British Columbia

How do people in Metro Vancouver get to work? 4 interesting facts from the 2016 census

New figures revealed in last year's census showcase some interesting transportation patterns.

The number of people getting to work without a car is going up but so are overall commute times

The percentage of commuters who cycled to work in the City of Vancouver was up 50.6 per cent from 2011 to 2016. (Cory Correia/CBC News)

How long are you stuck in traffic every day? Are there more or less people using public transit to get to work? Are people travelling elsewhere for their jobs or staying in the city?

New data from the 2016 census released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday focused on people's commutes — how they get to work, how long they're in traffic and where their work is. 

No two people have the exact same commute — unless they live in the same house and carpool every day to the same office — but a close look at all the data in the census reveals some interesting trends.

Here are four things that immediately stood out to us. 

People driving to work continues to go down...

It's been a slow but steady change in how people have become less dependent on cars to get to their jobs.

In 1996, just 21.8 per cent of Metro Vancouver workers said they bused, walked or cycled to work. Twenty years later, the number was 29.5 per cent.   

Another way of looking at it? Between 1996 and 2016, the number of people who said they got to work in the driver's seat of a vehicle went up by 158,630. But the number of people who said they biked, walked or took public transit went up by 162,205.

"We've had this remarkable cultural change in terms of how we see transportation and moving around the region," said Andy Yan, director of SFU's City Program.

(Figures from the 1996, 2006 and 2016 Census)

... but Vancouver isn't as transit-happy as we might think

In total, 40.6 per cent of Metro Vancouver commuters use what Statistics Canada terms "sustainable transportation", meaning biking/walking/public transit plus carpooling. 

And while Metro Vancouver beats Montreal and Toronto when it comes to the percentage of cyclists and walkers, it's last when it comes to public transit goers — 20.4 per cent, compared to Montreal at 22.3 per cent and Toronto at 24.3 per cent. 

In fact, the greatest percentage of commuters who said they used public transit to get to work wasn't Vancouver, Surrey or Burnaby (they all went down), but New Westminster, at 31.4 per cent. 

(Figures from the 2016 Census)

Commute times are also going up

In spite of more people using "sustainable transportation" methods, the length of commutes increased in 14 of 21 Metro Vancouver municipalities since the last census — including Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey — by around an extra two to three minutes on average.

Yan said it's likely partly a function of most cars on the road overall and partly a function of decaying roads and bridges.

"We've had a historic transition of people changing their commuting habits, but we haven't had the level of infrastructure investment needed to support that."

Working outside the city

What do Vancouver, Abbotsford and Chilliwack have in common? 

Well, they're the only municipalities in the Lower Mainland where more than 60 per cent of people who commute live in the same city they work in.

With the exception of Richmond, the rest are below 50 per cent — some well below.

In the District of North Vancouver, for example, it's 23 per cent. In the City of Langley, it's 17 per cent. But the biggest of any significant city in the region is Port Moody, at 12 per cent.

Percentage of people commuting to a place within the municipality they live in. (CensusMapper)

(An interactive version of the map created by CensusMapper is available here)

With files from Tara Carman

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