June 26, 2013
Jacques Gallant, Toronto Star
2011 National Household Survey reports 23 per cent use public transit to get to work in the Toronto area; an increase of 1 per cent since 2006.
New statistics reveal that getting to work in the GTA via public transit is slowly becoming a more popular option than driving — a trend experts say will likely become more evident in the coming years.
According to numbers from the 2011 National Household Survey released Wednesday, 23.3 per cent of commuters in the Toronto Census Metropolitan Area reported travelling to their job either by bus, subway or light rail. That’s about 601,000 people out of a total of 2.5 million commuters.
The number is a slight increase from the 2006 census, which showed 22.2 per cent of people got to work by public transit.
The voluntary survey sent by Statistics Canada replaced the mandatory long-form census, which was scrapped by the federal Conservative government.
Drivers still make up the bulk of GTA commuters, representing 69.9 per cent, or 1.8 million people. That percentage is down from 71.1 per cent in 2006.
As more people flock to the downtown core to live and the cost of owning a car goes up, it is more than likely that the number of people shunning cars for the bus, subway or streetcar will continue to rise, says Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, which is a member of TTCriders, a group of transit advocates.
“I think we’re seeing the beginning of a fairly significant trend,” he said. “With changing demographics and changing patterns of where people live, more people are realizing that cars are not getting us to where we need to get.”
Of the 601,000 public transit commuters in 2011, the majority (45.4 per cent) took the bus, hardly surprising considering the Toronto CMA’s large geographical area that encompasses a number of not-so-close communities, including Milton, Aurora and Newmarket.
Dale Chilvers tried driving into Toronto for work, but the Bank of Montreal project manager grew frustrated and now takes the GO train from Oshawa.
“Even then, 20 years ago, it was just taking too long,” said Chilvers, 50. “Public transit is faster.”
He has also convinced his wife to start taking public transit into work, mostly because it’s less of a hassle and cheaper.
“Parking is just too expensive here,” he said. “You can’t even park down here for what it costs to take the train.”
The growing number of public transit users not just in Toronto, but throughout Ontario, means it’s time that all stakeholders take a hard look at what is necessary to meet the increasing demand, says Norm Cheesman, CEO of the Ontario Public Transit Association.
“We need to find more funding to fund the infrastructure gap,” he said. “I think the message from this (provincial) government has been positive on the principle of public transit, but they also have some very serious budget constraints right now, so the question is: Where is the additional revenue going to come from?”
In Toronto, city council recently voted against new transit taxes, while Mayor Rob Ford has been quite vocal in his opposition to the idea.
The National Household Survey also revealed what most Torontonians already know: the city has the longest average commute time at 32.8 minutes, above the national average of 25.4 minutes.
At the national level, the survey showed that, on average, it took public transit users longer to get to work than those who drive. Drivers took 23 minutes versus 40 minutes by bus, 44 minutes by subway, and 52 minutes by light rail, streetcar or commuter train.
With files from Alex Consiglio
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