Thursday, April 3, 2014

Transit ridership drops for first time in a decade

Late last year, I posted that transit ridership was down during the first half of 2013. At the time, I didn’t know if this was a trend or just a blip. TransLink released its 2013 Statutory Annual Report and the result are in: transit ridership is down 2.2% compared to 2012. In fact, transit ridership is below 2011 levels.

TransLink Ridership and Service Hours, 2003 to 2013. Source: TransLink Annual and Statutory Annual Reports. Select graph to enlarge.

As can be seen in the graph, TransLink was able to growth ridership after the Olympics by making the best use of service hours (aka revenue) available. It has been known for some time that more money would be needed to growth transit and meet regional and provincial livability goals. Unfortunately, the region and the province could not, and still cannot, agree on a new source of revenue. As I posted about last year, transit in Metro Vancouver was dealt three major blows when the Mayors’ Council axed the property tax increase they previously approved, the TransLink Commissioner denied fare increases, and the province decided that no new revenue sources for transit would be approved without a referendum.

While TransLink was optimising service prior to 2013, it was forced to start cutting service in 2013. This has resulted in more congested buses and rail service in some parts of the region, and reduced or eliminated service in other parts of the region. Sadly with no new investment in transit things will only get worse, forcing more people to pay tolls or drive on increasing congested roads. I don’t say this lightly, but if the province and the mayor’s don’t get their acts together to find a way to grow transit, the quality of live and economic prosperity of our region will decline.

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