Tag Archives: commuting

A third of Canadians should probably move closer to work

A third of Canadians should probably move closer to work 

Choosing a dream home often comes with compromises and that can include accepting a longer commute to work.

But it seems that the daily journey to work is a cause of stress for many Canadians; 35% have told a new survey by recruiter Robert Half that their commute is stressful.

In addition, 36% said that their journey to and from work is too long with the average return journey taking 53 minutes of their day. More than a quarter of respondents spend more than an hour on their commute.

“A professional’s commute often sets the tone for their day. Dealing with a lengthy or frustrating trip to the office can have long-term effects on employee morale, performance and retention,” said David King, senior district president for Robert Half. “As workforces become more dispersed, organizations need to proactively offer solutions to help address and alleviate commuter stress, while keeping business priorities on track.”

While living closer to work can be a solution, a move towards less expensive neighbourhoods often means a trade off between the type and size of home desired and a longer commute.

However, the rise of flexible working is helping to ease the pressure, while changing the shape of modern workplaces.

Ultimately, companies that provide support to help workers get more out of their lives, both at and outside the office, cultivate better focused, motivated and more loyal teams,” added King.

Source: MortgageBrokerNews.ca by Steve Randall 05 Nov 2019

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Tired of Toronto? Why not move to the St. Catharines-Niagara region

Affordable homes in the St. Catharines-Niagara region are attracting buyers from Toronto.

It took Russell Phipps just one day to sell his three-bedroom, 1,800-sq.-ft. house in Ajax, Ont., after a fierce bidding war. With an early closing and no place yet to live, the Toronto native moved into a friend’s 550-sq.-ft. Corktown condo in the city to give downtown living a try. It didn’t take long before he realized he wanted out − far out.

“It’s expensive,” Phipps says of living in the core, where the average price of a detached home is $1,336,640, according to the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB). “Parking is expensive. When people come to visit you and you try to find them parking on the street, that’s a hassle. And I was always in the shadow. Wherever we seemed to go downtown, it seemed the buildings were always blocking the sun. I like a little bit more of a view.”

Like many others, Phipps, 48, turned his views to the St. Catharines-Niagara region, which is benefiting from Toronto’s spillover effect as buyers look for more affordable homes.

When Phipps’ request for a job transfer came through, the case manager with the Ontario government, started shopping for a condo. Within a few days he found the perfect pad: a two-bedroom, 1,118-sq.-ft. penthouse in Pinewood Homes’ mid-rise Fairview Condominiums project now under construction in St. Catharines. He’ll move in this fall.

Phipps can’t gush enough about all the pluses of leaving Toronto. He didn’t have to deal with intense condo bidding wars. He only had to pay a $20,000 deposit instead of about $80,000 in the big city. He avoided what he calls Toronto’s “double land transfer tax.” Parking, storage and finish upgrades were all included in the $389,000 price tag. He can walk to work, the mall and the gym but is still within an hour’s drive of Toronto if he wants to pop in to see friends. And he’s just 10 minutes from the beach. “I get all the bonuses of condo living but I get it in a suburban atmosphere.”

Affordability

With the Toronto Real Estate Board pinning the average cost of a home in 2017 at $727,928 in Toronto and almost $800,000 in the 905, it’s no surprise folks are starting to look further afield for affordable living and, perhaps, a less frenzied lifestyle.

According to the Niagara Association of Realtors, the average price of a home across the region is up 24 per cent year-on-year to $345,294, while condo prices rose 31 per cent to $288,868. They don’t release the average price of a detached house. However, in The Six a detached house costs about $1,337,000 and a condo is about $471,400, the TREB said.

While high-end properties in Niagara can swell far above $500,000, there are still a lot of savings to be made for more space. And with a 10-year, $13.5 billion program to expand the GO regional express train network − including weekday service to Niagara Falls by 2023, new stations in Grimsby and upgrades to Via Rail stations in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls − there’s even more incentive to make the move.

“We’re probably the best bang for your dollar in the country right now, anywhere from Port Colborne to Grimsby,” says Patrick Dummitt, president of Niagara Association of Realtors. “Even the further east you go − Fort Erie, Port Colborne − people never used to venture out that far. Now people are leaving Toronto and settling in Fort Erie and doing the commute…. We’re becoming quite metropolized to the chagrin of a lot of people. But what the heck, why not? We’re like the last frontier for people. We’ve been dubbed as the suburbs of the GTA.”

Dummitt first noticed the region’s real estate landscape changing about a year ago when bidding wars started cropping up in Niagara for the very first time. Today, $340,000 will buy a 30-year-old house needing $40,000 in upgrades. But with so many people wanting in, supply is scarce and properties are fetching multiple offers 30 to 40 per cent over asking prices. He says those coming from Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton, or Oakville don’t bat an eye because their houses are selling for more than double Niagara’s prices so they have extra money to renovate.

All the attention has developers busy, with dozens of condos, townhouses and single-family homes on the go, or in the works across the region. St. Catharines, for instance, issued permits for 383 new dwelling units last year, up from 224 in 2015, and 36 to date this year in and around town. As such, the city has built a performing arts centre, a 5,300-seat arena and new parking facilities to accommodate the traffic.

“We’ve sketched out a bold new vision for our city,” says Brian York, director of economic development and government relations at the City of St. Catharines. “Now we’re adding colours, and the palette is perfect for new business and good living.”

Unprecedented growth

In Niagara Falls, Mayor Jim Diodati uses words like “explosive” and “feverish” to describe the unprecedented growth in his city’s south and southwest ends. More than half of the new home and condo purchases are from GTA buyers, he says, with “entire subdivisions selling out before we can get services in the ground.” Some 761 building permits worth $238.5 million were issued last year, up 27.3 per cent from 2015. Those numbers “are from outer space,” Diodati says.

The Niagara region’s population is expected to grow from 447,888 now to 610,000 by 2041, according to the municipality’s forecasts.

The city and the region are building and upgrading water and sewer treatment plants, pumping stations, fire halls and expanding transit to ensure infrastructure keeps up with demand. There’s a commuter airport and talk of a ferry service to the Toronto area, and the Go train expansion will improve capacity and service levels.

“You don’t have to look too far down the QEW [Queen Elizabeth Way highway] to see where the average house price is $1.2 million,” says the mayor, who grew up in Niagara Falls. “For a third of that you can get a lot more house, a lot more yard, in Niagara, and with that extra equity you can start a business, buy a place in Florida or a cottage…. It really is the perfect storm of opportunity.”

Along with a host of local, GTA and overseas developers getting on board with intriguing projects of all shapes and sizes. Entrepreneur Ted Zhou of Evertrust Development Group Canada Inc. in Toronto, for one, considered building luxury condos in the GTA but felt the market was saturated.

He inspected more than 100 sites before settling on two acres within Thundering Waters Golf Course in Niagara Falls that will soon house his 150-unit Upper Vista Condominiums, fulfilling the Toronto resident’s goal of becoming Niagara Falls’ “pioneer” of luxury condos. It’s now one of dozens of low-rise, mid-rise and high-rise projects drawing eyeballs from out-of-towners.

Another project that has people talking is Paradise, a $1.5-billion development being proposed by GR (Can) Investment Co. Ltd. of Niagara Falls on 480 acres of land surrounding the golf course. The city has conceptional plans from the group calling for about 3,400 residential units (including bungalows, townhouse, condos, estate homes and vacation homes), a five-star boutique hotel, restaurants and 200 acres of wetland.

It’s the Hong Kong-based company’s first foray into Canada but chief executive officer Zhiying Chang, who moved to Toronto in 2011, expects to replicate it in other cities here. A longtime lover of Niagara Falls for its natural beauty, she’s excited about increasing Niagara Falls’ curb appeal to both residents and tourists.

With so many projects and proposals, there’s no doubt that the region will continue its ascent as the new “It” spot for frazzled city folk looking for a happier, more affordable life.

“They can keep the smoke stacks in Toronto as long as people come home [to Niagara] to buy their groceries and their cars and their clothes and pay their property taxes and have community,” says Mayor Diodati. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Source: Suzanne Wintrob, Special to National Post | February 20, 2017 |

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Beware of ‘transportation mortgage’ when moving to suburbs: planner

Port Mann Bridge

A new analysis of living costs in Metro Vancouver is raising serious doubts about whether opting for a cheaper home in the suburbs actually saves families money.

According to Andy Yan, director of Simon Fraser University’s city program, people who move out to the suburbs can end up spending far more on transportation than their Vancouver neighbours.

Using Statistics Canada data from 2011, Yan calculated that Langley residents will spend $563,755 over 25 years on transportation, while Vancouverites will spend $298,459.

That’s a difference of $265,296 over two-and-a-half decades.

“It’s the transportation mortgage. It’s the possible costs that could be involved in adding transportation toward your housing costs,” Yan said.

Factoring in those amortized transportation costs makes a dramatic difference in the million-dollar line, which separates the area of Metro Vancouver where most single-family homes are worth more than $1 million.

“The million dollar line is now somewhere on the border of New Westminster, Port Moody and Coquitlam,” Yan said.

In Langley, fewer than one per cent of single-family homes currently cost more than $1 million. If you include transportation, however, that number jumps to 73 per cent, according to Yan’s data.

But even if the moves don’t necessarily save much money, some who have headed to the suburbs argue they had few other options.

Jeremy Wee told CTV News he took the increased transportation costs into account when his family decided to move into a townhouse in Pitt Meadows, and they’re very happy with their choices.

“We found beautiful homes – new homes! – that we could actually bid on,” said Wee, who continues to commute into Vancouver.

“I love where I live, and I love where I work.”

Source: CTV Vancouver  Published Wednesday, December 21, 2016

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Road tolls: Will they actually reduce congestion?

HOT lanes that allow single-occupant vehicles to pay a toll to use carpool lanes are a popular alternative to HOV lanes. (J.P. MOCZULSKI for The Globe and Mail)

Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal are among the most congested cities on the continent – ranking second, sixth and ninth, respectively, according to TomTom data.

The average person living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) spends about 65 minutes commuting each day, and all that gridlock costs the region up to $11 billion per year, according to a C.D. Howe Institute study.

Road tolls a ‘fair’ way to fund transit according to Toronto mayor (CP Video)

The most common cure thrown around is road tolls, but a new study suggests they may not be the answer.

The report, Congestion Costs, Road Capacity and Implications for Policy-Makers, issued Friday by the Conference Board of Canada and commissioned by the Canadian Automobile Association South Central Ontario (CAA SCO), warns that governments should examine other options before moving forward with more road tolls.

However, economists at the C.D. Howe Institute argue road tolls are the best solution to reducing congestion and the additional revenue is a bonus that can be used to improve transit and other infrastructure.

The Conference Board of Canada report states there is a difference between policies designed to raise revenue and those designed to change driving behaviour.

“We have to be very clear about what we’re trying to achieve,” says Teresa Di Felice, director of government and community relations, CAA SCO. “If we want to achieve reductions, there are various tools, land use planning, ride sharing transit. When you move the conversation to road pricing there has to be a clear objective … If you want to change behaviour, that is a different pricing strategy.”

She says if tolls push too many people out of their cars, government won’t achieve its revenue goals.

The report examines other tools that policymakers can use to reduce congestion – highway ramp metering, variable speed limits, access controls such as time-of-day restrictions, ride-sharing support, biking facilities and public transit investment.

A previous Conference Board of Canada report showed Ontario drivers pay between 70 to 90 per cent of the cost to maintain roads through registration fees, gas taxes, parking tickets and other revenue tools. In the GTA, it’s more than 100 per cent.

“Motorists are frustrated, they are paying a fair chunk of the maintenance costs,” says Di Felice. With these reports, CAA wanted to see if drivers are getting the benefit of what they are paying and if motorists are going to pay more, what does that look like?

Tolls are the best solution, extra revenue is a bonus

“Even if on average, road users cover 100 per cent of spending money on roads, road pricing is still really important,” says Benjamin Dachis, associate director of research at the C.D. Howe Institute. “It is still the best solution for dealing with congestion.”

An example from London, England, supports this. A congestion charge there in 2003 cut traffic by about 15 per cent.

A 2007 study from C.D. Howe says, “Neither fuel taxes nor parking fees are effective in dealing with traffic congestion. Appropriately designed road-pricing schemes are the best instrument. Road pricing’s usefulness in charging for road damage, insurance, and so on, are a bonus.”

Dachis says his research shows that, on average, drivers pay less than 70 per cent of roadway expenses. There is a lot of confusion because there is good data on how much governments collect, but the money largely goes into general revenue, so there isn’t good data on how it is being spent.

Regardless, he says that tolls are effective to reduce congestion and to put a value on roads.

“When you have roads that aren’t tolled, there is something called the fundamental law of congestion, you build new roads and they fill up pretty quickly,” he says.

But the way to toll roads isn’t like what Ontario drivers currently see.

In September, 1,000 Ontario drivers received permits to use the high-occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on the Queen Elizabeth Way west of Toronto. It was part of a pilot project that allows those drivers to have a faster commute at a cost of $180 for three months. The project will last two-to-four years and the government will be adding HOT lanes to Highway 427 in 2021. Highway 407, just north of Toronto, is also a toll road.

“It (HOT lanes) is probably the most rudimentary form of road pricing I’ve ever seen,” says Dachis. “The bottom line is what the (Ontario) government has put in place right now is barely only training wheels.”

Dachis cites metered high-occupancy toll lanes in Seattle, Miami, Minnesota, Georgia and southern California as examples of what works, is not mentioned in the Conference Board of Canada report. The price to enter HOT lanes as a solo occupant is constantly changing based on how much time it saves the driver. Billing is controlled through either a smartphone app or a windshield pass. A sign indicates how much time it will take to get to designated interchanges, guaranteeing the travel time through the pricing scheme.

“We’re trying to guess the dollar value people put on roads,” says Dachis. “Road pricing makes it very clear what people will pay for roads.”

Dachis worries that because current HOT lanes are so basic, they will fail and people will reject any further conversation.

One major criticism of HOT lanes is that they are for the rich – hence the moniker, Lexus lanes. But Dachis says variable pricing will do away with that because there won’t be a monthly subscription. Rather everyone, regardless of income, can make a decision right then and there if using the lane will benefit them financially or socially. One of the biggest users of these lanes will be buses.

Cost is a factor, but a study by the University of Minnesota found that when Minneapolis converted some of its HOV lanes to dynamic HOT, the economic benefits were more than double the operating and capital costs.

Toll highways

“Tolling the whole freeway is totally doable. It would even be the best option, from an economists perspective,” says Dachis. “But that’s a hard sell when there are few examples of working toll roads in Canada.”

He adds that tolling the entire highway would allocate the scarce road space most effectively and should lower taxes for everyone.

Dachis and Di Felice agree that road tolls aren’t the only method governments should consider to reduce congestion. They also agree there has to be better data collected on how money is being spent on roads at all levels of government.

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Niagara GO train service

Daily, year-round GO train service between Hamilton and Niagara is one step closer to becoming a reality. Niagara politicians are stepping up their campaign and committing $40 million needed for the rail service, which they say would cost a total of between $100 and $120 million .

The proposed plan is calling for year round train service between Niagara and Hamilton which would tie into the existing Lakeshore west line to Toronto. There would be 7 trains in and 7 trains out. They would make stops in Grimsby, St.Catharines and Niagara Falls.

The project is pegged at $120 million, the region has pledged a third of that but is still waiting on commitments from both the Provincial and Federal government.

Officials say they worked through 17 obstacles since their last meeting with the province in March. One of them included the Welland canal crossing. City officials managed to get commitment, in writing from the St.Lawrence Seaway management corporation for dedicated crossing times.

The other major hurdle, using the existing Canadian National Railway lines without coming into conflict with freight shipments. CN has agreed to the GO train proposal but it would cost $50 million to make the necessary track improvements. A cost officials have accounted for in their overall budget.

The new GO train line is projected to have an economic impact of about $195 million and the Niagara GO team is hoping for a fully functional system as early as 2017. The proposed plan will be presented to the province in April and decision on whether the new train line is a go would come no later than June when the province is set to announce its next phase of GO rail projects.

Source: CHCH News – February 9, 2016 09:44:45 PM

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