Passenger Travel by Automobile, Canada 1970-1995

September 29, 1995


From a total of 177.2 billion passenger-kilometres (pkm) in 1970, travel in automobiles increased steadily, experiencing a short setback during the recession of the early 1980’s. In 1995, the last year for which data is available, it is estimated that 383.5 billion pkm were logged by automobiles in Canada, a 116.4% increase over the total in 1970.(2)

Passenger-kilometres Traveled by Automobile


The automobile’s share of motorized passenger travel fluctuated during the period 1970-95. From a high, in 1970, when automobile passengers logged 85.2 of every 100 kilometres traveled, the market share of the automobile sank to a low of 79.6% in 1982, and has been fairly stable, between 80% and 82%, since.

Market Share of Automobile among Motorized Modes

If surface modes are looked at in isolation, however, the trends regarding automobiles are quite different. When only surface modes are considered, the market share of the automobile is shown as having held steady near 94% during the 1970s, and rising steadily from 1982 onward, eventually peaking at 95.9% in 1994. Growth in airplane travel has been so explosive that, unless it is excluded from the equation, it masks the growing dominance of the automobile on the ground.

Market Share of Automobile among Surface Modes

<!– To see this data in tabular format, click here. –>

The automobile has been the dominant form of passenger travel in Canada throughout.


1. Includes cars, light trucks and vans.

2. The extent of travel by private modes of transportation, such as the automobile, is approximate. Unlike the other, public modes, the data regarding automobile use is not collected directly. It is instead inferred from data on fuel sales, which are multiplied by the estimated average fuel consumption of the vehicle fleet to determine the total annual vehicle-kilometres. This number is then multiplied by an estimated vehicle occupancy rate to derive the total passenger-kilometres traveled. While the occupancy rate assumed in the study quoted herein is 1.6 passengers per automobile, other studies of Canadian automobile traffic have assumed otherwise. In Transport Canada’s 1996 annual report, the occupancy rate was estimated to be 1.9 people per automobile.

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