Last year was a particularly rough year for TransLink. Since 2012, the agency saw ridership drop after years of strong growth. While TransLink’s official reason for the drop in ridership was because of the introduction of higher fare, the agency was also required by the provincial government and the now defunct Office of the Regional Transportation Commissioner to become more efficient. Since 2012, TransLink has found $240 million in expense savings.
Some of these new efficiencies were found by shifting transit service levels around in the region; reducing service in areas with low ridership to expand service in areas where there was a strong demand. With no new funding, and a major drop in gas tax revenue, TransLink has not been able to keep up with the transit demands of our region. This means that even today, many transit routes are still overcrowded, while other parts of the region have inadequate transit service.
Last summer also saw two major service disruptions on the SkyTrain system. Early indications seemed to show that 2014 was going to be another year of transit ridership loss in Metro Vancouver. New information posted by the American Public Transportation Association shows that TransLink was able to grow ridership in 2014.
Overall ridership grew 0.5%, from about 355 million trips in 2013 to 357 million trips in 2014. Ridership on the Canada, Expo, and Millennium Line grew by 0.4%. This shows that people still trust the SkyTrain system which is one of the most reliable transit services in North America.
Non-trolley bus ridership grew by 1.1%. Trolley buses serve the City of Vancouver. HandyDART ridership grew by 0.3%. Ridership on trolley buses dropped by 0.6%. Trolley bus ridership has been on the decline for close to a decade. TransLink also saw a 1.3% drop in ridership on the SeaBus.
Ridership on the West Coast Express also declined by 4.5%. This might be due to the introduction of express bus service to communities like Langley. These buses have lower fares than the West Coast Express, and get people into Downtown Vancouver just as fast. The West Coast Express is a premium transit service; its direct operating expenses are 100% paid for by fares.
Even with continued “service optimization” and with the rash of bad PR in 2014, TransLink was able to grow ridership on its system. Transit is a critical component of the transportation system in Metro Vancouver.