This article originally appeared in the Financial Post. Below is an excerpt from the article.
By Philip Cross, September 6, 2023
Recent data from Statistics Canada show that, despite higher fuel taxes and billions of dollars of subsidies, government attempts to shift commuters from personal vehicles to mass transit have largely failed. Yet planners stubbornly continue to act on projections this shift is occurring, pouring more public funds into mass transit while closing traffic lanes and erecting barriers explicitly designed to strangle traffic flows. Endless traffic jams encourage drivers and businesses to leave city cores and commute longer distances in the suburbs, the very opposite of what planners say they want. Governments need to respond to how Canadians actually commute, or risk further alienating themselves from taxpayers and commuters.
In May, the number of commutes reached 15.9 million trips, recouping all the losses due to the pandemic and the shift to working from home. Commuting by personal cars or trucks continued to account for the vast majority of these trips, increasing in absolute terms from 12.3 million in 2016 to 13.2 million in 2023 and reaching 82.6 per cent of all commutes, compared with 79.4 per cent in 2016. Over the same period, the number of users of public transit fell outright, from 1.9 million to 1.6 million, taking them from 12.6 per cent of the total to 10.1 per cent. (The other 7.3 per cent of trips in 2023 and 8.0 per cent in 2016 were mostly commuters who walk or bike).
The data clearly show commuters are resisting government efforts to get them onto public transit, whether by wielding the carrot of subsidized public transit or the stick of higher taxes on gasoline. For over a decade, governments have invested heavily in mass transit in most major cities across the country. These investments have not persuaded commuters to abandon their cars and trucks — not even, the very latest data show, as the cost of buying and operating a vehicle soared after 2020.