Thursday, March 21, 2019

Record ridership drives increased revenue for TransLink, even as fuel tax revenue declines

TransLink is in the process of releasing its year-end reports for 2018. As part of that process, the organization is presenting its 2018 Statutory Annual Report to the TransLink board tomorrow. One of the items in that report is its consolidated statement of operations.

2018 TransLink Consolidated Statement of Operations. Select table to enlarge.

TransLink received about $1.46 billion in revenue from Metro Vancouver via direct taxation and fares in 2018. About 44% of that direct revenue came from fares (and other revenue such as transit advertising.)

There are two things that stand out when it comes to revenue that TransLink received. The first is that fuel tax continues to be an unstable, and slowing declining, source of revenue for the agency. Fuel tax revenue was $7.1 million below what was budgeted in 2018. As noted in the report, “this was as a result of record high fuel prices in the first half of 2018 as a result of a refinery shut down, which caused consumers to look outside the region to purchase fuel.”

Fuel tax will need to be replaced with another revenue stream over the next decade as people continue to drive less due to better walking, cycling, and transit options, due to the cost of fuel, and due to people switching to electric vehicles. The Mayors’ Council and TransLink are studying replacement options.

Due to one of the largest increases in transit service in our region, transit ridership increased a record 7.1% in boardings and 6.0% in journeys between 2017 and 2018*. This delivered an additional $32 million in revenue beyond what was budgeted for 2018 which more than made up for the dip in fuel tax revenue. It seams that if you build it, they will come.

TransLink’s expenditures cover more than just the delivery of bus and rail services, but I wanted to focus on these two items. Rail service usually receives the majority of attention, but it is bus service that is backbone of our transit network. Of the close to $1.03 billion that is invested into delivering transit service, 70% of it is for bus service.

Financially, TransLink had a positive year in 2018.

*a journey represents a complete transit trip and does not count transfers. A boarding is counted every time a passenger enters a fare paid zone, including transfers. More information is available on TransLink’s website.

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