Why This Matters
Transportation is an 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; World Bank, 1999). 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 15.
Statistics Canada collects this data for each census year. Recent data can be accessed at: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/index-eng.cfm
This data is updated for each census year, as the data becomes available.
More detail about this indicator can be found in Peg’s 2019 Our City 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.
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.
Statistics Canada. (2006). Human activity and the environment: Annual statistics 2006. Statistics Canada, 2006. Retrieved from http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/16-201-x/16-201-x2006000-eng.pdf
World Bank. (1999). Pollution prevention and abatement handbook. Washington, http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/ World Bank. Retrieved from https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/115011ba-26ca-4166-8cc4-a0655d355d08/PPAH.pdf?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE-115011ba-26ca-4166-8cc4-a0655d355d08-jqeAFFh
Zhang, M. (2006). Travel choice with no alternative: Can land use reduce automobile dependence? Journal of Planning Education and Research, 25(3), 311-326.
Commuting Patterns Sustainable Development Goals
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.