(TORONTO) – Over the last decade, there has been a push in North America towards the use of sustainable modes of transportation. To combat increasing urban congestion and respond to mounting concerns regarding air quality and climate change, many companies are now promoting and providing incentives for people to leave their personal vehicles at home in favour of public transit and/or non-motorized modes of transportation. Of course, access to public transportation and the practicality of cycling or walking to work are both highly dependent upon the location of a business and where employees live. 30 Forensic Engineering (30 FE) constitutes an interesting case study given the proximity of our office to the busiest transportation hub in the country—Union Station. Union Station connects numerous methods of travel, including subway, commuter rail, commuter bus, passenger rail and bicycle, and serves more than a quarter-million people every day. With our office being in probably the most accessible area of the country, you would expect the 30 FE community to have different commute travel patterns than what is observed in other areas of the GTA. To test this theory, and gauge the level of ‘sustainable commuting’ currently going on within our corporate community, we conducted an employee transportation survey. The survey was completed by fifty-two employees, and given that there are approximately 90 employees at 30 FE, the survey results are a representative sample of the travel behaviors of our community.
The commute of 30 FE staff takes on average 42.3 minutes and ranges from a few minutes (less than 5 minutes) to almost two hours. While a substantial proportion of our staff lives within five kilometres of the office, there are people who are willing to travel extraordinary distances to get to our office, from places such as Kitchener, Guelph, Caledon, and Hamilton (Figure 1). Notably, the survey data reveals a strong a relationship between age and commuting time. Figure 2 illustrates the average travel time to work of our staff by age group, which was divided in the following two groups: less than 35 years and more than 35 years. This data reveals the distinct travel behaviours of the two groups.
With more than three quarters of employees under 35 years of age having a commute of less than 45 minutes, the ‘young’ demographic in our office appears to attach more importance to short commute times and lively neighborhoods than larger properties in car dependant communities. One might say that these results are not surprising and that as millennials (the demographic cohort with birth years from early 1980s to early 2000s) get older and start having kids, they will leave t
he city for more affordable housing in the suburbs (if such a thing still exists). This might be true, but still, these results do raise some interesting questions: Why are millennials resisting the traditional pull of suburbia? Is the shift of millennials to the city a generational trend or is it just a matter of time before this group moves to the suburbs? If millennials do prefer the lifestyle that cities offer over low density and car dependent neighborhoods, will they be able to afford living in the city in the future? Although these questions are too complex to be answered through our survey results, they are intriguing given the state of the GTA real estate market and rising rents in
Mode of Transportation
To understand how we compare to the rest of the GTA in terms of the mode of transportation used to travel to work, we used the GTA averages as a baseline. A comparison of transportation mode choice between the 30 FE staff and GTA workers is provided in Figure 3. Only a minority of employees (12%) travel to our office by car. Considering that 74% of GTA workers travel to work by car, while more than 60% of our staff commutes using transit, including TTC and GO, it is safe to say that our proximity to Union Station plays a key role in how our staff travels to the office.
Although only 12% of the 30 FE employees use their vehicles to travel to work, it is interesting to observe that 66% of the people who drive to work live within 15 km of the office. Finally, 20% of our employees use active modes of transportation, such as walking or cycling, to get to work, a percentage significantly higher than the GTA average of 8%.
Our transportation survey confirmed that the level of accessibility facilitated by our University and Wellington location allows our employees to take advantage of sustainable modes of transportation, such as public transit and active modes of transit, in numbers far greater than what is typical amongst GTA workers. Our survey also revealed that our location appears to allow us to engage millennial workers through catering to an apparent preference for short commute times and life in Canada’s largest city.