The American Public Transit Association has released first quarter ridership results for member agencies throughout Canada and the US.
In the first quarter of 2014, TransLink saw an overall 3.28% drop in ridership compared to the same period in 2013. TransLink ended 2014 with a 0.5% increase in ridership.
Metro Vancouver's population has been growing at a rate of about 1.3% per year since 2000. While the 2001 transit strike caused a 29.8% drop in transit ridership, in 2002, ridership jumped up 40%. Until 2013, ridership in Metro Vancouver was growing faster than population growth. This is why transit mode share, the percentage of all trips taken by transit, increased rapidly in the last decade.
In 2013 transit ridership dropped. In 2014, ridership grew only 0.5%. This is lower than the rate of population growth. TransLink says that the drop was due to fare increases in 2013, but in 2008 and 2010 there were also fare increases which didn’t impact ridership in the same way.
2013 was the year when TransLink ran out of money to grow service due to provincial government interference. This was also the year that TransLink starting cutting service from some parts of the region in order to keep up with the demand in other parts of the region. This service optimization is a major reason for the drop in ridership.
Overall ridership dropped 0.17% in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014. HandyDART ridership was up 1.93% and non-trolley bus ridership was up 0.18%. SkyTrain ridership dropped 0.56% and West Coast Express ridership dropped 1.42%.
Trolley bus ridership dropped 0.53%. This has been an ongoing trend since 2005. In 2004, there were 70,946,200 trips by trolley bus. In 2014, only 59,730,000 trips where by trolley bus. This due to a host of reasons, but I’ve noticed that north/south bus routes in Vancouver have had a larger drop in ridership than east/west bus routes. Trolley buses mostly serve north/south corridors. It could be that travel patterns are changing in Vancouver, but as a fixed transit service, the trolley bus network has not been able to adapt.