Thunder Bay, ON / Source: S. Marshall / License


Research funded by
Suburbs Data
Canadian Census Metropolitan Areas, Core / Suburbs / Exurban Proportions, 1996, 2006 and 2016 Census, Model T8/T9


The chart linked below displays the proportions of Active Core, Suburbs and Exurban neighbourhoods for the classification model that seemed most applicable with the census data (Transportation method).

Chart of Core / Suburbs / Exurban Proportions, 1996 and 2006 Census (T8)

Chart of Core / Suburbs / Exurban Proportions, Population, 2016 Census (T9)

Chart of Core / Suburbs / Exurban Proportions, Dwelling Units, 2016 Census (T9)

According to our method, an Active Core is defined as a neighbourhood that has an average rate of active transportation, walking and cycling, 1.5 times higher than the overall average for the census metropolitan area. These census tracts are generally in central areas, the downtowns of cities or, in larger cities, have began to form secondary centres outside of the downtown, such as Vancouver. In larger metropolitan areas, multiple Active Cores may also be older downtowns of towns that have now been incorporated into the larger CMA, such as St. Jerome in Montreal, Oakville in Toronto or Kitchener Waterloo and Cambridge. This is the reason for the designation of 'Active Core' as opposed to 'Inner City'. The results show that characteristics of the inner city may not simply occur in the geographic connotations of the term.

Suburbs are defined as areas with low active transit and generally have a high rate of automobile use. Although this chart simply shows the total suburbs, a second chart separates the suburb category into transit suburbs and auto suburbs. 'Transit Suburbs' are census tracts that have an average rate of transit use 1.5 times higher than the overall average for the CMA. This is relative though as even if a census tract exceeds the average, transit use rates usually remain fairly low in most Canadian cities. This effect is predominant in smaller CMAs and lessened in larger ones. 'Automobile Suburbs' consist of very low transit use rates and the automobile is the dominant mode of transportation.

Exurban is defined as areas that have low density and mostly depend on automobile use. Though it is not included in the suburban category, a lot of people may live suburban lives as opposed to living a more rural lifestyle. We tried three different definitions of 'low density' for rural/exurban and settled on the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)'s rural communities definition, which is limited to areas that have less than 150 people per square Kilometre. This is one of the methods used by Statistics Canada in their analysis (du Plessis et al, 2001).

We tried a dozen different models that used transportation and density measures in an attempt to classify the active core, suburbs and exurban areas. This chart shows the summary results for other models that were tried.