Private vehicles are one of the most common ways to get around Canada. A benchmark study by Turo Canada and Leger on the state of car ownership in Canada found that a large segment of the population- 83% own or lease a private vehicle. This overwhelming presence often influences newcomers to go for private cars, ignoring the fact that these vehicles sit idle for 95% of the year.
From the perspective of an immigrant, a private vehicle can be a huge commitment. First, you’ll have to get your driving license and documents in order, then the finances, insurance and recurring costs for gas, repairs, parking and maintenance. The burden can be overwhelming when you’re still adjusting to new surroundings. It is perfectly fine to put off buying your first vehicle, especially with the improving state of public transit and the sheer convenience of other means of transport.
Canadian cities are increasingly equipped to handle mass movement with public transit facilities like subways, trains and metro services. Other facilities for biking and ride-hailing services are also widely available. Investing in these can save you some serious dollars in the long run.
This article will attempt to address serious alternatives to driving in Canada.
As simple as it sounds, walking is still an efficient way to get around some cities in Canada. It requires no special accessory and is intuitive to most humans. As congestion becomes a real issue in cities, walking is increasingly seen as a healthy and sometimes more convenient way to navigate dense neighbourhoods. The habit is also encouraged by underground walkways like The Path in downtown Toronto which spans over 30kms and facilitates pedestrian movement while also serving as a commercial hub. The innovation also makes walking viable during extreme weather conditions.
Which city has the highest Walk Score in Canada?
Vancouver was the most walkable city in Canada, scoring 79.8 according to Walk Score, followed by Montreal with 65.4 and Toronto with 61.
Bus, Public transit, Subways and Metro in Canada
Cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver also had high Transit scores in the same study conducted by Walk Score. It is not surprising given the prevalence of high-quality public transit in these areas, including the Go trains and subway in Toronto, the Montreal Metro and Vancouver’s SkyTrain.
The highest-ranking Canadian cities among 70 major US and Canadian cities were:
- Toronto ranked 2nd overall in Transit Scores with a score of 78.2
- Vancouver in 4th with a Transit Score of 74.4
- Montreal in 8th with a Transit Score of 67
Let’s briefly examine the Public transit in each of these three cities.
Public Transit in Toronto
Toronto’s public transit system includes buses, streetcars and subways operated by The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and GO trains and buses of the GO Transit service.
The subway connects most of the Greater Toronto metropolitan area, including Mississauga, Brampton, Markham, Vaughn and Scarborough. It remains open from 6 am to 1:30 am on Saturdays and weekdays and 8 am to 1:30 am on Sundays.
The subway lines, streetcar and bus routes are detailed on the TTC’s website.
TCC fares can be paid either in cash or through PRESTO Tickets, which are essentially limited-use paper cards. PRESTO cards can also be used for GO Train tickets and buses.
The fare for each is given below:
|Fare type||Adult||Senior 65+ or youth 13-19|
|Fare type||Adult||Senior (65+) or Youth (13-19)|
|PRESTO One-ride ticket||$3.25||$3.25|
|PRESTO Two-ride ticket||$6.50||$6.50|
|PRESTO Day pass ticket||$13.50||$13.50|
Public Transit in Vancouver
Translink is responsible for public transit systems in Metro Vancouver.
The SkyTrain services the Canada Line, the Expo Line and Millennium Line, A SeaBus provides frequent ferry service and a weekday commuter train- the West Coast Express, runs westbound in the mornings and eastbound in the evenings. The city also operates RapidBus routes for frequent and late-night NightBus services.
Metro Vancouver is divided into three fare zones for SeaBus and SkyTrain routes. Your fare depends on the number of zones crossed during your trip. Buses are charged on a 1-zone fare, regardless of zones crossed.
The complete fare structure, as detailed on Translink’s website, is given below. It includes concessions for seniors (65+), Youth (14-18) and children (5-13)
|CONTACTLESS PAYMENT FARES TAP TO PAY|
|STORED VALUE COMPASS CARD|
|MONTHLY PASSES COMPASS CARD|
|DAY PASS COMPASS CARD/TICKET|
|PASS TYPE||ALL ZONES – ALL-DAY|
Public Transit in Montreal
The STM (Société de transport de Montréal) operates the Montreal Metro, connecting over 68 stations along four lines (Yellow, Orange, Green, and Blue). It is Canada’s second busiest transit system, behind the Toronto subway. The STM also operates Buses for local, all-night, Express or Airport Shuttle services.
The complete fare structure is available on their website. Below is the fare for commuting by STM facilities in Zone A- Agglomeration of Montreal:
|Regular fare||Students 6-17||Students over 18||Adults over 65|
|One trip, All Modes A||$3.50||$2.50||–||$1.25|
|Two trips, All Modes||$6.50||$4.50||–||$2.25|
|Ten trips, All Mode||$ 31.50||$21.00||–||$10.50|
|24 hrs, All Modes||$11.00||–||–||–|
|3-day, All Modes A||$21.25||–||–||–|
|Weekly, All Modes A||$29.00||$17.50||$8.75|
|Monthly, All Modes A||$94.00||$56.50||$56.50||$28.25|
|4-month, All Modes A||–||$220.00||$220.00||$110.00|
The popularity of ride-hailing services has revolutionized the concept of urban transport. It absolves passengers from the responsibilities of car ownership while providing the same freedom to navigate every corner and destination, which may sometimes be untouched by public transit. On March 15, 2022, Uber, one of the leading services in the sector, celebrated its 10th anniversary in Canada. They estimated that their services saved riders over 13 million hours a year.
In a testament to its popularity, this segment’s revenues are projected to reach US$ 2.65 billion in 2022, with further growth of 6.45% between 2022-2026.
The options we’ve covered should tell you all you need to know about travelling without a car in Canada. It is possible and heavily recommended if you live in any urban center with a decent public transit system. Buying a vehicle too soon in this inflated economy with surging gas prices can do you more harm than good. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.