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Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Study: Work and commuting in urban centres

1996 to 2001

Commuting patterns in Canada's largest urban centres have become more complex as a result of stronger employment growth in the suburbs than in city core areas, according to a new report analyzing work and commuting in urban areas.

Jobs are still strongly concentrated in downtown core areas in most urban centres. However, between 1996 and 2001, the relative economic importance of inner cities declined, as the number of jobs in the suburbs increased at more than four times the pace that they did in the core areas.

Between 1996 and 2001, the number of jobs within 5 km of the city centres of census metropolitan areas rose increased by 156,000. On the other hand, the number of jobs outside 5 km rose by 733,200.

As a result, more and more people are commuting cross-town to these suburban areas.

And in most instances, cross-town commuters have been driving to work rather than taking public transit. This tendency to commute by car increased the farther jobs were located from the city centre.

Altogether, 58% of commuters drove to work when their job was located less than 5 km from the city centre. This rose to about 80% when the job was more than 20 km out.

The report concluded that large urban areas face a challenge in promoting public transit use among workers employed outside of the downtown core. When the job was within 5 km of the city centre, 24% of commuters took public transit. However, this falls quickly to 14% when the job was between 5 and 10 km from the city centre. Public transit take-up rates were lower still for jobs farther than 10 km from downtown.

Public transit captured larger shares of riders destined for the city cores of Toronto and Montréal. However, few commuters in these metropolitan areas took public transit to jobs located more than 20 km from downtown.

Note to readers

This report is the seventh in a series that develops statistical measures to shed light on important issues for Canada's cities. Statistics Canada has worked on this project in collaboration with the Cities Secretariat, Infrastructure Canada.

The objective is to provide statistical measures of trends and conditions in our larger cities and the neighbourhoods within them. These measures will be available for use in city planning and in policy development.

The report examined the location of jobs in 27 census metropolitan areas, paying particular attention to developments in the largest 8 metropolitan areas: Québec, Montréal, Ottawa–Hull, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. It analysed the modes commuters used to travel to work, emphasising public transit and car (as driver or passenger) commute modes.

The report classifies jobs according to their distance (in kilometres) from the city centre. The city centre is defined as the location of the city hall of the core municipality. The term "suburb" is used to refer to locations that are distant from the city core.

Data came from the 1996 and 2001 censuses of Canada.

Despite the decentralization of jobs and more car traffic to jobs in the suburbs, the proportion of commuters who took public transit remained stable between 1996 and 2001. That is because a larger share of commuters heading for the city centre took public transit.

The report also found that during this five-year period, jobs in the downtown core were higher skilled and higher paid, and that earnings increased faster for jobs in the city centre.

Employment grew faster in locations farther from the city centre

This report had two major findings with respect to the location of jobs in urban centres between 1996 and 2001.

First, jobs in these urban areas were still strongly concentrated in the downtown core. Secondly, employment increased at a faster pace in locations farther from the city centre in virtually all metropolitan areas, especially manufacturing jobs.

In 2001, 38% of all jobs in all 27 major metropolitan areas combined were located within 5 km of the city centre. Not surprisingly, the concentration was heaviest in the downtown cores of smaller urban centres. In Regina, for instance, the vast majority (91%) of all workers were located within 5 km of the city centre.

In contrast, workers in Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver were more likely to work away from the downtown core. Still, the proportion of jobs within 5 km of the downtown core was significant in all three: 23% in Toronto, 28% in Montréal and 31% in Vancouver.

The relative economic importance of the inner core declined in most metropolitan areas. Between 1996 and 2001, the proportion of jobs rose in areas located beyond 5 km of the city centre at the expense of cores.

The nature of the change was not the same in all metropolitan areas. In many metropolitan areas, the number of jobs located near the city centre actually declined. This occurred in centres such as St. John's, Halifax, Saint John, Chicoutimi–Jonquière, Québec, Trois–Rivières, Kingston, Hamilton, Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Winnipeg.

In others, the number of jobs increased in the downtown core, but they grew more slowly than in locations farther from the core.

In Montréal and Toronto, the share of jobs within 5 km of the city centre remained stable. In Montréal, job growth was concentrated beyond 10 km of the city core, and in Toronto, the growth was concentrated beyond 20 km of the core.

One characteristic of increasing employment in suburban locations was the shifting of manufacturing activities to the suburbs. In Toronto, for example, the proportion of manufacturing workers in areas at least 20 km from the city centre rose from 51% in 1996 to 57% in 2001. Retail trade also shifted towards more suburban locations.

Cars top choice for commuting in suburbs

In 2001, workers employed in the city centre were much more likely to take public transit to work than those employed farther out. Altogether, 24% of workers in metropolitan areas commuted on public transit when their job was within 5 km of the city centre. In the largest metropolitan areas this rate was much higher, nearly 45% in Montréal and 53% in Toronto.

But in the case of jobs outside the city core, most workers drive to work. In most large metropolitan areas about 9 out of every 10 workers took a car to work, either as driver or passenger, when the job was 20 km or more from the city centre.

This has significant implications because most job growth has been in the suburbs.

For example, in Toronto, 208,300 more workers were commuting to locations over 20 km from the city centre in 2001 than in 1996. Nearly 90% of these workers commuted in cars. In just five years, the number of people commuting by car in the metropolitan area of Toronto has increased 14%, while the number commuting by car to locations more than 20 km from the city centre rose 26%.

Commuting patterns have become more complex, with smaller shares of commuters travelling on the traditional "suburb-to-core" routes upon which many metropolitan transit systems were originally built.

For example, in Ottawa–Hull, suburb-to-suburb commuters accounted for 41% of all employment growth between 1996 and 2001. But only 7% to 8% of suburb-to-suburb commuters took public transit.

Despite the decentralization of jobs that took place over this period, most metropolitan areas were able to maintain or increase the share of commuters riding on public transit. The largest increase was in Montréal where the share of commuters on public transit rose from 21.7% to 23.1% between 1996 and 2001.

The share of commuters taking public transit remained stable even in Toronto, where employment growth was more heavily concentrated in locations distant from the city centre.

Transit maintained its share by increasing take-up among commuters destined for city centre locations. For example, in Montréal, the share of commuters heading to city centre jobs on public transit rose from 39.7% in 1996 to 44.7% in 2001.

Workers employed in city centre had higher earnings

Workers with a job in the city core had higher annual earnings and higher skills than those in the suburbs, according to the report.

For example, in Vancouver, workers employed within 5 km of the city centre earned $51,300 on average in 2001, compared with $46,500 for workers employed between 10 and 15 km from downtown.

Workers in the downtown core were also more likely to be in occupations requiring high levels of education, and were more likely to be in the producer services industry.

Employees in the downtown core also enjoyed a faster increase in earnings than others between 1996 and 2001.

For example, in 1996, a worker employed in downtown Vancouver earned 5% more than an average worker did in that metropolitan area. By 2001, a worker employed in downtown Vancouver earned 10% more.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3901.

The seventh research paper in the new seriesTrends and Conditions in Census Metropolitan Areas entitled Work and Commuting in Census Metropolitan Areas, 1996 to 2001, no. 7 (89-613-MIE2005007, free), is now available online. To access the series, go to the Statistics Canada home page, select Studies on the left sidebar, then under Browse periodical and series, choose Free and for sale.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Andrew Heisz (613-951-3748; or Sébastien LaRochelle-Côté (613-951-0803; Business and Labour Market Analysis.

Growth in number of commuters by distance of job from city centre, 1996 to 2001 
  <5 km 5 to 10 km 10 to 15 km 15 to 20 km 20 to 25 km >25 km All
Québec -2,200 9,100 3,400 1,500 -100 1,400 13,000
Montréal 31,900 17,500 21,200 23,400 14,900 25,500 134,400
Ottawa–Hull 11,900 17,700 5,900 15,300 11,600 1,300 63,600
Toronto 72,700 10,300 9,200 9,400 92,300 116,000 309,800
Winnipeg -3,300 15,700 2,700 1,600 1,500 500 18,600
Calgary 29,700 15,200 29,000 2,200 2,400 3,900 82,500
Edmonton 4,200 18,800 16,200 6,900 -300 9,800 55,500
Vancouver 4,800 14,200 13,100 2,300 26,900 12,300 73,600

Commuters taking public transit by distance of job from city centre, 2001 
  <5 km 5 to 10 km 10 to 15 km 15 to 20 km 20 to 25 km >25 km All
Québec 14.8 10.4 6.9 2.9 1.5 2.6 11.1
Montréal 44.7 24.3 14.1 10.1 7.6 2.7 23.1
Ottawa–Hull 29.1 13.4 12.2 8.9 5.5 2.1 19.4
Toronto 53.3 28.7 22.6 16.7 9.9 5.7 23.1
Winnipeg 18.4 10.1 11.3 2.6 0.6 0.5 14.3
Calgary 19.2 10.9 7.6 6.2 3.1 0.5 14.7
Edmonton 17.0 8.1 6.4 1.7 0.2 0.8 9.9
Vancouver 25.2 11.6 8.2 7.3 4.8 2.3 13.0

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Date Modified: 2005-06-01 Important Notices