Employment is the single best indicator of Toronto Transit ridership

It was recently reported that the TTC is facing stagnating ridership levels. Upon reading several articles on the topic, I was curious for myself to see what the data and trends say about ridership on the TTC. City of Toronto’s Open Data Catalogue has great datasets here and here on weekly, monthly and annual TTC ridership levels, as well as revenues of the system.

Figure 1 below shows the total annual ridership for the TTC since 1985.

Figure 1 – Total Annual TTC Ridership, 1985 – 2015
Total Ridership

Looking at the chart closely, I noted something fascinating – the prolonged dip in TTC ridership during the early 1990s and a brief dip in the early 2000s coincide almost exactly with the declines the City of Toronto faced in employment (number of jobs). Figure 2 again shows the total annual TTC ridership, but with the axis shortened to accentuate the declines and increases in ridership (axis starts at 350 million).

Figure 2 – Total Annual TTC Ridership, 1985 – 2015 (Shortened Axis)
Total Ridership Axis

Figure 3 below combines the total annual ridership on the TTC with Toronto’s annual employment numbers (i.e., total number of jobs per year). The employment data was derived from Toronto’s Employment Survey.

Figure 3 – Total Annual TTC Ridership and City of Toronto’s Annual Employment, 1985 – 2015 (Shortened Axis)
Ridership EMployment

It is clear from Figure 3 that the City’s economic indicators, particularly the number of jobs influences TTC ridership. Employment is known as being historically the best indicator of TTC ridership. Toronto has some of the highest transit usage levels relative to other major cities in North America, and a large number of people use the TTC to get to work, particularly into the Downtown core.

I think this is a good sign as it demonstrates that many jobs in the City can still be accessed by transit and that people continue to use the TTC for utilitarian purposes. And this is a trend that coincides with other major successful cities in the world like New York, London and Hong Kong – which all have high transit ridership levels and transit accessible employment opportunities.

As for looking ahead, this quick correlation further highlights the importance of locating jobs close to transit and the need to integrate transit infrastructure investment with development.


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