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More Canadians commuting and leaving home for work again: statistics

There was a noticeable shift in commuting and workplace trends this past spring, inching closer toward pre-pandemic norms, according to Statistics Canada’s newly released data this week.

About 16 million people across Canada — equivalent to about 80% of the country’s workers — commuted to a location outside their home for work in May 2023. This is up by 724,000 compared to May 2022, 3.3 million compared to May 2021, and about 0.5 million compared to May 2016.

This represents a rewind of some of the semi-remote work patterns that became entrenched during the pandemic.

The proportion of workers usually working from home decreased to 20.1% in May 2023 — down from 24.3% in May 2021 and 22.4% in May 2022, just as pandemic-time health safety restrictions were lifted. But this is still well above the pre-pandemic levels of about 7%.

Those whose usual place of work was a location other than their home increased from 78% in May 2022 to 80% in May 2023, including gains of 9% for public administration (64%), 6.7% for information, culture, and recreation (67.6%), and 4.1% for professional, scientific, and technical services (45.2%).

canada workers at home

Share of workers usually working from home in Canada, 2016 to 2023. (Statistics Canada)

While a return to pre-pandemic behavioural norms is one of the key factors, there are also inputs, such as population and economic growth, the availability of public transit services and other transportation infrastructure, and personal and financial considerations.

Returning to public transit

Nationwide, between May 2021 and May 2023, there was a faster percentage increase in public transit commuters (+63.6%; +628,000), which helped push down the increase in car commuters (+24.2%; +2.6 million).

As of May 2023, 10.1% of Canada’s commuters or 1.6 million people, travelled to work using public transit — up from the modal share of 8.5% or 1.3 million in May 2022 and 7.8% or one million in May 2021. But this is still below the modal share of 12.6% or 1.9 million in May 2016.

canada commuters transportation mode

Number of commuters by their main mode of transportation in Canada, 2016 to 2023. (Statistics Canada)

Public transit use to reach the workplace increased in eight provinces between May 2021 and May 2023:

  1. Saskatchewan: +123.6%; +9,600
  2. British Columbia: +89.7%; +153,000
  3. Nova Scotia: +87.6%; +12,000
  4. Ontario: +83.2%; +320,000
  5. New Brunswick: +82.5%; +3,500
  6. Manitoba: +54.0%; +16,000
  7. Alberta: +52.8%; +46,000
  8. Quebec: +23.2%; +66,000

The proportion of commuters taking public transit instead of other modes grew in three provinces between May 2021 and May 2023:

  1. British Columbia: +5.0% to 14.5% of all commuters
  2. Ontario: +3.0% to 11.7% of all commuters
  3. Nova Scotia: +1.8% to 6.0% of all commuters

When it comes to public transit usage for commuting to work in each of Canada’s three largest urban regions, these were the changes between May 2021 and May 2023:

  1. Greater Toronto: +92.5%; +265,000
  2. Metro Vancouver: +89.7%; +129,000
  3. Greater Montreal: +24.8%; +59,000

Moreover, the proportion of commuters taking public transit increased by 7.4% to 22.5% of the overall modal share in Metro Vancouver, followed by an uptick of 4.9% to 20.6% in Greater Toronto. However, Greater Montreal remained constant with little change, hovering at 16.4%.

More car trips to work

Between May 2021 and May 2023, all provinces saw an increase in the number of people travelling to work by car, with notable increases of 10% (+6,600) for Prince Edward Island, 7.2% (+123,000) for Alberta, and 4.8% (+227,000) for Ontario. Little change was recorded in the other provinces.

Over the same period, the number of workers mainly commuting by car went up by 601,000 to two million in Greater Toronto, 151,000 to 1.3 million in Greater Montreal, and 118,000 to 832,000 in Metro Vancouver.

Furthermore, by May 2023, car commuting had returned to its May 2016 level in Greater Montreal and surpassed this pre-pandemic 2016 level in Greater Toronto and Metro Vancouver.

But compared to May 2021, the share of car commuters in May 2023 was 2% lower in Greater Toronto (74.1%), 2.7% lower in Greater Montreal (72.8%), and 6.2% lower in Metro Vancouver (68.5%).

canada car public transit commuters long commute

Number of car and public transit commuters with a long commute in Canada, 2016 to 2023. (Statistics Canada)


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