1986 – 1996 Travel Trends in the GTA & Hamilton – Wentworth


This report documents changes in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and Hamilton-Wentworth locational and socio- demographic patterns and related changes in travel behaviour since 1986, with reference to the 1986, 1991 and 1996 TTS results.

The analysis of changing travel characteristics focuses on work trip generation and distribution and mode choice issues.   The report considers how and why such changes have emerged, and the implications of the identified changes for the planning of road and transit facilities and services across the GTA.

Population, Labour Force and Employment

Changes in population, labour force and employment over the 1986 to 1996 period are discussed in section 2, along with changes in the student population.  The documented trends largely determined changes in the work-related trip making that dominates the peak travel periods and determines transportation requirements.

Section 2.2 documents the economic conditions across the GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth with reference to available data from Statistics Canada and the Metro Toronto employment surveys (MTES) for the new City of Toronto.

The number of employed residents in the GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth increased rapidly in the 1986-1989 period until the onset of the recession in 1990.  The GTA lost more than 180,000 jobs in the 1989-1992 period, as a result of the recession.  However, most of the employment losses were in the cities of Toronto and Hamilton.

In Toronto, the declining employment resulted in substantial declines in employed labour force between 1986 and 1991 and between 1991 and 1996, despite continued increases in population.  The available data suggest that whereas Toronto saw continuous declines in employment and labour force over the 1986-1996 period, the four suburban Regions in the GTA experienced continuous growth during the same period, at a slightly reduced growth rate rather than losses in both employment and labour force.

Other Relevant Socio-demographic Factors

Section 3 discusses “other relevant socio-demographic factors” that influence travel behaviour including changing age structure, possession of driver’s licences, and auto availability.

The evolving age structure of Toronto, the four Suburban Regions, and Hamilton-Wentworth is discussed in relation to migration trends and mode choice in section 3.1.

Section 3.2 documents changes in the possession of valid driver’s licences among men and women, including declines after 1991.  The major declines in driver’s licence possession were among men and women under the age of 21, particularly among students.  However, there were continued increases in the proportion of working women who possessed a valid driver’s licence in Toronto, Hamilton-Wentworth and the suburban regions.  Across the GTA, driver’s licence possession among working women is approaching the levels observed for working males.

Section 3.3 discusses vehicle availability, noting a small decline in overall availability between 1986 and 1996, but increases in the average number of vehicles available per worker.

Transportation Implications – Changing Travel Patterns

Section 4 documents changes in travel patterns resulting from the land use and socio-demographic shifts discusses in sections 2 and 3.

As shown in Sections 4.1 and 4.2, the amount and timing of peak period trips was directly influenced by the changing nature of work activities including the reduced labour force participation rate and increased part-time work opportunities.

The trends in labour force activity resulted in proportionately fewer work trips due to decline in labour force participation rate and shift from full-time to part-time work.  However, during the 1986-1996 period, changes in the number of work trips per worker were also noted, including increased numbers of first work trips per day for both full-time and part-time workers.  The GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth data suggest a 5% increase in first work trips for male and female full time workers, a 14% increase in first work trips for part time males and an 8% increase in first work trips for part time females.

Both work and school trip start times have shifted as a result of changes in the nature of work activities and changes in school start and finish times.  For example, the Toronto data shows a large decline in work trips starting between 6:00 and 8:00 and a consistent increase in work trips starting between 8:30 and 15:00 hours.  Significant shifts in school start and finish times are also discussed.

Job losses in Toronto and Hamilton combined with continued population and employment growth in the suburban Regions led to changes in live-work relationships and commuting patterns between 1986 and 1996, as documented in Section 4.3, with reference to exhibits showing changes in first work trips ending in seven destinations across the GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth.

Section 4.4 discusses observed declines in transit mode splits for men and women between 1986 and 1996, in relation to changing age structure and observed changes in transit trip rates by gender.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The TTS data, along with MTES employment counts for Toronto and Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey data, document the impact of the recession on the economies of Toronto and Hamilton and the loss of jobs in both cities.   The 1990 recession reversed the long standing trend toward increased female labour force participation, particularly in Toronto and Hamilton-Wentworth and accelerated the trend toward reduced male labour force participation, that had been associated with early retirements among men aged 55-64.  The recession also resulted in a dramatic decentralization of employment opportunities that resulted in the changes in travel patterns documented in Section 4.

The GTA and Hamilton-Wentworth currently has high unemployment rates among men and women, particularly those living in the cities of Toronto and Hamilton.  However, this situation could change rapidly in the future assuming the continued recovery of the economy and recognizing future changes in age structure that can be expected to reduce the size of the working age population.

The declines in employment and employed labour force relative to population reported in the TTS are not consistent with OGTA land use forecasts for the GTA and particularly the new City of Toronto.  The Hemson estimates of employment for 2011 and 2021 do not appear to recognize the large declines in employment in Toronto and Hamilton that occurred after 1989 or the failure of the Toronto economy and Toronto’s Central Area to recover from these job losses.

The TTS results suggest that the land use assumptions that underlie recent and ongoing transportation planning activities should be updated to recognize the distinct possibility that Toronto’s employment will be substantially below the expected 2011 and 2021 levels.  Current estimates of 2011 and 2021 employment for Toronto and the GTA represent the highest levels that might be achieved, rather than the most likely scenario.

The findings with respect to land use forecasts highlight the need for GTA planning agencies to maintain accurate and up-to-date employment data at both the municipal and traffic zone level.  The former Metropolitan Toronto Planning Department’s employment surveys provide one model that should be considered by the other Regions in order to establish time-series information on employment trends at the traffic zone level.

The 1996 TTS results also indicate that trip generation rates and mode-split forecasting relationships developed on the basis of the 1986 Transportation Tomorrow Survey should be reassessed in the light of the results of the 1996 Survey.   For example, the observed declines in employed labour force/ population ratios, increases in part-time work, changes in work trip rates for full and part-time workers, and the spreading of work and school peaks, suggests that trip generation rates and peaking factors should be adjusted downward.

A number of land use/locational, demographic, socio-economic and behavioural changes over the 1986-1996 period imply reduced transit ridership potential in the future and the need to update current approaches to estimating transit mode choice.

The relevant changes include:

· The aging of the population and related transit ridership losses, as documented in sections 3.1 and  4.5.
· Changes in travel patterns related to the suburbanization of employment and decentralization of  inner city workers, as documented in section 4.3.
· Increases in driver’s licences among working women, as documented in section 3.2.
· Increasing numbers of cars available per worker (section 3.3).
· Declining mode splits and transit trip rates for some age/gender cohorts (discussed in sections 3.1 and 4.5).

These factors are all inter-related.  For example, aging is related to the observed declines in transit trip making by age group, in that younger cohorts take their unique characteristics with them as they get older.  Also, the decentralization of employment opportunities may well have made car ownership and operation necessary.  Developing suburban job opportunities are often not accessible by transit.

Only GO Transit benefited from the decentralization of the downtown Toronto workforce.  GO Rail services enjoyed substantial increases in ridership between 1985 and 1990, but lost ridership in the early 1990’s when total employment in downtown Toronto fell.  GO Rail’s future depends on the future of the downtown Toronto economy.

The findings presented in Section 4 related to work trip generation and distribution underscore the need to update current forecasting models to incorporate the results of the 1996 TTS survey.

The changes in labour force activity, employment and trip distribution patterns observed in the 1986 to 1996 period were unexpected and are not reflected in current forecasts.  These changes highlight the benefits of the Transportation Tomorrow Survey and the need to continue to monitor travel behaviour on a regular basis.

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