Calculating Commuting Costs on Vancouver Island

This will be the first post in a series as I work through this data.
First, full disclosure, I work at Malaspina (Vancouver Island University) in Nanaimo and live 80KM away in Port Alberni. It’s a 1 hour drive morning and night, so yes, I have a vested interest in this topic. I am also a volunteer with the Corridor Coalition, which is trying to convince government to restore the E&N to a state where it could take a large chunk of the economic and environmental load of off residents, business, and industry on Vancouver Island.

The reason i started this, what I saw this post here at the doing a similar study of commuting costs from the suburbs of Sydney, Australia.

The general premise being, that those in Australia, and in North America, have very much become used to very cheap gasoline (petrol). And this has created the ever expanding suburbia and exurbia with very little investment into Public Transport (rail, bus, or otherwise) by any of the governments in question.

As fuel prices rise rapidly, this is having a serious affect on the ability of households to cope… especially since wages are not keeping up with inflation over the past 30 years, let alone rising costs of the past 5.

So, I’ve created my own version of the Sydney example. I’ve used StatsCan data on Median Household Income Updated now: After Taxes and calculated the annual cost of fuel for transport based on 225 work days (42 weeks) a year, 2 different mileage constraints (“average” 22mpg or 10.7L/100K and 55mpg or 4.2L/100KM) broken down the percentages, and plotted them by distance on a map.

The first case I’ve tried is commuters to Nanaimo. So I’m using Nanaimos Median Household Income of $42,000 to calculate the percentages.

First is the Low Mileage Case. Second is the High Mileage Case. The Slideshow will walk you through $1.20, $1.50, $2.00, $3.00 and $8.00
Low Mileage Image
Click the images and you will be taken to short slideshows showing the effect of rising prices. (Quicktime/iTunes required)
High Mileage Image

The $1.50 scenario could happen by May long weekend.

The $2 and $3 scenario could easily happen due to a major disruption/attack/hurricane/etc… and the $8 scenario is what they currently have in Europe.

The question we must start to ask, is, if oil prices are going to stay high, or go higher… how will that affect working people. People who *must* live outside the City due to high mortgage/rent will be forced to pay more and more just to get to work. When is the point that we should start investing in alternatives to get people from their home, to their work. Or better yet, start bringing their home and work closer together.

Personally, i don’t think we can wait for markets and economies to force down prices in urban areas in order to shift people back in from the suburbs. The prices are simply rising too fast. Right now, what we need to do is look at our medium range options. And on Vancouver Island, that means the E&N and Island Corridor Foundation. Sign up at to show your support.

Next I will be doing commuters to Victoria.

UPDATE: I’ve updated the images and movies. Two changes:
#1: I am now using Median Household Income AFTER TAX to better reflect the effect on disposable income.

#2: They now include a $1/L scenario which is close to $4/Gallon US since that price point is creeping up on our neighbours to the South.