Andy Yan provides some graphs that illustrate data from the 2016 census on how we in Metro Vancouver get to work:

Click to enlarge

Initial observations: Proof that the City of Vancouver had reached its 2020+ goal of more than 50 percent of commuters using other modes of transportation than the car.  Surrey, sadly, is still over 80 percent car dependent.
And that’s probably because, as the second graph illustrates, close to 60 percent of commuters travel outside to a municipality outside Surrey for work.  In Vancouver, close to 70 percent stay within the city.
However, even more commuters leave Burnaby.  But 20 percent of all commuters use transit – probably mostly SkyTrain.  It would be interesting to know what percent of Vancouver City’s workforce comes from the SkyTrain station areas.
If I were a Coquitlam planner or politician, looking at the percent of commuters in cars who have to travel outside the municipality, I would be very worried about road congestion in the future – unless the arrival of the Evergreen Line is starting to shift the numbers.


  1. In terms of Surrey, Richmond and Coquitlam, rapid transit lines only barely reach into their cities – they don’t have as much coverage as seen in Vancouver or Burnaby.
    I don’t think you can expect comparable transit usage in those suburbs (cmapred to Vancouver and Burnaby) until their rapid transit coverage improves.
    PS – where’s the North Shore in the figures?

    1. I would think that frequent bus service on arterials would help increase transit ridership in the suburbs along with denser mixed use zoning that places more jobs and homes closer together. Vancouver’s trolleys on the square-mile grid arterials are a lower cost and efficient workhorse mode at a local level, whereas rapid transit is a complementary regional service taking a linear and nodal form.

  2. I noticed in an article in The Sun that average commute distances were just under 8 km. This reinforces the idea that end-to-end speed of transit isn’t as important as some make out. Often the time it takes to get to a more distant station and get up and down escalators negates any time saving from a faster grade-separated service. Few, it seems go anywhere near end-to-end.
    Meanwhile, average commute times in Metro Vancouver are about half an hour. 8 km in half an hour is a comfortable cycling speed. Curious that there’s so much backlash against something that compares nicely to the average speed.

    1. Ah, but in the crazy world of Statistics Canada, average commute distances aren’t actually anything to do with how far you travel. (Or at least, not for most people). ‘Distance from home to work’ refers to the straight-line distance, in kilometres, between a person’s residence and his or her usual place of work.’

  3. In terms of a preference for rapid transit, end to end speed is one factor, but frequency and the flexibility it allows are significant factors, too (compared to bus).

    1. Agreed… frequency is very important. But I don’t get what you mean by flexibility (compared to a bus). A bus is more flexible than anything on a rail.

  4. After looking too at Jens con Bergmann’s data, which includes the North Shore, it is obvious that if Metro wants to reduce driving and bring the suburban residents usage rates of transit up to the level of Vancouver’s, then the priority must be rail to Surrey and the North Shore. This has to mean that the Broadway subway moves down the list from its top spot.

    1. Except building Broadway will increase transit use more than building the Surrey LRT or new projects on the North Shore. Including increasing transit use in Surrey and the North Shore because the Broadway line will link with destinations people in Surrey and the North Shore want to go. This does not mean we should not build rapid transit in Surrey or the North Shore, we should, but priorities need to be evaluated properly and the Broadway line will deliver best bang for buck.

    2. The notion of supplanting Broadway with rail in Surrey and the North Shore falls apart when you compare their respective employment, population, office floor area and existing transit ridership between them. Broadway has already built-out enough capacity to have justified a subway 30+ years ago. You’ll have to add at least that many years to say that about the suburbs, therein placing 60+ years between these demand curves.
      Note, though, that Surrey will get two LRT rail lines concurrent with the Broadway subway. Once completed, we will have real data on ridership and land use response to compare these jurisdictions.

    3. Each Kilometer of Broadway subway could instead pay for 4 or 5 Kilometers of Skytrain in the suburbs . Broadway Rapid bus would be almost as fast for a fraction of the cost

      1. I would think the geometry of the street along with employment and residential density would determine the capacity and efficacy of surface transit. Practically every intersection between Main and Arbutus (and — in future — Alma) is signalized, and their spacing is a scant 156 m apart on average. There is a very significant pedestrian, bike and commercial cross traffic at every secondary intersection to matter greatly in any assessment.
        Put another way, if you give rapid bus E-W signal priority you are in effect cutting off pedestrians trying to cross the street whenever a bus triggers the light (except at major arterials / stations), which in my view would be an egregious urban design error, especially with an ageing population using every VGH precinct and major commercial cross streets. Pedestrian realm expansion and improvements (e.g. mid-block crosswalks, crosswalk bulges, widened sidewalks, etc.) would be eliminated from consideration on Broadway in future if rapid bus or rail was placed on Broadway’s surface. Trams would be a waste of resources because all they’ll do is place the Number 9 trolley on rails with the lack of ability to change lanes to go around obstructions. Stick with the trolley and 300 m stop spacing on the surface.
        A subway allows all the important boxes to be ticked: Pedestrian realm expanded; cross street pedestrian movements improved; transit service vastly improved (at least to Arbutus, then the old transfer penalty takes over again), the streetscape becomes quieter without roaring buses and offers an open palette to better quality pedestrian activity and “staying” experiences, like cafes and small plazas.
        Cost is never the only evaluation point.

        1. (1 )Agreed that cost is not the only evaluation point. The issue is How & where in Metro Vancouver should $4 billion transport dollars be spent. (2) Mid block crosswalk signals could have rapid bus priority .

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