Cities and Commutes

Oliver Moore published an interesting summary of the use of cycling and public transit in the November 30th edition of the Globe and Mail. He gleaned the information from a recent Statistics Canada report.

In 2016, he reports, 74.0% of workers in Canada commute to work by car, truck or van as the driver, 12.4% on public transit, 6.9% walking or riding a bicycle, 5.5% as a passenger of a car and 1.1% by other means. Almost 80% of all Canadians commute in private vehicles.

Bike riders on the Martin Goodman Trail in Toronto

In large cities “active” commuting is on the rise. In Toronto 6.7% commuted to work by cycling or walking, in Montreal the figure is 7.2%, and in Vancouver 9.1%. In the B.C. City of Victoria, the number is 16.9%, the highest in the country.

Moore points out that in the last 20 years “the number of people using bicycles as their main method of commuting nearly doubled, rising 87.9%.” At the same time “the number of people using public transit increased 31.5%.”

Large cities are seeing the most changes. Across the country almost 80% of workers commute by private vehicle, but in the three largest cities, it drops to less than 70%. In Toronto almost one in four commuters use transit, the highest in the country. Vancouver has seen a doubling of transit users in the last 15 years, since the SkyTrain rail network opened.

Despite the rise in the use of transit and cycling, gridlock of the streets continues to get worse in the large cities. In Toronto, the average one-way commuting duration in 2016 was 34 minutes, Montreal 30.0 minutes, and Vancouver 29.7 minutes. Not surprisingly, the general rule across the country is that, the larger the city, the longer the commute.

The question remains, how are we going to build more livable cities, if commuters continue to use private vehicles to get to work or school? There are a variety of answers.

  • Stop urban sprawl and increase the density of existing built up communities.
  • Build better transit, particularly high speed, rapid transit like subways, LRT and commuter trains.
  • Encourage cycling across the urban areas by building dedicated, safe bike lanes.
  • Make the pedestrian experience safer by widening sidewalks and improving crosswalks. At the same time improve and beautify the public domain by making walking on city streets more enjoyable.
  • Discourage the use of cars in the congested districts of our cities by narrowing streets, creating pedestrian only streets, and other traffic calming improvements.

Climate change is another very important issue when it comes to our use of cars and trucks. We will never reduce our greenhouse gas emissions until electric vehicles become the norm.