that encourage public transport. Improving the condition of public transport elements such as rail stations and roads reduces the demand for private transport. Pedestrian-oriented roads encourage people living in the nearby regions to use less private cars as they can conveniently walk to their destinations. These roads increase of non-motorized means of transport thus reducing the level of air pollution. The arrangement pattern of trip origins and destinations influence the efficiency of public transport and it may encourage less motorized means of transport.  Locating trips and destinations in areas that are close to public transport means such as rail stations encourages the use of public means of transport.  To effectively locate the trips and destinations in areas where public transport is highly demanded, the Canadian government needs to effectively implement land use policies.

            Some scholars have argued that creation of compact cities can be helpful in fighting the level of pollution in a given region. According to Gordon and Richardson, land use planning have the capacity to influence the creation of these cities through implementing agricultural policies, preferences for residential density, energy savings, and enhancing transit-oriented systems. To attain sustainable transit system in the country, the major cities in Canada have linked transportation to land use planning. Based on population forecasts, some of the cities such as Ontario have put in place measures to create densely populated communities in the city so as to reduce the demand for private means of transport and increase the demand for public transport. Sustainable transit system in Canada can be effectively achieved through formulating and implementing factors that mitigate air pollution caused by automobiles.  Improving public transportation is one of the ways that can lead the country towards sustainable transit systems because it encourages the use of fewer vehicles on the roads thus less emissions. 

            The urban planners have the ability to change the level of air pollution in Canada through effective land use planning.  Designing a city in such a way that it accommodates pedestrians discourages the use of non-motorized means of transport such as bicycles.  The problems that the country faces relating to air pollution is a consequence of deliberate measures and it can be changed to accommodate fewer vehicles on road transport.  It is possible for urban planners to influence the level of air pollution in the country by making the streets safe for the pedestrians as well as transit stops and stations.

            Mieszkowski and Mills support the notion that urban planning influences the distance travelled by urban dwellers from their houses to the places of work and other areas such as recreational parks. Most of the job opportunities are concentrated in the urban areas thus people have to go there looking for jobs by the available means of transport. The authors argue that the most disadvantaged populations with regard to air pollution are the low-income earners as they do not afford modern housing outside the polluted urban areas. Air pollution is not only common in Canada but it is a global challenge that must be addressed for a sustainable environment. In the United States, the government has defined air quality standards but more than half of the country’s population lie in areas that do not meet the federal air quality degree.  The primary contributors of air pollution in automobiles is particulate matter that claims more than 30,000 lives annually in the United States due to ailments that it causes such as bronchitis.  Most of this particulate is contributed by passenger vehicles that produce emit carbon oxides and nitrogen oxides.  Among the steps that the federal government in the United States has put in place to control air pollution includes the use of cleaner fuels and electric cars that do not emit these harmful gases.

            Litman argues that environmental pollution caused by automobiles can be reduced but one has to understand the relationship between the land use and transportation sector in the region. The study aimed at evaluating transportation using variables such as mobility and accessibility indicates that it is possible for urban planners in Canada to control air pollution through effective evaluation of public transit. . To determine the most effective results, one must identify the land use policies in place to determine if they can implement any actions that may reduce pollution.  


            Public transit is a crucial aspect that policy makers must prioritize since it has the potential to influence the overall productivity of the country. It is though public transit that individuals are able to access the workplaces and other recreational facilities in the country. Although public transit has the potential to enhance the productivity of a country, it can lower the same due to adverse impacts of air pollution caused.  The level of air pollution in an urban area is determined by the number of automobiles that can access the region. Through effective land use planning, it is possible to reduce the number of private vehicles in a particular region thus controlling the amount of air pollution. The creation of a transit-oriented system promotes the use of non-motorized means of transport capable of reducing the rate of pollution in the environment.

             Land use determines the design of structures such as residential buildings, workplaces and recreational facilities and this determines the distance that one must cover to reach their destinations and this in turn determines the demand for public transport. It is important for urban planners to consider creating public transit systems that encourage use of public transport so as to reduce the level of pollution in the region. The topic of pollution in the urban areas is relevant because it affects a large population of people globally. The quality of air in a given region affects the productivity of the economy. Among the major types of pollution, air pollution is the most common with regard to public transit. It is therefore important for urban planners to ensure they have an efficient land use system.


            It is important to improve the quality of air in the environment especially the urban areas that are homes to many people. The urban areas also have high level of air pollution due to emissions that result from automobiles. It is possible to control the amount of air pollution in the urban centers by reducing the number of vehicles that access the city and encouraging people to use public means of transport and other non-motorized means. For a country to attain proper land use planning, the urban and regional planners must ensure that the relevant policies are fully implemented. The land use planning should not be politicized as this reduces the chances of success. With commitment to ensuring better quality of air in the urban areas it is possible for the urban and regional planners to influence the demand of gasoline consumption thus reducing the rate of environmental pollution. Effective control of air pollution through regulation of public transit is not only helpful to the nation but the world at large.  It is therefore important for Canada to integrate land use planning in public transit to control pollution effectively.


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