Wednesday, June 12, 2013

TransLink's 2012 bus network performance and the South of Fraser

Only a few years ago, TransLink kept a tight lid on statistics about our transit system. Maybe it’s a result of the umpteen efficiency audits that the agency has been through recently, but I’ve noticed that TransLink has become more open with the data it provides. Some of the most interesting data that TransLink now provides is from its annual bus service performance review. This will be the second year that TransLink is releasing data about its bus network's productivity.

Only a few years ago, I remember being told by people at TransLink that they would only release system-wide information, and certainly would not release information on the different sub-regions. I was never sure why they had that policy, maybe they didn’t want one area of Metro Vancouver to feel like it was subsidizing service in another area. Either way, TransLink now provides bus productivity statistics at the regional, sub-regional, and individual route level. I’ve always been a fan of transparency, and I’m happy that TransLink is becoming more open.

Over the past several years, TransLink has been able to increase the overall amount of bus service provided in the region, but due to the lack of new revenue streams, the agency has also been "optimizing" the bus network. This means that for each new hour of service on one route, another route will see its service cut.

TransLink Annual Revenue Hours (Bus Only)
Sub-Region20102012% Change
(2012 versus 2010)
Burnaby/New Westminster469,000470,0000.21%
Northeast Sector307,000300,000-2.28%
South of Fraser629,000651,0003.50%
North Shore377,000390,0003.45%
Ladner/South Delta/Tsawwassen56,00057,0001.79%
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows87,00087,0000.00%

There are two things to note from the preceding tables. First, the introduction of the Canada Line allowed TransLink to reallocate bus service from Richmond to other parts of the region. Second, while many people think that the South of Fraser is getting shafted by TransLink, we’ve actually seen the highest growth in bus service hours in the region. The issue is simply that TransLink needs more money to build the system needed in the South of Fraser.

TransLink has produced an inforgraphic that explains the different metrics it uses to measure bus system performance.

Click on the infographic to download in full.

I briefly looked at route specific information. It’s no surprise that bus routes with 15 minute or better service in the South of Fraser are some of the most well used bus routes in the region. For example, the 319 that runs along Scott Road remained the 18th busiest route in 2012 by annual ridership, the 321 between Surrey Central and White Rock remained the 19th busiest route in the region, and the 502 between Surrey Central and my home in Langley Centre moved from the 26th to 24th busiest route in 2012. Clearly there is a demand for good transit service in the South of Fraser.

It is good to see that TransLink is improving transit service in the South of Fraser, but at some point the agency will need new revenue. With the current provincial government and their promise of a referendum on transit funding, I feel a bit concerned about the future of public transit in the region.

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