moderately good

Transportation in Canada

Canada is a developed country whose economy relies on the extraction and export of raw materials. Because of this, it has a very large transportation system which includes more than 1.4 million kilometres of roads, 10 major international airports, 300 smaller airports, 72,093 kilometres of functioning railroad track, and more than 300 commercial ports and harbours that provide access to the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans as well as the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. In 2005, the transportation sector made up 4.2% of Canada's GDP, compared to 3.7% for Canada's huge mining and oil and gas extraction industries.

Transport Canada oversees and regulates most aspects of transportation within Canadian jurisdiction. Transport Canada is under the direction of the federal government's Minister of Transport. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is responsible for maintaining transportation safety in Canada by investigating accidents and making safety recommendations.

generated with Wikipedia:Helferlein/VBA-Macro for EXCEL tableconversion V1.7 align= "right"
Gross domestic product, transport industries, 2005
Industry Share of
transportation GDP (%)
Air transportation 9
Rail transportation 13
Water transportation 3
Truck transportation 35
Transit and ground
passenger transportation
Pipeline transportation 11
Scenic and sightseeing
transport/Transport support
Total: 100


There is a total of 1,042,300 kilometres (647,655 miles) of road in Canada,of which 415,600 kilometres (258,242 miles) is paved, including 17,000 kilometres (10,563 miles) of expressways). As of 2006, 626,700 km were unpaved. In 2006, there were 19,499,843 road vehicles registered in Canada, of which 96.1% were vehicles under 4.5 tonnes, 2.3% were vehicles between 4.5 and 15 tonnes and 1.6% were 15 tonnes or greater. These vehicles travelled a total of 326.14 billion kilometres, of which 296.9 billion was for vehicles under 4.5 tonnes, 7.4 billion was for vehicles between 4.5 and 15 tonnes and 21.8 billion was for vehicles over 15 tonnes. For the 4.5 to 15 tonne trucks, 92.2% of vehicle-kilometres were intra-province trips, 4.5% were inter-province and 3.2% made between Canada and the US. For trucks over 15 tonnes, 58% of vehicle-kilometres were intra-province trips, 18.4% inter-province trips, 15.4% Canada-US trips and 8.4% trips made outside of Canada. Canada's vehicles consumed a total of 31.1 billion liters of gasoline and 10.1 billion liters of diesel. Trucking generated 35% of the total GDP from transport, compared to 25% for rail, water and air combined (the remainder being generated by the industry's transit, pipeline, scenic and support activities). Hence roads are the dominant means of passenger and freight transport in Canada.

Roads and highway were managed by provincial and municipal authorities until construction of the Northwest Highway System (the Alaska highway) and the Trans Canada highway project initiation. The Alaska highway of 1942 was constructed during World War II for military purposes connecting Fort St. John, British Columbia with Fairbanks, Alaska. The transcontinental highway, a joint national and provincial expenditure, was begun in 1949 under the initiation of the Trans Canada Highway Act in December 10, 1949. The 7,821 kilometre (4,859.7 mile) highway was completed in 1962 at a total expenditure of $1.4 billion.

Internationally, Canada has road links with both the lower 48 US states and Alaska. The Ministry of Transportation maintains the road network in Ontario and also employs Ministry of Transport Enforcement Officers for the purpose of administering the Canada Transportation Act and related regulations. The Department of Transportation in New Brunswick performs a similar task in that province as well.

Regulations enacted in regards to Canada highways are the 1971 Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the 1990 Highway Traffic Act

The safety of Canada's roads is moderately good by international standards, and is improving both in terms of accidents per head of population and per billion vehicle kilometers.

Air transport

Air transportation made up 9% of the transport sector's GDP generation in 2005. Canada's largest air carrier and its flag carrier is Air Canada, which had 34 million customers in 2006 and operates 344 aircraft (including Air Canada Jazz). WestJet, a discount carrier formed in 1996, is second with 73 airplanes. Canada's airline industry saw significant change following the signing of the US-Canada Open Skies Agreement in 1995, when the marketplace became less regulated and more competitive.

The Canadian Transportation Agency employs transportation enforcement officers to maintain aircraft safety standards, and conduct periodic aircraft inspections, of all air carriers. The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority is charged with the responsibility for the security of air traffic within Canada. In 1994 the National Airports Policy was enacted

Principal airports

Of over 1,700 registered Canadian airports, heliports, and floatplane bases, 26 are specially designated under Canada's National Airports System (NAS): these include all airports that handle 200,000 or more passengers each year, as well as the principal airport serving each federal, provincial, and territorial capital. The federal government retains ownership of these airports and leases them to local authorities. The next tier consists of 64 regional/local airports formerly owned by the federal government, most of which have now been transferred to other owners (most often to municipalities).

Below is a table of Canada's ten biggest airports by passenger traffic in 2007. Toronto Pearson International Airport, is the busiest airport in Canada, and was also the only Canadian airport ranked in the top 30 airports in the world by number of passengers in 2006 (although it dropped off the list in 2007). In 2007, 94.5 million passengers travelled through Canada's ten largest airports.
In total there are 42 airports with an air traffic control (ATC) tower and 53 airports with a Flight Service Station (FSS).

Rank Airport Location Total
1 Toronto Pearson International Airport Toronto, Ontario 31,507,349 1.7%
2 Vancouver International Airport Vancouver, British Columbia 17,495,049 3.4%
3 Montréal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport Montreal, Quebec 12,407,934 8.3%
4 Calgary International Airport Calgary, Alberta 12,240,786 8.5%
5 Edmonton International Airport Edmonton, Alberta 6,065,117 16.3%
6 Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport Ottawa, Ontario 4,092,458 7.4%
7 Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport Winnipeg, Manitoba 3,565,501 8.7%
8 Halifax Stanfield International Airport Halifax, Nova Scotia 3,469,062 2.7%
9 Victoria International Airport Victoria, British Columbia 1,481,606 6.6%
10 Kelowna International Airport Kelowna, British Columbia 1,363,239 11.1%


At 2006, Canada had a total of 72,131 kilometres of freight and passenger railway, of which 31km is electrified. While intercity passenger transportation by rail is now very limited, freight transport by rail remains common. Total revenues of rail services in 2006 was $10.4 billion, of which only 2.8% was from passenger services. The Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway are Canada's two major freight railway companies, each having operations throughout North America. In 2006, 352 billion tonne-kilometres of freight were transported by rail, and 4.24 million passengers traveled 1.45 billion passenger-kilometres (an almost negligible amount compared to the 491 billion passenger-kilometres made in light road vehicles). 34,137 people were employed by the rail industry in the same year.

Nation-wide passenger services are provided by the federal crown corporation VIA Rail. Three Canadian cities have commuter train services: in the Montreal area by AMT, in the Toronto area by GO Transit, and in the Vancouver area by West Coast Express. Smaller railways such as Ontario Northland and Algoma Central also run passenger trains to remote rural areas.

In Canada railways are served by standard gauge, , rails.

Canada has rail links with the lower 48 US States, but no connection with Alaska other than a rail ferry service from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, although a line has been proposed. There are no other international rail connections.


In 2004, 137.7 million tonnes of cargo was loaded and unloaded at Canadian ports. The Port of Vancouver is the busiest port in Canada, moving 68 million tonnes or 15% of Canada's total in domestic and international shipping in 2003.

Transport Canada oversees most of the regulatory functions related to marine registration, safety of large vessel , and port pilotage duties. Many of Canada's port facilities are in the process of being divested from federal responsibility to other agencies or municipalities.

Inland waterways comprise 3,000 kilometres (1,900 miles), including the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Transport Canada enforces acts and regulations governing water transportation and safety.

Ferry services

  • Passenger ferry service

Vancouver Island to the mainland
several Sunshine Coast communities to the mainland and to Alaska.
Internationally to St. Pierre and Miquelon

Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and Labrador,
Quebec to Labrador
Labrador and the island of Newfoundland.

British Columbia to Alaska or Washington state.


The St. Lawrence waterway was at one time the world's greatest inland water navigation system. The main route canals of Canada are those of the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. The others are subsidiary canals.

Ports and harbours

The National Harbours board administers Halifax, Saint John, Chicoutimi, Trois-Rivières, Churchill, and Vancouver. Over 300 harbours across Canada are supervised by the Department of Transport.

West coast

East coast

Northern and central

Merchant marine

Canada's merchant marine comprised a total of 173 ships (or over) or at the end of 2007.


Pipelines are part of the energy extraction and transportation network of Canada and are used to transport natural gas, natural gas liquids, crude oil, synthetic crude and other petroleum based products. Canada has 23,564 kilometres (14,641 miles) of pipeline for transportation of crude and refined oil, and 74,980 kilometres (46,590 miles) for Liquid Petroleum Gas.

Urban transport

Most Canadian cities have public transportation, if only a bus system. Six Canadian cities have rapid transit systems and three have commuter rail systems (see below). In 2006, 11% of Canadians used public transportation to get to work. This compares to 72.3% that got to work by car, 6.4% that walked and 1.3% that rode a bike. In general, Canadian cities have rates of public transit use which are two to three times as high as comparably sized U.S. cities; census data indicates 4.8% of Americans take public transit to work.

This means that transportation planners must allow for higher passenger volumes on Canadian transit systems than American ones.

As a result of lower government funding, Canadian cities have to recover a much higher share of their costs out of operating revenues than American counterparts. This lack of funding may explain why there is resistance to the high capital costs of rail systems and there are only a few light rail systems in Canada.

Rapid transit systems

There are six urban rapid transit systems operating in Canada: The Toronto Subway, the Montreal Metro, the Vancouver SkyTrain, the Calgary C-Train, the Edmonton Light Rail Transit and the O-Train in Ottawa.
Rapid transit in Canada
Location Transit Daily Ridership System Length
Toronto, Ontario Toronto Subway/RT 1,211,300 68.3km
Montreal, Quebec metro or métro 835,000+ 65.33km
Calgary, Alberta C-Train 271,100 44.8km
Vancouver, British Columbia SkyTrain 220,000 49.5km
Edmonton, Alberta Edmonton Light Rail Transit 42,000 12.9km
Ottawa, Ontario O-Train 10,000 8km

Commuter train systems

Commuter trains exist in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver:
Commuter Train Systems in Canada
Location Transit Daily Ridership System Length
Montreal, Quebec Agence métropolitaine de transport 32,900 (as of 2003) ?
Toronto, Ontario GO Transit 160,000 ?
Vancouver, British Columbia West Coast Express 8,400 (as of 2004) 65km


European contact

Early European settlers and explorers in Canada introduced the wheel to North America's Aboriginal peoples, who relied on canoes, kayaks, umiaks and bull boats, in addition to the snowshoe, toboggan and sled in winter. Europeans adopted these technologies as they pushed deeper into the continent's interior, and were thus able to travel via the waterways that fed from the St. Lawrence River and Hudson Bay.

In the 1800s and early 1900s transportation relied on harnessing oxen to red river carts or horse to wagon. Maritime transportation was via manual labour such as canoe or wind on sail. Water or land travel speeds was approximately 8 to 15 kilometres per hour (5 to 9 miles per hour).

Settlement was along river routes. Agricultural commodities were perishable, and trade centres were within 50 kilometres. Rural areas centred around villages, and they were approximately 10 kilometres (6 miles) apart. The advent of steam railways and steamships connected resources and markets of vast distances in the late 1800s. Railways also connected city centres, in such a way that the traveller went by sleeper, railway hotel, to the cities. Crossing the country by train took four or five days, as it still does by car. People generally lived within five miles of the downtown core thus the train could be used for inter-city travel and the tram for commuting.

The advent of the interstate or Trans-Canada Highway in Canada in 1963 established ribbon development, truck stops, and industrial corridors along throughways.


The Federal Department of Transport established November 2, 1936 supervised railways, canals, harbours, marine and shipping, civil aviation, radio and meteorology. The Transportation Act of 1938 and the amended Railway Act, placed control and regulation of carriers in the hands of the Board of Transport commissioners for Canada. The Royal Commission on Transportation was formed December 29, 1948 to examine transportation services to all areas of Canada to eliminate economic or geographic disadvantages. The Commission also reviewed the Railway Act to provide uniform yet competitive freight-rates.

The current situation, has resulted in a lack of public transportation for the increase in ridership and may influence the next federal election.

See also

External links


Search another word or see moderately goodon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature