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'We are not keeping up': TransLink struggles with record ridership

Last Updated Apr 25, 2019 at 10:14 pm PDT


Ridership across TransLink's system hit an all-time high in 2018, rising a record 7.1 per cent

TransLink Mayors' Council chair calls surge in transit ridership a 'double-edged sword'

99 B-Line continues to be the busiest route for TransLink, by far

METRO VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – TransLink says it can’t keep up with the number of people taking transit in the region, following a year of record-high ridership.

Ridership on buses, boats and trains hit an all-time high in 2018, rising a record 7.1 per cent across the system.

“There is so much appetite that we are not keeping up. Ridership is outpacing this expansion and as a result we have widespread overcrowding on buses and trains across the region,” said Sarah Ross, director of system planning for TransLink.

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The 99 B-Line continues to be the busiest route by far, with more than 17.4 million riders last year. It dwarfed the second-place #49 bus, which carried more than 9 million riders. Vancouver continues to lead the way for busiest routes, however Surrey and Delta each saw the largest year-over-year increase by 16.7 per cent and 16.3 per cent respectively.

Buses saw the biggest increase with eight per cent more riders, followed by the West Coast Express with seven per cent, SeaBus with six per cent, HandyDART at 5.8 per cent and SkyTrain with 5.7 per cent.

“That’s a double-edged sword. This is exactly what we’re hoping to do — encourage more people to take transit — but with the service we’re having, we are seeing more crowding on our trains and buses,” Mayors’ Council chair and New Westminster mayor Jonathan Cote said, adding mayors are keenly watching growth in the region.

Phase two of the mayors’ transportation plan is fully funded, but Cote is calling on the provincial and federal governments to provide constant, stable funding.

“I think it is a success story in our region — the uptake on transit uses here — but to keep that momentum going, we need to have predictable and stable funding in the future. That’s why the Mayors’ Council is going to be so active and engaged in the upcoming federal election and future provincial elections.”

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Metro Vancouver mayors are also looking at offering more discounts to youth and low-income riders, which staff say could mean to even more people taking transit and the potential to leave regular paying customers at the curb.

“The nature of any excellent urban transport system; it’s going to be crowded.” TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond said. “We’ve got to expand the system.”

He points to plans to expand rapid transit through Surrey to Langley and SkyTrain along Broadway with the potential to expand it to UBC.

TransLink plans to add 350 buses and more bus service hours, 56 cars to Expo/Millennium and 24 cars to the Canada Line.

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“A thriving metropolitan region, we’re always going to be chasing demand. We need to look for partnerships and other ways to expand that mobility pie,” Desmond said including bike and car share, and ride hailing.

Ridership continues to rise year-over-year. The number of people taking transit increased by 5.7 per cent in 2017 over the previous year, and in 2016 it rose 4.5 per cent over 2015 numbers.