Downtown work, dispersed living and equitable mobility

Authors: Peter Hall*, Simon Fraser University, Anthony Perl, Simon Fraser University
Topics: Urban Geography, Transportation Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: mobility, equity, work, Vancouver
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 15
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper we explore the dynamic relationship between place of work, place of residence and urban mobility, and we reflect on the implications of this relationship for the pursuit - through various workplace and public policies - of equitable mobility. We employ a unique survey dataset of downtown Vancouver hotel workers, collected before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The surveys were conducted as part of an experimental study on the impacts of employer-paid transit subsidies. The fact of the study itself represents one effort to promote more equitable mobility. In addition to allowing us to determine that employer-provided transit subsidies can achieve a shift in commute mode to transit, the surveys also provide a rich dataset that links workplace conditions to living circumstances and commute behaviour. The workers surveyed represent a heterogenous cross-section of post-industrial urban personal service workers, though our sample included only flagship downtown hotels. The workers’ places of residence are widely dispersed across the metropolitan region, in a geography that reflects the accelerated densification, financialization and gentrification of the urban core since the 1980s. However, the resulting social geography is highly differentiated; workers residing in the downtown core, for example, include all occupational groups. Workers who live outside the urban core are also highly differentiated, and the experimental transit subsidies indicate that they have variable propensities to change their mode of commuting to work. These findings highlight some of the challenges, and opportunities, for equity-enhancing mobility policies within a socially and spatially differentiated metropolitan region.

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