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

Executive Summary

Canada’s climate is changing at an unprecedented pace, with rising temperatures and an increased prevalence of extreme weather events resulting in short – and long-term impacts across the country. Climate change has already caused catastrophic events that have impacted public transportation in Canada, including floods and severe winter storms that have stranded passenger trains, and melting permafrost that is degrading the quality of vital transportation links to northern Canada. Overall, climate change is expected to increase the costs of building, operating, and maintaining public transit systems.

Canada’s public transportation sector is also changing in ways that may make it even more susceptible to climate change risks. The trend of decarbonizing public transit systems (e.g., electrification of passenger rail, and electric and hydrogen fuelled zero emission buses) is changing their risk profile. The sector will require increased investment and improved resiliency to manage risks related to electrical power supply and distribution systems, among others.

Transit agencies from across Canada have identified risks related to intense precipitation and extreme heat as the sector’s most pressing concerns. These climate stressors can lead to infrastructure damage, operational disruptions, and in the case of extreme heat, health and safety concerns for people (e.g., transit operators, construction workers, maintenance personnel, and transit riders). Both of these climate stressors are Canada-wide concerns that are projected to continue intensifying.

This research report addresses four key questions:

  1. What are the top challenges and issues resulting from climate change currently facing Canada’s public transportation sector (focusing on passenger rail and bus systems)?
  2. How are these challenges expected to evolve over the near – and long-term?
  3. How are representatives in Canada’s public transportation sector responding in the areas of climate adaptation and improving resiliency?
  4. What areas of opportunity exist for the development of standards to help respond to climate adaptation and resiliency needs in Canada’s public transportation sector?

The research included a literature review, meetings with representatives from public transit authorities, operators, and related entities across Canada, and two workshops with representatives to present and discuss key research findings.

This report identifies ten areas for further exploration in the context of standards development and climate adaptation, which encompass standardization opportunities throughout an asset or system lifecycle to potentially yield improvements in climate adaptation and resiliency (design and planning, construction, operations, and maintenance) for Canada’s public transit sector.