Commuting to Work
This factsheet looks at data on commuting to work released by Statistics Canada as part of the 2011 National Household Survey. Results are not compared to 2006 Census data because of comparability issues1.
Eight Ontarians out of 10 Driving to Work
According to the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), 93 per cent of employed Ontarians commuted to work, while 7 per cent worked from home.
- Of those who commuted, 89 per cent went to a usual place of work and 11 per cent travelled to a location that varied from day to day.
- Private vehicles (car, truck or van) were by far the most common mode of transportation, used by 78.7 per cent of commuters in Ontario. Of those, 82.7 per cent drove alone and 17.3 per cent carpooled.
- The share of commuters using public transit for the longest part of their trip was 14 per cent. Of transit users, 57.2 per cent commuted by bus, 30 per cent by subway or elevated rail, and 12.8 per cent by commuter train, light rail, streetcar or ferry.
- Finally, 5.1 per cent of Ontario commuters walked to work and 1.2 per cent cycled.
High Use of Non-Auto Transportation in Large Cities
- Among Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs), Montreal commuters were most likely to walk, cycle or use public transit to get to work at 29.3 per cent.
- Toronto came in second place with 29.0 per cent, and Ottawa-Gatineau was third with 28.6 per cent.
- Toronto had the highest share of subway and elevated rail users in Canada at 9.4 per cent.
- Ottawa-Gatineau had the highest share of bus users in the country at 19.9 per cent.
- Victoria had the highest share of commuters walking (10.0%) and cycling (5.9%) to work.
Larger Share Walk to Work in Smaller Ontario CMAs
- Toronto (69.9%) and the Ontario part of the Ottawa-Gatineau CMAs (67.7%) had the lowest shares of people driving to work in Ontario. The proportion of drivers was highest in Brantford (91.4%) and Windsor (91.3%).
- In smaller CMAs, the share of people walking to work was often larger than the share of transit users.
- Kingston had the highest share of walking commuters (8.5%).
- Ottawa-Gatineau had the highest share of cyclists (2.4%).
Most Drive Alone
- In 2011, 89.7 per cent of Ontarians using private vehicles to go to work drove alone, and 10.3 per cent carpooled. This compares to 8.3 per cent who carpooled nationally.
- In Ontario, the highest proportion of carpoolers was in Ottawa-Gatineau at 21.3 per cent of drivers, followed by Kingston (20.7%) and Peterborough (19.2%).
- Windsor was by far the CMAs where carpooling was least popular, at only 12.9 per cent.
Ontarians have the Longest Commutes in Canada
- In 2011, Canadians commuters spent an average of 25.4 minutes travelling to work, practically the same amount of time on average as in the United States (25.5 minutes).
- Ontarians had a slightly longer average commute of 27.6 minutes, the longest among provinces. The shortest average commute was in P.E.I (18.0 minutes).
One in Ten Commuters Travel for Over an Hour
- About one quarter of Ontarians had a commute of less than 15 minutes (25.5%), and close to a third (32.4%) travelled between 15 and 29 minutes to get to work. Another 21.4 per cent travelled for 30 to 44 minutes.
- Longer commutes of over 45 minutes were the lot of one Ontarian out of 5. About 9.4 per cent travelled between 45 and 59 minutes to work, while 11.2 per cent commuted for over one hour.
Toronto: Longest Travel Times to Work in Canada
- Among Canadian CMAs, the longest average travel times to work were in Toronto at 32.8 minutes. Comparatively for large American metropolitan areas, average travel time to work in New York was 34.7 minutes, while the average commute in Washington was 33.8 minutes.
- Montreal (29.7 minutes) and Vancouver (28.4) were also Canadian CMAs with long commutes.
- Commuters in Saguenay (16.9 minutes) and Thunder Bay (17.1) had the shortest average travels times.
Oshawa: Highest Share of Long Commute Times
- Average travel times do not reflect the experience of all commuters. For some, travel times are much longer.
- In Canada, 17.1 per cent of commuters usually took 45 minutes or more to get to work. Commuters in the Greater Toronto Area were much more likely to be in this group.
- In 2011, 29.9 per cent of commuters in Oshawa, 28.4 per cent of those in Toronto and 26.6 per cent of those in Barrie spend 45 minutes or more travelling to work.
Toronto: More than Half Commute for Over 30 Minutes
- Within Ontario, commuters in Toronto (32.8 minutes), Oshawa (31.8) and Barrie (29.6) had the longest average commutes.
- The shortest average commutes were in Thunder Bay (17.1 minutes), Windsor (18.8) and Greater Sudbury (20.1).
- While 86.6 per cent of commuters in Thunder Bay travelled 29 minutes or less to work, this was the experience of only 44.4 per cent of Torontonians.
Longest Travel Times by Public Transit
- Commuters travelling by transit took longer to get to work on average than commuters who used cars.
- In 2011, commuters who used a private vehicle spent an average of 25.7 minutes travelling to work, compared to 42.3 minutes for bus riders, 47.4 minutes for subway users and almost an hour on average (57.4 minutes) for commuter train, light rail and streetcar passengers.
- Public transit travel times include the time required to walk to the bus stop, subway or train station, as well as waiting times.
- Commuters using active transportation spent the least time travelling to work, on average walking 13.6 minutes and cycling 20.2 minutes.
Barrie: Commuters Leaving Home Early
- In 2011, 6.2 per cent of Ontarians left home for work between 5:00 and 5:59 am, and 17.5 per cent left between 6:00 and 6:59.
- Barrie (10.8%) and Oshawa (10.4%) were the Canadian CMAs with the highest share of commuters leaving for work between 5:00 and 5:59 am.
- Half of Ontario commuters leave home between 7:00 and 8:59am, while about one quarter leave during the rest of the day or at night (between 9:00am and 4:59 am).
Commuters with Long Travel Times Leave Home Early
Ontario commuters leaving home between 5:00 and5:59 am had the longest travel times, averaging 35.9 minutes, followed by people leaving between 6:00 and 6:59 am at 31.6 minutes.
- People leaving home in late morning (between 9:00 and 11:59 am) had the shortest commute times, averaging 22.9 minutes.
Source: Statistics Canada’s 2011 NHS in Brief: Commuting to Work.
Contact Alex Munger (416) 325-0102
Office of Economic Policy
Labour and Demographic Analysis Branch