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Wednesday, July 12, 2006
General Social Survey: Commuting times
The average Canadian now spends nearly 12 full days a year getting to work and returning home, according to a new study on commuting, the first of a series of four that paint a picture of the daily activities of Canadians.
Commuters spent an average of 63 minutes a day making the round trip between their place of residence and their workplace in 2005. That's the equivalent of nearly 275 hours of commuting, based on a 260-day work year.
In 1992, they spent 54 minutes commuting; by 1998, that had risen to 59 minutes.
The study, based on data from the 2005 General Social Survey on time use, found that average times were significantly higher in 2005 than in 1992 in five of Canada's six largest urban areas.
The longest commute was in the metropolitan area of Toronto, where commuters took an average of 79 minutes for a round trip, or roughly 340 hours in a work year, or two solid weeks.
But the gains were particularly large for residents of Calgary and Montréal. The round trip for people in the census metropolitan area of Montréal took 76 minutes last year, up from 62 minutes in 1992, the equivalent of 2.5 extra days a year.
In fast-growing Calgary, the round trip last year took an average of 66 minutes, 14 minutes longer than it did in 1992. In contrast, Vancouver workers spent no more time on average getting to work in 2005 than they did some 10 years earlier.
The study also found that the average travel time rose for both car users and public transit users. But it confirmed what many people already know (despite problems of congestion) it is in most cases faster to use a car or other vehicle to get to work than public transit.
Average travel times vary from region to region
Nationally, about 25% of workers spent 90 minutes or more going from home to work and back last year. This was a big jump from only 17% in 1992.
On the other hand, workers with relatively short travel times were rarer. In 2005, about 21% spent 30 minutes or less, down from 27% in 1992.
The survey found that in all provinces except British Columbia, more workers allocated more time to making the round trip last year. Fewer of them did it in less than one hour, but these averages varied from region to region.
In British Columbia, the average duration of the round trip did not change significantly between 1992 and 2005 (around 60 minutes). However, for the three Prairie provinces, average travel times went from 45 minutes to 57 minutes.
About 71% of workers on the Prairies spent less than one hour commuting between their home and their workplace in 1992. By 2005, this proportion had declined to 56%.
In the Atlantic provinces, the average travel time also rose significantly. In 1992, nearly 45% of workers spent less than 30 minutes making the round trip. By 2005, only 30% did so.
In Quebec, the proportion of workers taking an hour and a half or more to get to and from work went from 15% in 1992 to 27% in 2005.
On the local level, only 47% of Montréal workers spent an hour or more traveling both ways between home and work in 1992. By 2005, this had risen to 60%.
In Calgary, the increase was even larger: in 2005, 57% of workers spent an hour or more getting to and from their workplace, up from only 36% in 1992.
Average travel time rising for both drivers and public transit users
Car drivers generally spend much less time traveling to and from work than do public transit users.
In 2005, for example, the majority (55%) of workers traveling by car made the round trip between home and work in less than 60 minutes. But only 13% of individuals commuting by bus or subway spent less than an hour.
The average duration of the round trip between home and workplace increased for both public transit users and automobile users between 1992 and 2005.
For those traveling by car, the average went from 51 minutes to 59 minutes. For public transit users, it rose from 94 minutes to 106 minutes.
In 2005, almost two-thirds (64%) of workers using public transit spent 90 minutes or more of their day commuting between their home and their workplace. In 1992, the proportion was 48%.
For workers traveling by car, the proportion whose round trip took an hour and a half went from 15% to 21% during this period.
In all three years the General Social Survey has been conducted, the percentage of workers using a car to commute between home and work has remained virtually unchanged at about 86%.
In contrast, only 12% of workers used the bus or subway in 2005 for all or part of their commute. This was virtually unchanged from 1992 and 1998. About 11% of people went to work on foot or by bicycle.
The proportion of workers using public transit to get to work was higher in large urban areas, where service is more accessible to workers.
In 2005, 20% of workers living in the six largest metropolitan areas used the bus or subway for part or all of their commute. Again, this proportion did not change significantly between 1992 and 2005.
Factors associated with a longer or shorter travel time
Several factors have an impact on the time it takes commuters to get to work. These include the obvious ones — distance from the workplace, transportation mode and metropolitan area of residence.
To determine the independent impact of each of these factors on travel times, this study did an analysis comparing travel times when holding all other influences constant.
The results showed that the most ideal situation for commuting is that of workers who live in an urban area with a population under 50,000 or a rural area, who live less than 5 kilometres from their workplace, who commute by automobile, who have no children to drop off and pick up, and who make no stops.
On average, such workers will spend about one quarter of an hour on the round trip between their home and their workplace on a weekday.
Not surprisingly, the greater the distance between home and workplace, the greater the average duration of the round trip.
For example, compared with workers living less than 5 kilometres from their workplace, the predicted round-trip duration increases by 25 minutes for those living 15 to 19 kilometres from their workplace, by 48 minutes for those living 30 to 34 kilometres away, and so on.
Mode of transportation is a major factor. All things being equal, commuters who use public transit to get to work (without also using an automobile) spend an average of 41 minutes longer on their commute than those using an automobile.
And among those who use both public transit and an automobile, the predicted travel time is also 41 minutes longer than for those traveling by automobile only (assuming the same distance between home and place of work).
Not surprisingly the average duration of the round trip for workers living in the largest cities is longer, on average, than for workers living in smaller communities. For example, the average duration of round trips for workers living in the metropolitan area of Toronto is 37 minutes longer than for workers living in urban areas with populations under 50,000. However, after having taken into account the other factors associated with commuting times (like distance to work and mode of transportation), the predicted travel time was reduced to 20 supplementary minutes for Toronto residents.
Looking after children during the commute increases travel time. When the impact of all other factors is taken into account, dropping off and picking up children at daycare or elsewhere stretches the round trip by 21 minutes.
Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 4503.
The report General Social Survey on Time Use: Cycle 19: The Time it Takes to Get to Work and Back (89-622-XIE2006001, free) is now available online from the Our Products and Services page of our website.
For more information about the analysis contained in this release, contact Martin Turcotte (613-951-2290), Aboriginal and Social Statistics Division.
Additional tabulations at the provincial level from the 2005 General Social Survey on time use are also available online in Overview of the Time Use of Canadians, 2005 (12F0080XIE, free) from the Our Products and Services page of our website.
For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Client Services and Dissemination Section (613-951-5979; fax: 613-951-4378; firstname.lastname@example.org), Aboriginal and Social Statistics Division.