Thursday, October 19, 2017

Built it and they will come: transit ridership up in Metro Vancouver

TransLink has seen a surge in ridership across most of its system so far this year. Information posted to the Buzzer Blog a few days ago shows that September transit boardings are up significantly.

TransLink as well as other public transit agencies throughout Canada and the US report ridership data to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). In the US, transit ridership has dipped -2.8% in the first six months of this year. In Canada, transit ridership has increase by 0.6% in the first six months of this year for all agencies that reported data. This includes major regions in Canada.

TransLink Ridership
January thru June
 2017 2016 % Change
Bus 122.55 million 119.56 million 2.50%
SkyTrain 73.94 million 66.1 million 11.86%
SeaBus 2.74 million 2.59 million 5.79%
West Coast Express 1.17 million 1.25 million -6.40%

TransLink’s growth in ridership is significantly higher than the national average as reported in the latest ridership report released by the APTA. This is not a surprise as the Evergreen Line came online late in 2016, combined with record-level investments into bus service in our region.

One area where ridership has decreased is on the West Coast Express. This is not surprising as two of the West Coast Express stations are now directly served by SkyTrain. West Coast Express fares are also 1.5x more than regular fares. The shift to SkyTrain was fairly modest, and shows that the vast majority of West Coast Express riders value the premium service to Downtown Vancouver.

Ridership on the SeaBus was declining for several years. It looks like that trend has also reversed which is again not surprising as TransLink has increase service levels on the SeaBus. A strong economy combined with new investment in transit service really proves that if you built it, they will come.

On that topic, with bridges now toll-free, it will be interesting to see what impact there will be on transit service, especially on routes like the 555, 595, and the West Coast Express.

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