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Commuters leaving transit for vehicles, bikes and walking in Ottawa, study shows

Motorists travel over the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau at the start of the Colonel By Day long weekend. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa) Motorists travel over the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge connecting Ottawa and Gatineau at the start of the Colonel By Day long weekend. (Natalie van Rooy/CTV News Ottawa)
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Vehicles are still the main mode of transportation in the City of Ottawa, but more residents are travelling by bicycle and on foot, according to a new study.

The Transportation Trends Report as part of the Ottawa Transportation Master Plan update also show the number of trips into the downtown core has dropped 26 per cent, with residents completing more trips within their neighbourhoods.

The Transportation Trends Report outlines the results of the City of Ottawa's 2022 Origin Destination Household Survey of 69,501 people across 31,818 households in the fall of 2022. The city is updating the Transportation Master Plan that will outline transportation projects and investments necessary to accommodate future growth and achieve the city's vision of a "safe, reliable, and sustainable transportation system."

Automobile drivers and passengers accounted for 69.1 per cent of all daily trips in 2022, up from 68.5 per cent of all trips in the last survey in 2011.

Walking accounted for 14.2 per cent of all trips in 2022 (10.5 per cent in 2011), while cycling accounted for 3.9 per cent of all trips in 2022 (1.9 per cent of trips in 2011). The report says e-bikes and e-scooters accounted for 9 per cent and 2 per cent, respectively, of all cycling trips in 2022.

The survey shows transit accounted for 8.5 per cent of all daily trips in 2022, down from 14.2 per cent in 2011 and 13.7 per cent in 2005.

"There are several possible reasons for the slower transit recovery," the report says. "In particular, many people who took transit downtown prior to the pandemic no longer do so. There were 57.900 fewer daily transit trips in 2022 compared to 2011, with 66 per cent of this reduction coming from work trips as opposed to other trip purposes."

The report says the city's Commuter Attitude Survey shows 73 per cent of national capital region commuters who shifted away from public transit are now driving alone each day.

There were 2.54 million daily trips starting or ending in Ottawa in 2022, with trips to work, school, shopping and returning home.

Daily trips by transportation mode in 2022

  • Automobile driver – 1,373,000 (up from 1,364,000 in 2011)
  • Automobile passenger – 379,000
  • Transit – 215,000
  • Walking – 360,000
  • Bicycle – 99,000
  • Other – 110,000

Fewer trips to the downtown

Daily trips to downtown Ottawa from outside the core area significantly dropped in 2022 compared to 2011, according to the survey.

The report shows were 163,000 daily trips to downtown that originated outside of the downtown core in 2022, compared to 221,000 daily trips in 2011. A majority of the trips (81,500) into the downtown were for work, with 25,000 trips for shopping.

"The largest decline in transit trips and gains in walking and cycling trips," the report says.

The number of daily transit trips from the suburbs to the downtown core dropped from 85,000 in 2011 to 44,000 in 2022.

Automobiles accounted for the greatest number of trips to the downtown core, with 87,000 trips by drivers and passengers in 2022, compared to 11,000 trips walking and 13,000 trips by cyclists.

Staying close to home

The survey shows the number of daily trips starting or ending in Ottawa decreased by about 0.7 per cent in 2011, from 2.55 million to 2.54 million.  The average Ottawa resident completed 2.5 trips per day.

The average trip in the City of Ottawa was 3.4 kilometres in 2022, down from 4.4 kilometres in 2011.

However, the survey finds about half of all trips in Ottawa started and stopped in the same neighbourhoods.

  • 41 per cent of trips originating inside the Greenbelt were completed within the Greenbelt in 2022
  • 67 per cent of trips originating in the suburbs were within the neighbourhood, the survey shows. The report says 72 per cent of trips in Orleans were within the east end neighbourhood, while 70 per cent of trips starting in Kanata/Stittsville ended in the west end.

"This illustrates that many areas of the city, including suburbs and Barrhaven in particular, increasingly operate as complete communities with many services and amenities located in the community," the report says.

"It may also reflect the reduction in work trips that has occurred, which tend to involve longer distances."

The report says Ottawa attracted 102,000 trips from outside of the city on a typical workday in 2022, with 77,000 of the trips originating from Quebec.

Other facts

Here is a look at some of the other findings of the Transportation Trends Report 2022:

  • 14 per cent of households have no vehicles, down from 16 per cent in 2011. (48 per cent of households in the downtown core do not have a vehicle)
  • 49 per cent of households in Ottawa have one vehicle, 38 per cent of households have two or more vehicles
  • The survey showed 39 per cent of workers in Ottawa worked exclusively in the workplace, while 35 per cent of workers had a hybrid work arrangement
  • The morning peak period for travel was between 6:45 a.m. and 9 a.m., while the afternoon peak period was 1.45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
  • In the morning, the busiest time for leaving the house was 7:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., while the busiest travel time during the afternoon commute was 3:45 p.m. to 4:45 p.m.
  • 44 per cent of daily trips within the downtown core are by walking, compared to 29 per cent by a vehicle

Public consultations are underway on part 2 of the Transportation Master Plan, which will identify transit and road projects that are needed to accommodate growth. The City of Ottawa is hosting an online virtual engagement on the Transportation Master Plan on June 26.

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