If you drive to the Greater Toronto Area for work every day, don’t expect your commute to get shorter any time soon.
Barrie residents driving to the GTA for work are spending on average just shy of an hour to get there.
Statistics Canada reports that 15.4 million Canadians commute to work.
The Canadian Index of Wellbeing study, conducted by the University of Waterloo and funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, found many Ontario workers are trapped in a time crunch, part of which can be attributed to growing commute times.
According to the study, the average daily commute time for working Ontarians increased from an average of 47.1 minutes in 1994 to 53.5 minutes in 2010 with Barrie residents commuting 59.2 minutes.
People living in Toronto commute an average of 65.6 minutes to work each day.
This 6.4-minute difference between 1994 and 2010 represents an 11.9% increase in the amount of time people spend travelling back and forth to work.
While an increase of six to seven minutes commuting per day might not seem like much, over a typical work year, it represents an additional 27 hours of commuting, according to the study.
“In other words, working Ontarians have lost over an entire day’s worth of free time to commuting and have increased the detrimental impact on the environment, on their health, and on their overall wellbeing,” the study states.
While commute times in Ontario have not increased as much as in the rest of country (11.9% compared to 19.9%), they are already higher on average than anywhere else in Canada.
The Canadian Index of Wellbeing study suggested longer daily commutes are impeding economic productivity and putting more vehicles on the roads for longer periods of time and that the provincial and federal governments should develop a public transit strategy for Ontario.
“A broader and more co-ordinated public transit system would lighten congestion on the roads, improve air quality, and increase people’s access to work, to needed goods and services, to nutritious foods, and to leisure and culture opportunities,” the study stated. “A viable public transit system can be especially important for disadvantaged and marginalized people.”
The study stated if municipal planners, provincial officials, employers, and developers were to re-imagine both the transportation infrastructure and how it is used, there would be less traffic on the roads.
“We need to provide more opportunities for staggered work times and teleworking and shift urban design towards more mixed residential and commercial uses so people do not need to travel as far to work or to access goods and services,” the study said.
Another recent study, Oxford Properties’ Destination Collaboration: The Future of Work, suggests 33% of workers admit they’d work an extra three hours per week for a reasonable commute.
“Whether by car, public transit, walking or biking, the commute is putting added pressure on employees’ time to squeeze both work and personal priorities into their days,” that study states. “As a result, more and more office workers are identifying future employment options with companies that are within a reasonable commute from home and located near convenient amenities.”
That’s something Hany Kirolos, the City of Barrie’s director of business development, hopes will attract new businesses to the city. His department supports Barrie’s business growth through business retention and expansion, and business attraction initiatives.
“These initiatives are all in effort to provide more local jobs to the residents of Barrie and the surrounding area,” Kirolos said.
“One-on-one meetings with local businesses to identify challenges and areas of opportunity where the city can help, working to improve city processes for businesses and improve customer service, and marketing our city to businesses outside the community in an effort to have them expand or locate to Barrie are some of the initiatives currently underway,” he added.