This is genuinely interesting: despite rapid population growth, average commute times in greater Vancouver are actually getting shorter (or, at a minimum, staying statistically unchanged) which bucks the trend for the rest of Canada.
Statistics Canada said the average round-trip commute in Greater Vancouver in 2005 took 67 minutes, three minutes less than in 1992. Given margins of error in the survey, that means Greater Vancouver commuting times are about the same as they were in 1992…
In Canada’s other five largest cities, the average commuter spent nearly 70 minutes a day on average travelling between home and work, up almost 12 minutes since 1992. Calgary and Montreal were tied for the biggest increase at 14 minutes.
What’s going on here? To some extent, of course, this just means that other big Canadian cities are catching up to the long commute times that Vancouver residents already faced in the early 1990s. But it’s still a bit of a mystery how this is possible. Traffic congestion in is closely related to metro-area population: as a general rule, the higher the population, the longer the commute. But greater Vancouver’s population is growing at a faster clip than 4 of the other top 5 cities, while traffic volume in the lower mainland is growing twice as fast as population. Seems like a recipe for longer commutes. But in Vancouver, it hasn’t turned out that way.
This definitely suggests that something is happening differently in Vancouver than in the other big Canadian cities. Faster transit service? Congestion less of a problem than people think? Are more people living closer to work—adjusting their lives so they don’t have such a long commute? Possibly all of the above.