Monday, June 14, 2021

TransLink Transit Network “COVID-19 Snapshot:” Bus routes and South of Fraser ridership recovers more than other parts of Metro Vancouver

For several years, TransLink has released an annual transit network review that provides detailed ridership and cost information about all the agency’s routes. This year, TransLink provided a less-detailed “COVID-19 Snapshot” review of 2020.

As I posted recently, not all modes of transit recovered equally. Bus service recovered more than other modes.

Ridership by mode, early fall 2020. Source: TransLink

This recovery is not surprising as bus service is the workhorse of transit service in our region.

Of note, the 319 - Scott Road route moved from the eighth busiest route to the fourth busiest bus route between 2019 and 2020.

The R1 - King George Bouvard became the ninth busiest bus route in 2020.

In Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows the R3 Lougheed Highway, which TransLink introduced in January 2020, was still able to “generating new ridership demand in the sub-region in 2020.”

Ridership recovery by sub-region, early fall 2020. Source: TransLink

Bus service is the primary mode of transit for the South of Fraser, Maple Ridge, and Pitt Meadows. These areas are also home to essential businesses and workers, people who need to work out of the home. It is no surprise that transit ridership recovered more in these areas.

In areas with a more significant number of transit routes that service post-secondary institutions, which were doing remote learning for most of 2020, transit ridership was suppressed.

Another interesting observation was that transit ridership recovered more mid-day and on weekends than peak travel periods.

Weekday bus and SkyTrain (Expo, Millennium, and Canada Lines) Compass boardings by time of day, early fall 2020 vs. early fall 2019. Source: TransLink

These changes in travel patterns highlight the importance of transit service beyond post-secondary/school trips and office commuter trips.

As we continue to recover from the pandemic, I would not be surprised if transit service has smaller peak travel periods. It will be interesting to see how TransLink adapts, including impacts on revenue and ability to provide a robust, frequent transit network.

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