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The time it takes to get to work and back

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Study Methodology and Concepts
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Study Methodology and Concepts

Time use estimates in this report are based on the information reported in the one-day time use diary portion of the survey. The diary provides a comprehensive accounting of participation in, and time spent on, a wide variety of day-to-day activities. In addition, information was collected on the location where these activities occurred (e.g., at home, at work, etc.) and the social contacts (for non-personal care activities), i.e., who the respondent was with - spouse, children, family, friends.

The target population included all people aged 15 and over, except full-time residents of institutions and residents of the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Data was collected in each month from January to December 2005. Over this period, a total of 19,597 people were successfully interviewed, yielding a response rate of 59%. For further information on methods and data quality, see the section at the end of this report.

This article focuses solely on the travel times of workers making the round trip between their place of residence and their workplace on weekdays. Many people who are not working also travel during peak hours (Clark, 2000), the times during which congestion problems are at their worst. However, workers are most likely to contribute to road congestion. For example, data from the 2005 time use survey show that on weekday mornings, approximately two-thirds (66%) of employed persons make at least one trip by automobile during the peak period between 6:00 and 9:29 a.m. This proportion is almost three times greater than the proportion of persons who do not have a job and who make a trip by automobile during that period of the day (23%). A similar but smaller gap is observed for the afternoon peak period.

Proportion who had made a trip by car on week days, by time of the day and employment status, 2005. A new browser window will open.

Proportion who had made a trip by car on week days, by time of the day and employment status, 2005

The travel times presented in this study include the time taken to get to work and the time to return from it. Travel times (by car, on public transit, on foot, etc.) devoted to errands and other purposes during the commute between home and workplace are also counted as travel time. However, periods of time devoted to other activities are not included in total travel times. For example, a person who leaves home, travels for 20 minutes to drop off his/her child at daycare, spends 15 minutes talking with other parents at the daycare centre and then puts in another 20 minutes on the road getting to work will have a morning commute of 40 minutes (to which the afternoon commute will be added to obtain the total).

Also excluded are commute times between home and workplace that may occur during the day. For example, the time spent going to and from home for lunch is not added to the total.

Also excluded from this study are workers who were asked to provide information for a day during the weekend (their reference day in the time use survey), those who make only one trip from home to their workplace or vice versa during the reference day and those who reported having commuted between a place other than their usual home (a hotel, the home of another person, etc.) and their workplace. Lastly, a few respondents whose total travel time exceeded five hours in the reference day were excluded. While these respondents accounted for only 0.2% of workers in 2005, they can exert considerable influence on the reported averages and the regression analysis. However, the inclusion or exclusion of these workers does not affect the general conclusions of this study.

In short, a minimum and maximum of two trips are counted per worker: the duration of the first trip between home and work (or between work and home for persons working nights) and the duration of the second trip between work and home (or vice versa).

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Date modified: 2006-07-12 Important Notices