Getting Around While Going Green

OpenCanada talks to Andrew Heintzman about transportation.
By: /
March 29, 2012

Andrew Heintzman wants a greener future for Canada. And as the president and CEO of Investeco, an environmental investment company, and the author of The New Entrepreneurs: Building a Green Economy for the Future, he's helping push the country in that direction. OpenCanada talked to Heintzman about a big piece of the green puzzle: transportation.

Which new entrepreneurs are pushing the boundaries in reimagining transportation?

I think there are a lot of interesting innovations at the margins of the transportation system. There are a couple of companies that are coming out of the Waterloo region that I think have interesting innovations in the transportation space. One is Miovision, which is focused on transit signal timing. It fits into a larger smart highway/smart road opportunity that I think is sometimes overlooked.

Are such companies receiving the support they need? What policies would ensure that this type of innovation in transportation is promoted?

The best policy would be a carbon tax that would create an advantage to reduce emissions from transportations. Beyond that, [these companies] need support through programs like the Scientific Research and Experimental Development program. My fear is that the redesign of this program (which is to be announced this week) will be less advantageous for early stage companies, but we shall see.

Cities have no money or power, yet are the ones bearing the brunt of transportation costs. How can we address this jurisdictional issue?

I do think that higher levels of government will have to provide financing for the municipal levels of government. I also think we will need to look at new revenue tools, particularly things like road tolls or high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes.

Does Canada currently have the consensus around building a green economy that it needs for the government to push for green transportation initiatives like high-speed rail lines?

Probably not yet, or at least not to build that kind of a program. But I think the right politician can begin to sell the vision of a transformation, looking at smaller, but effective, steps towards a green economy. I think smaller measures, like a small carbon tax and new charges to build transportation infrastructure, are possible in the short- to medium-term.

What provincial governments are most progressive on this issue? What does yesterday’s Ontario budget mean for green transportation in the province?

Ontario, I think, has been pretty good on this, though current budget realities make it difficult. I am not sure I know yet what the recent budget will mean for transit.

Canada is a unique country when it comes to transportation, due to its large size and wealth of natural resources. From which countries should we take lessons on reimagining transportation?

Good question. I am not an expert on international transportation, so, in truth, I don’t really know. But if I had to guess, [I’d say] a lot of European countries provide some good ideas, given their high density, high capacity of rail and public transit, high levels of active transportation (in cities like Copenhagen, bikes are the [most popular] mode of transport), and energy policies that promote efficiency.