Monday, June 23, 2014

Transit ridership down in first quarter of 2014

Back in April, I posted that transit ridership was down in 2013. This was the first time that transit ridership dipped in our region for a decade.

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

As you can see from the previous graph, there is a direct correlation between transit service hours provided and transit ridership. It is no surprise that more transit service attracts more riders. After the Olympics, TransLink could no longer afford to expand service. Transit service hours delivered have declined since 2010.

With a relatively stable amount of transit service hours delivered between 2010 and 2012, transit ridership continued to climb until 2012. In late 2012, the province forced TransLink to aggressively “optimize” transit service in Metro Vancouver. This optimization resulted in larger cuts to service hours delivered. These cuts continue in 2014.

The American Public Transportation Association compiles ridership statistics for transit agencies throughout Canada and the US. They recently released ridership statistic for the first quarter of 2014; things don’t look good for Metro Vancouver.

In the first quarter of 2014, transit ridership was down 3.3% from the same period in 2013. There were 2,868,600 less transit trips between January and March 2014 than between January and March 2013.

HandiDart paratransit service is a lifeline for many seniors and people with disability. A report on HandiDart service in Metro Vancouver was released in late 2013 called “Metro Vancouver’s Aging Population and the Need for Improved HandyDART Service.

TransLink has cuts HandiDart service hours more drastically than regular transit service hours. As a result, there was a massive 8.3% reduction in ridership in the first quarter of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013.

Some people might point to declining ridership as a reason to not invest in transit. I would argue that these statistics prove that more investment is needed. Increasing transit service hours delivered increases transit ridership. This show there is a demand for transit.

The fact that reducing transit service hours result in less ridership shows that the system is running as efficiently as possible. Any excess transit capacity was absorbed between 2010 and 2012.

With transit service being reduced, our region is becoming less accessible. For example, some people will start to have a harder time accessing jobs in our region. Improving transit is critical for the success of our region.

One community that has continued to invest in transit service is Calgary. In 2003, Calgary had an average weekday ridership of 172,100 on their light rail system. In the first quarter of 2014, average weekday ridership of their light rail system was 309,900. In Metro Vancouver, SkyTrain’s average weekday ridership for the first quarter of 2014 was 361,500. This is interesting considering that Metro Vancouver has double the population of Calgary.

The mayors in Metro Vancouver have released their vision for transit in our region, but the Province of BC continues to hold back transit improvement. Until the province approves a new funding source to pay for transit expansion, I fear that transit service hours delivered and the accessibility of our region will continue to decline.


Anonymous said...

Just gonna let you know that the link on this page at the present time is to the 2013 Q1 report - although I was easily able to get to the 2014 Q1 report by modifying the URL.

Nathan Pachal said...

Thanks for the catch. I've updated the link.