At the end of 2014, TransLink saw a small 0.35% increase in ridership. This was after seeing overall ridership drop starting in 2012. Unfortunately, 2015 has seen the continued drop in TransLink ridership.
The American Public Transit Association has released the latest ridership numbers for participating transit agencies in Canada and the US. TransLink’s second quarter results show a 0.97% decrease in ridership from January through June 2015, compared to the same period in 2014.
The Expo, Millennium, and Canada Lines saw a small 0.18% decrease in ridership. The West Coast Express saw a 0.98% increase in ridership. SeaBus ridership increased by 3.69%.
The bus network, excluding trolley buses, saw a 1.23% drop in ridership while the trolley bus network saw a massive 2.25% drop in ridership.
TransLink’s official reason for the drop in ridership is fare increases over the years have caused people to take transit less. While this may be part of the story, a lack of funding for transit has hampered TransLink’s efforts to address overcrowding on busy routes and the SkyTrain, and has prevented TransLink from expanding transit service to under-served areas.
Around 17% of TransLink’s total ridership is from the trolley bus network. As I posted about this summer, bus ridership has actually increased in areas like the South of Fraser while it has decreases in Vancouver.
|Annual bus boardings between 2010 and 2014. Select table to enlarge. Source: TransLink 2014 Bus Service Performance Review. Select table to enlarge.|
Unlike the overall transit network which only started to see consistent drops in ridership starting in 2012, trolley bus network ridership has being on the decline for the last decade. With this long-term decline in ridership, I’m surprised that more research hasn't gone into finding out why the trolley bus network is losing riders. Are people in Vancouver taking transit less because it is easier to walk or cycle? Is the trolley bus network no longer aligned with our modern travel patterns?
|Trolley bus ridership between 2004 and 2014. Select table to enlarge.|
One thing that is clear to me is that TransLink and people living in the City of Vancouver need to have a serious conversation about the trolley bus network to determine if it is the best way to move people around in Metro Vancouver.