The Rise Of The Automobile: Lessons From Historical Canadian Transportation Transitions

Volume 2, Issue 4
November 2020
By David Layzell, James Meadowcroft, Cameron Roberts

This paper examines the experience of an earlier transition in land transport that saw the rapid adoption of the automobile. It focuses on three important questions:

  • Why did Canadian mobility change during the first half of the twentieth century?
  • How did cars emerge relatively quickly as the dominant mode of transportation?
  • What lessons can we learn from this history to inform future sustainability transitions?

About the Authors

David Layzell, PhD

Transition Pathway Principal

David B. Layzell is an Energy Systems Architect with the Transition Accelerator, a Faculty Professor at the University of Calgary, and Director of the Canadian Energy Systems Analysis Research CESAR Initiative. Between 2008 and 2012, he was Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy (ISEEE), a cross-faculty, graduate research, and training institute at the University of Calgary. Before moving to Calgary, he was a Professor of Biology at Queen’s University cross appointments in Environmental Studies and the School of Public Policy), and Executive Director of BIOCAP Canada, a research foundation focused on biological solutions to climate change. While at Queen’s he cofounded a scientific instrumentation company called Qubit Systems Inc and was elected ‘Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (FRSC) for his research contributions.


James Meadowcroft, PhD

Transition Pathway Principal

James Meadowcroft, PhD, is professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration at Carleton University where he has held a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Governance for Sustainable Development. He has written widely on environmental politics and policy, democratic participation and deliberative democracy, national sustainable development strategies and socio-technical transitions. Recent work focuses on energy and the transition to a low-carbon society and includes publications on carbon capture and storage (CCS), smart grids, the development of Ontario’s electricity system, the politics of socio-technical transitions and negative carbon emissions.


Cite as: Roberts, C, Meadowcroft, J, Layzell, DB. 2020. The Rise of the Automobile: Lessons from Historical Canadian Transportation Transitions. Transition Accelerator Reports Vol. 2, Iss. 4, Pg. 1-35. ISSN 2562-6264.