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Automobile Use


Automobile use measures how many people take a car, truck or van to work.

Why This Matters

Transportation is an important and unavoidable part of our daily lives whether we are going to work, school, or social gatherings. Extensive use of motorized transportation (i.e. cars, vans, trucks) affects human and environmental well-being. Convenient and well-designed access to automobile alternatives (e.g., public transit, walking paths, bike paths) can decrease reliance on automobiles and result in a variety of benefits for the environment, community and citizens.

According to Statistics Canada (2006), motorized transportation produced nearly 75 per cent of Canada’s total carbon monoxide emissions in 2004. Additionally, it produced more than 50 per cent of nitrogen oxide emissions and more than 25 per cent of volatile organic compounds, both of which impact human health effects and affect the natural environment (Statistics Canada, 2006; Environment Canada, 2009; World Bank, 1999). In 2006, transportation accounted for roughly 26 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2012). It is also worth noting that social inequities have been documented in exposure to air pollution from vehicles; low-income residents may be more at risk for vehicle pollution-induced problems such as respiratory illnesses or certain cancers (Chakraborty, 2009).

This indicator is closely connected to the built environment. The attractiveness of different modes of transportation depends heavily on the design of transportation networks and urban planning (Ewing, Meakins, Bjarnson, & Hilton, 2011; Ewing & Cervero, 2001). Urban design can significantly influence the level to which residents are dependent upon automobiles (Zhang, 2006). When multiple options are facilitated (e.g. public transit, active transit), automobile use is likely to decrease.

Measurement and Limitations

The automobile use indicator shows the percentage of people who use an automobile (e.g., car, truck, van), either as a driver or passenger, to get to work. All members of the labour force aged 15 years and over who worked at some time over the previous year are included.

This indicator does not take into account individual variation in the mode of transportation taken to work. For instance, an individual who drives a car to work 60 per cent of the time and takes public transit 40 per cent of the time would only be recorded as commuting by automobile. This indicator also does not account for transportation used for outings not related to work.

Additionally, this indicator does not take into account differences in distance. An individual driving 5 kilometres to work is not differentiated from an individual who drives 15kms.

Data Source

Statistics Canada collects this data for each census year. Recent data can be accessed at:

The most recent data for this indicator was made available in 2016. This data is updated for each census year, as the data becomes available.

More detail about this indicator can be found in Peg’s 2017 Wellbeing Report on the Natural and Built Environment:


Chakraborty, J. (2009). Automobiles, air toxics, and adverse health risks: Environmental inequities in Tampa Bay, Florida. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 99(4), 674-697.

Environment Canada. (2009). The science of air quality. Retrieved from

Ewing, R., & Cervero, R. (2001). Travel and the built environment: A synthesis. Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. 1780, 87-114.

Ewing, R., Meakins, G., Bjarnson, G., & Hilton, H. (2011). Transportation and land use. Making Healthy Places, part III, 149-169.

Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC). (2011). Environment – transportation. Retrieved from[email protected]?iid=67

Statistics Canada. (2006). Human activity and the environment: Annual statistics 2006. Statistics Canada, 2006. Retrieved from

World Bank. (1999). Pollution prevention and abatement handbook. Washington, World Bank. Retrieved from

Zhang, M. (2006). Travel choice with no alternative: Can land use reduce automobile dependence? Journal of Planning Education and Research, 25(3), 311-326.

Automobile Use

Automobile use measures how many people take a car, truck or van to work.

Automobile Use Sustainable Development Goals

11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

11. Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Cities are hubs for ideas, commerce, culture, science, productivity, social development and much more. At their best, cities have enabled people to advance socially and economically.

However, many challenges exist to maintaining cities in a way that continues to create jobs and prosperity while not straining land and resources. Common urban challenges include congestion, lack of funds to provide basic services, a shortage of adequate housing and declining infrastructure.

The challenges cities face can be overcome in ways that allow them to continue to thrive and grow, while improving resource use and reducing pollution and poverty. The future we want includes cities of opportunities for all, with access to basic services, energy, housing, transportation and more.