2011 National Household Survey: Our Journey To Work
Andrew Ramlo
The Urban Futures Institute

The most recent release of the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS) data provide a glimpse into the commuting patterns of the Lower Mainland’s residents. These data, for example, tell us that of the 1.182 million people employed in the Vancouver Census Metropolitan Region (GVRD, Metro Vancouver), 88,740 worked at home, 9,540 worked outside Canada, 154,425 had no fixed workplace and 929,685 had a usual place of work outside of the home. Of those employed CMA residents who commuted to a usual place of work outside of the home, these data also tell us that the number of people commuting from the City of Vancouver to a usual place of work in Richmond was ten percent greater than the number of Richmond residents commuting into the City of Vancouver for work each day (22,700 versus 20,215).

In addition to the spatial pattern of commuting within the region today, when compared to previous Census counts these data allow us to consider how these patterns have been changing within the region. One trend that is evident throughout each of the Census counts back to the early-1970s has been an increase in the share of daily commuting that occurs between municipalities.

The 2011 NHS data also showed that of the region’s 909,380 people commuting to a usual place of work within the region, 15.9 percent traveled to a usual place of work in the City of Vancouver, 8.8 percent from the City of Vancouver, and 19.1 percent within the City of Vancouver. While the general pattern of inter-municipal commuting has continued to diversify within the region as the share of non-Vancouver trips has increased, the most recent data also point to slower pace of change, or a growing stability, in the pattern of regional journeys to work. 

Another aspect of the journey to work data that is often talked about is the share of residents who were able to commute to a place of work within their municipality of residence. For example, of the 254,450 residents in the City of Vancouver who commuted to a usual place of work within the region each day, 174,015 (68 percent) did so to a location that was also in the City of Vancouver, the highest proportion of any municipality in the Vancouver CMA. While an average of 31 percent of the region’s residents were able to commute to a place of work outside of the home within their home municipality in 2011 (up from 29.4 percent a decade ago), Burnaby, Maple Ridge, the District Municipality of Langley, Greater Vancouver A (UBC/UEL), Surrey, and Richmond (along with the City of Vancouver) were all above the regional average.


With respect to changes between 2006 and 2011, the municipality that saw the greatest increase in the share of its residents working in their home municipality was White Rock. The 18 percent of White Rock’s residents who commuted to their workplaces within White Rock in 2011 was 4.5 percentage points above the last Census count, or 33 percent greater than in 2006. The Census subdivision that saw the greatest decline in commuting within the subdivision was Greater Vancouver A, which saw a 3.2 percentage point (or seven percent) decline between the 2006 and 2011 Census counts. 


Relative to those commuting to neighbouring Squamish, more people actually travelled to Calgary (430), to Toronto (395), and across the straight to Victoria (300) for their usual place of work. Perhaps most interesting of all was that there were 260 people who indicated that they hiked all the way to Wood Buffalo in northern Alberta’s oil patch to their usual places of work, four times greater than the 65 CMA residents who did so in 2006.