The net greenhouse gas impact of the Sheppard Subway Line

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, mode - subway/metro, mode - rail, mode - car, technology - emissions, land use - impacts, land use - urban density, planning - environmental impact


Greenhouse gas emissions, Metro rail, Lifecycle impact


As cities work to reduce their total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the transportation sector is lagging, accounting for a growing percentage of total emissions in many cities. The provision of public transit, and specifically urban rail transit, is widely seen as a useful tool for reducing urban transportation GHG emissions. There is, however, limited understanding of the net impact of new metro rail infrastructure on urban emissions. This paper examines the net GHG emissions the Sheppard Subway Line in Toronto, Canada. The GHG emissions associated with construction, operation, ridership and changes in residential density associated with the provision of the new metro rail infrastructure are assessed. These components are then combined and compared to calculate the net GHG impact across the study period, which extends from opening in 2002 through 2011. The GHG payback period is calculated. After nine years of operation, the Sheppard Subway Line is found to have nearly paid back its initial GHG investment in the optimistic case. The payback was due to the calculated mode shift from automobiles and changes in residential density and associated energy savings in the station pedestrian catchment areas. The payback period is very sensitive to the potential for induced demand to backfill the mode shifted automobile kilometres.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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