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Is Squamish the bedroom community of Whistler?

About 36% of people travel outside of town to get to work, according to the 2021 census. Where they go may surprise you.

With several experts noting the continued prevalence of the hybrid work culture being one of the driving forces in keeping Squamish real estate valuations growing, it's a good time to look at the latest census data on how people get to work.

The latest census data examining how Squamish residents travel to their jobs was released on Nov. 30, 2022.

The figures show results that were obtained during the Statistics Canada Census data collection in 2021.

According to the numbers, about 7,700 people in the census agglomeration of Squamish commute to a usual place of work.

A census agglomeration represents a community and includes land not formally within the community's boundaries. For example, in Squamish, reserve lands are folded into its agglomeration, even though they are not technically part of the municipality.

Breaking down the numbers by destination, the data revealed several things.

About 4,900 people travelled within Squamish to get to work.

A total of about 2,800 people travel outside of Squamish to their jobs.

That means, according to the Census data, about 36% of people travel outside Squamish to get to work.

Of those 2,800, about 1,100 people travelled to a community outside of Squamish, but still within the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District, or SLRD. On the other hand, 1,670 of those people wound up commuting to a different community outside of the SLRD. Finally, 65 people went out of the province.

Andy Yan, director of SFU's City Program, crunched some of the data, revealing specific numbers about Squamish's relationship with two of its major neighbours.

By his account, 8% of people living in Squamish commute to Whistler to work. By contrast, 5% of those living in Squamish commute to Vancouver.

"If I had to say, 'Where's the bedroom community of Whistler?' It's Squamish," he said.

However, there is a footnote to that finding, Yan said.

"This is heavily complicated by the pandemic," he said. "We [have] got to put a caveat on that."

As a result, the people who were shuffled into hybrid or remote working situations have likely significantly reduced these numbers — especially professionals who once commuted to Vancouver every day.

Yan said this could be one of the factors behind the still-increasing prices of real estate in town.

However, another factor to consider is that temporary foreign workers make up a big chunk of Whistler's workforce. Many of them may not receive or fill out the census forms because of their living arrangements or other reasons. This could result in underreporting.

— Duration —

There was also Census data released regarding the mode of commuting and the duration of the commute. These two figures show that a total of about 10,000 people commute. This is different from the total figure of 7,700 in the first section above because that only counted people who commute to a usual place of work, such as an office or a regular job site. The 10,000 figure counts anyone who commutes to any place — either a fixed or changing place of work.

In terms of duration, about half of Squamish's commuting workforce reported travelling less than 15 minutes to work.

About 1,800 residents travel between 15 and 29 minutes to work, while 780 travel 30 to 44 minutes.

There were 1,335 people who said they travel 45 to 59 minutes to get to work, while 1,340 people said they travel an hour or more.

— Mode of transport —

Out of the roughly 10,000 people who said they commute to work, 8,500 people took a vehicle, with about 7,800 of those people driving. Passengers only made up 675 of those travelling to the job.

Far fewer people did not take a vehicle to get to work.

There were 1,480 people who took public transit, active transportation, or other forms of transportation, making up about 15% of commuters.


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