Dear Urbaneer: Our Toronto Commute Is Costing Us Money & Our Sanity! What Should We Do?

COVID-19 & Toronto Real Estate, Dear Urbaneer


Welcome to this month’s installment of Dear Urbaneer, where I assist my inquisitive readers with their real-estate-related queries. This month, I am guiding a couple who have recently returned to working at the office and are struggling with the drive.


Dear Urbaneer:

With our return to the office, we’ve become hyper-aware of our commute to work – both in terms of the time and cost dedicated to getting to and from the office. While before the pandemic this was simply a means to an end, my partner and I are more aware of how having that extra time in our day when we weren’t commuting not only helped us feel more productive at work but also helped our work-life balance.

Also, with the rising cost of fuel, insurance, maintenance, and repairs, it’s getting expensive to have a car. My partner came across this post of yours What Are The Real Financial, Emotional And Health Costs Of Commuting?  and it really got us thinking about how much we miss being centrally located. In fact, we’re discussing the idea of moving into a smaller dwelling closer to downtown so we can be car-free. Do you have any insight on walkability and how we can create a better balance? Should we consider a move to a more accessible area? Is Toronto changing at all post-pandemic to favour other types of getting around?


Seeking Housing That Helps With Work/Life Balance



Here is my reply:

Dear Balance:

Thank you for your question! Concerns like these are becoming more prevalent, and are further proof that we are living in a world truly altered by the pandemic; there is no going back to our pre-Covid state of mind, as our very perceptions of how we look at and move through the world have evolved.

Certainly, one of the big draws of living in the city centre is having everything at your doorstep. Beyond shopping, dining, leisure, and entertainment, for many, living centrally is ultimately about the convenience of being close enough to work to rely less on the automobile than on other modes of transportation.

The easy answer is to live close to where you work, as well as where you conduct the rest of your daily tasks. And certainly, we benefit in Toronto from being a City Of Neighbourhoods that provide an accessible urban lifestyle.

But for many, it isn’t as easy as deciding to live where they work. First, there is a high cost for housing in the central core of the city, and demand for properties continues to outstrip the supply, even in our current market conditions of higher interest rates. Furthermore, the fact that one may not be able to purchase as close as one’s ideal, or that a household could easily have multiple work destinations for its members doesn’t make this an easy issue to reconcile.

However, you’re right that more employers are requiring back-to-work in person, at least part-time, and this will surely result in a renewed interest in living near one’s employment. And for those whose return to the office requires a commute, there is a new awareness around those hours spent and a potential reckoning on what this may mean going forward.

The pandemic served as a wake-up call in many ways from virtual work to a shift in home design and more. In fact, I wrote about a number of these changes in my COVID-19 And Real Estate Series.

In addition to this new realization around commuting today comes a critical awareness of how some of our previous behaviours around commuting may not have been in our best interest, mentally, physically, or emotionally. And what was acceptable pre-pandemic is not now, because we have an entirely different lens, drawn from our more recent experiences.

How has remote work changed our concept of the commute? And where do we go from here?




COVID-19 & Real Estate Values

Before we look at where we are going with commuting and real estate, it’s worth taking a look back at our real estate experience around COVID-19.

It wasn’t long into the pandemic that workers realized the opportunity presented by the quick pivot to remote work. With the necessary infrastructure and technology in place and an acknowledgment from employers that remote work was possible and productive, people began to rethink where they chose to live.

Prior to the pandemic, where someone purchased property tended to depend on balancing one’s proximity to family and friends, the amenities they frequented the most, and their accessibility to work. For Buyers a big question was always reconciling how a particular location facilitated their commute – either with access to public transit, or the ability to drive oneself.

As people realized they didn’t have to be physically committed to the city in order to work, a mass exodus beyond the city limits got underway. In fact, I called it The New Space Race as Toronto Buyers required – by necessity and desire – more space both inside and out to work/play/learn/live full-time 24-7.  Exiting the city core for more affordable destinations was opportunistic for those who had experienced swift asset growth in their Toronto real estate, allowing them to cash out their equity and get far more house for their money beyond the city limits (all while WFH and ditching the commute).  As with any commodity, supply, and demand dictates value. So as many, many people adopted the same mindset, values soared beyond the city limits. 

As property values and population ballooned in smaller centres, affordability was no longer a big-city problem. In fact, a number of Canadian real estate markets saw affordability decline as big city folk with more capital competed against local Buyers to lock down real estate. Not only did this occur in the exurbs surrounding Toronto but it also happened on the east coast, as I wrote in Going East: A Toronto Real Estate Exodus To Atlantic Canada.

Fast forward to today, as the pandemic moves towards our rear-view mirrors many employers are requiring their employees to return to the office Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, prompting these hybrid workers to earn a new nickname. And what’s more, people are realizing that rural living isn’t quite as idyllic as they might have envisioned. Sure, spending your morning meeting on the dock with the loon calls through the late spring to early autumn is lovely, but being remote and rural in the depths of winter can be challenging. Now, after a couple of years of isolation, the recently relocated have now experienced the highs and lows of all the seasons and finding out what works, and what doesn’t.

For example, cell and internet services aren’t as reliable in outlying regions (and they’re more likely to be adversely affected by weather events, which are getting more common as I explore in my post –> Climate Risk Assessment And Real Estate Values). So, in reality, people perhaps aren’t as connected as they thought they might be, which can challenge productivity. Click here to read this CTV story –> “Cottage Country In Canada May Not Be For Everyone. Here’s Why Some Are Leaving“.

So, as it turns out, some folks who thought the benefits of living more remotely on a family compound would be offset by a longer commute are seeing a change of heart. They’re reconciling that although rural living was compelling during the pandemic, as the City reignites with renewed vitality its appeal, convenience, and connectedness are causing their perspective to shift.

As a result, the exodus of residents that fled for greener pastures during the pandemic is now seeing some returning to the city, causing real estate values to decline – some substantially – in the suburbs and exurbs while prices in the central core of Toronto are quickly escalating closer to where values were before interest rates started climbing a year ago. 




The New Costs of Commuting

With the return to work today, people are getting nailed with long commute times as well as higher fuel costs. So there is now a greater cost associated with the commutes than in pre-pandemic living. It’s hard to swallow for a lot of people, especially in the recent context of remote work, and no commute.

This really drives home the context of costs around commuting, which I discussed in my post that you mentioned  What Are The Real Financial, Emotional And Health Costs Of Commuting?

And these financial costs are a sticking point for lots of employees making the return to work.

In Ottawa currently, federal PSAC employees are striking on a number of issues, most notably the requirement for a return to work in person. Federal workers are citing logistical challenges with office space, but also the costs of commuting, including travel to work, paying more in childcare, plus all the other expenses that go hand in hand with office work (i.e. food, clothing etc.). 

A recent study showed that an overwhelming majority of Canadian workers would look for new employment if their employers required them to return full-time to the office (80 percent), almost exclusively because of the extra costs that would come with commuting. Workers might consider staying at their current jobs if they received extra income for coming in to offset costs.

Click here to read “Survey: Canadian Remote Workers Are Ready To Walk If Forced Back To The Office Full Time“.

Interestingly, according to the survey, the cost for a couple working full-time at an office totals $13,520, for work-related expenses. The same survey found that this figure was about the same as an annual food budget for a family of four.




The Future Of Commuting In Toronto

Unfortunately, the prospect of commuting in Toronto isn’t going to get easier, as the city continues to grow.

Even with the focus on development around public transit hubs, trying to make traveling more efficient for Torontonians, commute times are expected to increase in the years to come.

We will be faced with an increased population as Canada sets high immigration targets. Housing supply is already tight, particularly in the missing middle sector of the market; and densification targets for urban areas are reducing, which will invariably contribute to urban sprawl.

Here’s a relevant Toronto Star article: “Sprawl For All? What Doug Ford’s Proposed Changes To Planning Rules Might Mean For Future Growth“.

The long travel time is real, and only going to get longer, unfortunately.

For some context, according to a recent study, Toronto has the fifth-longest travel time in North America, with the average journey across the city taking almost 45 minutes one way. This is expected to increase to 48 minutes by 2030, as urban sprawl extends and the population increases.

The same study showed that Toronto was ranked number four on the list of cities in which you are most likely to be late, due to traffic, travel congestion, and aging infrastructure to permit flow of travel.




The Benefits Of Walkable Cities

Although this sounds pessimistic, this realization around commuting and the imposition it places on many certainly helps to shuffle priorities. It also underscores the truth of what scores of urbanites already know – the benefits of a walkable city with walkable neighbourhoods. Being able to walk, cycle, or roll to our destination is not only cost-effective, but it is also lifestyle supportive.

Ironically, the automobile-reliant suburbs were initially designed around the concept of the garden city, where a large circular garden would be at the centre from which there were avenues to cultural and civic buildings – city hall, a concert hall, museum, theatre, library, and a hospital. Circling out from this park would be shopping areas, parks, and residential areas with industrial uses beyond. Here’s my post about this called –> Exploring COVID-19, Urban Planning, And Toronto Real Estate.

The walkability of a city has long been an urban planning theme and is even more prominent today.

This story – “The Cities That Will Thrive The Most In The Future Will Be Those Getting People To Walk More” – talks about a number of European cities that had suffered from urban sprawl and long commutes, that are looking to adopt walkable city models to support access to green space, as well as for environmental benefits.

Prior to the pandemic, there was a shift in urban planning focus to a movement called Walkable Urbanism, which signified a shift in urban planning mentality. There was an awareness of the fact that walkable cities provide lifestyle benefits for their residents, but that there are also significant environmental and financial benefits for the community at large.

As a concept, Walkable Urbanism “walkability is defined by the quality of which the built environment enables the mobility of pedestrians.”

The pandemic gave us the opportunity to experience the benefits in real-time, and now the challenge is to keep that momentum going.

This study “Walkability and Its Relationships With Health, Sustainability, and Livability: Elements of Physical Environment and Evaluation Frameworks” outlines the health benefits of walkable urbanism and shows that walkability is the central cog between the benefits of health, sustainability, and livability when it comes to urban planning. The pandemic, the work-from-home shift – and now the sobering realization of the downside of commuting during the return to work have amplified the value of these findings.

This story “Do You Live In One Of Canada’s Most Walkable Cities?” places Toronto in fifth place for the most walkable city in the country, based on walk score metrics. With a city-wide walk score of 61, this ranking says that Toronto is a “walker’s paradise” thanks in part to its network of neighbourhoods, each with its own in-house, walkable amenities. They also talk about the benefit of downtown’s underground PATH, because it connects 30km of desirable amenities (shopping, dining, retail), easily accessible by walking or cycling.

The same article says at 62% of Toronto residents are within a 1-kilometre walk of both education and healthcare, which is above the national average.

This article –  “Walk This Way: The Evolution Of Walkable Cities In Canada” – talks about success in densely populated and land-scarce Tokyo, where building vertically to support walkable urbanism has had success, with mixed-use buildings with office space on main floors, and residential space, built up high. The commute is an elevator ride, as opposed to a stretch of highway or track. The article talks about how this idea is taking root in areas like Toronto and Vancouver, where supply is needed, and land is scarce – and urban sprawl is seen as contributing to the problem, not helping.

The opportunity exists, as it seems that we are in a state of change when it comes to urban planning, with changes happening around zoning and densification and zoning for multi-unit homes, along with a shift away from urban densification targets. It only makes good sense to apply what we already know about urban walkability, to create healthier and better-functioning communities going forward.

Additionally, we are seeing more changes to support less auto-reliant living, with infrastructure being expanded for cycling, while actively trying to reduce automobile traffic. Check out my posts on cycling in the city: On Cycling In The City: Then And Now, and  Superior Cycling In Toronto? There’s An App For That!

There is also a significant focus on expanding public transit, which is notable with these Urbaneer posts Here Comes The Eglinton Crosstown LRT – and – Here Comes Toronto’s ‘Ontario Line’ Transit Network. and – The Union Pearson Express Is Now A Toronto Staple – and – Tracking The Effects Of Toronto’s GO Transit System. Without question, Buyers today are very cognizant of The Value Of Public Transit.

At, we recognize selecting the right property to buy is greater than the four walls it’s built of. It has to suit your lifestyle so that the dream home remains dreamy, day in and day out. And this includes how your commute is intrinsically linked in terms of value and quality of life. 


Thank you for reaching out and bringing to our readers’ attention an issue that is quite prevalent right now. In a post-pandemic world, not only are we more conscious of how we use our domestic spaces, but we are more attuned to how we move through the world and the costs & rewards of how we do so. I encourage you to check out some of my other blogs on this topic (listed below!)


With decades of experience helping folks find that perfect home, I – and the Urbaneer team – are here to help!



As we continue to navigate life post-pandemic, you may find these other posts about the real estate market during Covid-19 offers you additional insights and guidance:

As We Start Calculating The Impact Of Covid-19, The Failure Of Government To Care For Its Senior Citizens Becomes Apparent

Despite Fluvid & Rising Interest Rates, The Shelter Prize Is Safety & Convenience When You Live In Swansea, Toronto

With COVID-19 Outbreaks In Long-Term Care Facilities, Is Multi-Generational Housing Better?

How COVID-19 Will Likely Change How We Design Our Homes

Exploring COVID-19, Urban Planning And Toronto Real Estate

How Lessons Learned From COVID-19 Will Change Urban Planning & High-Density Living

The Increased Desire For Outdoor Space In Toronto Condos During The Covid-19 Pandemic

The Movement To Hipsteading During The Covid-19 Pandemic & Toronto Real Estate

Post-Pandemic Housing Trends To Watch For


And these posts on Working From Home & Commuting:

BLeisure, WFH, & An IKEA Hack

The Need And Demand For Live/Work Properties In Toronto

Dear Urbaneer: How To Resolve Your Work From Home Dilemma During The COVID-19 Pandemic

What Are The Real Financial, Emotional And Health Costs Of Commuting?

Seeking A Smarter Commute? There’s An App For That!



Looking for the services of an on-trend well-informed experienced realtor who has been a consistent Top Producer for 3 decades?

We’d love to introduce your services to you.

Serving first and second-time Buyers, relocations, renovators, and those building their long-term property portfolios, our mandate is to help clients choose the property which will realize the highest future return on their investment while ensuring the property best serves their practical needs and their dream of “Home” during their ownership.

Are you considering selling? We welcome providing you with a comprehensive assessment free of charge, including determining your Buyer profile, ways to optimize your return on investment, and tailoring the listing process to suit your circumstance. Check out How Urbaneer’s Custom Marketing Program Sold This Handsome Edwardian Residence In East York to learn more about what we do!

Consider letting Urbaneer guide you through your Buying or Selling process, without pressure, or hassle.

We are here to help!



Thanks for reading!


-The Urbaneer Team

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-800


– we’re here to earn your trust, then your business –

Celebrating Thirty-One Years As A Top-Producing Toronto Realtor


*Did you know we were recently listed as one of The Top 25 Toronto Real Estate Agents To Follow On Twitter! – The Top 50 Blogs On Toronto – and The Top 100 Real Estate Blogs In Canada? Consider signing up in the box below to receive our FREE monthly e-newsletter on housing, culture and design including our love for unique urban homes and other Toronto real estate!

*Love Canadian Housing? Check out Steve’s University Student Mentorship site called Canadian Real Estate, Housing & Home which focuses on architecture, landscape, design, products, and real estate in Canada!



Previous Post
Art & Java Jive At Baka Gallery Cafe
Next Post
Urbaneer’s April 2023 E-Promo