Here's how many Canadians are commuting to work in 2023: StatCan

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Natasha O'Neill
CTVNews.ca Writer

More Canadians are commuting to their jobs in 2023 compared to previous years, as work-from-home flexibility that became popular during the pandemic decreases across the country, a report from Statistics Canada shows.

In May 2023, four out of five Canadians commuted to a location outside of their home for work, according to the report. This is a 3.3 million person increase from 2021 and a 457,000 person increase from 2016.

The data shows Canadians are starting to return to a routine commute, which in part has to do with some businesses implementing hybrid or in-person work approaches.

"The recent rise in commuting was driven in part by a decline in the proportion of employed Canadians working from home as well as historically high population growth and marked gains in total employment," the report published Tuesday reads.

The statistical agency listed a number of reasons as to why commuting patterns change including business practices, urbanization, commuting infrastructure and personal finances.

PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS LARGELY THE REASON

Over the course of two years, employees who could work from home did so to comply with stay-at-home orders and restrictions.

In 2020 about 37 per cent of the Canadian workforce was working from home.

As public health restrictions eased in 2021, the drastic change in lifestyle was reflected in commuting data, which showed nearly one in four people (24.3 per cent) "usually" worked from home at the time.

"This proportion had declined to 22.4 per cent by May 2022, paralleling the gradual return to in-person work as COVID-19 infections waned and public health restrictions were lifted," the 2023 report reads.

 

Industries that saw increases in working outside of the home include public administration, information culture and recreation, and professional, scientific and technical services, according to StatCan.

In May 2016, StatCan recorded 15.5 million commuters across the country, and in May 2023 that number grew by three per cent. Population and employment growth could be factors in the difference, StatCan says.

CARS DOMINATE CANADIAN COMMUTERS

The majority of Canadians continue to use personal vehicles to get to work according to May 2023 data from StatCan.

An increase in the use of personal vehicles was seen in Ontario, Alberta and P.E.I when compared to May 2022 data.

Eight in 10 commuters use a car, truck or van as either a driver or passenger to get to their jobs in Canada. The proportion of people only commuting using a car has slowed, the report details.

In May 2021 and 2022, there were more people commuting by car to work than in 2023.

The report says this "may be related to a more notable drop in workers' usage of public transit during the pandemic due to a desire to avoid crowded spaces where social distancing would be difficult." This appears to be corroborated through May 2023 data, which shows an increase in public transit usage, according to the report.

TRANSIT USE ON THE RISE

Between May 2021 and 2023 was a 63.6 per cent increase in people using transit. Over the same period, there was a 24.2 per cent increase in motorists.

About 1.6 million people in May 2023 travelled to work mainly using public transit, which is up from 1.3 million people a year prior.

"Despite the recent increase, public transit usage among commuters in May 2023 remained below its pre-pandemic level of May 2016," the report notes.

There were notable increases in public transit usage in Ontario, British Columbia. and Quebec, the report states, with smaller increases seen in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

Canada's largest cities had the biggest transit rebounds in May 2023, with Toronto seeing a 92 per cent increase, Vancouver a 89.7 per cent increase and a 24.8 per cent increase in Montreal compared with May 2021.

RISE IN LENGTH OF COMMUTE

With an increase in people commuting, Canadians reported longer periods of time spent on the road.

According to StatCan there was a 51.7 per cent rise in the number of workers with a 60+ minute commute between May 2021 and 2023.

"Car commuters were not alone in seeing this rise; there were 1.4 million workers with long commutes across all modes of transportation in May 2023," the report shows.

By car, on average, it took Canadians about 24.5 minutes to travel to work in 2023, about 1.6 minutes longer than in 2021.

"For public transit users, average commute time was virtually unchanged over the same period at 42.2 minutes," the report shows.