Ottawa lags behind most Canadian cities in terms of public transit ridership and employees returning to work downtown during the pandemic, according to new data.
Figures compiled by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce show that the proportion of workers commuting to offices in downtown Ottawa in September 2022 fell by just over 45% compared to pre-pandemic levels in January 2020. .
This was the 49th out of 55 downtown areas surveyed across Canada.
Downtown Gatineau ranks last, with a staggering 74.7% drop in the number of workers commuting from home to downtown.
Research shows an average decline of 7% across Canadian cities and regions, including metropolitan areas, suburbs and rural areas.
This percentage was calculated using cell phone location data collected from Environics Analytics, Inc., cross-referenced with employment and demographic data from Statistics Canada.
Conversations about the “future of work”
Stephen Tapp, chief economist at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, says fewer workers commuting to busy downtown areas in big cities can help smaller communities.
“We hope to start a conversation about the future of work,” said Tapp.
“There are a lot of opportunities in these suburban cities, within an hour or two of commute times, where mobility has greatly improved.”
Brantford (39%), Barry (29%), Kingston (28%) and Brampton (27%) in Ontario have increased travel to their respective downtowns since the start of the pandemic.
Number of passengers and national average
Delays in the return of workers to downtown Ottawa are reflected in the slower than average return of OC Transpo passengers.
According to Statistics Canadawhich tracks urban transit passenger travel, passenger numbers across Canada recovered to about three-quarters (73.5%) of pre-pandemic levels in September.
OC Transpo is about 63%, well below the national average. 5.7 million rides in September 2022compared to 9.1 million rides in September 2019.
According to OC Transpo staff, it is estimated that federal civil servants made up 20% of public transit users before the pandemic.
Since early March, federal ministries have Gradual return to onsite or hybrid work After being given the green light by the Finance Committee, which oversees the federal workforce.