News / Edmonton

'Prairie mentality': Edmontonians still love driving their cars to get to work

Not only is Alberta attracting more immigrants, we're doing better than most of the country at keeping them here

Although a 'prairie mentality' keeps many Edmontonians stuck to their driver's seats, it's becoming more common to take transit to work

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Although a 'prairie mentality' keeps many Edmontonians stuck to their driver's seats, it's becoming more common to take transit to work

The vast majority of Edmontonians still travel to work by car, but recent Statistics Canada numbers show that is changing at a rate faster than any other big city in Canada.

Statistics Canada’s 2016 ‘Journey to Work’ census data shows that of the country’s top eight census metropolitan areas, which includes smaller adjacent towns and cities, Edmonton had the lowest proportion of commuters using sustainable transportation (public transit, biking, walking or carpool) at 27.1 per cent.

The number shifts when you look at commuters in Edmonton city limits, but not by much, with 31.5 per cent using sustainable transit. That’s compared to a 31.4 national average, versus about 40 per cent in Toronto and Vancouver, the areas with the highest proportion of commuters using sustainable transit.

And while Edmonton had the second lowest number of commuters using public transit to get to work among the top eight metropolitan areas (11.3 per cent), it showed the largest increase from 1996 to 2016, at 2.3 per cent.

Dave Redekopp, president of Life-Role Development Group, a firm that does research and consulting for career development, offers several reasons for why Edmontonians prefer to drive to work. The price of gas is cheaper in the west and our city is very spread out.

“I think it’s also partially a prairie mentality. We have these big, sprawling cities … and it’s one of those cities where if you travel by bus, you’re in it for a long haul,” he said.

He acknowledged the transit infrastructure is not as robust here compared to cities such as Toronto or Vancouver, but the cost of living has risen.

“At least in Edmonton and Calgary, the price of housing in the core really went up. And so people had to move further and further away, and the transit just couldn’t keep up,” Redekopp said.

Jason Gilmore, a spokesperson for Statistics Canada, said expansions in Edmonton’s light rail transit system in 2008, 2011 and 2015 likely contributed to the increase in commuters using public transit.

That’s encouraging news for Redekopp.

“I’m hoping that’s showing we’re getting more young people, who may not make as much money, who are picking up the transit system as a viable way to get to work.”

The numbers below show how commuters in Edmonton’s city limits get to work:

31.5% percentage of Edmonton commuters who use sustainable transportation, like biking, walking or carpooling 

5.3% of Edmontonians walk or cycle to work

14.6% of Edmontonians use public transit to get to work

39.9 minutes: how long on average it takes to get to work by public transit

23.5 minutes: how long on average it takes to get to work by car 

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