Linked Trips Please! What is Translink Afraid Of?

TransLink is trying to save face with recent acknowledgement that the Canada line is under built.

What TransLink does not tell you is that over 80% of the Canada line’s ridership, is forced to transfer from bus to metro at Bridgeport Station.

All Richmond, South Delta and South Surrey bus customers bound for downtown Vancouver must transfer to the mini-metro to complete their journey. All South Surrey and South Delta bus customers wishing to travel to Richmond Centre, must transfer at Bridgeport Station, doubling back to reach their destination.

The Canada line has  free travel on the Sea Island portion of the line to YVR and all employees using the employee parking lot take the metro for a short hop to the main terminal – all counted as boarding’s. YVR does have a lot of employees, over 24,000!

The McArthur Glen outlet mall also is located on Sea Island and with free travel on the Sea Island portion of line, customers also travel via mini-metro to shop at YVR. TransLink does not release numbers of actual customers using this portion of line, but eagerly include them to inflate boarding’s.

The claim that the Canada line carries 20% of YVR’s daily average of 100,000 people is highly questionable.

What TransLink does not give is the number of “linked trips” or unique uses of the Compass Card to get a better understanding of real ridership.

Another item, eagerly overlooked by TransLink is that with the proliferation of the U-Pass and the many post secondary schools service by the Canada Line, multiple trips per day using the ride at will U-Pass holders are also counted.

TransLink, like BC Transit before, use this cunning method of announcing boarding’s which gives much higher numbers, to impress politicians. Politicians like using boarding’s data because it gives you very big numbers, but does not give real numbers as how many actual persons are using the Canada line.

Unfortunately these inflated numbers are used to hide other important issues that are not being dealt with. TransLink is known for doing this nationally because they are so sensitive to criticism from the highway and car lobby. You have issues with your Light Metro system that TransLink refuses to deal with, like runaway operating and capital costs. You have to be able to harshly critique transit operators and transit operations or else the road lobby wins.

How many real people use the mini-metro? How many unique uses of the Compass Card/U-Pass daily on the Canada line?

Much less than 75,000 persons per day and more like 50,000 to 60,000 actual people use the metro, as most customers make two or more boarding’s a day.

The public will never know as TransLink refuses to give real numbers.


Canada Line continues to break records: TransLink

Kirsten Clarke

Richmond NewsFebruary 12
Canada Line

The Canada Line, which connects Richmond, Vancouver and YVR airport, has broken records since it opened 10 years ago, according to TransLink. File photo

The Canada Line has been breaking records since it first opened ten years ago for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Originally projected to reach just 120,000 daily boardings by 2025, it surpassed that number around 2011 or 2012, according to a TransLink spokesperson, who added that ridership was reported out less frequently then as there weren’t fare gates or Compass cards to track data.

On an average weekday last year, the Canada Line had an average of 150,000 boardings, continuing to “outperform projections,” according to TransLink.

That wasn’t the only record the line broke in 2019, according to the transit authority. For the first time in its history, the Canada Line had more than 50 million annual boardings last year, which represents a 30 per cent increase in ridership since 2010.

“We are proud to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Olympics today with the region,” said TransLink CEO Kevin Desmond.

“With 1.58 million trips taken each day during the Olympics, transit was an integral part of how the world experienced the Winter Games. The Olympics were a time when many people realized just how convenient public transit is.”

During the Olympic Games, there were approximately 230,000 daily trips on the Canada Line.

The system, which opened in August 2009, took four years to build and cost approximately $2.1 billion.

The Canada Line spans a 19-kilometre route between Richmond, YVR and Vancouver, with 16 stations. The route includes two bridges and nine kilometres of tunnel.

According to TransLink, 20 per cent of all YVR passengers use the Canada Line for their journey to or from the airport.

Last month, TransLink added four new train cars to the Canada Line, which increased capacity by 15 per cent or about 800 riders. An additional eight cars will be rolled out this spring, which will increase total capacity by 35 per cent, or another 1,200 riders, during peak travel periods.

Richmond will also be getting a new Canada Line station, on the northeast corner of No. 3 Road and Capstan Way, which could be completed by 2022.


11 Responses to “Linked Trips Please! What is Translink Afraid Of?”
  1. Bill Burgess says:

    It is annoying that less data is available from Translink on “journeys” vs. “boardings”, but their respective trends are probably very similar, except in specific cases like when there are service changes that affect modal choice.

    But how do your “linked trips” differ from these “journeys” – “a complete transit trip…regardless of the number of transfers”?

    See :

    How we Estimate Ridership
    The data and the method used to estimate ridership changed significantly in 2016. Prior to 2016, ridership was estimated based on ticket sales and passenger surveys. From January 2016 onwards, the method changed to count Compass and farebox transactions.

    How we Define Ridership
    Two metrics are reported on:

    Boarding: every time a passenger enters a fare paid zone using Compass fare media or proof of payment. Transfers are counted as additional boardings.
    Journey: a complete transit trip using Compass fare media or proof of payment, regardless of the number of transfers.

    Zwei replies, we can use “unique” use of the compass card and U-Pass, which gives an accurate number of actual people using the system. I asked Translink to release this figure but they claimed they were proprietary with the SNC Lavalin lead consortium operating the line.

  2. Bort says:

    Given Bridgeport station accounts for only 5.4% of Canada Line boardings, your statement that “80% of the Canada line’s ridership, is forced to transfer from bus to metro at Bridgeport Station” seems dubious at best

    Zwei replies: Unless there is an independent audit of the Canada line and all station information is proprietary, I doubt your numbers. There is no other station on the Canada line with so many buses feeding it.

    The 80% number Translink let slip some years ago and have never denied it, in fact one media outlet 2 years ago stated that 90% of the Canada lines ridership first take a bus.

  3. Rico says:

    Perhaps instead of repeating things previously corrected you should go to the translink performance review where station boarding has been publicly available for years.

    Zwei replies: Again Rico, if there is not an independent review of ridership, Translink can claim anything. Personally I do not believe a word from Translink

  4. Bill Burgess says:

    Mr Zwei, again, are Translink’s “journeys” the same thing as your “linked trips”?

    If not, what is the difference?

    In reply to my earlier comment, you change the subject and pose unique persons rather than linked trips.

    Fine, yes, they should release this data too.

    But what about the journeys?

    Zwei replies: The question about boarding’s is how many boarding’s is made by 1 person per day? Because of the U-pass and the many post secondary institutions along the route how many customers are making multiple trips per day?

    some time back, I was told by a now retired Translink type that the Canada line was seeing multiple boarding’s by students each day, so much so that the ridership profile was skewed by this. Unique uses of the U-pass and the compass card would give us an accurate determination of actual people using the line. As well, the non revenue usage of the Canada line on Sea Island should not be included in the total boarding’s because they are not generating revenue.

    It is interesting with such high ridership, so says TransLink, that the taxpayer is still paying well over $100 million annually to the SNC Lavalin consortium operating the line.

    The actual number of people using the the Canada line is far less than 75,000 (most customers make at least two boarding’s a day) and could be as low as 50,000 actual people a day using the mini-metro.

  5. Rico says:

    Zwei, a couple of points. The first is the Canada line is an example of one of the few transit destinations that may generate fewer than 2 boardings per person per day because of the one way nature of airport traffic. The second is you did not answer Bill’s question. As far as I can see linked trips and journeys are the same. Yah, now you can just read Bill’s link and answer your own question. I can also note by your logic we should be saying Portland Max only gets 60,000 people using it a day or maybe only 36,000. Boardings are the industry’s standard and everyone reports boardings.

    Zwei replies; Rico, you never answer my question, if the Canada line is so successful, why has no one copied it?

    I will tell you a secret, professionals have access to information we don’t and ridership is nowhere as stellar as what TransLink would have us think. The total cost to the taxpayer is now well over $3.5 billion and climbing and Translink will not give the actual number of people using the system, but instead uses “boarding’s” as their metric.

    With the U-Pass and Compass Card, the number of “unique” customers using the mini-metro is fairly simple to obtain, yet TransLink doesn’t; why not?

    Again you make the error, boarding’s are not the industry standard and the industry uses linked trips.

  6. Bort says:

    TransLink does publish station data for the Canada line:

    It’s around 5% – 6% at Bridgeport, not 80%

    Zwei replies: According to Translink over 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first take the bus.

  7. Haveacow says:

    Translink unfortunately uses words interchangeably and at the wrong times. Many times Translink uses journeys to mean boardings, as in a single passenger boarding an individual transit vehicle. If that passenger transfers to another vehicle that’s another boarding. I have also seen linked trips (a complete trip from origin to destination that may have involved up to 2,3 or even 4 boardings), used as journeys as well by Translink. The problem is that Translink has used both and doesn’t differentiate when it does. At many transit agencies, not just Translink, the person who writes the data down on websites doesn’t know the difference and is usually some young student or someone with no transit background at all but with the ability to communicate very effectively.

    The problem is that there is no publicly available, structurally similar, highly accurate and easy for the layman to understand, transit database that is independent of individual transit agencies in North America. The two that are best, the Canadian Urban Transit Association (C.U.T.A.) and the American Public Transit Association (A.P.T.A.) and their joined at the hip, American Federal Government funded Transportation Research Board, although good, have serious limitations and information gaps.

    I don’t mean to fuel paranoid conspiracy people but transit agencies do lie frequently or at the least let you believe things that may not be entirely accurate. I have been paid to do that on many occasions in the last 25 years for Translink and other agencies as well. Now, very few were outright lies and most of them were done to protect a project from being killed or keep innocent people and staff from being legally and professionally hurt. The most common is what I call a “stacked” lie. This is a statement that could be true if you stack a whole bunch of conditions or explanations on top of it to make it true.

    For example, Broadway is the busiest bus corridor in North America.
    It is true if you don’t include,

    1. True BRT routes (with actual physical segregation at grade, below or above grade) and express bus only corridors.
    2. A time scale that is comparable for all agencies.
    3. Any corridor that has surface rail and buses.
    4. Routes that are primarily only used in the peak periods.
    5. The number of buses per hour as a means of judging traffic and passenger level.
    6. Bus routes included in the data that travel along the corridor but only for short time and or distance periods.
    7. Any corridor below a certain but never publicly defined length.

    I can think of many bus corridors in North America that if you include one or many of these points, easily out does Broadway. What Zwei and a lot of planners like me, don’t particularly like is that, Translink then uses this data to help build political support for a hugely expensive below grade Skytrain route that serves way too few passengers and is blowing your budget apart to the point that, other desperately needed projects will either never happen or be put of decades into the future.

  8. Rico says:

    Zwei, a couple of things.
    I think you got confused with your standard rant. If you are VERY focused you MIGHT be able to argue not many copy the Bombardier Skytrain system in Vancouver. People who read this blog will be aware of the popularity of automated mini metro systems as a whole…and if they don’t can quickly go to wikipedia.
    About boardings vs linked trips, North America does boardings. I can’t swear about Europe but the couple I looked at did boardings as well (I don’t remember every system I looked at but Zurich was one). Maybe you could give me an example of who in ‘the industry’ uses linked trips as a standard.
    Zwei, it is good that lots of ridership comes from the bus, but I thought the number was 60-70% but that is not recent. I know I have asked before but care to give me a source on your 80% bus number you have been using (from back in the days were the number was 60-70%)

    Zwei replies: A reality check is coming very soon, stay in tune.

    People like SkyTrain because it is the only game in town. But those very same people do not know the costs or the many issues around the proprietary light metro. During the recent negotiations, I was rather taken a back that over 900 employees worked on the Expo and Millennium lines, which is more than comparable LRT lines.

    The Expo Line is clapped out as a 3 hour shut down yesterday illustrated and I have been told (not Mr. Cow) that portions of the line are on “life support” due to age and wear and is desperate need of rehab, but there is no money and band aide solutions only work for so long.

    As, it is good that a lot of ridership comes from the bus, well it is not because buses do not attract ridership and transit systems that depend on buses for customers are not very successful. Much of TransLink’s ridership comes from population increase and the proliferation of the U-Pass.

    The public’s demand for 8 to 10 lane bridges and tunnels certainly tells the tale I am afraid, the vast majority of people vote with their cars.

  9. Haveacow says:

    Rico, North America does boardings because of 1 reason and 1 reason only, it’s far cheaper and less time consuming than establishing the number of linked trips. Large Canadian transit systems generally do both but most large systems can because there are some small staff and budgets to support this activity. Although public accessible data is not given a high importance. I was told by a public information official at O.C. Transpo once that just because they are funded publicly doesn’t mean their data should be publicly available or free. Unfortunately, that attitude is quite prevalent in the whole industry.

    One of those programs that establishes statistical support for smaller transit agencies is generally supplied through C.U.T.A. and Metrolinx in Ontario, even sometimes B.C. Transit. This is generally the only help some smaller Canadian transit agencies ever get in this area. There is no equivalent American program since George Bush’s second term, so when you look at American transit statistics, usually through A.P.T.A. data sets, guess what? There is no linked trip data it’s all boardings. If the A.P.T.A. ever tried to provide nantional linked trip data in the U.S. they, the organization, would be quickly overwhelmed and driven into a budget crisis. Relatively speaking, they operate on a shoe string of a budget.

    U.S. transit agencies would love to have linked trip data available publicly but only a few systems can even begin the process to do it. This is the by-product of the American transit support system. The capital funding support is mostly federal, well run, fairly generous and predictable. Some state and local governments are better than others in this area. Whereas operating funding, which is were data collection is paid for, is generally done by state and local governments (there are some federal programs). These budgets are subjected to swift political changes, often with unpredictable outcomes. Denver’s RTA operating budget is about 60% of Translink’s (that’s after a big increase) but has to deal with a population twice of Greater Vancouver’s. They have little time, staff and money to collect, present and update publicly available linked trip data.

  10. Bill Burgess says:

    This discussion began in relation to the Canada Line.

    What would the number of “linked trips” on the Canada Line be? It would be exactly the same as the number of “boardings”, i.e. the number of passenger trips that included a a boarding on the Canada Line.

    It would be nice (and Translink should utilize the potential of the Compass Card and report this data) to know how many of the passenger trips in question began or ended on the Canada Line, and how many Canada Line boardings were passenger trips that began and ended on buses. However, a significant number of these trips are not recorded by Compass cards, so these numbers would not express total ridership.

    As a measure of ridership, “linked trips” only makes sense system-wide. Not for any one part of a transit system.

    And so Translink does this. It reports “journeys” for the system as a whole by the month and year. The ratio of journeys to boardings is quite stable over time.

    Except in particular circumstances it is reasonable to conclude that if overall boardings changed by x percent then journeys probably changed by a similar percent.

    The mania on this blog about “linked trips” is a diversion from more worthy topics.

    Not least because, as requested by the headline above, Translink does report “linked trips”. It just calls them “journeys”. See .

    Zwei replies: You just don’t get it.

  11. I. K. Brunel says:

    We always find it interesting that the local experts have so little regard for statistical analysis and are so easily lead astray by simple explanations.

    Linked trips are important because as Mr. Zwei points out, over 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership first takes the bus.

    In our little patch of the world, fares are apportioned to the modes used, thus a bus > rail trip would see a ticket apportioned 50% for the bus and 50% of the train in single fare zones.

    Linked trips would determine the affordability of the transit service and also help plan for extensions. Boarding’s do not give this sort of information.

    I do wish those commenting read Mr. cow’s post as he does know what he is talking about.

    The UTDC did try many years ago to sell ALRT in Europe but it did not meet up with safety audits and lacked what modern trams many abilities and was tossed aside. I understand Milan almost built one but financing collapsed and in the end so did the project.

    Word has it that Alstom who is buying Bombardier’s rail division is going to abandon manufacture of the light metro as it is now well past its best before date.

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