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Canada Mapped

Who has the longest commute?

Sick of the long drive to work? Moving to another province might be the solution.
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Jordan Hale and Greg J. Smith, July 2, 2013 11:12:43 PM

Driving to work can be a nightmare. We’re all familiar with the way that denser urban areas breed traffic congestion, but what kind of variance can we see when we undertake a coast-to-coast examination of Canada? Commuting times depend on much more than congestion, however. Urban sprawl, suburban tax incentives, public transit planning and resource mega-projects all affect how workers manage to get to their jobs every day. This week’s map looks at how much time Canadians who choose to drive to work spend in their cars every day.

As is immediately visible from the map, Ontario residents have the lengthiest drives in to work, spending on average almost half an hour on the road each way. These long commutes are concentrated in the cities and towns of southern Ontario, along the Québec City-Windsor highway corridor. Of significant note is the low percentage of those living in and around Toronto who drive to work, possibly as a result of these long commute times (those in the city are also fortunate to have access to an excellent public transit network of subways, streetcars, buses and commuter trains providing access to the core). Similar masses of transit commuters are seen in Ottawa-Gatineau and Montréal, as well as Victoria and Vancouver, which also have the advantage of amenable cycling weather all year round.

Out east, those living in the Maritimes have fairly quick commutes, and those living in urban areas have similar drives to their rural counterparts, demonstrating the lesser effects of urban congestion as compared to the more populous provinces. Prairie residents are similarly advantaged, though those living in towns appear to have shorter commutes than those outside, probably because they are more likely to be employed closer to home than those driving through agricultural land outside of municipalities. The shortest commutes in the nation are associated with those who live in the territories, where employment opportunities are rare outside of communities.

The most interesting numbers appear in northern Alberta, where some of the longest commutes are seen, but are associated with some of the lowest rates of driving to work. What’s going on here? The dark red region on the map is associated with tar sands mega-projects around the Athabasca River, where most employees are usually bussed in or carpool from company residences located to the south around Fort McMurray. Those who choose to drive in are spending a lot of time on the road due to the significant distances between their homes and their jobs. It is ironic that so few people are driving to their resource extraction jobs in order to sustain car culture.

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Jordan Hale and Greg J. Smith

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