Travel, Transportation Patterns, and Transit Use

The Airport Megazone provides employment for almost 300,000 workers. On a typical weekday, about 268,000 trips to work are destined for the AMZ. Of these, 94% are made by automobile. This represents roughly 250,000 auto work trips to the area per day – plus another 250,000 return trips, for a total of roughly 500,000 daily car work trips associated with the district.

This figure does not include non-work trips, such as trips to Pearson Airport by air travellers. When travel for all purposes is considered, the AMZ attracts more than 546,000 trips per day. Assuming a similar number of return trips from the AMZ, we can conclude it generates over a million trips daily – almost all of them by car.

The AMZ is an auto-dependent area and likely the single biggest generator of car trips to work in the GGH. As such, it is a major source of regional congestion. Only about 16,000 of the 268,000 daily work trips taken to the AMZ are made by transit. In comparison, downtown Toronto generates only 133,287 all-day auto work trips, as 60% of workers there take transit and another 11% use active transportation (walking, cycling). (See Tables 7 and 8 in the Appendix.)


Not surprisingly, the AMZ attracts workers from a wide area. Slightly more than one-quarter or about 70,000 all-day work trips originate within less than 10 kilometres of their AMZ work destination. Just over half all-day work trips, or 136,000, cover between 10 and 30 kilometres.

Workers travel from all directions to jobs in the AMZ. The predominant direction is from the south, which accounts for more than 30% (82,000) of all-day work trips. In addition, more than 70,000 travel from the west, almost 65,000 from the east, and almost 50,000 from the north. The patterns are similar for morning peak work trips. (See Table 9 in the Appendix.)

In terms of mode split, the highest transit modal share for trips to work is from the east, at 9% of trips, presumably because the City of Toronto has more transit routes than the other regions surrounding the AMZ. For travel from these other regions to the AMZ, transit represents 4 to 5% of trips. (See Table 10 in the Appendix.)

Trips from the west, north, and south tend to be shorter; between 27 and 31% of all work trips to the AMZ from these directions are under 10 km. Trips from the east, that is, from the City of Toronto and beyond, tend to be longer, and include the largest share of trips of more than 30 km (about one-third of trips from the east).

In terms of the absolute numbers of trips, the greatest number of short trips comes from the south and west – roughly 22,000 from each direction; similarly with mid-range trips in the 10–29 km range, at approximately 45,000 and 39,000 respectively. This suggests the potential for increased transit from the south and west to the AMZ, to address the auto-dependency and significant congestion this area generates. (See Table 11 in the Appendix.)


Passenger travel to Pearson Airport is included in all-day, all-purpose trip data – currently estimated at about 546,000 daily trips to the Airport Megazone. Our data show that about 268,000 or almost half of these are trips to work. Trips to the AMZ made by air passengers going to Pearson Airport cannot be isolated from these data, but data from the Greater Toronto Airports Authority suggest that the number of daily passenger trips to the Airport is about 33,000[1] – or about 6% of all-day, all-purpose trips to the AMZ. Of these, about 88% (29,000) are by private automobile, taxi, or limousine.

This underlines the fact that trips to the airport itself – even when both passengers and airport employees are considered – while important, are only a component of the total travel to the AMZ. Most such trips are to the surrounding employment areas.


It is clear that transit and transit planning have not adequately addressed the AMZ as a significant employment and economic zone. Most of the transit – existing and planned –  approaches the AMZ from the east. Yet much larger numbers of workers travel to the AMZ from the south and west than from the east, and these trips also tend to be shorter than those from the east. Current transit proposals also tend not to be focused on connecting with and serving employment in the whole megazone. An integrated, regional approach to serving this important economic and employment area is lacking.


[1] Data from the GTAA, for 2011. The daily figure was arrived at by dividing GTAA estimated annual air passenger trips to and from the Airport by 365 to arrive at a daily figure, then dividing this in half to estimate trips to the airport only.