Active school transportation in the Greater Toronto area, Canada: an exploration of trends in space and time (1986-2006)

Author(s): Buliung RN, Mitra R, Faulkner G


Objective: This study describes temporal and spatial trends in active transportation for school trips in the Greater Toronto Area, Canada's largest city-region.

Methods: Proportions of trips by travel mode to and from school were estimated and compared for children (11-13 years) and youth (14-15 years). Data were drawn from the 1986, 1996, 2001, and 2006 versions of the Transportation Tomorrow Survey (TTS).

Results: Between 1986 and 2006, walking mode share for trips to school declined (53.0%-42.5% for 11-13 year olds, 38.6%-30.7% for 14-15 year olds). Although there has also been a decline in walking home from school, walking rates were higher in the afternoon. In 2006, younger children in the suburbs walked less to school (36.1%-42.3% of trips) than 11-13 year olds in Toronto (48.1%) and Toronto's 14-15 year olds walked less (38.3% of trips) but used transit more (44.8% of trips) than students in the suburbs.

Conclusion: The findings indicate a period of decline (1986-2006) in the use of active modes for journeys to and from school for both age groups. Policies and programs to increase active transportation should acknowledge the spatial, temporal, and demographic heterogeneity of school travel decisions and outcomes.

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