Rethinking working and commuting in the GTA
If we’re going to solve the GTA’s commuting and congestion woes, we need to adopt new perspectives—and change the conversation.
Who’s commuting by car? Practically everyone.
Drivers make up 65% of all commuters across the GTA. The widespread assumption is that most of them are suburban dwellers, driving to their downtown jobs from Markham, Richmond Hill, Pickering, Mississauga and elsewhere—and clogging our transportation arteries in the process.
But it’s not true. Distance has little impact on commuters’ choice of transportation. In fact, 65% of GTA workers commute from inside Toronto’s city limits. And almost half drive less than 10km (roughly the distance from Union to Lawrence). No matter the distance, GTA commuters are just as likely to drive as take transit.
Choosing the costly way
Why do so many GTA commuters drive? It sure isn’t because it’s cheaper. The cost of driving significantly exceeds all other options, no matter where a commuter comes from. Across the GTA, driving is always at least twice as costly as taking the GO Train. So why do so many commuters drive?
Time is money
The majority of GTA commuters drive because it’s faster. Regardless of the distance involved, commuting by public transit always takes longer—15 minutes longer, on average. And there’s a clear link between commuter satisfaction and commute duration.
GTA commuters value time, convenience and flexibility so much that they’re more than willing to pay significantly for it. And that’s keeping cars on the GTA’s roads.
Commuter satisfaction per commute duration
Get the full report to learn more about Changing directions: rethinking working and commuting in the GTA. The report is available in Adobe Acrobat PDF® format and on the Canada 175 mobile app.
To improve commuting, we need to understand commuters
To drive toward better commuting solutions, we must bring commuters into the conversation. Commuting, as a process, is fundamentally rooted in personal experience. Every commuter is an expert in commuting, someone who can lend valuable, actionable insight to the conversation.
Five archetypal commuters—Lin-He, Carol, Robert, Peter and Kat—offer insight into the diversities of the GTA commuting experience. Understanding their experiences and pain points can help us figure out how to change directions and find better commuting solutions.
The Bustling ‘Burbanite
Home to daycare to office to gym to store to daycare to home: a car is a must for Lin-He, whose daily commute is a multi-leg journey. Flexibility is crucial. Her family’s busy schedules often change suddenly for a variety of reasons; commuting by car provides freedom and the ability to come and go as they please without planning around a fixed transit schedule. Despite living just five minutes away from the Mimico GO station, Lin-He and her husband have never taken the GO Train—it just doesn’t seem possible to accomplish all their daily tasks without a car.
The Multi-Tasking Motorist
Whether it’s an unexpected meeting at the client site or a conference call on the way out of town, Carol is all work all the time. No work day looks the same for her—she’s often in transit between client sites, her home office and her employer’s downtown tower. A round‐the‐clock businesswoman, Carol rarely has time to spare. She requires a mode of transportation that adapts to her variable schedule and allows her to be productive in transition. With a car, Carol has the flexibility to go anywhere and visit multiple client sites in a day for sales calls and meetings.
The Single-Line Subway Rider
Midtown-dwelling Robert takes the TTC subway to avoid the overwhelming rush‐hour street traffic. His streamlined subway commute suits his needs well because it provides the most efficient, fast, and direct route to his office in the downtown core—assuming everything is running on time. He’d be the first to agree that the TTC subway experience is good but could be improved. His greatest frustration is the frequency of delays. At least once per week, Robert’s commute is lengthened unexpectedly by delays that have, on several occasions, lasted nearly 30 minutes.
The Environmental Evangelist
Peter is passionate about making Toronto a greener, healthier place to live and work, and he enjoys his quick, efficient, environmentally friendly 2km cycling commute. Peter rides down Bay Street because of its dedicated bicycle lanes—but he notices that many cars don’t show due respect for them and often veer too close for comfort. He’s been “doored” on several occasions, and he’s seen others experience worse. The frequency of these scenarios is all too high, and while recent plans to expand existing cycling infrastructure in the city sound like a good idea, he thinks something must be done to address unsafe driver behavior.
The Cost-Conscious Commuter
For Kat, the affordability of public transit outweighs the time it takes to use it. With a predictable hourly work schedule and a fixed office location, Kat follows tightly to a set daily routine that revolves around transit timetables. By the time she reaches her final destination, she has endured so many stops, starts, waits, and transfers that she feels like she could use a well-deserved break. But it’s only the beginning of the workday: Kat still has many productive hours ahead of her, and she must set aside her feelings of exhaustion to perform effectively in her role.
Don't miss out on this opportunity
Get the full report to learn more about Canada's Changing directions: rethinking working and commuting in the GTA. The report is available in Adobe Acrobat PDF® format and on the Canada 175 mobile app.