COMMUTE DISTANCE AND POLICY
Sundar Damodaran, Ph.D., P.Eng.
Commute distance is the distance between a worker's place of
residence and his/her usual place of work. Nationally, Census data is
the best source of this information to compare the pattern across
communities as well as to examine the trend of changes within a
region over the past. In addition to taking a full count of the
population, census includes detailed information from a sample (one
in five) of the households, which covers several information about
workers in the household such as their usual place of work and the
mode of travel used to get to work.
Commuting distances in a region are influenced by a variety of
factors, including the urban structure and the nature of transportation
system serving the region. There is an established body of
information in the literature about the link between land use and
transportation, covering wide areas such as impact of urban density
and form on travel behaviour or how transit corridors affect land
development patterns around the corridor. Trend analysis of how
commuting pattern is changing in a region will also give an indication
of how the region has been growing, both in terms of urban
development and transportation system. This is not to understate the
role of other factors that influence commuting distances, such as the
make up of labour force, type of regional economy, and concentration
of employment / activity centres.
At the micro level, households go through a complex collective
choice process with regard to where they choose to live; the place-of-
work of each worker in the household may be one of the factors they
may consider in this process. The choice of place-of-residence may
be for the long timeframe, whereas the place-of-work for each worker
in the household may be subject to change, due to various conditions.
The household may choose to relocate when one or more worker in
the household c