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Sustainable transportation in small and rural communities



Sustainable transportation is often considered a “big city” issue. But in order to maintain economic and environmental health, and ensure equitable access to key services such as employment, educational institutions and medical services, smaller and rural communities in Canada also need to find solutions to increase mobility options for their citizens.

This issue paper examines some of the most common barriers to implementing sustainable transportation programs in smaller communities, offers some solutions and reviews existing programs operating in small and rural communities across North America.


Canada is a highly urbanized country—more than 80% of its population lives in urban areas—and, as such, the majority of citizens have access to some form of sustainable transportation, such as public transit. In fact, Statistics Canada reports that all but three of 49 urban centres with a population of 30,000 or more have public transit systems.

The same cannot be said for rural and small communities, many of which are not well served (if at all) by sustainable transportation options such as public transit, cycling and walking paths, or carpooling programs.

The Canadian Rural Partnership (CRS), a federal government initiative that helps coordinate programs, policies and activities that support rural communities, notes that, as car ownership in smaller communities has increased over the years, demand for public transit or other forms of sustainable transportation has decreased. This has resulted in the removal of these services that may have once existed in rural areas. Continue reading