One of the tools that Local Logic provides to prospective homebuyers is the ability to calculate their commute by distance.

 After collecting and organizing the data from our users’ searches, we wanted to explore what conclusions we could draw.. What story does it tell? If you’re a commuter, how does your commute compare to those around you? We’re all aware that life is full of tradeoffs, and one of them is distance from work vs. housing affordability. Wouldn’t it be great if you could somehow visualize that tradeoff?

We chose the Toronto area as the starting point for visualizing our data. As you would expect, Canada’s largest city has the highest number of commuters, so we had plenty of searches to work with.

Visualizing Your Commute

The first thing we did was take the housing locations our users searched and create a map of arches to their hypothetical commute destinations. You’ll see what looks like a fireworks explosion of red and white arches. These arches show the thousands of paths to and from different origins and destinations. White stands for origin, and red stands for destination.

For example, take Vaughn, just north of Toronto. There are arches starting white in Vaughn and turning red as they arrive in Toronto. Those represent people commuting from Vaughan to Toronto. It also goes the other way.  There are also arches starting white in Toronto and turning red by the time they land in Vaughan. Those represent people commuting from Toronto to Vaughan.

Kind of mesmerizing, right? But when you look at Toronto, the volume of commute searches is so high that you can’t really see anything under the giant canopy of arches. Our volume of data is so large that it made this map kind of hard to decipher.

Here’s where we got fancy. We split the city of Toronto into hexagons of the same size. The longer the commute distance, the taller and more red the hexagon becomes. The blue hexagons are the shorter ones, representing a shorter commute distance from a specific place. As the hexagons get taller and redder, they represent longer commutes. In other words, the data indicates that people who live in the light blue hexagons have much shorter commutes than the people who live in the dark red hexagons.

What Does the Data Tell Us?

This data provides a first take of commute distances in Toronto. We have some work to do to clean it up and find even better ways of visualizing it. But even from this initial first glance, we learn a few interesting things:

1) Toronto commutes are brutal. 

No really, they’re insane. Take another look at that Origin Distance map, the one that displays the commute distances out of each location.

  •   If your commute is at around 10km or less, you’re in the top 10% in terms of best commute time.
  •   If you’re in that unlucky bottom 10% of commuters, your commute distance is between 37 to 50km. That’s 50, yes 50km of sitting in Toronto traffic. Oof.  

2) People are enduring wicked commutes for affordability. According to the data, our users are looking at homes that are an average of 19-22km away from where they work. When you calculate how long it takes to go that far on the 401 during rush hour, you realize how much people are willing to sacrifice their time to live somewhere they can afford.

3) People living downtown have the best commutes. Look at downtown Toronto on that origin map. It’s a peaceful sea of blue. As you might expect, people who live downtown have the shortest commute distances. And people who live north and east of Toronto seem to have it worse than people who live to the west.

The data doesn’t lie: If you’re looking to buy property in the Toronto area, you might be in for a scary commute. On the other hand, it might not be that terrible if you’re strategic about it. What these data maps provide is a 30,000-foot view of Toronto’s commute patterns. That way, you know what kind of commute you’re in for and you have the information you need to make the best decision for you.