Commuters still love cars, but bikes, buses gaining favour: StatsCan

More and more Canadians are climbing aboard their bikes and boarding buses and subways to make their way to work, according to Statistics Canada

More and more Canadians are climbing aboard their bikes and boarding buses and subways to make their way to work, according to 2006 census data released by Statistics Canada Wednesday.

Proportion of commuters who use public transit - 2006
Region & age group  2001 (%)  2006 (%)
Canada  10.5  11
N.L.  1.7  1.9
P.E.I.  0.2  0.5
N.S.  4.8  5.9
N.B.  1.8  2.0
Que.  12.8  12.8
Ont.  12.7  12.9
Man.  9.1  8.9
Sask.  2.4  2.2
Alta.  7.9  9.2
B.C.  7.5  10.3
Yukon  3.0  2.6
N.W.T.  0.9  0.7
Nunavut  0.5  0.2
15-24  15.8  16.6
25-34  11.9  13.5
35-44  8.8  9.5
45-54  8.5  8.6
55-64  8.3  8.4
65 and older  7.7  7.2 

The federal agency also suggested there has been a modest uptick in the number of Canadians who walk to work, and that younger workers are more likely to choose greener modes of transport than their older counterparts.

"As might be expected, given the large increase in employment in Canada between 2001 and 2006, the number of people having to commute to work … has risen considerably over the past five years," the report said.

"While the car is still the most frequently used mode of transportation for getting to work, there was a decrease in the proportion of drivers in the past five years, from 73.8 per cent of workers in 2001 to 72.3 per cent in 2006."

The report found that the median distance Canadians are travelling to work has increased to 7.6 kilometres in 2006, an increase of 8.6 per cent over the past decade. Commuters in Ontario (8.7 km), Nova Scotia (8.4 km) and Quebec (7.8 km) travelled the farthest to get to work, while workers in Nunavut (2.1 km), the Northwest Territories (2.9 km) and the Yukon (3.9 km) lived closest to their workplace.

More commuters carpooling, taking bikes to work

Despite the increase in distance to the workplace, growing numbers of Canadians are turning to alternative forms of transportation. In 2006, 11 per cent of workers used public transit to get to work, compared with 10.5 per cent in 2001.

More Canadians are also carpooling, with 7.7 per cent of workers reporting they travelled to work as a passenger in a car in 2006 — up from 6.9 per cent in 2001. Statistics Canada suggested the addition of new carpool lanes, a desire to be kinder to the environment and high prices at the pumps could account for the gain.

A modest 6.4 per cent of workers reported walking to work in 2006, a decrease from 6.6 per cent in 2001. But growing numbers of Canadians reported riding their bikes to work — particularly among commuters between the ages of 45 and 54, the federal agency said. The census showed that 1.3 per cent of workers reported taking their bikes to work, up from 1.2 per cent in 2001.

Fewer people are working from their homes, said Statistics Canada, noting the decline was linked to a drop in the number of people working on farms. In 2006, 7.7 per cent of workers said they worked out of their home as compared with eight per cent in 2001 and 8.2 per cent in 1996.

Young people aged 25 to 34 were more likely to use green modes of transportation such as transit, bikes or walking compared with their older counterparts, the report said.

For example, 32.9 per cent of workers between the 25 to 34 age bracket reported using sustainable modes of transportation — up from 29.5 per cent in 2001. In contrast, 23.1 per cent of workers between 35 and 44 said they used the greener forms of transportation, down from 23.2 per cent in 2001.

Leana Garrison, a green transportation advocate for the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre, says money may play a large role in determining how young commuters travel.

"People under 25 tend to be making less money than people who are older, on average," she said. "People are choosing to use transit or active modes because they can't afford a vehicle."