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How many cars are on the road in Toronto?

Posted by Chris Bateman / July 30, 2014

cars in torontoThe numbers of Toronto's chronic traffic problems are staggering and depressing: an estimated $2.7 billion a year in lost economic output, $3.3 billion in delay and vehicle costs, 81 hours a year--that's more than three full days--spent sitting perfectly still in a gas- and money-guzzling vehicle.

It's tough to say exactly how many cars there are on Toronto's streets, however. One way source of information is a detailed 2011 survey by the University of Toronto's Data Management Group. It breaks down the level of car ownership in the former City of Toronto, City of York, North York, East York, Scarborough, and Etobicoke.

The highest ratio of car ownership was in Etobicoke and Scarborough, where there was an average of 1.3 vehicles per property. The old City of Toronto had the least amount of cars, on average 0.9 per home.

Using that data, it's possible to estimate that there were 1.1 million vehicles in Toronto in 2011, most of them in the old City of Toronto, Scarborough, and North York. East York and the former City of York had fewer cars, partly due to their small size.

On average, each property in Toronto had 1.3 vehicles, a touch lower than the current national average of 1.5 cited in a Toronto Star story in February. That said, the number of cars on Toronto's road will certainly have increased since 2011. Canadians bought 1.7 million new vehicles in 2013 alone.

Owning one of the city's 1.1 million vehicles is an expensive proposition. Each costs about $9,000 a year to keep on the road--that's a staggering $10.1 billion spent by the people of Toronto on their cars.


Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.

Image: Stephen Gardiner/blogTO Flickr pool.



Mark / July 30, 2014 at 11:50 am
And 99% of them feel that cost is worth it over taking the bus.
iSkyscraper / July 30, 2014 at 12:10 pm
First of all, there is no certainty at all that the number of cars has increased since 2011. Why would you say that? Sure, Canadians bought more cars but we are talking about Toronto, and most of those purchases would be replacing old cars anyways. If you look at the ongoing condo boom and the rise of car-sharing and increasing transit ridership it is very possible that in fact there are fewer cars owned by Torontontians each year.

Which brings us to the second point, which is that the ownership rates in Toronto are only a portion of cars on the road in the city. Many cars come in from the 905 and those numbers vary on many factors (gas prices, congestion, suburban growth, changes to GO). As a growing region though it is likely that there are more cars driving into the city owned by 905'ers each year.

Third, these are nice numbers but they are very abstract. What do they mean relative to our peer cities?

Sure, New York has much lower car ownership (Old Toronto is more or less Staten Island)

But what about Chicago? (Toronto has fewer cars per household)

What about Boston? (Toronto has slightly fewer cars per household)

What about San Francisco? (Toronto has more cars per household)

What about, just for fun, the entire US?

Slicing the data in the U of T report a different way, an impressive 23% of households in the entire city of Toronto do not own a car. (The 1.3 average is skewed by the multiple-car households). That surprisingly puts Toronto somewhere around Atlanta or Cleveland levels of non-ownership. One suspects that American inner-city poverty rates have more to do with this figure than transit and road infrastructure, so this may not be as relevant as cars-per-household:

bob / July 30, 2014 at 12:14 pm
now do how many cars on Toronto streets that are not from Toronto.
Fred / July 30, 2014 at 12:58 pm
Cars aren't going anywhere. As the population grows so will car ownership. Cheers. See you in 2025.
Don / July 30, 2014 at 01:03 pm
Olivia Chow drives an SUV Chevy Equinox


"I have a car ... Equinox ... you don't think I can do 10 activities on one day. Do you think I can fly?"

Taken from,
W. K. Lis / July 30, 2014 at 01:26 pm
How much real estate does a car have? Include home, work, medical, restaurants, etc..

Each is MORE than the average office cubicle.
Rob replying to a comment from Don / July 30, 2014 at 01:27 pm
Using a SAL article as a source, even when she doesn't source where these quotes, other than to say "out of the mouth of Olivia", came from is dubious at best.
Don replying to a comment from Rob / July 30, 2014 at 01:35 pm
No its not. SAL stated they asked the questions of Chow. You think they're making the answers up and lying about what kind of vehicle she owns? Come on please.

S / July 30, 2014 at 01:51 pm
An Equinox is a tiny little CUV (not an SUV). Who cares?
Rob replying to a comment from Don / July 30, 2014 at 01:59 pm
You're right. It's hard to imagine SAL writing columns without doing a bit of research first and with no facts to back it up whatsoever. Next you're going to tell me she doesn't play favourites with folks on council. C'mon, give me a break.

I don't care about the car. But when you have quotes and don't attribute them to anything, that's where I take issue. Who knows what the context was, and, in particular, the language uses between the ... that SAL conveniently leaves out. She didn't even qualify these quotes as other things Olivia mentioned in their chat. They just appear there ready for suckers to copy and paste when trolling on sites like this.
Don replying to a comment from S / July 30, 2014 at 02:05 pm
Chevy lists it as a Crossover SUV.
Has a nice powerful V6 in it, pin it!!
No Bills / July 30, 2014 at 02:12 pm
Are the Buffalo Bills coming to Toronto?

I hope not, that's all we need is all of Ford Nation under one roof for every game. Say no to the Bills! This is a Rob Ford dream.
Random Reader / July 30, 2014 at 02:13 pm
I don't get it. Why do we care what kind of she has?
And what does this have to do with "How many cars are on the road in Toronto"?
Equinox replying to a comment from Random Reader / July 30, 2014 at 02:27 pm
Just because you don't care about something doesn't mean it doesn't matter to the rest of us.
Random Reader replying to a comment from Equinox / July 30, 2014 at 02:34 pm
I'm being serious and am looking for WHY you care what someone drives? I'm willing to look past the fact it has nothing to do with the article post. I just genuinely don't get why we care what kind of vehicle someone owns.
PrincessOfInsest / July 30, 2014 at 02:37 pm
And most of these people don't wanna travel on public transit.... Shameful
Jess replying to a comment from PrincessOfInsest / July 30, 2014 at 04:20 pm
Public transit is already at capacity as much as we want people to get out of their cars, we don't have enough subways buses, and streetcars to handle it even if we got our wish.
W. K. Lis replying to a comment from Jess / July 30, 2014 at 04:28 pm
Better than the 1.3 people in each car.
Jess replying to a comment from W. K. Lis / July 30, 2014 at 04:33 pm
Sure if as long as I don't hear you whining that all the street cars are full, and you have to wait for an open subway etc. etc. etc. Whine Whine Whine.
Big Win! It doesn't matter what we drive Equinox or Escalade!! / July 30, 2014 at 05:08 pm
Glad no one cares that I drive a Cadillac Escalade to work by myself just like Rob and Doug Ford Do!
hamish / July 30, 2014 at 09:29 pm
Along with the private costs of cars, there's public costs too. An older Van. BC study suggested $2700 per car per year. That's $2.7B, assuming 1 million cars in Toronto based on VRT revenue.

There's also a large influx of vehicles from out of TO as well. I've seen some figures of 300,000 daily inflows. If only one person in these vehicles, it can be like wearing size 40s and thinking the sidewalks are really crowded.

We need to have sensible transit, and effective long linked bike lanes, and I'd settle with painted ones in the right places and work up to separations thanks we're that far behind.
G / July 31, 2014 at 12:08 pm
I'd love to see fewer cars on the roads. Let's start by actually making people pass a rigorous road test. These days they give them away like free prizes in a Cracker Jack box. Let's enforce traffic laws that have consequences like being banned from driving.
Common Sense / July 31, 2014 at 12:12 pm
The problem in Toronto, mostly, is the number of people who just don't want to understand that the number of cars will increase year to year to year for as long as they live.

They seem to think that if they create enough congestion, through the addition of bike lanes, it will annoy people out of their cars.

Or perhaps if they tax vehicles enough (raising the cost of anything that is delivered, such as food and clothing, etc) people will give up their cars.

But even with those best efforts we still see more cars on the road every year.

So what needs to happen is those folks need to embrace the FACT that cars are going to be a HUGE part of the Toronto transportation landscape for as long as they live, and instead of trying to think of ways to shit on the car, think of ways to reduce pollution through reducing gridlock.

In other words, wake up. The car is here to stay. If it makes you feel better, in the next 20 years most vehicles will be electric in one form or another and producing a lot less air pollution.
kn / July 31, 2014 at 01:25 pm
The TTC is awful. It's awful to use in the core of the city (where I live) and if it's awful for someone living downtown it must be dismal for people living further from the core. If I am going to have to stand crammed like a sardine on the streetcar, I'd rather walk or drive my car.

Even when the TTC finally wakes up and dig themselves out of the last century, there are a lot of people who will still drive because they need their vehicles for their jobs. So to all of my comrade NDP friends, cars aren't going away anytime soon.
Liberty Village Personal Trainer / August 1, 2014 at 02:12 pm
I drive a lot for my job, but luckily most of it is before 8am and after 6pm. Have no suggestions on how to make it better, but hopefully someone smarter than I does.
Y A / January 2, 2015 at 03:27 pm
The link for the survey by the Data Management Group is broken. Can you please post a working one?
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