Ottawa

Almost half of young Ottawans don't take car to work: census

Young workers in the Ottawa-Gatineau region are more likely to pick 'green' commuting options than their older co-workers, the latest census information shows.

Young workers in the Ottawa-Gatineau region are more likely to pick "green" commuting options than their older co-workers, the latest census information shows.

Statistics Canada released new data Wednesday from the 2006 census that gives more details about how people in the Ottawa-Gatineau region most often get to work and how far they travel.

Workers under the age of 25 in the Ottawa-Gatineau region use public transit 29.6 per cent of the time, while a further 11.8 per cent walk and 2.7 per cent use a bike.

Source: Statistics Canada
 Usual Mode of Transportation                       Car  Transit  Walk  Bike  Other
 Age under 25   55.0%  29.6%   11.8%  2.7%  0.9%
 Age 25-34    67.9%  21.1%  8.0%   2.2%  0.7%
 Age 35-54    75.8%  16.4%  4.9%  2.0%  0.8%
 Age 55 up                 74.8%  16.2%   6.3%    1.3%  1.4%

That's a considerably higher reliance on environmentally friendly means of getting to work than the average commuter in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, who commutes by public transit 19.4 per cent of the time, by foot 6.8 per cent of the time and 2.1 per cent by bike.

The reliance on the car in the Ottawa-Gatineau region seems to increase as the age of commuters gets older.

Commuters under the age of 25 used a vehicle to get to work — either as a driver or a passenger — 55.0 per cent of the time. Those aged 25-34 commuted by car most often 67.9 per cent of the time and those 35 and over drove or were driven 75.6 per cent of the time.

The census doesn't ask commuters why they chose their mode of transportation, so it's not known if younger workers pick greener commuting options because of their concern for the environment or whether their choice was related more to financial considerations.

Dan McDermott, director of Ontario's chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada, says owning a car used to be a rite of passage for young people, but environmental awareness in that generation has made gas guzzlers uncool. The high cost of gasoline is another factor for those with limited incomes.

"The desire to own a car is diminishing for a number of reasons — environmental consciousness being high on that list," said McDermott.

"Certainly, economic reality weighs in as well and with gas scheduled to hit $1.50 a litre, that makes the question about buying a car one that young people on limited resources will look long and hard at before making that choice."

Statistics Canada released initial information on commuting in the country's major metropolitan region last month. The new information breaks down the data further to the municipal level.

In the city of Ottawa, 21.9 per cent of workers use public transit while 67.1 per cent get to the job by car.

The median commuting distance for people in the city of Ottawa is 7.8 kilometres — meaning the point where one half of the city's population travels more than that distance and the other half travels less.

Commuting distance is measured on a straight line from home to work — not the actual route travelled, which for most commuters would be longer.