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Proximity to public transportation in Canada's metropolitan areas

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Released: 2020-06-02

Canada's three largest metropolitan areas have the most convenient access to public transportation

The international standard used to measure convenient access to public transportation is defined as the percentage of a population living within 500 metres of a public transport access point.

Canada's three largest metropolitan areas (Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver) provide the most convenient access to public transit nationally, each with over 90% of residents living within 500 metres of public transit.

Convenient access to public transport is generally lower in smaller metropolitan areas

Residents of metropolitan areas with smaller or less-densely settled populations tend to have lower rates of convenient access to public transportation, generally ranging from 65% to 80%, with a few notable exceptions.

Residents of Victoria, Regina, and Oshawa, for example, have relatively high rates of convenient access (from 88% to 90%). In contrast, residents of Halifax (71%) and Windsor (67%) have less-convenient access to public transit for cities of their size.

Metropolitan areas whose residents have the lowest convenient access to public transportation include Peterborough (63%), St. John's (60%), Belleville (57%) and Saint John (49%). In each case, residents located in the core municipality have levels of convenient access similar to other mid-sized metropolitan areas, but the surrounding municipalities, despite having strong social and economic links with the core and a significant share of the total metropolitan population, have less-convenient access.

A tale of two cities: Convenient access in Ottawa–Gatineau

The metropolitan area of Ottawa–Gatineau is unique because two public transportation agencies coordinate service across a provincial boundary. In Ottawa, 85% of residents have convenient access to public transit, compared with 77% in Gatineau.

  Note to readers

The data in this release were compiled in support of the Government of Canada's reporting on progress toward United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11.2.1 – Convenient access to public transportation. This release provides the results of Statistics Canada's first official dissemination of this indicator for Canada.

Table 23-10-0286-01 contains information on the level of convenient access to public transportation, along with relevant data from the 2016 Census on commuting to work.

Data sources, methods and limitations

The summary data presented in this release use the census metropolitan area (CMA) concept, which assigns entire municipalities (also known as census subdivisions) to an urban region if they form part of the population core of that region, or if they have strong economic ties with the core (see Census Dictionary definition). The CMA concept provides an improved understanding of the functionally integrated population of an urban region.

The main method used to estimate the percentage of Canadians living within 500 metres of a public transport access point is as follows:

a) The locations of public transport stops of all kinds (bus, trolley, surface and underground rail) were accessed from city websites or acquired from local transit authorities. Complete coverage was obtained for the municipalities making up the 35 metropolitan cities.

b) The public transit stop locations were incorporated within Statistics Canada's geographic databases containing population counts for 2016 Census dissemination blocks. Census dissemination blocks located within a 500-metre radius of a transit stop were selected, and their populations summed for the municipality.

c) In the final step, the total population living within 500 metres of a transit stop is divided by the total population of the entire metropolitan city, to produce the indicator of convenient access to public transportation, following UN Sustainable Development Goal 11.2.1 guidelines.

Urban public transportation is a complex subject and it is difficult to measure its quality based on a single indicator such as Sustainable Development Goal 11.2.1. The convenient access indicator is influenced not only by the number and distribution of public-transportation access points in a city, but also by local zoning regulations affecting the proportion of the population living close to those access points.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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