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Transit numbers stay up after the Olympics

May 24th, 2010 · 18 Comments

TransLink is pretty darn happy with itself these days, winning awards for service-in-the-face-of-crushing-Olympics-crowds and other categories. This came out earlier this afternoon.

Transit numbers after the Games:

You came, you rode, you kept riding

While TransLink earned worldwide applause for its performance as part of the Transportation Plan during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, one question lingered: would that momentum translate into increased use of public transportation options once the Games were over?

Newly released statistics suggest the answer is ‘Yes’.

Revenue ridership during the month of January rose a respectable 3.1% from January 2009, and then in February, Games Time usage pushed that figure to nearly 22.9 million — almost 51% higher than the previous February.  Then in March, ridership hit 18 million, an increase of 19.3% over March 2009.  Some of the increase was due to the additional riders attracted to the Canada Line before and during the Olympics.  The newest SkyTrain line carried 2.49 million riders in March (not counting those transferring from South of the Fraser bus routes, which had formerly travelled into downtown Vancouver).  A sizeable amount of the remainder also likely reflects people who made the switch to other parts of the transit system during the Olympics and, finding that it worked well for them, stayed on after the Games.

“It was important for the future of Metro Vancouver that we do more than move enormous numbers of people during the Olympics.  It was important that local residents see what their transportation system could do,” says TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis.  “Many found out that there are alternatives beyond driving alone in a vehicle; there’s walking, cycling, ridesharing and especially, that our integrated transit system is a surprisingly viable option.”

Levels of transit service have been growing steadily in Metro Vancouver over the past five years, reaching its current level – the highest ever – at the end of 2009.  TransLink’s current budget enables the Authority to maintain that number of service hours; the integrated system is able to handle these increased loads with the capacity added last year and flexibility.  The Service Rationalization Initiative currently underway over the next 18 months will identify ways of further optimizing TransLink’s resources, system-wide.

Maintaining ridership after the Olympics, coupled with the highly successful TravelSmart program, are key factors in achieving the region’s goal of increasing the share of trips by walking, cycling and transit to more than 50% of all trips by 2030.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Zweisystem

    First, The Canada Line isn’t SkyTrain. SkyTrain or ICTS/ALRT/ALM/ART is a proprietary unconventional railway, solely owned by Bombardier Inc. The Canada Line is a conventional metro system with cars produced by ROTEM of Korea. SkyTrain and the Canada Line are incompatible in operation with each other.

    I would question TransLink’s ridership figures for the Canada Line and TransLink has absolutely no way in counting South of the Fraser bus passengers who now are forced to transfer to the metro.

    Local Newspaper reports that that TransLink may cut the meager extra bus service to South Delta due to low ridership.

    many people who used the bus during the Olympics are slowly going back to the car as if you leave work in Vancouver after 6 PM, it takes nearly 90 minutes or more to get back!

    In fact, TransLink doesn’t count ridership in the normal way, bust uses a complicated and confusing formula that they really can’t explain!

    Even though the Canada Line has ‘laser counters’ there hasn’t been any check to see if they are accurate or not.

  • Joe Just Joe

    Ahh good ole Zwei always looking to debunk Skytrains numbers because they make his arguments unsound.
    Too bad about bus service being cut south of the fraser though, guess that means there isn’t the demand for rail in the valley. 🙂

  • Dan

    Actually, TransLink has Automatic Passenger Counters (APCs) on its buses and at the Canada Line SkyTrain stations, so the counts should be pretty good. I can only assume that’s where they get their numbers.

    And from what I read, the South Delta buses were only having their schedules adjusted, not actually any reduction in service.

    In any event, it’s very exciting to see people continue to use transit in increasing numbers in Vancouver. This obviously isn’t just due to any one project (ie Canada Line), but may reflect increased awareness of the quality of options and desire from residents to give transit a fare shake.

    I hope that bodes well for the public’s willingness to pay to create additional transit options in our region so even more can have access to these options. Let’s look seriously at new revenue sources: vehicle levy, congestion charge, etc…

  • Zweisystem

    No Joe, it means that the people in South Delta are not taking the bus to the Canada line and are opting to drive to town instead.

    Why is TransLink and provincial government so afraid of letting BC’S Auditor General, audit TransLink’s books and ridership numbers on a regular basis? Are they afraid that the office may find some discrepancies?

    Until TransLink actually explains how it counts ridership and if those ridership numbers are independently audited, I wouldn’t believe a word they say.

    Oh by the way, just to rub a bit more salt in their wounds, how many cars has the Canada line taken off the road? Has it come near the predicted 200,000 car trips a day? Or is the Canada Lines ridership made up mainly of forced transfers and the metro has attracted very few car drivers?

    If the media was realy doing its job, those would be some of the questions to be asked.

  • Paul C

    Well I’ve never heard of the predicion of 200,000 car trips a day. Most people though would realize that no system is going to transfer that many people out of their cars in less than year. Hell I’d be surprised if that many people switched in 5 years. People have habits and habits are hard to break.

    And even if they were to build “your system” You wouldn’t have 200,000 people switching within a year.

    The only prediction they made and were working towards is about 100,000 people per day by 2013. Now they made that prediction based on all the former buses short stopping at Bridgeport. And yet they knew that if they added everyone of those riders together it wouldn’t come close to 100,000. Which is why they put a target date of 100,000 by 2013. And yet we’ve met that number or at times are pretty close to meeting it on certain days.

    Of course everyone knows you don’t believe the numbers so this whole post is pointless.

  • Robert

    Just an aside, after the success of the transportation plan, two managers seconded from Coast Mountain bus to Translink to develope the plan were terminated by CMBC within days of their scheduled return to CMBC.
    A caring Company?

  • Ken Hardie

    Just to clear up the ‘SkyTrain’ name issue, it is the brand that BC Transit picked for our rail rapid transit system. The name is not owned by Bombardier and it has nothing to do with their technology.

    With so many people applying ‘SkyTrain’ to the Canada Line, TransLink has extended the brand to include the new service.

    The Canada Line is one of three SkyTrain lines we have.

  • Zweisystem

    The Premier and former Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon both stated that the Canada line will take 200,000 car trips off the road per day.

    The Canada line may have automatic counters, but there is no proof that the figures released by TransLink in fact come from those counters. A bit more transparency is sorely needed.

  • Tessa

    I would question how significant the March numbers are considering that the paralympics were still ongoing at that time and while that was hardly as big as the Olympics, I’m sure there were still a higher than usual number of visitors rushing and spectators going to events. Let’s wait until we see April numbers before we really jump up and down.

    @ Zwei, I’ve never seen you debate a system’s worth in good faith, in that you never are willing to accept any number or fact or figure that goes against your argument. There is no real reason to suggest that the counts are innacurate and anecdotal evidence in riding the system shows it’s pretty darn busy. If there’s a problem with the system it’s capacity (and uglyness), not ridership.

    And your posts, as always, are misleading at best. By concentrating on a number that we obviously can’t verify one way or another you’re making an infalsifiable point, and when I last saw that number used it was not suggesting the canada line would remove that many cars immediately upon opening, either.

  • PW

    It is mostly oil prices, nothing unique about Vancouver. North American and OECD oil consumption peaked around 2007, as high prices forced some people out of their cars. Obviously some have chosen to use transit.

  • Richard

    @ PW

    While higher oil prices have increased transit use, this does not explain this increase in transit use as the year over year increase in Jan was 3.1% and the March increase was 19.3%. For this to be due to gas price increases, the prices would have had to increase dramatically between Jan. and March.

  • PW

    I was referring to: “Levels of transit service have been growing steadily in Metro Vancouver over the past five years, reaching its current level – the highest ever – at the end of 2009.”

  • the Zweisystem of the Frances Bula blog wrotes : “many people who used the bus during the Olympics are slowly going back to the car.[…] it takes nearly 90 minutes or more to get back”

    the Zweisystem of the RailfortheValley blog wrotes that
    “The speed issue is a non-issue”

    90mn is a heck of time. The people, Zweisystem of the Frances Bula blog is referring too, must be leaving pretty far from Vancouver, in place like Delta: the zweisystem of railforthevalley write to them:

    ” Those want a fast subway […] are commuting from the far reaches of the SkyTrain and or bus network and one would question why they would live so far away”

    yeah, people from Delta, why you don’t buy condos at the OV?

    Could it be the same Zweisystem on both blog, or one of them a troll? …or may be both ?

  • East Vancouverite

    The Canada Line is, indeed, SkyTrain as that is the name for rail-based rapid transit in Metro Vancouver.

    SkyTrain as a name is not owned by Bombardier, but instead is a trademark owned by Translink via the BCRTC. Bombardier owns the ALRT technology used on the Expo and Millennium Lines.

    Zwei/Malcom Johnson when you criticize SkyTrain you may feel that you are being specific but, dare I say, much of the general public may read your comments in the Georgia Straight as being critical of all subways/metros/S-Bahns. People love those modes and the SkyTrain network is our version of that quite universally appreciated mode. Because of that interpretation your declarations that SkyTrain/metros/subways/U- and S-Bahns are obselete is simply not convincing.

  • Lewis N. Villegas

    I was on the Canada Line today, offering one rider with a suite case in tow transfer options on how to get to the Hyatt Hotel with the least amount of hassle. Hope she made it alright.

    You will have a long, drawn out fight arguing with my kids that the service was not terrific (one still has drool on his side, so come prepared).

    What we are just beginning to see today in Metro Vancouver is the possibility of a viable alternative to the automobile. Maybe not for every trip, maybe not on every occasion. However, it is getting to be cherry picking to get people driving to work out of their cars. We will soon reach a kind of critical mass if we continue with a cohesive transit implementation.

    Heartbreak of the day? We lamented the fact that riding the Olympic Line to Granville Island was no longer possible. However, the folks we saw along our walk on Robson Street from Granville to Thurlow—in the midst of a spring time down pour—helped to downplay the missing option.

  • Paul C


    The Premier and former Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon both stated that the Canada line will take 200,000 car trips off the road per day.

    The Canada line may have automatic counters, but there is no proof that the figures released by TransLink in fact come from those counters. A bit more transparency is sorely needed.”

    Notice how they never say by when those 200,000 cars will be off the road. For all I know or you know or anyone knows it may not happen for another 5 year or 50 years.

  • Keith

    How do we know if increased ridership on Translink is simply due to transit pass holders making more trips, as opposed to more riders overall?
    The real test would be in increased annual revenue to Translink.
    As a sixty year old, I feel like the oldest person on the system. Everybody looks like they are under thirty!
    A transit smart card would give a better idea of the number of riders , how often they travel and how far they go.

  • MB

    When the Canada Line was first proposed critics like Zwei came out of the deep suburban woodwork and made many pre-emptive claims. One of them was that nobody carries luggage on rail transit from airports.

    Well, I had the occasion to take the Canada Line from the airport a couple of weeks ago, and I had this comment in mind when I watched my train first empty then fill up at the YVR terminus station with about half its capacity both times, the vast majority carrying at least one piece of luggage. I was carrying two pieces.

    I also noted that a significant number of airport workers use the line, which was surprising for mid-day. In fact, the airport extension seemed a lot busier than the main transfer hub station at Bridgeport, but the Bridgeport passenger traffic would undoubtedly change at rush hour.

    Not only was I very impressed with the quality of service — a point continually ignored by the critics — that whisked me to King Edward Station in 15 minutes, but getting me there $21.25 cheaper than by taxi, albeit with a nice healthy 15 minute walk tacked on.

    I know that the CL has some serious flaws, not the least being its ability to reach its maximum capacity early on because of its smaller station platforms, and the massive disruption caused by using an outdated construction methodology (things that must be avoided with rapid transit on Broadway). But I still think the CL and my wheeled suitcases were the best things to come along in years.

    The CL and some improvements to busses have done much to improve transit service, therefore ridership has increased. Moreover, in my experience the ridership on the CL includes more families than the other lines.

    Here’s to a promising future … if they can just get their heads around funding decent transit in a timely manner.