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GTA: Getting there by automobile

January 10, 2023, 11:00 a.m. (EST)

Recently-released data on commuting from the 2021 Census of Population indicate that 2.8 million fewer Canadians were usually commuting in May 2021 than in May 2016, a seismic shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the same period, the number of Canadians usually working at home more than tripled to 4.2 million.

By May 2022, public transit ridership had recovered 60.8% of the pre-pandemic level of May 2019, despite fewer public health measures.

In May 2022, the number of car commuters in the provinces increased to 12.8 million, eclipsing the 12.5 million seen in May 2016. And for Canada’s largest urban centre, it’s still by car, by far.

Commuting within Toronto

Roughly three in four (73.8%) of the nearly 1.5 million workers (aged 15 years and older) whose residence and usual workplace were within the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA) in 2021 commuted by car, truck or van. The Toronto CMA includes major population centres such as Scarborough, Markham, Ajax, Pickering, Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, Newmarket and Vaughan.

Of those workers, almost 85% were the driver (and only worker in the vehicle). This adds up to a lot of traffic, particularly on highways 401 (don’t miss your exit to the collector lanes!), 404, 407, 427, the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW), and the main routes to downtown via the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway.

Average commute times for residents who resided in and had a usual workplace in the Toronto CMA were 25.5 minutes by car, 15.6 minutes by bicycle or on foot and 47.6 minutes by public transit. Of the 95,875 residents who walked or cycled, nearly half (48.8%) had a commute of 15 minutes or less, and for over one-third (34.7%), the commute was 15 to 29 minutes.

About 40% more transit users (87,840) than those in automobiles (54,860) faced an average commute time of 60 minutes or more. Depending on where a worker lives, many Toronto commutes by transit involve at least one connection between buses, streetcars, subways and regional trains.

Commuting into Toronto

For those commuting into Toronto from a neighbouring community, it was a bit more car-heavy, and on average, still faster than public transit.

Over 9 in 10 of the 42,720 Oshawa CMA residents (90.8%) commuting westward into Toronto did so by automobile, and a roughly equal proportion of those commuters (90.3%) were the driver (and only worker in the vehicle).

Down the QEW and around the lakeshore, just over 93% of the 36,795 commuters from the Hamilton CMA made the trip to Toronto by automobile, and over 9 in 10 (91.0%) were behind the wheel and the only worker in the vehicle.

Roughly three in four of those commuting by public transit from Hamilton (75.8%) faced a commute time of 60 minutes or more, compared with less than one in five of those in a vehicle (17.9%).

Farther down the QEW in the CMA of St. Catharines–Niagara, public-transit users had a slightly shorter average commute time (67.6 minutes) to Toronto than those coming from Hamilton (73.0 minutes), but the 61.5 minutes on average commuting by automobile from St. Catharines–Niagara was just over 20 minutes more than from Hamilton.

Even higher proportions of the 17,510 workers commuting southbound to Toronto from the Barrie CMA (97.0%) and eastbound from the Guelph CMA (96.0%) were in an automobile, and over 90% of those incoming vehicles from both CMAs had only one worker in them—the driver.

Among urban centres close to Toronto with at least 1,000 commuters, the difference in average commute times by car and public transit was widest for Guelph commuters (45.7 compared with 86.0 minutes), followed by Barrie (49.3 compared with 81.0 minutes).

Among the 8,620 Toronto-bound commuters living in the Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo CMA, those in cars (93.3%) had commutes over six minutes longer on average than from neighbouring Guelph, but for the 5.2% who took transit, the ride was 11.4 minutes shorter on average. Transit users commuting from a bit farther west in the London CMA averaged 47.6 minutes on their commutes, 4.5 minutes faster than the average commute by car.

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Contact information

For more information, contact the Statistical Information Service (toll-free 1-800-263-1136514-283-8300; or Media Relations (