Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Bus ridership up in the South of Fraser, but at the expense of the rest of the region

TransLink recently released their 2014 Bus Service Performance Review. This review presents performance metrics for the bus network in Metro Vancouver.

One of the first metrics in the report is the amount of annual bus revenue hours provided. This metric is an indicator of the amount of bus service provided. Over the past five years, the amount of service hours has been relatively flat across the region, but sub-regionally is a different story. This is due to TransLink’s service optimization scheme which transfers service hours from more costly and less used routes, to routes where this is more of a demand.

If the transit plebiscite is any indication, people in the South of Fraser believe that TransLink is ignoring them. As the following table shows, TransLink has invested heavily in improving bus service in the South of Fraser. At the end of 2014, only Vancouver/UBC had more bus service than the South of Fraser.

Annual bus revenue hours between 2010 and 2014. Select table to enlarge.

In order to increase bus service in the South of Fraser, other parts of the region have had their service levels reduced. Maple Ridge, Pitt Meadows, Richmond, and Northeast Sector communities have seen a reduction in bus service.

The next table shows the change in ridership over the last 5 years. Interestingly, South Delta communities have seen the highest growth in ridership over the last 5 years. The South of Fraser —Surrey, Langley, and White Rock— have seen the second highest growth in ridership over that same period.

Annual bus boardings between 2010 and 2014. Select table to enlarge.

Interestingly, ridership has flat-lined in traditionally transit-friendly areas like Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster.

One of the new metric provided in this year’s performance review is the overcrowding factor on bus routes. Several South of Fraser routes made it on to the top ten list including the 320 and 502.

Top 10 overcrowded bus routes in 2013 and 2014. Select table to enlarge.

While people voted no in the transit plebiscite for a host of different reasons in the South of Fraser, there is certainly a demand for new transit service when it is provided.

For example, the 96 B-Line which services King George Boulevard and 104th Avenue was introduced in the fall of 2013. The 320 and 321 also service this corridor. In 2012, the 320 and 231 had combine annual boardings of 7,000,000. In 2014, with the addition of the B-Line service, there was 7,830,000 annual boardings, an increase of about 12%.

Ridership has also been very strong on the 555 which connects the Carvolth Park and Ride with the SkyTrain system. Annual boardings in 2013 was 565,000, this jumped to 713,000 in 2014, a 26.2% increase!

People in Langley really like there public transit where it is provided. The 502 was split into the 502 and 503 last year. The 502 connects Langley City to the SkyTrain system and runs along Fraser Highway. The 503 provides local service between Aldergrove and Langley City along Fraser Highway, then provides express bus service to the SkyTrain system along the remainder of Fraser Highway.

In 2013, there was 3,126,000 annual boardings on the 502. The 502/503 combined annual boardings in 2014 was 3,441,000, a 10% increase.

I know that a certain Township of Langley Councillor was upset when the 503 was created as it resulted in the discontinuation of the two bus trips per day in Salmon River/Uplands. It seems like that service change was the right move as it increased ridership and improved access for people in Aldergrove.

While more transit is needed in the South of Fraser, it appears that TransLink is providing more service to the sub-region, even if it is at the expense of other parts of Metro Vancouver.

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