“Traffic Congestion” In Toronto

Recent news reports made a great deal out of the Toronto Board of Trade’s 2010 Scorecard on Prosperity in which, among other things, we learn that Toronto is dead last in a list of cities as measured by the average commute time to work.  Even Los Angeles is better!

At the risk of suggesting that the Board of Trade is misleading, and that the Toronto media are gullible fools, there is a basic flaw in the way the report’s findings are presented.

The Board’s question is

  • “how long does the average person take to get to work”,


  • “how far does the average person travel to work” or
  • “at what speed does the average person get to work”. 

This measure combines the effects of network capacity (or lack of it), of travel demand, and of the dispersal of origins and destinations across the region.  People may choose to live a 90-minute drive from home because they prefer the lifestyle, because housing is cheaper or because their families are established in locations far from their present jobs.  This may not have been inherently “bad” when they made their choice, but the economics of the situation are changing as commute times and costs go up.

Lazy readers tend to look at only the summary (these things are called “Executive Summaries” for a reason), but the important stuff is buried down in the heart of the report. Continue reading