Monday, July 19, 2010

Long-form Census

If you didn’t know already, the federal government has decided to replace the mandatory long-form census that 20% of all household receive with an optional voluntary national survey. In the news, there has been much said about how the quality of information will be affected by this change as people will now be able to opt-out of answering the questions. According to an article on
Municipalities use information gleaned from long-form questions on how people get to work and where they work to plan bridges, roads and public transportation projects and budgets, says Derek Cook, research social planner with the City of Calgary.

"We may never again get neighbourhood level statistical data and what the hell are we going to do if we don't have neighbourhood data? How are we going to plan?" he says. "It's like taking a carpenter's hammer away and asking him to go continue to build the house."
Census information is critical to transportation planning and is only one of two data sources that are used to get a snapshot of our transportation system in Metro Vancouver (the other being the TransLink trip diaries). Without the census data, we will lose the ability to drill down to the neighbourhood level and get maps that compare population density, rail infrastructure, and mode share for example. Census data shows up in almost every report on transportation and land use in the region and we have even used this information on this blog. The information in the census is used by almost all local governments to gain a understand on their jurisdictions in order to provide targeted services and infrastructure. I’m sure the debate on the importance of long-form census data will continue and I’ll certainly be monitoring it.

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